5 Awesome Australian Hikes That Finish At Swimming Holes
Walk and plunge.
Although getting outdoors in the heat of summer can be about as appealing as an intimate dinner with Donald Trump, the promise of refreshing waters after minor (or major) physical exertion will help turn up your enthusiasm dial.
Here, we’ve got you covered for the walk ‘n’ plunge combo with five awesome Australian national parks that hold the promise of cooling waters at the end of your butt-hauling efforts.
#1 Royal National Park
Where: Sydney, New South Wales
Body of water: Beaches and freshwater swimming holes
A casual scroll through many a social media feed will tell you that we are (hashtag) blessed for a whole range of life-occurrences: having families/friends, plus access to wine/coffee/avocado smash are just a few. But while the jury is still out on whether that killer combination of avo, feta and mint on toast really equates to a special favour bestowed by an almighty power, for those who live in close proximity to Sydney’s Royal National Park, the term ‘blessed’ seems legit.
The Royal National Park is an easy hour drive out of the bright-lights of Australia’s biggest city but it feels as though you’re worlds away from the concrete towers of civilisation. If you’re a keen trekker and want to work up a satisfying sweat, take on the 26km Coast Track and pepper your journey with swim-stops along the way. Little Marley, Wattamolla, North Era or Burning Palms Beach all make for dreamy cool-offs along the way, but take care as these are unpatrolled – you’ll find no hot Bondi Patrol lifeguards here.
Check out Garie Beach for your hard-earned plunge (or surf, if you’re a wave chaser), and if getting salty isn’t your thing, the RNP is also home to several freshwater swimming holes; try Karloo Pool, Deer Pool or Curracurrang for a cooling dip sans the sand.
#2 Noosa National Park
Where: The Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Body of water: Beaches
Noosa is famed for its luxe resorts, nautical fashions and fancy brassieres – a northern retreat for the classy city-dweller – but the best this northern Sunshine Coast town has to offer doesn’t cost a penny: the Noosa National Park. This area spans a forested peninsula and is home to a wide range of native flora and fauna, offering five different walking tracks to choose from. (Hint: if you see a gaggle of tourists with cameras actually pointed away from their faces there is definitely a koala nearby.)
For the promise of aqua blue waters, coastal coves and one of Noosa’s quieter surf breaks take the Coastal Track that winds around the headland. The first beach for a refreshing plunge is Tea Tree Bay, but to really get your walk on earn your swim, walk the full track to Alexandria Beach (an unofficial nudist beach) for your dip. Alexandria is also home to a good surf break if you’re buff enough to carry your board.
#3 Wilsons Promontory
Body of water: Beaches and estuaries
Wilsons Promontory, or The Prom as it is affectionately known by its legions of fans, is so incredibly popular that, to secure a camping spot over school holiday periods, you have to enter a ballot months in advance. When you get the chance to see this wondrous landscape with your very own eyeballs, you’ll understand why.
Situated in the wild and rugged wilderness of Victoria’s coast, The Prom is mainland Australia’s southernmost tip. This spectacular national park has more walks and hikes on offer than Netflix has episodes. Your walk ‘n’ plunge experience will depend on the amount of time you have, where you’ve set up camp and what the weather is doing. If you’re keen to swim, come in summer months because the waters down here can get (literally) Antarctic. Most walks or hikes start from the main camp ground, Tidal River, and range from short jaunts to multi-night treks.
We recommend the Sealers Cove walk; at 19km return, this can easily be done in a day. Or take any of the shorter walks to Norman Beach, Squeaky Beach (there’s a strong undertow here), Picnic Bay or Whisky Bay and refresh yourself in the crisp waters of Australia’s southern coast.
#4 Kakadu National Park
Where: Northern Territory
Body of water: Waterfalls, waterholes and billabongs
Australia’s Kakadu National Park is an other-worldly, terrestrial mass that spans 20,000 square kilometres, making it the largest national park our island home has to offer. The place is any nature fiend’s wildest dream; to explore all corners of this diverse landscape, from wetlands to sandstone boulders would easily take a week or two. Expansiveness aside, this national park is home to multiple walks and hikes that finish with the beckon of a waterfall or waterhole.
If you’re keen to do the walk’n’plunge combo, visit in the dry season (May to October) to minimise your risk of crocodile encounters. These guys can enter the park and waterways, but fear not modern day adventurers – the park rangers have got your backs with chicken-baited traps near popular swimming spots and signs that monitor danger levels. Kakadu National Park advise you’ll be swimming at your own risk, and suss out the NT Government’s CROCWISE website before any trip to the Outback.
For a super rewarding post-trek plunge, try Jim Jim beach and plunge pools or Gunlom Falls. At the latter, you can climb to the top of the waterfall and swim in the sandy-floored, cooling waters of the river, surrounded by endless vistas and the history of earth’s oldest surviving culture. The traditional land owners, the Bininj/Mungguy people, have been living and caring for the land for over 50,000 years.
#5 Mount Coolum National Park
Where: The Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Body of water: Beach
While this mountainous trek doesn’t technically have a swim at the furthest point of it (being a mountain and all), just a short walk from the National Park’s carpark you’ll find the long sandy stretches of Coolum’s beaches. For your daily exercise, walk, scale, run or hike up this huge rock and be rewarded with 360 views of coast and hinterland, plus an almost birds eye view of Clive Palmer’s Resort. Then, make your descent and head straight to the gleaming waters you were just ‘gramming moments before. To really treat yourself, head into Coolum for a coffee or some avo smash afterwards, and while you’re at it, why not tell the world just how blessed you really are.
(Lead image: hawaratogo / Flickr)