Get Inspired – The 10 Best Open Water Swim Spots to Explore.
Open water swimming is a world of wonder, a realm where you can glide through crystal-clear waters, explore vibrant coral reefs, or revel in the beauty of alpine lakes.
Open water swimming is an activity that allows you to connect with nature, challenge yourself, and discover breathtaking destinations. You can explore crystal-clear Alpine lakes, swim over vibrant coral reefs, or go on an island-hopping swimming adventure. If you're ready to dive into the world of open water swimming, we've got a list of 10 must-visit spots that will leave you inspired and craving more.
1. Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia.
Water Temperature Range: 18-24°C (64-75°F).
Bondi Beach is not just a postcard-worthy destination; it's also a swimmer's paradise. With its stunningly clear waters and vibrant atmosphere, Bondi offers an unforgettable open water swimming experience. Don't miss the iconic Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, where you can swim year-round while gazing at the endless horizon. Then finish off with some people watching and relaxation at Bondi’s numerous cafes and bars.
The best time to swim at Bondi Beach is towards the end of summer; the water is warm, there are fewer crowds than at the height of summer, and the City Ford Sydney Bondi Blue Water Challenge is on the way. This unique multi-distance swimming and running event is held on the last weekend of summer.
2. Lake Tahoe, USA.
Water Temperature Range: 4-20°C (39-68°F).
Nestled on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the USA. This serene lake is known for its dazzling blue waters and breath-taking mountain backdrop. It's a magnet for long-distance swimmers seeking both the tranquility of nature and the challenge of cold-water endurance.
Marathon swimming is increasingly popular at Lake Tahoe. There are three marathon courses on the lake, with options to swim solo, tandem, relay, and two-way.
3. Lake Windermere, Lake District, United Kingdom.
Water Temperature Range: 6-20°C (43-68°F).
In England's Lake District National Park, you'll find Windermere, the largest natural lake in the country. Surrounded by lush hills and charming villages, Windermere offers clear freshwater for swimmers seeking easy swimming or a rewarding challenge.
This spot is suitable for both beginners and seasoned swimmers and provides an excellent training ground for those preparing for long-distance swims or triathlons. The variable conditions, such as wind and changing water temperatures, can help swimmers build endurance and adaptability. There are organized events and races throughout the year, including the iconic Great North Swim.
4. Croatian Islands, Croatia.
Water Temperature Range: 12-26°C (54-79°F).
Croatia's Adriatic coast is a treasure trove of islands and secluded coves, inviting swimmers to explore some of Europe's most stunning coastline. With its warm waters, rich marine life, and scenic vistas, this spot is perfect for relaxation and adventure alike.
There are over 1000 islands dotted along Croatia’s Adriatic coast. Numerous beautiful bays and coves offer peaceful swimming and great island-hopping swimming opportunities. Be aware that some bays can get busy with boat traffic from June to September and factor that into your water safety.
5. Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia.
Water Temperature Range: 10-14°C (50-57°F).
Perched high in the Andes, Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake. It offers an exhilarating swimming experience for cold-water swimmers amid awe-inspiring mountain landscapes.
While the altitude can be challenging, the beauty of this ancient lake is truly unparalleled. Taking a dip in Lake Titicaca is like swimming on top of the world, with deep blue waters and surrounded by the peaks of the Andes.
The still waters can get choppy when storms roll through, so be prepared for that. Swimming at altitude is also more taxing, so don’t expect yourself to swim for too long before needing a break.
6. Rotorua, New Zealand.
Water Temperature Range: 14-21°C (57-70°F).
New Zealand's Rotorua is famous for its geothermal wonders and has 18 lakes, providing unique swimming experiences with warm waters and wild natural surroundings. It's an ideal destination for both relaxation and training.
Rotorua’s lakes are dotted with picnic spots and are popular for swimming, fishing, boating, paddleboarding and more; keeping you active on non-swimming days. Rotorua is also famous for its geothermal spas and has a network of superb mountain biking and walking/running trails among the redwoods of Whakarewarewa Forest.
7. The Maldives.
Water Temperature Range: 28-30°C (82-86°F).
For an idyllic open water swimming destination, look no further. The Maldives is a paradise for open water swimmers, offering warm, crystal-clear waters teeming with rainbow-hued marine life. Swimming alongside vibrant coral reefs and tropical fish is the norm in the Maldives. Whether you're a newbie or an expert, this stunning destination has something for you.
The Maldives is also a great place to try scuba diving for the first time. There are shallow reefs just off the beaches, offering calm waters full of life that create an easy and unforgettable first dive.
8. Lake Geneva, Switzerland/France.
Water Temperature Range: 5-20°C (41-68°F).
Lake Geneva, surrounded by pristine waters and stunning Alpine scenery, is a favorite among long-distance swimmers. The 70-kilometer "Traversée du Lac" race attracts athletes from around the world, making it a must-visit spot for those seeking a challenge.
You can swim year-round at Lake Geneva, but the summer is the best time to visit, offering warm waters and numerous swim spots to while away your summer days.
9. Lago d'Orta, Italy.
Water Temperature Range: 10-20°C (50-68°F).
This small Italian lake is nestled among picturesque villages and lush greenery, providing a serene open water swimming experience. It's an excellent destination for relaxation and reflection and lacks the crowds of Italy’s other lakes.
Lago d’Orta is not just great for swimming; it is surrounded by villas, blooming gardens, cultural sites, and waterfront cafes. All of which make this a wonderful destination for groups with non-swimmers.
10. Greek Islands, Greece.
Water Temperature Range: 18-26°C (64-79°F).
Greece's numerous islands offer a multitude of open water swimming opportunities. Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete are just a few examples of picturesque locations where you can immerse yourself in the Mediterranean's beauty.
There are organised swim events, guided swim holidays, coastal swims, and full circumnavigations to choose from, offering something for every swimming preference.
With its warm, clear waters and stunning underwater scenery, Greece is also a popular place to go freediving. It’s much easier than you think to learn to Freedive and it has numerous health and fitness benefits for swimmers.
Before diving into any open water swimming adventure, ensure your safety. Be aware of local guidelines, weather conditions, boat traffic, and water quality. Wear a brightly-colored swim cap for visibility and consider using a safety buoy. If you're new to open water swimming, seek guidance and start with shorter distances or join a guided swimming trip.
Now that you know about these fantastic open water swim spots, it's time to pack your swimsuit, grab your gear, and start exploring. Whether you're seeking relaxation, a training challenge, or the thrill of new landscapes, there's a world of swim spots to discover. Your next unforgettable swim awaits!
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.