Words by Richard Cornish Images Supplied
It has already been a hot summer, and we have all been looking for ways to cool down. While many of us live near the coast, sometimes you’ll find yourself travelling inland, where beaches and swimming pools are a long way away. Lucky for us, dotted along our inland rivers are scores of popular swimming holes where the water is cool, clear and deep.
Dotted along our inland rivers are scores of popular swimming holes where the water is cool, clear and deep.
Often known only to the locals, these are spots where families gather on hot days to relax and chill out. Some are shady havens in the middle of the bush, others are like beaches on the edge of town with BBQs and loos.
Remember that swimming holes are special places and need to be respected. Never dive into a swimming hole; rivers are active waterways and rocks and logs can be swept down in a flood, continually changing submerged hazards. Sometimes the water can be extremely chilly and the shock on a hot day can be a health hazard. Water conditions can change rapidly too, especially after rain. So, with all that in mind, pack your boardshorts, grab a towel and head to the Victorian bush to swim in some of the most beautiful locations in the state.
Pound Bend – Pound Bend Road, Warrandyte State Park
In the Yarra River’s upper region the water runs clean and clear. Even in the outer suburbs, locals make the most of the cold flowing river to cool down on a hot day.
In Warrandyte, on the site of a historic gold mining operation, is a gentle beach with some shallow and some deeper pools. Called Pound Bend, it is also the site of a diversion tunnel that was hewn into the solid rock, which allowed miners to starve the bend in the river of its water and mine the rich alluvial gravel.
Today the Yarra flows freely through this beautiful spot, shaded by towering mountain ash eucalyptus with plenty of parking, toilets and picnic facilities available.
Drop by Rob Dolan wines on the way back and pick up a bottle of wine and some excellent cheese by Stone and Crow.
Vaughn Springs – off Greville St, Vaughn Springs
You’ll find this popular swimming hole and campground on the banks of the Loddon River, 9km off the road between Daylesford and Castlemaine.
It sits at the base of a steep cliff where the Loddon River was dammed early in the 1900s to make a pleasure park for the locals. Back then European trees were planted, rock walls built and hand pumps erected above the mineral springs.
Today you’ll find a beautiful shaded park, toilets, BBQs, a giant slide and a deep pool of water with a gentle sloping pebble beach. Come early in the morning to see the resident platypus and take time to explore the Chinese cemetery by the reserve gates.
After a swim head to the Guildford General Store for a really good homemade pie or tea and cake.
Turpins Falls Scenic Reserve – Shillidays Rd, Langley
Note: Turpins Falls is currently closed due to deterioration of the walking track. Please check with Parks Vic for changes to access.
The walk down to this swimming hole outside of Kyneton is steep and overgrown with thistles. Make sure you wear long trousers and sturdy shoes. Take caution, as it is also somewhere that several people have died by diving into the cold water.
If you take caution, this is a beautiful reserve where the Campaspe River cascades some 20 metres down a basalt face. The circular pool is the size of several house blocks and the downstream side is shaded by river red gums and willow trees. The water is clear and deep in places but there are submerged rocks near the base of the falls. At this time of the year the waterfall has been reduced to a trickle but after rain the flow can be torrential.
Note there are no facilities at Turpins Falls but if you time it right you could make a post swim lunch or dinner at Colenso in Kyneton, where local produce and wines dominate the menu – try the beef schnitzel with local mozzarella cheese.
Centenary Park – Riverside Ave, Bright
The Ovens River runs through the heart of Bright, a sub alpine village under the shadow of Mount Hotham. In summer the locals increase the height of the weir to create a great big freshwater swimming pool in the centre of town. Called Centenary Park, this is one of the nation’s great and most glorious swimming holes, where toddlers paddle by a sandy beach on the creek and teenagers promenade on the boardwalk that follows the river.
Nearby is a waterslide run by local Rotarians and on the opposite bank, shaded by river red gums, is a steep steel slide that plunges into the deep water with a young lifeguard looking on. There is also a free waterpark with cannons, mist rings and dumping bucket.
Overlooking all this is Ginger Baker, a great café with shaded outdoor area serving great casual food and local wine and brews.
Livingstone Park – Creek Street, Omeo
On a hot summer’s Livingstone Park is a popular spot for young families and the town’s youngsters to paddle about in the shallows by the gravelly beach.
In the 1800s Livingstone Creek, on the edge of Omeo in East Gippsland, was dammed to create a source of drinking water for the gold mining town. Mid last century it was turned into a swimming pool.
Today, there is a four-metre high platform from which the local teenagers hurl themselves. It’s a great spot for a swim after exploring this historic region – there is a shaded picnic area and nearby toilets, too.
If you’re heading back down the Great Alpine Road towards Bruthen, stop off at Ensay Winery to try some cool-climate wines.