The Yarra River at Deep Rock was home to a local swimming club in the early 20th century. The rock wall on the opposite bank is over 60 metres high and in the past
has been the launch pad of a cliff diving world record. With the picturesque surrounds, the deep pooled water backed up from Dights Falls downstream, and the relatively
easy entry from the northern bank of the river, you can understand why this would have been a popular swimming spot. In the early 20th century, similar swimming clubs
were dotted all along the Yarra River throughout the inner suburbs of Melbourne upstream of this point.
Above: The Yarra River at Deep Rock
(Order this image, photo gifts or prints)
Decades of urbanisation and agricultural development in the catchment upstream have however taken their toll on the health of the Yarra River.
Nowadays you are risking hospitalisation if you try and swim in this heavily contaminated section of the river, so the only swimmers you are likely to see
here are the pet dogs who come here to fetch tennis balls out of the water.
Deep Rock is only a 5 minute walk upstream from Dights Falls, so add it to your visit to the falls. There is quite a lot of foot and bicycle traffic along
the riverside trail here.
If you are bringing your dog, there is a large open space about 30 metres back from the river at Deep Rock where you can give
them some exercise. There are a couple of picnic tables on the river bank as well.
This swimming hole did not make it into my top 50 in Victoria. The main reason being that it is dangerous to your health and there is zero visibility
in the water from the high sediment load in the Yarra at this location. If you want to swim in the Yarra, I prefer a couple of swimming holes further upstream, which did
make it into the top 50, so if you are looking for a swimming hole in Melbourne in cleaner water, grab yourself a copy of the guide to
Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria.
Essential Information Before You Go:
200 m upstream of Dights Falls in Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford, 5 km north east of the Melbourne CBD
Ride your bike along the Yarra Trail from Flinders Street Station; or take the train to Victoria Park station
and walk 900 metres north along Lulie St to Abbot St and then left on Trenerry Crescent; or drive along Johnstone St to Trenerry
Crescent. The car park for the Dights Falls is just around the 90 degree bend in Trenerry Crescent. Deep Rock is a 200 metre
walk upstream of Dights Falls. Alternatively you can access Deep Rock from Yarra Bend Road in Fairfield. Park near the Sir Robert
Olney Oval and then walk west to the river.
Maximum water depth:
Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required:
Not applicable, no swimming advised
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
None stated on site
Shade available in and out of the water
There is no camping at Deep Rock. If you are visiting Melbourne, you can try
accommodation near this swimming hole
Nearby attractions: Dights Falls
Before you head out, make sure to read the
swimming safety information.
The marker indicates the approximate location of the river bank opposite the Yarra River at Deep Rock.
I am not encouraging anyone to swim here, but if you are old enough to remember swimming here in the past when the Yarra River
was not so toxic, I would love to hear about it. Here are some personal accounts that I really enjoyed reading:
Left: The Deep Rock Swimming Club costume, as worn by Bartle John O'Donovan (right), c. 1912-1924
. Copyright B. O'Donovan,
reproduced with permission.
"I have a photograph of my father, Bartle John O'Donovan, in a Deep Rock Swimming Club costume (see photo left/above), dated from
around 1912 to 1924. It was taken on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River near Carrathool, when Bartle was visiting family in NSW. Bartle
lived in Mater Street Collingwood from about 1912 to 1927, except for the period of his World War I service in France from 1917 to 1919.
Mater Street was an easy walk to the swimming club. When I stayed in the same house as a teenager in the 1950s, we used to take
walks through Yarra Bend Park"
- B. O'Donovan, Evanston Park SA, Australia 14/3/2018
Editor's note: Thanks so much Bartholomew for sharing this little piece of swimming history. If anyone remembers swimming with Bartle at
the Deep Rock Swimming Club, fill in the comment box below as I'd love to hear about it.
"When we were young in the early 1930s our father took us to Deep Rock early in the mornings. We lived close by in
Clifton Hill. We had swimming lessons there from a champion swimmer of that time. The water was lovely and if we could swim right
across to the other side we were considered champions too."
- J. Flynn, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia 12/2/2018
"I grew up in Abbotsford and well recall this popular spot, but more well known was the annual 1.25 and 3 mile river
swim races held by the Abbotsford Swimming Club. The 3 mile swim started at Fairfield boat sheds and finished at Studley Park
boat sheds just upstream from Deep Rock. Studley Park boatshed area was probably more popular for daredevils who would dive from
Kanes Bridge into the Yarra River and swim down to the boatsheds and Deep Rock. In those days (40's to late 50's) the water
was quite clean. Unfortunately, the Abbotsford swimming club in Marine Parade was closed after the tragic drowning of John Brady
in the 50's and relocated to Fitzroy."
- G. Douglas, Twin Waters, Queensland, Australia 20/12/2017
"I recall swimming there in the sixties. It was so special and refreshing. I don't recall any hazards such as broken glass or
health issues. But I was a kid that had just moved from Rose Bay in Sydney and in those years Rose Bay water was the benchmark for poor water
conditions and smelled horrible. Deep Rock was pristine compared to Sydney harbour in those days. I do recall the water being muddy.
But it was so good on hot days and a favourite place to have a swim and picnics in Melbourne. We lived at Box hill and driving to the city
would often pass it and see the kids swimming and wished we didn't have to go to town."
- Karen, Brisbane 27/12/2016
"The year 1941 - I was ten years old and taught myself to swim at Deep Rock. Very few people could swim in those times.
There used to be a man by the name of Paddy Kennedy who would swim from Deep Rock to Fairfield daily in both summer and winter. There
used to be two diving boards - one was removed as dangerous. I used to dive into the river and bring up fresh water mussels. The
Yarra was trout water before european carp took over."
- W.Gosstray 21/9/2016
"I remember many days of swimming there with my family in 50's. My mum actually taught me to swim in the old
concrete pool. They had the old concrete dressing sheds up the hill. The bigger kids would swing out on ropes off the trees
into the river. My older brother once dived into the murky water and split his head on the posts on the edge of the pool.
Another time jumped into the pool and landed on broken glass and cut his foot. That brother of mine was always in trouble.
But apart from that we all had a great time swimming there. I was very disappointed later years when I went back and it was all gone."
- V.Parker, Melbourne, Australia 27/9/2015
If you have any memories of swimming at Deep Rock, please fill in the comment box below. All fields are required if you would like your comments published on this website.
© Brad Neal 2019. All rights reserved.