There are endless wonderful swimming destinations in the world where you can enjoy a paddle, dip a toe or train for your next triathlon, but, we thought we’d have a look at all continents and pick our favourites from each one. We’re going to take you from Africa to Antarctica, so grab a pen and add these to your swim-focused bucket list – because these are good, really good!
Boulders Beach, Cape Town
For the animal lovers
Part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area; Discover Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa.
Cape Town has no shortage of beaches but you will want to discover this little gem on the False Bay coast because when it comes to taking a dip, you won’t be the only species swimming in these refreshing seas.
Home to a colony of African Penguins, there is no other place in the world where you can swim with these cute little seabirds. Plus, your meager admission fee of approximately £1.50 goes towards keeping the beaches safe and clean for these endangered penguins. The fee also means it certainly isn’t the most crowded beach, so it’s a win-win.
Open 9am to 5pm all year round, this is a truly special swimming destination for the whole family or animal lovers out there. Your admission gets you close to the Colony along a boardwalk; You can see the penguins eating, sleeping and waddling around whilst they chat together. Despite being separate to the swimming beach, you will most likely find a penguin at your picnic – they’re not a species that are particularly deterred by fences.
When it is time to take a swim, if you do spot some of these little guys, you’ll have a hard time keeping up; they can reach a staggering 15 miles per hour in the water. Perhaps then, you can get some tips for your next open water race instead?
For secret gem-seekers
Famed for its spectacular sparkling waters, Greece for many is THE summer holiday destination, but many haven’t yet discovered the island of Milos.
The little-known volcanic island has a wonderful array of beaches and it has been said, the bluest water in the Cyclades. With around 80 beaches, there is no problem finding some crystal-clear water that is all yours to enjoy.
Often described as the untouched island you’ve dreamed of. Many find themselves amazed by this un-crowded island sprinkled with quaint port towns, small settlements, and boathouses.
Pack your snorkel and your walking shoes; When you’re not swimming there’s much to explore on the land. The beach is for everyone – whether you’re a family who enjoys a shallow play or a long distance swim enthusiast. The island’s multi-faceted shoreline offers uniquely smooth moonscapes and rugged rock formations, thermal springs and caves, chalky white cliffs (better even than Dover) and shady tree-lined shores.
Pemuteran Bay, Bali
For the keen snorkelers and scuba divers
Indonesia is famous for its stunning clear waters and diving, so it isn’t hard to find fantastic open water swimming location. But if Bali is the destination, discover the oasis of Pemuteran Bay with its dramatic fine black volcanic sand beach.
The coastal community is so dedicated to preserving their piece of ocean, that they created the world’s largest artificial reef project with the award-winning Biorock. Technology that uses electrical currents pumped into artificial reef frameworks on the ocean floor to encourage masses of life and the growth of coral.
So make sure you grab your snorkel or try some diving whilst you’re there. This bay is a swimmers paradise, that is sheltered by mountains and is free of currents. The set up makes for perfectly serene and calm swimming, as well as endless underwater explorations.
Havasu Falls, Arizona
For adventurers and hardcore-hikers
Rated as America’s best swimming hole; Havasu Falls is not what you expect to find amongst the vast red rocked and dusty Grand Canyon. But, a tough 10-mile trek into the famed Canyon will reward you; A lush paradise of emerald pools and the dream-like waterfalls of Havasu and Mooney, in the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Home to the indigenous people the Havasupai, this amazingly, is the only place in America where mail is still delivered by mule.
Not for the faint-hearted. If you seek to reach the larger of the two – the 200-foot Mooney Falls – you will have to negotiate wooden ladders, small tunnels and chains to get there. But, trust us, it’s worth it. Just make sure you book a spot well in advance to stay in the Havasupai Campground! Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing the 10 miles back or footing an expensive helicopter bill. Or perhaps you could borrow a mule?
San Blas Islands, Panama
For paradise-hunters and ethical travelers
You won’t be blamed for keeping an eye open for Jack Sparrow when you arrive at these serene islands. This paradise off the northern coast of Panama is like a scene from a film.
Coconut palm-lined islands you can cross in just minutes, crystal-clear waters lapping fine-white sand shorelines, shipwrecks and simple beach-side cabanas await. And if all that isn’t enough to make you think you’re dreaming… with a New Moon comes the opportunity to witness bioluminescence in the water. This is an unforgettable phenomenon caused by the emission of light by organisms like little squid and plankton – nature’s very own disco ball.
The San Blas Islands consist of around 360 islands; Uniquely they are managed completely by their original inhabitants, the Kuna people, who have full control over tourism. You’ll be delighted to learn that a trip to this picture-perfect paradise counts very much as ethical travel – every dollar you spend on these spectacular islands goes directly to the people; This is benefiting their health, education, and permaculture.
You can charter a sailboat or a take a day-trip from Panama City to reach these islands. But, be warned, you will never want to leave. In fact, building a home from palms and whiling away your days swimming the sea-life-rich waters will sound like the best idea you’ve ever had, and you won’t be wrong.
Australia (or Oceania)
Lake Te Anau, New Zealand
For lake-swimmers and long-distance travellers
New Zealand boasts mountains, forests, beaches and beautiful lakes. But, one destination that should be on your swimming bucket list is Lake Te Anau. Part of the Fiordland National Park, it is the largest of the southern glacial lakes, covering 344 square kilometres with three deep arms spreading west into Fiordland. This makes it the largest body of freshwater in Australasia.
Best for swimming during the summer months when it’s at its warmest at the edges. Because, there’s far less swimming to be done in glacial lakes during winter, and let’s be honest, who wants to?
Great for everyone, including families. Beach access makes it easy from Dock Bay or Brod Bay, which can be reached on foot or by water taxi.
Deception Bay, Deception Island
For adrenalin-junkies and experience-collectors
OK, technically this is not a ‘swimming destination’ because despite it offering ‘a swim’, we’re talking mere minutes of actual water contact before hypothermia sets in. But if we’re talking a swimmer’s bucket list, a ‘Polar Plunge’ in Antarctica is a must; considered as a rite of passage for intrepid travelers and adventure-seekers alike. When you have to remove thermals in order to take the plunge you know it’s going to be a quick one, but certainly a memorable one.
Deception Island is just 7.5 miles in diameter, with half of it covered by glaciers. But, it is something of a spectacle. This freezing island, once home to a whaling station, is a hot spot for ‘polar-plunging-enthusiasts’. It is also a place of great scientific interest due to this volcanic island’s thermal activity.
The thermal springs below the surface of the shore even make it possible to dig your very own hot spring. So, once you’ve taken a plunge in the freezing sea, you can hop back into your DIY hot tub.
If that’s a little basic for your liking, you can book a ‘Antarctic Cruise’. This will take you to Deception Bay for your plunge – before welcoming you back on board to a toasty sauna and hot meal. Now doesn’t that sound better than a hole in the sand in -4 degrees?