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Getting to Know the Swan River A Guide to Safe Swimming

Getting to Know the Swan River: A Guide to Safe Swimming

It’s unmistakable that Perth has many charms that both locals and tourists fall in love with. And one of those charms is the majestic Swan River, a massive 72-kilometre river running through the middle of the city.

Us Perthites know that some of the best things our city can offer can be found right on the Swan River! But for newcomers, they might not know just how much fun they can have by exploring our biggest river.

Let’s take a quick look into what amazing things the Swan River is known for and whether the river is safe enough to swim in.

What is the Swan River known for?

The Swan River is known for its population of black swans that inhabit the area, which is where it got its name from. 

In 1697, the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh came across the river and saw its large black swan population.

He gave the river the name Swarte Swaene-Revier (Black Swan River in English). The name remained after the Swan River Colony was established in 1829, but the word black was removed.

As the Swan River Colony turned into Perth, the Swan River has also changed drastically throughout the decades and transformed into one of the most recognisable aspects of the city’s modern identity.

Did you know? The Swan River is known as Derbarl Yerrigan in the Noongar language.

Nowadays, the Swan River is also known for its ability to create a stunning contrast with Perth’s skyline, especially during the night. Most pictures you’ll see of our city include the river in the shot because it automatically makes a shot 100x better!

Aside from being an important set piece for the best Perth shots, the Swan River also features a plethora of fun activities and amazing attractions that draw people from all over the world to our city!

Here are some you should definitely check out in or near the Swan River while visiting Perth:

Enjoy the relaxing breeze from the Lotterywest Federation Walkway at Kings Park and Botanic Garden

Seeing the beauty of the Swan River in photos is great, but seeing it personally is an entirely different experience. The best place to do just that is on the Lotterywest Federation Walkway, which you’ll find at Kings Park and Botanic Garden.

This 620-metre elevated walkway lets you see the beauty of the Swan River above the surrounding eucalyptus trees of the park. A walk here from end-to-end will take you at least 40 minutes.

Aside from an impressive view of the Swan River, this walkway also features a diverse range of native flora as well as Aboriginal art made by some of Perth’s best artists!

Pro tip: Entrance to the Lotterywest Federation Walkway is totally free, but it’s only open to the public between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM every day.

Have a luxurious lunch aboard one of the cruise boats of Captain Cook Cruises

The next amazing activity you should try out is Captain Cook Cruises’ scenic river cruises! This company offers special cruises to different parts of the Swan River, including the Swan Valley and Fremantle.

My personal favourite are their lunch cruises, which begin at Fremantle and end at Elizabeth Quay. 

For $90, you can enjoy a lunch buffet aboard one of their huge boats, which will take you on a slow cruise of the Swan River for about three hours.

Their boats even have bars where you can choose from any of their complimentary drinks, including beer, chardonnay, and shiraz.

Pro tip: Eager to taste the finest wines of Western Australia? Then try the Swan Valley Gourmet Wine Cruise offered by Captain Cook Cruises. 

This scenic cruise across the Swan River features a wine tasting session brought to you by the biggest wineries in the area like the Sandalford Estate.

Watch a drone show above the Swan River from Elizabeth Quay

Another must-try activity is watching a City of Light show, which is a drone show performed above the waters of the Swan River. This show runs during the summer at select dates when weather conditions are safe enough for drones to fly.

The best place to watch the show is in Elizabeth Quay, specifically in Barrack Square. Here, you’ll get an unobstructed view of the show as the drones form various shapes and messages throughout the night.

Besides the show, there are also a lot of activities and shops you can check on Elizabeth Quay, like food trucks, workshops, and water jetpack shows.

Pro tip: I highly recommend you use public transportation to get to this event, as most roads leading to Elizabeth Quay will be closed between 1:30 PM and 11:30 PM to keep the spectators safe.

Any vehicles parked within and near the quay will also be towed before and during the show.

Is it okay to swim in the Swan River?

Yes, it is generally safe to swim in most parts of the Swan River. 

You can learn which spots of the river are the safest places to swim by checking out this handy map made and regularly updated by the WA Department of Health. 

As the map shows, areas of the Swan River near the Perth CBD and its nearby suburbs are the best places to swim. Bacterial levels are low enough that you can ingest water here without becoming ill later on.

For me, the best spots to swim in Perth are those near the suburbs of Applecross and Como.

The reason why I prefer Applecross is its shore has little to no activity in most parts, especially near the Jeff Joseph Reserve. My friends and I can have a quiet swimming session here on most days.

Como is also a favourite of mine since a small section of its shore is actually a beach! Como Beach lets you enjoy sunbathing without having to travel to Cottesloe Beach or Scarborough Beach.

If you prefer the safest place to swim in the Swan River, the Bicton Baths is the place to visit. The waters here are almost crystal clear and shallow enough that even kids can have fun swimming here with minimal supervision.

However, please take note that the health department strongly advises against swimming right after heavy rain, as the river will be filled with sediments, toxic waste, and deadly bacteria.

Make sure to wait for at least two to three days before swimming in the Swan River after heavy rain.

Pro tip: While swimming in the Swan River is generally safe, there are still some things you need to remember before swimming in any natural waterway. Here are some of them:

Don’t swim with an open wound
Avoid swimming near storm drains
Avoid swimming in murky and slow-running water
Make sure to keep your head above water most of the time and avoid ingesting the water
Always use the toilet if you need a bathroom break

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