Where: Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney
Distance from Sydney CBD: 0 – you’re practically in the thick of it
Accessible via public transport: Yes – 18 min walk from Circular Quay station (or 30 mins if oyu have a toddler that likes to dawdle)
When beautiful Marrinawi Cove opened a year ago at the northern end of Barangaroo, many were quick to call out the lack of sand, slippery sandstone rocks and treacherous ferry induced waves. But if you’re playing tourist in Sydney with the kids, who can resist taking a dip in one of Australia’s most iconic waterways? With a shark net in place and the water fairly calm (kids tend to love the mini-waves created by passing boats and water craft), along with shower facilities and a toilet, this is a unique place to take the family for a refreshing city dip. But do take note of slippery submerged rocks and oysters (tip: wear aqua shoes), and like many swimming spots along the harbour, there’s no life guard on duty.
Read our full review of Marrinawi Cove here.
Where: Royal National Park, Sutherland Shire
Distance from CBD: 40kms, 1 hour drive
Accessible via public transport: Yes but walking required
Hop on the train and head south to Heathcote and on the Karloo walking track (rated Grade 3 so some bushwalking experience will be helpful), you’ll find Karloo Pools – a collection of rock pools, the largest 20ms in length and emerald hued in colour – with flat rocky outcrops where little ones can explore and adults can sun bathe. Getting in and out of the pools is easy thanks to sloping rock ledges but note that the water is consistently deep so whilst the pools are fairly tranquil, little ones who aren’t confident swimmers will need floaties and adult supervision. If you’re keen to snag a good spot, head in early as this is a popular swimming location with locals and Sydneysiders alike.
Family love bushwalking? Follow the Karloo Track (moderately challenging) through heathland and keep an eye out for ‘whaleback’ rock outcrops, named for their resemblance to whales surfacing for air, and the outcrops of Uloola Turrets.
Where: Glenbrook, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW
Distance from CBD: 65kms, 1 hour 20 minute drive
Accessible via public transport: Yes – 3kms walk from Glenbrook train station or 10 minute walk from the car park to the pool
Take the picturesque Jellybean Track (rated Grade 3 so it’s suitable for most ages and fitness levels but does include some uneven terrain so some bushwalking experience will help), as it meanders into the Jellybean Pool – named for its jellybean-like formation. Once you get there, the waters are so gentle little ones will have no problem paddling in, whilst adults can relax on a lilo (well…).
There are shady spots thanks to gum trees that dot the pool so pack a picnic and enjoy nature at its best – but get in early, towel real estate and shady spots are snapped up quick at this popular swimming hole.
Where: Glenbrook, Blue Mountains area
Distance from Sydney CBD: 60km, 1 hour+ drive
Accessible by public transport: Yes, but short walk required – around 15 minute descent to the gorge from the start of the walking trail
A 30-minute walk (or 7-minute drive) from the Jellybean Pool, is the stunning Glenbrook Gorge – a quieter but equally stunning swimming spot compared to its more popular neighbour. It’s only a few minutes from the town centre but this watering hole nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains feels utterly secluded and features a towering gorge wall, giant boulders and the type of rugged kind of scenery that looks straight out of a Northern Territory tourism ad (minus the scary crocs).
There’s a moderately steep path – with a staircase cut into parts of the terrain – that will lead to the swimming hole. Closer to the river, the path deteriorates so wear good walking shoes as you’ll encounter debris and some uneven surfaces along the way down. Once you reach the gorge, pick a spot with relatively calm water as currents can run strong when the water level is high, not to mention pockets of rapids which can pose a hazard for little ones. Otherwise this swimming hole is often empty – even on a sunny weekend, making it the perfect spot for some quiet family time in nature.
Where: Garrawarra State Conservation Area, near Helensburgh
Distance from CBD: 55kms, 1 hour+ drive
Accessible via public transport: No.
Always wanted to take a dip under a waterfall? At Kellys Falls – an easy 640m walk from the Kellys Falls picnic area car park – you’ll get to indulge your waterfall swim fantasies to the soundtrack of nature. Think cascading water over rocks, bowerbirds and honeyeaters singing in the bush and the light rustle of breeze through the gum trees. It’s easy enough to wade into the shallow but there are deep pockets in the centre of the falls pool. And once you (or your little ones) tire of the swim, from the picnic area there are four scenic lookouts to explore where you can take in views of the waterfalls and the rainforest-lined gullies below. Wollongong is just a short drive away if you want to explore further afield.
Have you visited a secret swim spot or unique watering hole that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below – we love hearing about family friendly destinations across Sydney and beyond.