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16 places to swim in Canberra (that aren’t pools!)

Jessica Schumann

You don’t need to go to the coast to enjoy the beach.

You might be surprised to discover just how many incredibly beautiful watering holes are on the city’s doorstep. Here’s where you can dip your toes and cool off during the long, hot days of summer.

Be sure to check the TAMS website for closures before you head out, though!

Murrumbidgee River Corridor

Uriarra Crossing

Image via ginninderra.org.au/recreation

Image via ginninderra.org.au/recreation

Looking for a swimming spot you can enjoy with your dog? With both on and off-leash exercise areas, Uriarra is a great place to take your dog for a swim, indulge in a picnic or relax with a book. Drive pass the cyclist haven of Stromlo Forest Park via scenic grazing country to Uriarra Crossing and its shady riverside picnicking areas.

Have a swim and walk down to the junction of the Molonglo River on the Uriarra Loop Walking Track. There are two sections of the park either side of the river. The area also has picnic tables, shelter, toilets and barbecue facilities available. Access is via Uriarra Road.

Casuarina Sands

Tall shady trees, green grass and the river flowing with purpose is what will greet you at Casuarina Sands. With so much to do, Casuarina Sands is an ideal location for picnics, river swimming and fishing or to launch your kayak or canoe. Renovated in 2010, it now offers barbecue facilities, shelter, drinking water, picnic tables and toilets. After a swim in the river, take a stroll upstream to the historic pumping station. No dogs allowed. Access via Cotter Road.

Kambah Pool

Image via visitcanberra.com.au

Image via visitcanberra.com.au

A popular swimming spot with picnic tables, toilets and walking trails, Kambah Pool offers the perfect picnic location. Walk to spectacular Red Rocks Gorge, take a dip in the mighty Murrumbidgee River or hike along the River to Casuarina Sands or Pine Island. Part of the area is set aside for nude bathing. No dogs allowed. Access is off Kambah Pool Road.

Pine Island

A long-time favourite for many Canberra families, Pine Island is the main recreation area along the Murrumbidgee River in southern Canberra, conveniently located adjacent to Tuggeranong. The island features three separate barbecue areas with picnic tables and toilets, a playground and a series of swimming holes and beaches to enjoy. No dogs allowed. Access Pine Island via Pine Island Road, Greenway.

Cotter Bend

Tucked away within a bend, a wide pool and sandy beach marks the meeting of the Cotter River and Paddy’s River. A favourite with many for a swim, splash or fish, Cotter Bend offers barbecue facilities, picnic tables, drinking waters, toilets and is wheelchair accessible. Enjoy a picnic on the grass, read a book under a large shady tree or enjoy a swim along the meandering river. After a refreshing swim, you can even take a short drive to Tidbinbilla to enjoy snacks, icecream, hot pies, sausage rolls, coffee and cold drinks at the Visitor Centre 9am to 5pm, seven days a week. Access via Cotter Road.

Gigerline Nature Reserve

The rugged gorge and surrounding land offer up beautiful clear waters great for swimming and paddling while its sandy beach is perfect for laying out a picnic spread. Extending from Angle Crossing in the south to the northern boundary of Outward Bound in Tharwa, Gigerline Nature Reserve has some valuable remnant native vegetation including stands of Manna Gums.

Take your canoe but leave puppy behind, as the reserve is a no dog zone. Toilets are on site however camping and fires are not permitted at any time. Access from Angle Crossing Road via the Monaro Highway near Williamsdale or from the Naas Road near Tharwa.

Tharwa Sandwash

Another local treasure, Tharwa Sandwash is part of the Gigerline Nature Reserve located in a bend of the Murrumbidgee River and is a calm, sandy and open stretch of river ideal for swimming, kayaking and water play. For the bird lovers, there is also 128 bird species which are known to inhabit this space of only two hectares. Upgraded in 2010, the area has new facilities and walking paths. No dogs allowed. Access off Smiths Road via Naas Road near Tharwa.

Angle Crossing

Shallow broad clear waters make this hidden gem perfect for floating away your summer worries. A lovely sandy beach that makes up part of the Gigerline Nature Reserve, it’s a great spot for swimming, paddling and picnicking. No facilities (including toilets) or dogs on site with access off Angle Crossing Road via Monaro Highway near Williamsdale or from Naas Road near Tharwa.

Tharwa Bridge Recreational Area

Paddle and picnic near the historic Tharwa Bridge in the township of Tharwa. Opened in 1895, Tharwa Bridge is the oldest surviving bridge in the ACT. Facilities include toilets, barbecues, picnic tables and disabled access. Ideal for swimming, fishing or walking. After a swim, drive to nearby Namadgi Visitor Cenre and Lanyon Homestead. No dogs allowed. Access via Tharwa Drive, Tharwa.

