Outdoor swims in Australia and New Zealand: hot and cold

In my trip round New Zealand and Australia this March and April, I took dips whenever I could or paddles when I couldn’t. I plan to write about some of the more interesting and beautiful places.

Swimming down under was a joy. As it was autumn, I was considered eccentric for swimming, especially without a wetsuit. But the waters were inviting, and instead of the No Swimming signs so familiar at home, there were just informative and welcoming ones.

Ocean with rolling surf and a beach, seen though a weather-shaped tree and foreground foliage on a sunny day
Yallingup beach, Western Australia

I did 50 swims/dips over seven weeks, of which three were in Hong Kong (on a short stopover), 24 in New Zealand, 23 in Australia, and I had 28 paddles. These were in oceans, inlets, lakes, rivers, a dam, thermal pools, lidos and outdoor hotel pools, and varied from beautiful remote beaches or beaches busy with surfers, to urban inlets and lakes, to iconic lidos such as in Sydney next to Harbour Bridge.

outdoor swimming pool on a sunny day, decorative wall, and Sydney Harbour bridge in background
North Sydney Olympic Pool

The weather was mostly good – and seemed particularly good for someone coming from an English winter – with much of Australia and New Zealand having a late burst of sunshine and warmth. Most waters into which I dipped my toes or myself were the temperature of English waters in summer, though some were a little colder, such as the deep icy Blue Pool not far from the glaciers in the West Coast rainforest.

blue-green water with foliage behind and part of a suspension bridge
Blue Pools, Makarora, Mount Aspiring National Park, NZ

Something we don’t have is hot springs. These made for unusual dips, such as at the confluence of a hot river and a cold one known locally as Hot ‘n Cold. You can choose a spot at a temperature you like, or alternate between warm and cool. Another was Hot Water Beach, where at busy times crowds turn up to bask in the spas they make by digging holes in the sand over the hot spring and filling them with seawater. I found it so hot (at around 38-42 degrees) that I had to cool off in the sea.

beach with children and adults in holes dug in sand, with sea
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel, NZ

I left the southern hemisphere wanting more (always the best way to leave the water – or anything else for that matter). But I had a wonderful and varied experience, worth travelling halfway round the world for.