Meet the couple that travelled Australia in search of the best swimming spots

By Angela Heathcote 31 October 2018
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Caroline and Dillon travelled around Australia, experiencing the best gorges, waterfalls, hot springs and ocean pools the country has to offer.

IN 2017, YOUNG couple Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon embarked on the trip of a lifetime. They spent a year travelling around Australia, but with a twist: they wanted to document the best swimming spots.

Their travels culminated into Places We Swim, an all-encompassing guide to Australia’s best waterfalls, gorges, springs, thermal baths and public pools. But it’s not like most guides about Australian swimming you’ve read before.

For Caroline and Dillon, it was all about accessibility. That is, can absolutely anyone access these areas? They also didn’t want to present swimming as a solo activity, avoiding peak seasons and searching for solitude.

“We’ve included the more isolated spots as well, but we also wanted to capture the Australian identity,” Caroline says. “A lot of other travel books have these incredible shots of landscapes, but they’re always empty. We wanted to show the people who were actually using the swim spots.”

“We wanted to see these places at their absolute most crowded,” Dillon adds. “Then, if we still enjoyed our time, we considered the place to be particularly great. The amazing shared experiences you have with people while swimming really shows the spirit of Australia.”

The route

Starting in Victoria, where the couple then lived, Caroline and Dillon made their way through the state, adding places like Bushrangers Bay, Turpin Falls and the famous Fitzroy pools to their ‘must-visit’ list.

From there they travelled to Adelaide and then headed north, visiting outback swimming destinations like the Blinman Pools and Dalhousie Springs, a 35℃ artesian hot spring, which proved particularly difficult while travelling in a 30-year-old 4WD with no air conditioner.

“We started in an old Toyota Land Cruiser, which is the perfect car for going bush, but the heat was intense. We switched to a campervan when we started on the east coast,” Caroline says.

The Land Cruiser did, however, take them from outback SA through to the Northern Territory, stopping at Glen Helen Gorge, Bitter Springs and Wangi Falls, and then on to Western Australia.

“We get asked where our favourite place is a lot and it’s definitely Green Pools, which is right next to Elephant Rock [in Denmark, WA]. It’s this amazing granite landscape with huge boulders that create these huge, deep rock pools.

“It’s situated in a town that doesn’t have a public pool, so all the kids do their swimming lessons there and other people are always doing laps. We met some amazing people,” says Caroline.

Gorges, pools, springs and falls

Dillon, who grew up in the United States, says he was constantly stunned by the variety of swimmable locations.

“Nowhere in the world compares. We got to swim in the thermal springs of the outback, then the waterfalls of Kakadu and then you have all the different ocean pools right here in Sydney. And in all these places, people’s identity is defined by the presence and absence of water.”

Altogether, the couple visited almost 200 places and curated their must-visit list down to 60 destinations, all included in the book, with beautiful images and extra information on great nearby destinations.

“We wanted the book to be made up of the best places that anyone can get to, so that was key to the selection criteria. But also, when we showed up to a certain swim spot and found that we were falling in love, we just had to include them.”

The biggest takeaway from the trip for both Caroline and Dillon was how easy it is to connect with people about their favourite places to swim. “When you ask people about their favourite place to swim you can see the joy and it’s an easy conversation with strangers.”

Dillon adds that doing the trip with a loved one was also a highlight. “Being in a relationship and doing something like this together is one of the best things you can do, but it’s also challenging. You’re living out of each others pockets for a year and working on something creative, so it’s easy to get hungry and tired, but it’s rewarding to come out the other end having had the experience together and having created something together.”

merewether ocean baths best swim spots

Merewether Ocean Baths. (Image credit: Dillon Seitchik-Reardon)

Caroline and Dillon’s essential items list:

A lot of our essential items seem obvious (like a good road map, a hat, long-sleeved light-weight shirt, mozzie repellent, a jerry can) but below are some keys things we couldn’t live without on the road – and a couple of personal tips:  

For the car

Roadside assistance with long-distance towing. You never know where you are going to break down, but chances are you will be a long way from anywhere. This was some of the best money we spent.  

A fridge. We did the second half this trip with a fridge and it changed our lives. One of the first things that slips while on the road is a healthy diet, so do everything you can do to keep something fresh on your plate. You will also need a cold beer.  

At least 20L of water storage.

Flyscreens on windows, especially if you are sleeping in your car (which we were). You don’t want to have to choose between being too hot or being eaten alive.

Cash for remote camping site fees, and the odd roadside food stand.

A free-camping app to locate sites all over the country. There are plenty of good apps out there.

granite bay best swim spots

Granite Bay. (Image credit: Dillon Seitchik-Reardon)

Personal items:

Wet wipes – use these as a dry bath when you don’t have access to a shower.

A head torch – this is an invaluable item. You will use this every night. It’s dark out in the bush. It’s also really handy as a reading light.

Cover up with long clothes at night rather than using mozzie repellent on your skin every day. Wear long-sleeved shirts, jeans, socks and covered-toe shoes.

At least three swimsuits. If you’re on the ultimate swimming adventure, and documenting it, you’re going to want some wardrobe changes.

Runners will pretty much cover you for any scenario. No need for clunky hiking boots.  

An insulated drink bottle to keep your water cool.

Sunglasses and wide-brimmed hat – this might seem obvious but you will use these every day out on the road. You can’t underestimate their importance.

Goggles – these aren’t just for swimming laps, there are a lot of cool things to see underwater.

A good selection of podcasts (downloaded) and a comprehensive offline music library – you won’t have phone or radio reception for long stretches.

At the risk of sounding like an ad, Telstra is the only mobile network to go with if you want phone reception in remote places, though it certainly won’t be available everywhere. Be prepared to disconnect.

An e-reader – you will have a lot of time to read on the road but you don’t want books taking up precious car space.

Places We Swim by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, Hardie Grant Travel, RRP AUD $39.99/NZD $45.00.