Summer’s coming in Sydney, and the promise of hot weather has got me thinking about my favourite swimming holes around the world. Not one of them is a relaxing sandy beach lapped by aqua waves. In fact, they all require a bit of trekking to get to, but the best rewards are the ones we work hard for, right?
Here’s a rundown of my top three favourite, hard-to-get-to swimming holes:
1. Sooke Potholes, Canada
I live in Sydney, but home for me is Victoria, a city on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada. It’s packed with the sorts of misty forests that made up the sets for TV shows about spunky FBI agents adamant that the truth is out there. It’s surrounded by freezing cold ocean and woven with rivers, lakes and streams that make for the best, albeit chilly, swimming on the planet.
Every summer there’s a handful of delicious, sweltering hot days when a only a dip in the Sooke Potholes will cure what ails you. It’s a length of the Sooke River where the water has carved potholes into the riverbed. Some of them are so deep, you can cliff jump into them.
Take your pick of places to jump in: some are right near the carpark and easy to reach, and others require a more adventurous, and some would argue stupid, spirit. You can walk up steep gravel paths through the forest to spots where the water is bordered by steep rock walls. The only way to get out once you’ve jumped in is to swim and wade down river, sometimes over waterfalls until you find a place to climb ashore.
Cliff diving and falling over small waterfalls not your cup of tea? Try the Mediterranean.
2. Vernazza, Italy
Vernazza is one of five idyllic villages along Italy’s craggy northwest coast. The villages, or Cinque Terre, are tucked into the cliffs that line the coast. They’re connected by either a train line or hiking trails that skirt lemon groves and vineyards. No cars go in and out. Sand is in short supply in Vernazza; the beach is a collection of lovely, sun-baked, flat rocks that are the perfect size and shape to cradle your back and prop up your head as you dry off after a late-morning swim.
The town is a maze of charming apartment buildings, shops and cafes, painted in shades of faded yellow, orange and turquoise. The streets are narrow, cobble-stoned footpaths curving down to steps which make the perfect place to sit and eat bread and soft cheese while a lazy cat loafs at your feet.
3. Gordon’s Bay, Australia
Compared with the other two, getting to Gordon’s Bay is positively civilised. It’s a pretty little cove between Coogee and Clovelly beaches in Eastern Sydney and it’s accessible by a gently rolling, paved path. I’m a big chicken when it comes to big waves and rips, and Sydney beaches have no end of both. Gordon’s Bay waters though are still, with a gradual slope out to sea so you can walk out far and always touch the bottom. It’s surrounded on both sides by big flat rocks that remind me of Vernazza. Maybe it’s that there’s not much sand, but for some reason Gordon’s Bay is pretty quiet compared to places like nearby Bondi Beach where tourist life pulsates loudly. It’s the perfect place to spend a hot, lazy Sunday. As soon as it’s warm enough, I’m planning to take up weekend residence there.
Where do you like to dip your toes in the water?