is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.



There’s a moment, right after you’ve scrambled out of the bracing waters of a natural swimming hole, when the smugness sets in.

Palms streaked with dirt, bottom sliding along the mossy rock you’ve just perched on, you know you’re as close to nature as you’re ever likely to get. With not a soul around and as near nude as you could ever be outside your own home, you’re connecting with the landscape in a way that’s impossible in a chlorinated pool, or at a beach crammed with sunburnt, sand-flicking tourists.

Swimming holes are nature’s hidey-holes. Usually surrounded by rocky escarpments or groves of trees, they are places of escape. Peaceful nooks where you can wash your worries away far from the madding crowd, then laze in the shady quiet for as long as it takes for your mind to catch up with your now-tranquil body. This peace, however, is a reward that must be worked for, given the remote location of most swimming holes. In northern Israel’s Golan Heights, it took an hour of hiking in 35-degree heat to reach the secluded Hexagon Pool. But leaping into those crisp waters, encircled by hundreds of hexagonal basalt columns formed by lava flows millenniums ago, made the schlep worth it.

These adventurous, Huckleberry Finn-feels are what swimming hole devotees crave. After kayaking through the jungle in Vanuatu to reach a deep natural spring, my husband and I were transported back to our childhoods. We spent hours climbing the surrounding banyan trees, telling tales and bombing into the milky blue waters of our own private playground.

As a kid, I spent summers exploring the swimming holes of the NSW Barrington Tops National Park, bare-chested, wild-haired and free. When I returned last summer, I found them just as delightful as I remembered them, and my husband and I spent an unforgettable afternoon lounging on rocks submerged in the water, sipping champagne from enamel mugs as fish nibbled our toes.

Unmanned and unpredictable, lovers of swimming holes are nothing if not lovers of the unknown. Which is why my favourite swimming hole of all can be found in a fairytale NSW spot called Promised Land. There, by the Never Never River, you’ll find the rope swing of childhood dreams. You can use it to throw yourself into the crisp waters, what lies beneath the surface a complete mystery, in the perfect summer baptism.



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