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Surrey Dive, Box Hill
Swimming Hole Heaven in Melbourne

Surrey Dive was a popular swimming hole in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill that operated from 1905 to 1967. It was before my time, but my mother, who grew up in the 1950s, can remember making the trek across town to swim there. It was notorious for its dimensions. Being a former quarry for a brickworks, the hole was extremely deep and was surrounded at the water's edge by sheer, steep cliffs. Cafe wall at Box Hill Aqualink Above: The wall of the Box Hill Aqualink Cafe highlighting the pool's historical connection to the former Surrey Dive (Order this image)

Growing up in the eastern suburbs in the 1970s and 80s, I never knew that Surrey Dive had ever existed. According to local historian Bob Padula, personal accounts published by local swimmers such as Rev Dr Gordon Moyes, notes from the current Surrey Park Swimming Club and the commemorative plaque on site, Surrey Dive was longer and wider than modern pools, at around 100 yards long by 90 yards wide, with a water depth of 45 feet.
Surrey Dive was the first Olympic standard swimming pool in Australia, and the site included 10 lanes, diving boards and changing rooms. Australian Olympic swimming legend Frank Beaurepaire set a world record for the one mile distance there. Model boat racing at Surrey Dive Above: Model boat racing on a Sunday morning at the former Surrey Dive swimming hole (Order this image)

Over time however, the risks of cliff diving injuries and drowning were clearly too high, and the water quality wasn't great, so in 1939 the council opened the adjacent public baths. You can see the pool (now known as Box Hill Aqualink) at the top of the hill from Surrey Dive.

Surrey Dive remained open in parallel with the public baths for close to 30 years. However, despite its size, Surrey Dive wasn't drought proof. In the 1967/68 drought in Victoria, the dive dried up and the council decided to fill it in and turn it into an ornamental lake.
Today Surrey Dive is home to a model boat racing club and a few ducks, but no swimmers. There is a path that runs around the perimeter of the lake, and a large playground behind the north-western side of the lake. For modern day competition swimmers, a trip to Surrey Dive puts the efforts of Australian swimming pioneers in context and presents a stark contrast to the controlled environment of modern swimming pools.
Other Information Before You Go:
Location: Surrey Park, Surrey Drive, Box Hill, 14 km east of the Melbourne CBD
Latitude:-37.825173 Longitude:145.116395
Getting there: By car take Canterbury Road to Box Hill and park at the Box Hill Aqualink in Surrey Park. Surrey Dive is down the steps at the northern end of the car park. By public transport there are a few options, but bus 767 from Box Hill Railway Station will get you there.

Facilities: Walking paths, bike paths, playground, sports fields, public toilets, park benches, barbecues, the adjacent Box Hill swimming pool.
Entrance fee: None
Water temperature: Mild
Water clarity: Murky
Under foot: Mud
Maximum water depth: Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Not applicable, no swimming advised
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: Dogs on leads permitted
Sun shade: Limited shade around the walking paths, so bring sun protection
Opening times: Always open
Wheelchair access: Yes, but only from the northern end of Surrey Drive, not via the steps from Box Hill Aqualink.
Managing authority: Whitehorse City Council
Nearby attractions: Halliday Park water play area in nearby Mitcham.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the approximate location of the former Surrey Dive. If the map is not zoomed in locally, as can occur with some browsers, simply click or tap on "View Larger Map" below.
View Larger Map
Here are some personal recollections that I have received about swimming at Surrey Dive:

"I grew up in Monash Street, opposite Surrey Park, in the sixties. My brother and I learnt to swim at Surrey baths where we got our various swimming certificates. We both became members of the Surrey Park swimming club. Spent many days at the baths. To get down to the dive you had to pass through a wire gate that was patrolled by Mr Pruden. We learnt ways to sneak in when he was distracted. Being under age it was quite a daring thing to do. Then once in you had to confront your fears and jump into the green water. There were always the stories about it being bottomless and connected to Blackburn and Ringwood lakes, plus workers drowning when it suddenly flooded."
- R. Whitelaw from Melbourne, Australia 3/5/2022

"Oh those were the days. My whole family were Box Hill folk. My parents had a sports store on Station St. My beautiful grandparents lived a very short distance from The Dive. I was a good friend of Mr Pruden's daughter. Just kids. A lovely family. I’m now 72."
- Garry from Warragul, Australia 9/12/2023

