A quick dip above a waterfall, with sweeping national park views? Check. An adrenaline-pumping frenzy in a wild, exposed ocean pool? Check. Whether you want rapids, waves, rock scrambles, views, art, secrecy or nudity with your swim, we've got them.Less
For a long time, the Gledhills were like ghosts. A few people said they'd seen them, but finding proof was difficult. These days, there's more information floating about, but the forest-encircled falls — and the ten-metre-wide pool into which they tumble — are still tricky to find. Set in the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, you'll need to do your research before you head out.
Of all the rock pools wedged between the city and the mighty Pacific, Mahon is the most adrenaline conducive. It's set at the base of the Jack Vanny Reserve along Maroubra Beach. From Maroubra's northern clifftops it's hard to spot, but make your way down the staircase from the Marine Parade carpark and you'll soon spy it among the exposed rocky outcrops.
Despite its five million-strong population, Sydney is home to a number of secluded beaches. But Resolute Beach takes isolation and wildness to the next level. That's because the only way to reach it is by taking on the six-kilometre Resolute Loop Track, which turns off many a lazy beach-goer. Those with the stamina to handle it are, however, amply rewarded with an unspoiled, empty stretch of sand that's surrounded by Ku-Ring-Gai National Park and affords uninterrupted views over Pittwater.
Back in the 1930s, Lake Parramatta was one of Sydney's go-to watering holes. But, decades ago, thanks to rising pollution levels, swimming and boating were banned. Major clean-up programs have, however, restored the lake to its former pristine glory, and, as of January 2015, it reopened for bathing. Located just two kilometres north of the Parramatta CBD, a visit to this leafy, sandstone-enclosed freshwater spot is a must during the summer months.
Thanks to Lady Bay's existence, you can be completely suited up in the middle of a work meeting at Circular Quay at 5pm, yet utterly naked amid all kinds of wildness by 5.30pm. Tucked into a calm cove near Watsons Bay, it's one of Australia's oldest nudist beaches — which first became legal in 1976, thanks to Neville Wran's blessing. Located within the Sydney Harbour National Park between South Head and Camp Cove, Lady Bay Beach offers views across to Manly and Middle Head.
Pack your lilo — Bents Basin has rapids. Spend your day throwing yourself down them if you're the type that likes a slightly out of control swim. Otherwise, keep to the still water — it's one of the deepest swimming holes in New South Wales. A dramatic, wooded escarpment provides the backdrop, which means there's ample views for picnickers, too. Bents Basin is part of a Nepean River gorge and lies between Penrith and Camden, about 70 kilometres from the Sydney CBD.
You'll pass heaps of beaches along the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk, but one of the most secluded is Reef Beach in Balgowlah Heights. It's best to make your way here after the tide has gone out, because that's when Indigenous Australian carvings becomes visible in the rocks. This beach is also just an incredibly tranquil section of Middle Harbour, offering excellent views of Manly and Sydney Harbour's northern section.
If you've always fancied you could have done Harrison Ford out of a job, show us how it's done at Wombeyan Gorge by plunging into the deep, emerald swimming holes surrounded by sheer marble cliffs. If that's not adventure enough, canyon your way 1.5 kilometres upstream, where you'll reach a secluded waterfall. Or keep out of the water altogether by heading up to Tinted Cave, where you can view the action in comfort from a naturally formed balcony.
Wattamolla Beach is like something from your most picturesque, lagoon swimming, bushwalking, beach picnicking dreams. If the emerald-clear water isn't enough to get you jumping in the car and driving an hour south from Sydney, then the Royal National Park it lies in will. There's also a picnic area — so bring some snacks and plonk yourself down under one of the cabbage tree palms for an entire day of eat, swim, repeat.