If you’re looking for the ultimate freshwater swimming experience, or just want to cool off after a long, hot hike, head to one of these popular and lesser-known rivers and dams in and around Cape Town. Keep in mind that water quality can vary and you may need permission to swim at some of these locations. But with prior approval and a quick check, there’s nothing stopping you from heading into the water!
The Silvermine Reservoir is the most popular and convenient freshwater swimming spot for anyone staying in Cape Town. It’s located at the end of a short, picturesque boardwalk just off the scenic Ou Kaapse Weg road. Visitors must pay a small entrance fee at the gate, but then you’re free to swim, braai, picnic or hike in the region.
Located just outside the coastal town of Gordon’s Bay, Crystal Pools is one of the best hike and swim combinations in the Cape. You’ll need to walk a few kilometres inland from the entrance gate in order to find the best swimming spots, but once there, you’ll have access to several pools, waterfalls, and rocks to jump off. Visitors must obtain a permit prior to arrival – the City of Cape Town website has all the necessary information.
Beaverlac Nature Reserve
Beaverlac is a spectacular nature reserve known for its incredible scenery and idyllic swimming spots. The rock pools and waterfalls make for perfect places to cool off after a day’s hike, and you can even spot some rock art here. The reserve is no longer open to day visitors, but there are great campsites for an overnight adventure.
The tranquil town of Stanford – a comfortable drive from Cape Town – is worth a visit for several reasons. Cheese, craft beer, views, and a slew of new restaurants and coffee shops have made this a firm favourite for those in the know. Moreover, it also provides the opportunity to cool off in the beautiful Klein River. While most people head down to King Street to picnic, there are also paths leading down to the river at several other locations in the area.
Jonkershoek is a beautiful and unspoilt nature reserve in the mountains just outside Stellenbosch. It’s one of the province’s most popular hiking regions, and offers an unbeatable freshwater swimming experience. Pack a picnic, take a hike, and finish off with a refreshing dip in the crystal clear river.
If you’re looking for an epic hike that guarantees a fresh water swim, head to the Suicide Gorge in the incredible Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. These mountains are not for novice hikers, and the main Suicide Gorge route will have you moving along the river in a slip-and-slide type of way for over 17 km! There are plenty of rock pools and some adrenaline-fuelled jumps to make it a fairly memorable excursion.
The Palmiet River is generally a more tranquil swimming experience. Set in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, there are several swimming options along the length of this river. Many people choose to hike up into the valley, and find remote spots to cool off. There’s also a campsite at the mouth of the river perfect for an over night stay, if you don’t feel like going back to the city right away.
Solms-Delta is a popular wine estate in the Franschhoek Valley. Although most visitors come here for the wine and food, there’s also the option to swim in the Dwars River. Purchase a picnic from the in-house restaurant, and then head to one of the allocated spots to spend a relaxing day alongside tranquil waters.
Bainskloof is a stunning place to explore on foot, and there are several hikes through the pass. These hikes can get you to the Witte River, which is perfect for swimming. Here, you’ll find rock pools and gently-flowing water in a truly spectacular natural setting. If you intend to hike and swim, make sure to plan ahead and purchase the necessary permits from Bainskloof Corner Lodge.
Breede is a long river that runs through several Western Cape towns, including Worcester, Ceres, Swellendam and Witsand, before emptying out into the Indian Ocean. There are several swimming spots along the 337 km river, but you’ll find the best ones in the Bontebok National Park, just outside Swellendam.