Point Hut Crossing

A shady picnic area and great swimming, Point Hut Crossing is easily accessible to families. Ideal for a lazy Saturday barbecue, horseride or canoe Point Hut offers barbecue facilities, toilets, fishing and picnic tables. Dogs are allowed on leash. Access via Drakeford Drive, Woodcock Drive and Jim Pike Avenue in Gordon.

Murrays Corner

A pleasant picnic area beside the road, Murrays Corner is perfect to stop off for a swim, bite to eat or a stretch of the legs with your pooch. It offers barbecues, toilets and picnic tables with a ford across the river that leads to other picnic areas. Access via Paddy’s River and Tidbinbilla Road.

Lake Burley Griffin

Black Mountain Peninsula

With magnificent views across Lake Burley Griffin, lots of bird life and a safe place to swim, this park is popular for young people and families.

Photo: Creative Commons, Natasha Stewart

There is access to the lake for canoeing, rowing and sailing, along with picnic facilities and a range of toddler and young children’s play equipment including a swing designed for children in wheelchairs. Access is off Lady Denman Drive.

Yarralumla Bay

Primarily designed for water-based recreation with a boat-launching area and sections set aside for swimming, Yarralumla Bay offers pleasant shaded picnic areas connected to popular commuter and recreational cycleway/walkway with information and directional signage around the lake. The western part of the area has sailing and rowing clubhouses, launching ramps, piers and a wharf. You can find this swimming spot on the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin between Orana Bay and Blue Gum Point with access off Alexandria Drive.

Weston Park

The park’s name recognises the pioneering contribution that Thomas Charles Weston made to the city’s unique landscape and parks system. The large playground includes a climbing net and swings with a wading pool that is operational in summer only and a miniature train. Perfect for large groups, Weston Park has a beach (maybe we do have one after all) and swimming area located on the eastern shore while ample provision has been made for picnicking and parking. Access is via Weston Park Road, Yarralumla.

The Brindabellas

Gibraltar Creek

Make your way to Woods Reserve on Corin Road, just 30 minutes drive from Tuggeranong and discover Gibraltar Creek. Previously accessible via a beautiful walk that left Woods Reserve and followed the creek upstream to Gibraltar Falls, these days (and if you don’t mind getting wet, though that is the point of visiting, right?), “rock-hopping” is going to be the easiest way to access these very pretty swimming holes. Deep enough for a splash before heading back, there’s no need to leave the kids at home. Just get them to put on their old shoes as you make your way through the creek. No dogs allowed. Access from Corin Road.

Flea Creek (4WD-only)

Flea Creek Campground, Brindabella National Park

Flea Creek Campground, Brindabella National Park

Take extra care with the little ones as you head to this rather remote yet popular shady oasis, arguably one of the most prettiest swimming holes in the region. It’s perfect for spreading out a picnic blanket and relaxing by the gurgling Goodradigbee River, splashing about in the deep pool or exploring the rocks upstream.

The main swimming area is 300 meters past the campground in Flea Creek and only room for around 10 vehicles so you may need to park at the campground on a hot day. Make a weekend of it and pitch your tent with the family for a few days disconnected from the world. No dogs allowed. Access via the Gentle Annie Fire Trail off Brindabella Road.

Water Safety

If you’re out enjoying a refreshing dip, be sure to take note of the following to make sure you and your family remain safe.

  • Do not enter the water if signage indicates the conditions are unsafe;
  • Watch the flow – flowing water is stronger than you think;
  • Never drink and swim;
  • Never let children out of your sight and avoid swimming alone;
  • Never dive into water if you are unsure of the depth; and
  • Keep an eye out for submerged logs, other hazards and wildlife.
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Jessica Schumann

A 'rambling ranga' at heart, Jessica Schumann is a bubbly, creative social thinker who thrives on words, social media and an innate knack for sharing stories. When she finds the time to write, Jessica seeks out the beauty in change and the essence of human condition. Varied and diverse in nature, her writing delves into the enviable world of people, travel, food and culture. When you can't find her in a nook writing, just follow your nose and you’ll soon find Jessica indulging in her other passion – cooking – or curled up on the couch with a good book in hand. You can find her over at ramblingranga.com.au. More about the Author

  • Yasmin Element

    I go swimming in rivers around Canberra 2-3 times a week throughout spring, summer and autumn.

    Cotter camping ground is also a good spot… lovely and shady so on the hottest summer days you can find some delightful icy cool patches of water…

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