It’s officially summer. While the weather hasn’t quite got the message yet, it soon will and by all reports it’s looking to be a long, hot season. Luckily, there’s a range of cool, shady spots in Melbourne and regional Victoria that are just waiting to be discovered.
While the Yarra River as it runs through Melbourne isn’t overly enticing for a quick dip, it’s a major attraction in The Warburton Valley. Here, it flows cool and clear and makes for a really refreshing swim, splash or paddle.
Those wanting to experience something new this summer can try their hand at the popular local watersport: tubing, with inner tubes available for purchase from the local hardware store. Take to the river at the Warburton Holiday Park and enjoy a leisurely float back to Thomas Street in town.
Nature lovers can also enjoy platypus spotting at Warbuton – this is one of the few locations in Victoria that these delightful and elusive creatures have been seen. Dusk and dawn are the best times to lay eyes on one, as it hunts for a meal.
Those preferring to stay dry can take a casual stroll along the banks of the river and through the giant mountain ash trees, with free walking maps available from the Warbuton Visitor Information Centre.
Just a short drive from the charming small town of Kyneton is Turpins Falls, a large billabong that’s one of the state’s great locations for cooling off. This freshwater swimming spot is located deep within a gorge making it feel like a little-known secret, although it’s a hub for locals and day-trippers who enjoy the festive feel.
Hop in via the rocky river outlet and discover the blissfully cool water and the space – size wise, it’s larger than an Olympic swimming pool, although with various water depths so cliff diving is strongly prohibited.
After a day lazing in the warm sun, why not take a short stroll down Piper Street in Kyneton, there’s plenty of award-winning places to eat and drink such as Source Dining, Midnight Starling and Animus Distillery, for those who have worked up a thirst.
The Aboriginal word for “meeting of the waters”, Echuca sits at the junction of the Murray and Campaspe rivers. This is a place for taking it slow - drive or cycle by the water’s edge and glimpse the various sandy beaches, taking time to choose the most enticing spot to lay a towel.
Echuca is a true water lover’s paradise, with endless activities to while away the summer hours. Practise finding balance on a stand-up paddleboard or hire a canoe or kayak to up-the-speed. Adventurous types may choose to swim from one state to the other – just make sure to check the current before making the cross.
What’s unique about this region is that there are a variety of houseboats available for rent, which range from basic to top tier luxury. Alternatively, check into a paddle steamer such as the Emmylou, which offers day trips and overnight Murray River cruises. These are a fabulous fit for foodies, who might enjoy a wharf to winery lunch cruise or prefer to whet the whistle on the gin, beer and river trail.
Wave-riders around Victoria will know the frustration of suiting up to sit out in the water and only catch a couple of decent rides back to the beach. That’s where URBNSURF, opening soon, comes in – generating picture-perfect waves from morning through evening. Australia’s first surf park is located just 23 minutes from the Melbourne CBD and provides consistently ideal surf conditions for those who can't get to the coast.
Enjoy simulated, ocean-like waves and limited crowds, with settings to suit surfers of all abilities. Beginners can check in for a lesson or more advanced surfers can hone their skills with challenging barrels and steep walls.
Surfing is a spectator sport, so visitors are encouraged to stop in and enjoy the view, while also sampling some delicious food from the acclaimed Three Blue Ducks team. The lagoonside areas have something to suit everyone, with hot tubs and day beds for those looking to relax, as well as a playground to keep the kids occupied.
BYO board or rent one, alongside a wetty from the Surf Rental store.
Just a short drive from picturesque Halls Gap is Lake Bellfield, where a dip in the chilly waters is the perfect way to cool down on a sweltering summer’s day.
Lovers of a peaceful day out will be thrilled to hear that jet skis and powerboats are banned on the lake, which is a hub for recreational activities such as fishing, canoeing and swimming. A variety of delicious fish can be snagged here, including redfin, blackfish and brown trout, which can be caught in abundance.
Keeping the kids occupied over the summer holidays can be challenging, especially as the mercury soars. A visit to Adventure Park Geelong is a good strategy, as they’ll enjoy more than 20 world-class rides and attractions, almost all of which are designed for keeping cool.
The newest addition to the to-do list is The Tsunami, which launched in November this year and is an epic adrenaline rush for the whole family. Standing at a staggering 7.5 storeys high, this is Victoria’s first triple funnel waterslide and features colossal tidal waves, raging waters, whirlpools and menacing rapids.
There’s activities for the younger ones too, with all-ages splash zones that introduce them to water play as well as gentle rides that can be enjoyed alongside an adult.
Blue Pool is a fantastic swim spot in a gorge near Briagalong, approx. half hour’s drive north from Sale. Boasting well established facilities, this is by far one of the most popular watering holes in the Briagalong State Forest and makes for the ideal summer retreat.
There’s rope swings, cliff jumping – anywhere from a couple of metres to a six metre plunge – and many little creeks to explore, so the likelihood of boredom here is slim. Although there’s not a lot of shade down by the water so it’s important to load up on sunscreen before settling in.
For those preferring to stay dry, there are a range of walking tracks available nearby. These include the Peregrine track, which takes its name from the majestic Peregrine Falcons that nest here from September to December each year.
BYO inflatables and don’t forget water as there’s none to be found at the nearby campsite.
True to its name, the Great Ocean Road is an ideal family destination for all sorts of summer activities, although it’s worth doing some research to find the quieter spots.
Wye River is just a short drive from Lorne and has a quaint charm to it, as well as a welcoming pub with brilliant views over the water. The sandy beach is patrolled on weekends from November through to April so it’s a safe spot for the kids to have a splash or even learn to surf.
As with anywhere on the Great Ocean Road, it’s important to always swim between the flags and check the conditions before venturing out.
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