Outdoor winter swimming is a popular activity around the world. From Swedish cold bathhouses to Chinese ice swimming competitions, people find a unique joy in cold-water immersion.
Australia has our own winter swimming traditions found in the many winter swimming clubs located around the country and Tasmania’s famous naked winter solstice plunge. Winter swimming enthusiasts claim that swimming in low temperatures boosts our immune systems and mental health.
While Perth’s temperatures don’t drop to the same extremes as some other colder countries do, there are still many places where you can experience the thrill of swimming outdoors this winter.
Bicton Baths, Bicton
Now standing as a boardwalk, the original 1926 baths structure encloses a square section of the river for swimming. The structure provides a clear boundary for lap swimming and is used by many swimmers all year round. The Melville Water Polo complex is located directly behind the original baths and is home to the hottest outdoor geothermal pool in Perth, sitting at a toasty 37 degrees. After taking a splash in the chilly river, head up to the club and sink into the hot outdoor plunge pool. For $9 you will have access to the club’s 33m lap pool and the geothermal hydrotherapy pool. The geothermal pool is open from 7am until lunchtime on weekdays.
Leighton Beach, North Fremantle
Leighton beach’s exposed coastline feels spectacularly wild in winter. You will share the water with thrill-seeking kite surfers and if you are there early enough, some serious winter swimming clubs. The northern end is home to a dog beach so you can bring along your pooch too. After your swim, warm up in the recently installed shower facilities and grab a hot drink from the Orange Box’s famous VW coffee van.
Sorrento Beach, Hillarys
If you feel a little nervous about what’s swimming beneath the murkier winter waves, then Sorrento Beach might be the perfect place for you. The beach has a 430 x 270m shark net installed all year round to make sure that stray pieces of seaweed will be the only sea life you meet underwater. Treat yourself to a hearty meal and a coffee in one of the many Hillarys Boat Harbour cafes after your dip.
Scarborough Beach Pool, Scarborough
Ideal for those people who aren’t quite ready to dive into cold outdoor swimming but are after a similar experience. The geothermally heated outdoor pool overlooks the formidable winter waves at Scarborough Beach. For the $7.30 entry, you have access to a 28 degree lap pool, 30 degree leisure pool and hot shower facilities for after your swim. Head down early and watch the surfers tackle the swell at the beach below.
Harvey Beach, North Fremantle
Despite its name, Harvey Beach is actually located on the Swan River. Nestled into North Fremantle’s limestone rocks and shaded by overhanging trees, the beach offers some privacy for swimmers. A set of wide, sturdy steps help you climb in and out of the water, and it’s close proximity to the ocean means that you don’t have to worry about the cleanliness of the river. Bring a flask of hot tea to drink while rugged up in your towel at the picnic tables after your swim.
Wooroloo Brook, Berry Reserve
Berry Reserve is located 45 minutes from Perth City in the Swan Valley area of Gidgegannup. While many people use the bath like pools of Wooroloo Brook to cool off during the summer, the water is deeper and fresher during the winter when its waterfalls are flowing. Winter is also the ideal time to see the reserve’s colourful wildflowers blooming.
At the main car park you will find the start of a 2.7km walking trail. Follow the trail alongside the smaller Wooroloo cascades until you see a large, slide like rock protruding out of the water. If you can brave the cold, arrive early to beat the morning hikers and experience a truly wild dip in the brook.
The Basin and nearby coves, Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is quieter, wilder and a little windswept in the winter. The island’s waters only drop a couple of degrees lower than in the summer thanks to the warm Leeuwin current that travels down from northern Western Australia. If you’re searching for your perfect winter swimming spot then make sure to steer clear of the more exposed western end of the island that often gets hit by bad weather. Instead, think about dipping into the Basin’s protective pool and avoid the rough waves. If you’re after an even quieter spot, then turn left at the Basin and follow a narrow sand track towards Longreach Bay. Half way down the track, you will find a smaller ocean swimming hole that is perfect for winter swim in solitude.
Mettam’s Pool, Trigg
Without the heaving summer crowds, the popular snorkelling spot becomes a quiet oasis in the colder months. Unlike other northern beaches, Mettam’s sheltering reef protects the ocean pool from rough winter waves. The shallow waters mean you don’t need to go for a serious swim if you prefer floating over freestyle. If you’re in need of a post swim feast, check out the nearby North Beach Deli or walk a little further up to local favourite, Yelo.
Words by Teneal Zuvela.
Header Image Credit: Troy Mutton