Australia is home to some incredible natural swimming holes – if you know where to look. From ocean pools and meandering creeks to powerful waterfalls, we’ve rounded up a handful of places to put at the top of your summer agenda.
Mahon Pool, Sydney
Mahon Pool is set behind Jack Vanny Reserve at the northern end of Maroubra Beach. Maroubra is the Aboriginal name for “place of thunder”, an accurate description of the strength of the south swells that crash into the ocean pool in stormier weather.
Mahon Pool is exposed to the elements, but can be a calm oasis of clear blue-green waters when conditions are right. You may want to wear swim shoes, as this natural pool collects fish and spiky sea urchins. As such it’s a better pool for laps than lazing, but you can catch your breath and soak up some sunshine on the surrounding dramatic outcrops. Brave locals swim laps here all year round.
Cedar Creek, Brisbane, QLD
Not to be confused with Cedar Creek Falls at Mt Tamborine, Cedar Creek is a scenic, 45-minute drive north-west of Brisbane into the hilly suburban surrounds of Samford.
Sitting directly below Mt Glorious, Cedar Creek was named in the early days of colonisation for the red cedar that was logged in the area, though as a result, very few of these impressive trees remain.
The vast natural swimming hole here connects with smaller rock pools and cool mountain streams. Dense surrounds make bushwalking difficult , but you can follow the creek, hop across rocks and climb trees if you’re keen to explore. The swimming hole is best after rain; September to March is the wet season. There are barbeque facilities at nearby Andy Williams Park once you’ve worked up an appetite.
Millaa Millaa Falls, Cairns
Facts about Millaa Millaa Falls: it was once featured in a Herbal Essences shampoo commercial, and tourists have been recreating the spot’s wet-hair-flick manoeuvre ever since. It was also featured in Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl film clip. These crimes against culture aside, Millaa Milla Falls is a gorgeous, 18.3-metre-plunge waterfall surrounded by tropical ferns and flowers in Far North Queensland. It’s about a 90-minute drive from Cairns, set in the lush rainforest of Wooroonooran National Park.
Millaa Millaa is an Aboriginal phrase meaning “plenty of water”, and it marks the start of a walking circuit that passes five waterfalls. It’s a popular swimming hole, and there are barbeque facilities, change rooms and toilets on-site. If you go for a wander, keep an eye out for platypus, tiny musky rat-kangaroos, double-eyed fig parrots, and the Ulysses butterfly.
Serpentine Falls, Perth
This deep pool is surrounded by rocky outcrops and native bushland. The surrounding granite has been polished smooth by the rushing waters, and the falls flow more rapidly in winter. Wildflowers come out from July to November, with peak bloom in September transforming the hills and wooded areas into fields of colour.
The park is abundant with wildlife, too – you may spot western grey kangaroos, echidnas, madras, bandicoots, possums and quokkas. It’s an hour’s drive from Perth to reach the national park, then only a 400-metre stroll from the car park to the falls. But you’ll need to arrive early because the park gate closes when the reserve has reached capacity for the day (aim to arrive by 10am). There are barbeque facilities and picnic tables on-site, and an entrance fee applies.
Karloo Pools, South Sydney
Visiting Karloo Pools is a bit of an adventure. It’s a 45-minute drive, or 75-minute train ride, from Sydney, disembarking at Heathcote Station. From here a walking track leads through the heathland of this pocket of the Royal National Park to arrive at Karloo Pools. It’s about an hour’s walk to your swimming destination – a clear, stunning pool surrounded by rocky ledges and beautiful bushland, with plenty of sunshine reaching through the tall gums to the pool. You can swim and picnic here before continuing along the track to Uloola Falls, where you can camp overnight if you’re making a weekend of it.