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Places We Swim Sydney: An excerpt

This is an excerpt from Places We Swim Sydney, the second book by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, published by Hardie Grant Travel. Follow their journey on instagram @placesweswim

To write our first book, Places We Swim, we quit our jobs, packed up our Melbourne home, and spent a year driving around Australia. Our goal was to discover the country’s best places to swim, but in many ways it was an informal search for our next place to live. With every state and town we found ourselves imagining a new home. We fell in love a little too easily and it pained us a little too much every time we departed. From Darwin to Denmark, Hobart to the Sunshine Coast, Port Lincoln to Anglesea, we were subconsciously evaluating our prospects. We weighed up climate, economy, proximity to family, lifestyle, and, of course, places to swim. Sydney seemed too binary to our Melbourne world. And yet, for this next phase of our lives, it represents the perfect balance of all the things that we need. Sydney is a water-loving, energetic and optimistic city.

Since moving here, we have made an effort to bring a travel mindset to our day-to-day life. As outsiders there is a certain lightness in not having a gang membership to any one region. We try to escape our local ‘bubble’ as much as possible by building our free time around an outdoor experience, a swim and/or a walk. Between the national parks, ocean pools, harbour pools, public pools and beaches, there is a lot to explore. Each new place is an excuse to venture deep into a neighbourhood and once there, it’s easy to find somewhere great to eat, to drink and to connect with the culture. This is how we like to travel overseas and we have tried to channel that very same curiosity and enthusiasm into exploring our home.

The variety and density of swims here is something that continues to amaze us. There are iconic beaches that gather the masses, yet just around the corner you will find a quiet refuge with a handful of friends. Ocean pools are bold and highly visible, carved into the reefs as a declaration of love for the sea. Waves explode over low walls and swirl a regular cast of swimmers like poached eggs. Harbour pools, on the other hand, are humble and secretive, places of calm enveloped in the leafy folds of hidden suburbs. There are swims that are easily accessible and others that demand your time and energy. Within these pages there are bottomless waterfalls, shallow reefs, and meticulously tiled lanes. It is all that we could ever ask for, and more.

In this abundance there is an inextricable connection between Sydney’s geography and its culture. There is a certain inevitability to this water-loving way of life. The Harbour is its physical and spiritual centre, and the city is bound on all sides by nature – the Blue Mountains to the west, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to the north, and Royal National Park to the south. Rivers, valleys, hills, headlands, bays and beaches divide neighbouring suburbs. There are endless opportunities for exploration and we’ve come to know it less as a single entity, but more as a series of villages and regions with distinct cultures, identities and communities. Water is the force that both divides and ties us all together (also high rent, but that is a different book).

We wanted to create this guidebook to not only celebrate the outdoors, but to also speak to a complex urban culture and history. Sydney is a place of water and stone. Life here is, and always has been, shaped by these two elements. The Eora, Dharawal, Darug, Gundungarra and other First Nations of the Sydney area have drawn physical and spiritual sustenance from the landscape for thousands of generations. Fresh and saltwater combine to create a uniquely bountiful environment. The very same sandstone that underpins many of our buildings also provided shelter and substrate for all who came before us. It is no wonder that Sydney has more rock engraving and art sites than any other city in Australia. Sydney is filled with Indigenous history, culture, and presence. With the greatest respect, we have made an effort to share what we have learned along the way.

This book was a pleasure to research and we hope that it is just as much fun to use. It is the result of countless early mornings, daytrips, and weekends dedicated to finding new places. It is also filled with accidental discoveries and unexpected advice. We have been helped at every stage by a group of generous and knowledgeable friends and enthusiastic strangers. In our selection for the book we have been guided by a few core ideas – places should be uniquely beautiful, they should be somewhere you could spend a whole day, be reasonably safe in good conditions, and should give insight into their local community and region.

So here it is. A city guide for water-loving people. It is a book of our favourite experiences and a collaboration with many incredible local writers, photographers, artists and producers. We hope that it is something that appeals to all types of people – from multi-generational Sydney-siders looking to discover new places, to new residents that want to know the local spots, and to visitors that want to do more than the standard highlights. Most importantly, we have chosen places that we want to return to again and again. We want people to expand their understanding of the city and have fun doing it. This is not a bucket list to get through, but special places that we will know and love for the rest of our lives.

We hope that you feel the same way.

A touch of Sydney

Though it feels like an impossible list when every single entry in this book is one of our favourite swims, if you really want to twist our arm, these five swims go a long way to revealing the many sides of Sydney.

Freshwater Ocean Pool, Freshwater

The birthplace of Australian surfing and the north’s darling beach and ocean pool combination.

Maccallum Pool, Milsons Point

Meditate on life’s big questions at the North Shore’s most peaceful pool.

Redleaf Pool, Double Bay

A hidden, harbourside tidal pool with twin pontoons and lush garden surrounds.

Wylie’s Bath, Coogee

A natural-bottomed ocean pool and an enduring monument to the golden era of swimming.

Salmon Haul, Cronulla

The crown jewel of Cronulla swims.

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