Freshwater pools, river inlets and ocean lagoons that offer serenity and seclusion.
The reason behind that quest for seclusion is simple – wild swimmers aren’t about a cool down on a hot day. We want something more. Solitude. Connection. The challenge of cold, or the thrill of rugged.
Wild swimmers are known for their love of swimming in unspoiled locations and understand the need to preserve our natural waterways. It’s within this understanding that the worlds of isolation and visitation meet: one of the most powerful ways to help conserve environments is to engage us all in relationship. When you love something, you care for it.
The more of us that know of the beauty, the more of us there are who can make an effort to protect our landscapes. So do the right thing. Leave nothing behind. And take extra care when entering unfamiliar waterways. Be responsible around your limitations. There is risk – king waves, strong ocean currents, submerged logs in river ways and heightened bacteria in fresh-water bodies during the heat of summer.
The Margaret River Mouth
There is a spectacular untamed beauty to the meeting of these two waterways – the mouth of the Margaret River and the dumping churn of the Indian Ocean at River Mouth beach. At different points of the year the river will carve its silt bottomed path to connect with the ocean itself. These times of year – especially in winter – can result in wild and dangerous rushes that make this no place to swim. But for much of the year the river system itself here is tranquil. The river water temperature is warmer than further upstream in the forest. Osprey hunt its banks. At dusk kangaroos can sometimes be seen coming down from the sand dunes to snack on the reeds. Take note if no swimming signs appear in summer: there are times when water testing reads bacterial levels as too high for safe water contact. This is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the river shallows and water temperatures rise. Bacteria subsides when autumn water flows create depth and movement in this part of the river system once again.
Practicalities: Parking, rubbish bins and public toilets on site.
Entrance points to the Blackwood River from Bridgetown, Nannup and Augusta mean that the largest river in the south west offers plenty of spots for an isolated swim experience. The river’s long reach also means the surrounding environment shifts from towering trees around Nannup and Bridgetown, to lower-level coastal treescape of Augusta, as the Blackwood widens and prepares to open to the Southern Ocean. For me, finding a riverbank spot in the town of Augusta offers a really quiet swimming experience of a seaside town known for its unpolished beauty.
Practicalities: Parking, easy access to the Augusta township and public facilities.
Between Margaret River township and Nannup, Barrabup Pool is one of a collection of freshwater swimming holes dotted between these two localities off Mowen Road. Follow the signs, park the car, and walk in along the narrow bush track within St Johns Brook Conservation Park to find this natural pool whose waters are as emerald as the surrounding bushland. A jetty allows for feet dangling, but its immersion that brings the biggest rewards.
Practicalities: Parking, camping, and basic drop toilets.
Tucked in around the corner from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Flinders Bay is another of those secluded curves of ocean that offers the rarity of shelter from exposure with views to the deep. The landmarks of jetty and point make for a natural lap lane for those with an eye to ocean swimming. Just don’t come here with too much focus on speed and execution – stingrays make the ocean bed their home, whales wander past in season and dolphin experiences are relatively common. There is ample opportunity to transform a wild swim into a wild natural encounter.
Practicalities: Parking, public toilets, and a children’s playground.
A full moon swim in the lagoon at Yallingup is an extraordinary experience. Reef conditions have created a sequestered circle of quiet water just on the inside of one of this town’s most hunted surf breaks. That placement of pounding surf just beyond reach of a mirrored aquamarine natural pool is a juxtaposition that cries out for digital visual record. But honestly, you’d be better off putting down the camera and immersing in the experience. Snorkel. Float. Swim. You can safely entertain children here. Ocean temperatures at the end of the cape are a little warmer than further south, but even so the winter months are beautifully brisk. And that saltwater therapy is priceless.
Practicalities: Parking, easy access and facilities in the nearby Yallingup township.
Photo credits: Ross Wyness