Coming from backgrounds in digital media and environmental science respectively, Caroline Clements (previously Broadsheet’s founding editor) and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon wanted to take a year off, and build their travel plans around an ongoing project. After a mutual love of swimming adventures emerged, together the duo travelled around Australia documenting the very best bodies of water, and how swimming informs Australian culture and identity, in their new book Places We Swim.
You took almost a year ‘off’ to explore the best swimming spots in Australia – what was it like to abandon regular programming?
Dillon: It felt like a real luxury to check out of our ‘normal’ lives to go exploring. I think that we often talk ourselves out of big changes because we think that we will somehow lose time or opportunity in our careers. However, it gave us a lot space to be creative and think more clearly about what we want to prioritise in our lives and our relationship. Sometimes when you are locked into ‘normal’ life, so much of our energy can become preoccupied with day-to-day logistics. Researching the book gave us just enough direction to have a purpose, but also the freedom to set new goals.
How did you actually find the swimming spots?
Caroline: The book is the result of many hundreds of people who contributed their own experiences and advice to help guide the initial list we put together of over 200 places. We called on friends and their parents who had done this trip before us, and asked other travellers along the way. Our job was to visit them all and determine what made the cut for the book of eventually 60 places.
In this process we found ourselves asking: Is this place special or unique to the region? Would we want to spend all day here? If a friend was visiting from overseas, would we want to show this off?
In your expert opinion, what makes the *perfect* swimming spot?
Caroline: The perfect swim is personal. It’s not just about the place you swim, it’s about the whole experience; the effort taken to get there and the company, perhaps the lunch you made when you got there. You might have the best swim of your life at St Kilda Beach with your friends, but inevitably the journey is part of the experience. What we found about some of our favourite places is that getting there was half the fun.
What were a few of your favourites?
Caroline: We loved exploring up north and going inland and discover the cool, deep pools of Karijini. Inland swimming is so foreign to us coastal dwellers, which made these places all the more special. This is a truly unique landscape where treasured wilderness sits directly adjacent to some of Australia’s biggest mining operations. Miraculously, the gorges of Karijini remain largely unspoilt as they carve paths through arid land. Some you have to walk, spider climb and swim through banded iron canyons to reach deep green shaded pools. It’s a real adventure.
But one of our favourite places was on the south-west coast of WA near a town called Denmark. The spot is Greens Pool in William Bay National Park, where a huge rock pool is protected by giant granite boulders. Denmark doesn’t have a local public pool here, so Greens Pool is where kids learn to swim, dive, and snorkel, and where locals do their daily laps in 500 metres circuits around the edge of the natural pool. It’s truly a community space, and we met some lovely people there.
Western Australia obviously made a huge impression on us. But we also loved exploring waterfalls in tropical north Queensland, the remote beaches of Tasmania and hot springs in Central Australia. It’s so hard to pick a favourite!
This is an edited extract from Places We Swim by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, Hardie Grant Travel, RRP AUD $39.99/NZD $45.00. Available in stores nationally now.