Summertime in Gloucester means going for a swim in the pool or a splash in the river, so spread your towel in a shady spot and listen to the sleepy sounds of summer in the country.

Let’s start in town first. Here you’ll find the prettiest park you’ve ever seen, Gloucester District Park, nestled alongside the Gloucester River. There are plenty of shady spots to lay your towel and you can listen to the sound of the water babbling over the river pebbles on its way to the sea. It’s so nice here you may not even need a swim afterall.

But do at least take a moment to dip your toes into that cool water and be grateful for feeling refreshed in such a pretty spot. Afterall, it was here that Robert Dawson, the first European to see this place in November 1826, poetically described the scene as being "like a species of enchantment".

Gloucester Olympic Pool Complex

Although the rivers around Gloucester offer great swimming holes, sometimes it’s the facilities of this swimming pool complex that you crave. You’ll love the Olympic-sized 50 metre lap pool, 15 metre wading pool with water feature and shade cover, toilets, change rooms, kiosk, first aid room, shady areas, picnic facilities and a fenced children’s play area. This is summertime swimming at its easiest, the grassy area features free electric barbecues and a gazebo that’s perfect for parties or the extended family. But don’t tell the kids about the free wi-fi… keep that for your own Instagram moments!

If you’re looking to avoid the poolside crowds and prefer to swim where the platypus play, then the many rivers around the Gloucester region are perfect:

Barrington River

The Barrington River is one of the largest rivers in the Manning catchment, being fed by high-altitude wetlands in Barrington Tops plus other smaller tributaries coming down from the plateau. The river descends 1,370 metres over its 93 km before ending where it meets the Gloucester River at Gloucester.

A short drive from Gloucester takes you to some public riverside spots on the Barrington River with space for picnics, swimming holes for cooling off and calm flat water for lazing about on a rubber ring.

For easy summertime swimming in the Barrington River, try:

  • Barrington Reserve next to the Barrington Bridge on Thunderbolts Way
  • The Quarry river reserve for public river access at the end of Dundee Rd (off Bowman Farm Rd, Barrington)
  • Rocky Crossing river reserveon Barrington West Road (off Thunderbolts Way)
  • Relfs Road river reserve for public river access at the end of Relfs Rd (off Thunderbolts Way)
  • The Cove river reserve for public river access on Manchester Rd, Bindera
  • The Steps Barrington Campground (day use fee applies $5 pp) at 535 Manchester Rd, Bindera.

For a private river experience there are many accommodation choices located alongside the Barrington River. Self-contained holiday cabins and cottages include Barrington Hideaway, Barrington River Lodge, The Old Schoolmasters Cottage, Mansfield Cottage, Barrington Riverside Cottages, Water Gums Retreat and Riverview Cottage at The Steps. Riverside campgrounds include Poley’s Place and The Steps Barrington.

Gloucester River

The Gloucester River is formed at a series of cascades at Gloucester Falls high in the Gloucester Tops precinct of Barrington Tops. The headwaters are cloaked in groves of tree ferns, snow gums and Antarctic beech trees in a landscape direct from ancient Gondwanaland.

The Gloucester River descends 1,150 metres over its 102 km before ending where it meets the Manning River at Bundook, west of Wingham. You’ll find plenty of family-friendly swimming with easy 2WD access close to Gloucester.

For easy summertime swimming in the Gloucester River, try:

  • Gloucester District Park on Thunderbolts Way, between the caravan park and the bridge
  • At the concrete causeways across the Gloucester River at Stantons Lane, Faulkland Road or Barrington West Road (all at Faulkland). Caution: there is very limited parking at these locations and the crossings can be busy during holiday periods so beware of vehicles.

For a private river experience there are several accommodation choices located alongside the Gloucester River. Self-contained holiday cabins and cottages include Cockadilly and Mudaridge. Riverside camping is available at the NPWS Gloucester River Campground (within the national park) or the Gloucester Holiday Park (in the town centre).

Manning River

The Manning River is the longest river in the Manning catchment with its source high in the Barrington Tops plateau. It passes through rugged wilderness and hidden valleys, past national parks and remote farming communities before becoming a significant regional river. It flows full but calmly past historic townships and the regional city of Taree in the verdant Manning Valley. The waters of Barrington Tops carried by the Manning River then thread through Australia’s only double river delta system to finally join the Pacific Ocean at Harrington.

The Manning River descends 1,500 metres over its 201 km. Around the Gloucester region you’ll find family-friendly swimming at several campgrounds located alongside the Manning River.

For easy summertime swimming on the Manning River, try:

  • Gummi Falls Campground in Barrington Tops State Conservation Area (on Bullock Brush Trail off Tubrabucca Rd)
  • Manning River Camping Area in Barrington Tops State Forest (off Pheasants Creek Rd)
  • Gloryvale Reserve camping area alongside the Manning River (on Thunderbolts Way at Tibbuc)
  • Bretti Reserve camping area where the Barnard River joins the Manning (off Thunderbolts Way at Bretti)
  • Woko Campground in Woko National Park (on Curricabark Rd off Thunderbolts Way, Woko)

For a private swimming experience on the Manning River, you can stay with Mansfield on the Manning a boutique retreat set on 16 acres of beautiful gardens overlooking the river at Tinonee.

Barnard River

The Barnard River is one of the many “secret” rivers in the Manning catchment with its source at Hanging Rock Reserve near Nundle. It passes through the remote and beautiful Curracabundi National Park before ending at Bretti Reserve where it joins the Manning River.

The Barnard River descends 1,240 metres over its 148 km. You’ll find family-friendly swimming with easy 2WD access at Bretti Reserve on Thunderbolts Way, a scenic 30 minute drive from Gloucester. Facilities there include 50 camping sites (free of charge!), grassy areas for riverside picnics, new toilet facilities, swimming holes for cooling off and calm flat water for lazing about on a rubber ring or surf mat. Plus it’s dog-friendly if you have well-behaved dogs under control.

For easy summertime swimming on the Barnard River, try Bretti Reserve on Thunderbolts Way.

For a private river experience you can stay at the secluded Karamea Homestead alongside the Barnard River in Curracabundi National Park. Tucked away on an old grazing property, this federation timber homestead sleeps up to 10 guests.

Swimming safety tips:

Swimming always holds a certain amount of risk, no matter where you decide to enter the water. So don't become another swimming tragedy statistic, here are just a few helpful tips:

  1. Never dive into ANY water, unless you’re in the swimming lanes at the Gloucester Olympic Pool
  2. Never swim in floodwaters
  3. Always check water levels before swimming; the water upstream of the concrete causeways at river crossings is generally deeper and slower than the water downstream which is generally rockier and faster
  4. Always check the water for hazards and snags, especially after rainfall events
  5. Take care of slippery river stones at all our rivers and waterways, suitable aqua shoes are recommended (no, not rubber thongs!)
  6. Always supervise children while swimming
  7. Watch out for vehicle traffic at concrete causeway river crossings, they are country roads so show a little courtesy to the drivers
  8. And please take all your rubbish with you.

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