"I used to go to the Dive on a regular basis in my youth in the 50s and 60s. Remember going to the Box Hill town hall dance one stinking hot Saturday. Missing out on winning a bird at the end of the dance I and a couple of mates decided to head to the Dive to cool off. We had previously assessed the fence surrounding the Dive and knew of an area where we could scale the fence. Accordingly we climbed the fence, stripped off our gear and spent a happy hour at the Dive. You can’t beat leaping off the Crows Nest at about 1.00 am in the raw. After the swimming was all over we donned our suits, climbed back over the fence and walked home in our suits that unfortunately did not wind up in very good shape. Parents did not appreciate my night out."
- R. Bacon from Melbourne, Australia 2/2/2022

"My friends and I met every day after school at the Surrey Dive and on weekends, too! It was a wonderful experience socialising, jumping and diving off the cliffs in such an enchanting environment. As members of the Surrey Park Swimming Club, we trained there under iconic coaches. And guess what - in more than 20 years until the Dive was sadly closed, I do not recall anyone drowning or getting hurt. I cherish those halcyon days."
- R. Rowell from Melbourne, Australia 28/12/2023

"I grew up in Box Hill and was a frequent visitor to the Baths and eventually the Dive from about 1958 through to 1964. We would weasel our way into the Dive from about the age of 14. A rite of passage was to leap off the Crow's Nest. This was accomplished, not without certain trepidation, maybe 3 or 4 times. I came back to live in Box Hill in 2012 after decades away, and the memories of that period of youth had much to do with choosing to return."
- T. Share from Box Hill, Melbourne, Australia 24/10/2021

"We had seasons tickets to The Box Hill Baths, as we only lived two streets away. The main man at the pool was Mr. Pruden. You had to go and see him to at least get your Junior Certificate, and be a certain age, before he would let you through into The Surrey Dive. There were rumours that The Dive was bottomless. It had an underground stream, found by the quarry workers. The stream connected Ringwood Lake and The Dive. I do remember the diving board seemed so high, but then The Tower was a huge challenge. Never made it to The Crows Nest, where kids would jump into the water off the clay cliffs. Great times, great memories!"
- A. Nichols from Croydon Hills, Melbourne, Australia 17/2/2021

"After learning to swim in the irrigation channels near Yenda Creek in NSW while Dad was away at the war, I returned to Box Hill and the next summer I was old enough to enter the Dive area, which was just down the road from where we lived. On leave from the Naval College I would spend many hours lapping in the Dive, which was 100 yards long." - H. Stevenson, Victoria, Australia 5/11/2020

"I remember the Surrey Dive well from the mid fifties, but only from swimming at Box Hill baths as we were warned that Surrey Dive was bottomless and very risky for those of us that weren't competent swimmers. However when feeling very brave we would go through the separating gate and enter the water just on the edge so as to be able to go home and boast to our friends that we had been "swimming" in the Surrey Dive."
- Joan from Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia 23/11/2016

"Ahhh memories.. Born in Blackburn in 1946 and when we were not swimming at Blackburn Lake, we would be down the "dive". I can still remember the first time I jumped off the cliff. What a hoot. The dive was a lot more social so spent a lot of weekends and summer holidays there. Went to Box Hill Tech so some of us would go after school. From memory the water was bloody cold!"
- R. Burn from Melbourne, Australia 12/1/2018

"I lived in Camberwell Fire Station and when Dad was off duty he would take me to the Surrey Dive after school. It is such a happy 1950s memory for me! I loved the soft water and the depth for diving off the cliff!"
- T. Healy from Broadford, Australia 10/1/2021

"I used to walk from home in Blackburn through the cemetery to the Dive from around 1958. To jump off the cliffs opposite from the main area where the diving boards were was always scary but exciting. Jumping and diving from the big diving board produced the same results. It was a very social scene at weekends for kids from Box Hill High."
- T. Taylor from Murray Bridge, Australia 26/4/2020

"My memories are not from swimming in the dive but my father worked for the Box Hill Council for many years in the 70s and 80s and it was his job to work there 5 days a week and even out the area once dump trucks had off loaded their trucks into the hole. I remember every Monday morning he would go to work and have to push all the rubbish people dumped at the gate over the weekend. He found lots of things that he brought home. Once he found a kitten too young to be away from its mother but he brought it home and he survived."
- F. Rankin from Queensland, Australia 5/8/2020

"I swam in the Surrey Dive after it was refilled in the mid 80s and a few times my feet got stuck in the clay near the cliffs briefly so we stopped swimming there"
- Arthur from Ringwood North, Melbourne, Australia 12/1/2018

If you have any memories of swimming at Surrey Dive, please fill in the comment box below, because I would love to hear about it. All fields are required if you would like your comments published on this website.

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