Ready to cool off? Skip the crowds heading to the coast and try some of these freshwater swims instead. Whether you opt for a well-maintained, perfect-for-a-picnic spot, or choose a less manicured bush experience, these waterholes offer a memorable way to cool down.
Looking for Sydney's best freshwater swims? You'll find them here.
PACK YOUR LILO: POUND BEND
Photo: Scott McNaughton
This stretch of river in the Warrandyte State Park, around 40 minutes from central Melbourne, is the perfect place for a spot of lilo or tubing action for a simple reason – it's virtually a loop, so you can float along and end up back where you started. It has an interesting back story too: in 1870, miners created the Pound Bend Tunnel to divert the Yarra so that they could dredge for gold. Take a post-swim stroll along the interpretive trail that sheds light on local Wurundjeri history and culture. With toilets nearby, this is a good option for a family day out, so pack a picnic.
GO A BIT WILDER: LAUGHING WATERS
If you want to stay close to town but fancy more of a bush experience, you might want to head for Laughing Waters at Eltham. Just 40 minutes from town, on the other side of the Yarra from Pound Bend, Laughing Waters offers a very different way to get wet, with a series of rocky pools separated by miniature rapids. There are rarely too many people at this swimmable stretch of river, and the sheltering bush makes the city feel very far away. Be aware that this is a bush experience in more ways than one: since there are no toilets here, you will need to BYO toilet paper and shovel.
DIVE INTO HISTORY: VAUGHAN SPRINGS
At first glance Vaughan Springs, an hour south of Bendigo, looks like your typical bush waterhole, albeit one with electric barbecues and grassy picnic areas close at hand. However, this particular swim spot has a long history. Originally this was a market gardening area for Chinese miners; the old Chinese cemetery is just a short stroll away. The waterhole was created in the 1920s and became a popular weekend destination, with brass bands performing and visitors competing in sprint races. Today you can swim, picnic or hike one of the nearby trails (the Goldfields Track runs past here), but avoid the rope swing over the pool – the water beneath it is surprisingly shallow.
BRING YOUR BIKE: LYSTERFIELD LAKE
Photo: Jason South
The network of mountain bike trails is one of the big attractions of Lysterfield Park, 30 kilometres out of town, but we reckon Lysterfield Lake, with its wide beaches and clear water, is well worth the trip. It's not just swimmers who are welcome at this lake, originally built as a reservoir for drinking water – you can enjoy a range of water sports from canoeing to surf ski paddling. If you are planning an afternoon visit, you may want to linger a little longer – towards the end of the day, the park's resident kangaroos and wallabies emerge for a feed.
FAMILY FAVOURITE: MACKENZIE'S FLAT
Looking for a fun family day out? MacKenzie's Flat in Lerderderg State Park, near Bacchus Marsh, ticks a whole bunch of boxes. First off, it's easy to get to: less than an hour out of town, which matters when you have the kids in the back of the car. It has grassy lawns, loos and electric barbecues. And the water itself is shallow enough for younger kids to feel comfortable. If they're getting restless between swims, the three-kilometre return walk up the river to Grahams Dam will keep them entertained.
ROCKING IT: JEBBS POOL
Plenty of people head to Lorne for a healthy serve of seaside life, but few of them realise what a memorable freshwater swim lies just south of here. A mere 10 minutes out of town you come to the Cumberland River Holiday Park, which also happens to be the trailhead for the easy one-kilometre walk to Jebbs Pool. The tranquil bush waterhole has rock ledges at one end that make great platforms to stretch out on and also offer the easiest way to slide into the pool. The water depth varies, so you won't be able to do any serious swimming but for a magical spot to relax, this is hard to beat.