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Open water swimming in the top end

We catch up with swim coach, surf lifesaver and open water swimmer, Amanda Bagley, about what it’s like swimming in Darwin, Northern Territory.

They say that when you go open water swimming in the Northern Territory you swim 37% faster than in the pool.

Ok, so they don’t really say that, but for southern swimmers looking from the outside, it sure does look like swimmers are up against it… after all, aren’t there deadly crocs lurking in the waters?

As the Northern Territory enter their open water season, we decided to investigate, speaking with local open water swimmer, coach, and lifesaver, Amanda Bagley, about what it’s like swimming in the top end.

“We started swimming in early May this year, around Mother’s Day,” said Ms Bagley.

“It was actually very popular and busy on Mother’s Day this year, everyone was out having a swim.

“Our swim season pretty much goes from May through to September, which is a very short period of time.

“But, we do have quite a few open water swimming events in that time.”

The first event in the Northern Territory this year is round one of Swimming Northern Territory’s Open Water Series on Saturday, June 18. The very next day on Sunday, June 19, Darwin Surf Lifesaving Club will be hosting the Darwin Ocean Swim.

“The Swimming NT events are all held at the Darwin Waterfront in our man-made lagoon, so there is nothing to worry about there because it is all protected,” said Ms Bagley.

“It’s a great event and everyone can do it from kids to masters to triathletes and just your average swimmer.

“The Darwin Ocean Swim used to be called the Fanny Bay Classic but that changed this year because they decided to change the location to Casuarina Beach to mix it up.

“That is a great swim and Casuarina Beach is just a beautiful beach so it will be nice for a change of scenery for that event this year.”

The Darwin Ocean Swim

Now, back to the small issue of crocs…

Ms Bagley tells us we’ve got nothing to worry about! In fact, in her 25 years of swimming in the NT, she hasn’t seen a crocodile at all.

That’s a relief!

“I’ve been doing the ocean swims up here for 11 years and patrolling the beaches as a surf lifesaver for 25 years and I haven’t had any problems or seen any in that time,” said Ms Bagley.

“It’s quite safe and they wouldn’t let you into the water if it wasn’t safe.

“What they do is the night before any scheduled swim events in the ocean up here, they send in the crocodile catches and make sure that there aren’t any.

“And if by chance there is they wouldn’t send you into the water because it just isn’t safe.”

Yup, that is a good idea

If an ocean swimming event isn’t for you there are also plenty of safe locations to enjoy open water swimming in the Northern Territory.

“There are plenty of safe places to swim up here, it’s just about knowing where to go,” said Ms Bagley.

“Many of the older people like to swim together down at the Darwin Waterfront in the lagoon or at Lake Alexander (a man-made lake located in Fannie Bay).

“You can also swim at the patrolled beaches. We have three beaches that are patrolled; Mindil, Casuarina and Nightcliff – which is my favourite cause that’s where I live.

“The beaches are patrolled every Sunday afternoon and it is usually a great time to go for a swim. Some Sundays we can get 35 people swimming at one time in the little cove that Nightcliff Beach is.

“But lots of people, I like to call them die-hards, like to swim without a patrol at those beaches.

“Just the other day on my way to the pool in the early morning, there was a bunch of people swimming early at the beach.”

As you can imagine the water gets hot in the Northern Territory but Amanda tells us it’s nothing extreme during the ocean swimming season.

“The heat really doesn’t play a part whether we swim or not cause we’re lucky that the ocean doesn’t get too hot up here,” said Ms Bagley.

“The water usually ranges from 26-29 degrees during our swim season and can get a bit cooler during June and July but it’s manageable.

Yes, we think we can manage with that temp thank you very much.

“But at Lake Alexander, the water can get quite hot and steamy at times,”

“The lake is only shallow so it does heat up, so when it is hot we usually avoid that and just hit the ocean instead because it is usually a beautiful temperature to swim in.”

To find an open water swimming event in the Northern Territory head to our event calendar.

Darwin’s top open water swimming locations

Are you looking for a safe place to swim in Darwin? Here are the top five open water swimming spots, each with a map to help you locate them.

Darwin Waterfront Lagoon

The lagoon is Darwin’s only man-made saltwater lagoon and is separated from the adjacent Darwin Harbour by a seawall.

The lagoon is a popular spot for open water swimming in Darwin as it gives the feel of swimming in the ocean minus the risk of marine animals such as stingers.

Lifeguards patrol the lagoon daily from 9 am to 6 pm.

Lake Alexander

Lake Alexander is a man-made lake located in Fannie Bay, Darwin.

The lake is described as a picturesque body of water by locals with many swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking there.

Mindil Beach

Mindil Beach is located in The Gardens of Darwin’s central business district and is patrolled seven days a week during the dry season which is perfect for swimming at.

Casuarina Beach

Casuarina Beach is located in Darwin, extending from Rapid Creek through Casuarina to Lee Point and is a popular location for open water swimming among locals.

The beach is patrolled on Saturday and Sunday during the dry season.

It is also home to the Darwin Surf Lifesaving Club.

Nightcliff Beach

Nightcliff Beach is a great spot for open water swimming in Darwin with its cove-like appearance.

The beach is patrolled on Sunday during the dry season.

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 6 June 2022
  • (Updated on 4 August 2023)



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