11.15.18 / Sydney / Australia

‘Places We Swim’ Takes You to the Most Magnificent Waters of Australia

A guide to the Australia you rarely see

Since the start of A Hotel Life, our Australian Editor Caroline Clements has embodied the spirit of the world-traveler, finding unique and often stunning locations off the beaten path in places like Singapore, New Mexico, and Sri Lanka. But it only took a look in her native land to find a beauty and depth she hadn’t noticed before. For her new book Places We Swim with partner Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, Caroline travelled across Australia, from the cities to the outback, the most popular to the most hidden, the standard to the spectacular, all with one goal: finding the best places to swim.

Though Caroline doesn’t feel any exceptional disposition to swimming herself, she felt it’s an integral part of the Australian mindset, and documenting the places people swim also became a way of understanding her own culture in a new way. In doing so, Caroline has created one of the most unique types of travel books, one that showcases a country in a way most people have never seen it before. Places like Bushrangers Bay, Edith Falls, and Clovelly Beach are described in detail, but the book also profiles cultural figures who are connected to the water in some esoteric way. There’s a level of intimacy with the spaces that might only be possible to get from a local, and in the gorgeous photography you get the sense you’re privy to something you might never have found yourself. In this reinvigorated excitement for the possibilities within Australia, we spoke to Caroline about Places We Swim and her favorite places in the country.

Having travelled around the world, what do you think makes Australia the best place for swimming?

Swimming is truly a personal experience. There are many great places to swim around the world, Australia just has the lion’s share of the best… but I’m bias. What is so special about Australian swimming is that they are many and varied. From beautiful beaches and ocean pools in New South Wales and Western Australia, to inland waterholes in the Northern Territory and hot springs in South Australia, waterfalls in Queensland, public pools with songs written about then in Victoria and the crispest, clearest water in Tasmania. We are so lucky to have such diversity in Australia – there is swimming for all kinds of swimmers.

As an AHL contributor, you know firsthand that there are many ways to embrace the culture of a given location. What drew you to the simple act of swimming?

Swimming is a very simple way to connect with people in Australia, and probably anywhere.
Even if you are not a hard-core swimmer (we’re not either) most people think of themselves as swimmers, or have a fondness for it. It’s a very equalizing activity and one that most people talk about freely and easily. When we ask other travelers about their favorite swimming spots, we’d often get a long list written on a tissue or old receipt. Some of these recommendations were the best places we visited. Swimming truly felt that a very natural access point to the Australia psych. It’s a huge part of our culture and identity regardless of whether you are a coastal or inland dweller.

Were there any new places you found that really stuck with you?

Most of them. We visited well over 200 places around the country during our travels and
whittled them down to 65 for the book. These were river, lakes, waterholes, beach, ocean
pool, water falls, hot springs and public pools. Many of these are iconic Australian swimming
spots, be in Whitehaven Beach, Bondi Icebergs or up north in The Kimberley, but plenty of
these places we hadn’t travelled before. One of the most memorable for us is place called
Greens Pool near Denmark on the south-west coast of Western Australia. This large,
naturally occurring ocean pool is bound by large granite boulders that create a safe haven
for swimmers. This is also the town’s public pool, so is where kids learn to swim and where
locals do their morning laps. The landscape here is lush and fertile and the people are
wonderfully welcoming – it’s a very special place.

When doing research for this book, did you discover anything about Australia you didn’t know before?

It’s bigger than you think and takes way longer than expected to drive around. We had
nearly 12 months and that wasn’t enough time to explore this huge island. We discovered
that the landscape is so diverse – it can be dry, dusty and apocalyptic one day, then the next
you’re in a wet tropical paradise. Because so much of our population live on the coast, it was
very revealing to go inland and explore the places and meet the people in the middle. Every day seemed like a discovery, but, through our travels, it allowed us to get to know Australia a bit better and really fall in love with it.

Caroline Clements is our Australian Editor. She wrote Places We Swim with her partner Dillon Seitchik-Reardon. The book is published in Australia by Hardie Grant Travel. It’s available in bookstores in Australia and online at placesweswim.com. For more Australian swimming inspiration, follow Caroline and Dillon on instagram @placesweswim

[Bushrangers Bay by Dillon Seitchik-Reardon]

[Cockle Creek by Dillon Seitchik-Reardon]

[Emma Gorge by Dillon Seitchik-Reardon]

[Merewether Ocean Baths by Dillon Seitchik-Reardon]

[Bondi Beach by Eugene Tan]

[Places We Swim]

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