Whether you’re after a quick dip or a day-long laze, these locally loved chill-out zones, located at various points along the Great South West Edge, tick all the right boxes: calm, clear waters, gorgeous scenery and unique local charm.
1. Injidup Natural Spa, Margaret River
This may well be Australia’s most stunning natural spa: a blissfully serene rock pool, nestled into the cracks of smoothly rounded boulders, until – crash! – waters topple over one side, creating a fizzy cascade of natural bubbles that fill the pool with delight. Long enjoyed by locals, Injidup natural spa is the result of a high rock shelf on one side, which creates a natural barrier against the ocean’s tidal movements. As waves crash onto the rocks, they filter through cracks like natural bubble jets, causing a temporary ‘spa’ in the stunningly clear water. To get here, drive to the car park at the north end of Wyadup Road in Yallingup, then follow the well-worn network of paths downhill (to the left of the carpark) before the trail curves to the right. Be sure to watch your footing; walkways traverse an uneven rock plateau and aren’t marked.
2. Fonty’s pool, Manjimup
Beautifully warm, silky waters of a freshwater pool aren’t what you’d expect to find at a caravan park – but there’s nothing ordinary about Fonty’s. This beloved Manjimup institution is the home of Fonty’s Pool, a famously beautiful freshwater dam with a 120-year history, which was recently threatened with closure until locals pitched in and saved it. Today, Fonty’s Pool is listed on the National Trust as a worthy national treasure. Pay the entrance fee (a very serious $3) before grabbing one of the industrial-sized inflatable black tyres floating at the water’s edge and diving in: as the light begins to fade, it streams over the pool in thick golden stripes, dappled by weeping willows at the water’s edge. A small wooden cabin and quaint old diving board (still in use) complete the scene.
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3. Greens Pool & Elephant Rocks, Denmark
Clear, limpid waters, white sands and smoothly rounded rock formations: the adjacent swimming spots of Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks, located just outside Denmark in William Bay National Park, are slotted into the same curve of remarkably beautiful coastline but, for all their similarities, they’re quite different. Start at the wide, flat expanse of Greens Pool – its shallow-bottomed, clear calm waters make it a local favourite for a social set of laps – before dusting the sand from your towel and following the five-minute path around to Elephant Rocks. So named for the enormous boulders dotting its water (said to look like a herd of elephants trudging through the water) this intimate little inlet enjoys the same stunning waters and white sands as its popular counterpart, in a sheltered cove with spectacular rocks. Pack your snorkel.
4. 11 Mile Beach Lagoon, Esperance
The Esperance coastline is outrageously beautiful – expect islands, inlets and the entire green-blue colour wheel, from mint to sapphire – but the lagoon at 11 Mile beach is its own kind of special. Pull in to the 11 Mile Beach car park (clearly signposted; it’s the first or last beach on the Great Ocean Drive, depending on your direction) and peek over the cliff for a bird’s-eye preview of the treat below – a liquefied beach, where Esperance’s trademark white sand is covered by water so clear, it’s almost invisible – before descending the wooden steps to jump in. A product of shifting sands and a flat, wide rock shelf, the lagoon is entirely natural; the beach, if you’re so inclined, is likewise natural (clothing is optional!). Afterwards, continue along the Great Ocean Drive and head into town or double back to Lucky Bay Brewing. This microbrewery destination is a few minutes off the beaten track, but explorers will be rewarded with great beer and friendly smiles.
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5. Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park
Long, lazy bays, candy-coloured water and sands as soft as fairy floss: Cape Le Grand National Park is a chocolate box of natural treats, but the standout attraction is its must-visit star, Lucky Bay. Famous for its troop of resident roos, which can be found on the beach almost all day every day, it’s also a wonderful swimming spot (in fact, its sheltered waters are the reason why Matthew Flinders named this bay “Lucky” when exploring in 1802). Admire the unusual water colour – a translucent iced mint that seems to glow – before a freshwater shower in the sunshine by the walking track. Afterwards, explore the adjacent stretch of sand at Thistle Cove which is just as pretty, if not as well known; nearby Hellfire Bay is also a family favourite.