Cairn Curran Reservoir has three designated swimming areas at Welshmans Reef (near Newstead), Tower Bay
and Woolshed Bay (near the dam wall). Welshmans Reef was historically the best pick of the three because of its swimming pontoon,
which was anchored offshore. During the Millennium Drought (1997-2009) the pontoon was removed after being left high and dry, and
has never been replaced, but the water has returned. Welshmans Reef is the shallower of the three swimming areas and the gentle
slope into the water makes it more suitable for kids.
Above: The barren landscape at Welshmans Reef
(Order this image)
The site has been popular with campers and caravaners for decades because of its laid back, no frills atmosphere and easy
access to the water. Sure there are dead trees and a martian landscape to cross before you reach the water, but that is half of
the charm. However, with a big maintenance bill looming, the managing authority Goulburn-Murray Water announced in July 2014
that it was planning to pull the plug on the caravan park by the end of the year. A grass roots campaign is fighting the decision in
an attempt to hold on to a dwindling part of Australian holidaying culture. Sadly that culture has been disappearing since the advent of
cheap flights to tropical destinations. It is unclear whether the access road and picnic facilities will remain if the caravan park
This swimming hole did not make it into my top 50 in Victoria. The main reasons being (i) the distance from the shore to the water,
particularly during summer and in dry years when Cairn Curran Reservoir is heavily drawn down, and (ii) the upstream farmland that can affect water
quality for swimming after rain. There are two outstanding swimming holes nearby (within 40 km of Cairn Curran Reservoir) that did
make it into the top 50, so if you are looking for a reliable swim in this area in fresh, clean water, grab a copy of the guide to
Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria.
Other Information Before You Go:
Fishermans Rd, Welshmans Reef, 150 km (approx. 2 hr drive) north west of the Melbourne CBD
Take the Calder Fwy (M79) and exit onto the Pyrenees Hwy (B180) at Elphinstone. Head
north along the Maldon-Newstead Rd from Newstead for 5 km then turn west into Fishermans Rd. Welshmans
Reef is at the end of the road
Picnic tables, boat ramp, caravan park (until November 2014)
Gravel, red-brown mud
Maximum water depth:
Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required:
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
None stated on site except for a warning to not dive
from the now non-existent pontoons
Shade available out of the water (in the picnic area, usually about 100 metres from the water)
Sadly, the caravan park at Welshman's Reef is no longer operating. If you are staying overnight in the area, you can try
accommodation in nearby Maldon.
The Castlemaine Rock Factory in Castlemaine
Before you head out, make sure to read the
swimming safety information
and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions.
The marker indicates the approximate location of the day car park at Welshman's Reef.
If you have any memories of swimming at Welshmans Reef I would love to hear about them. Please fill in the comment box below.
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© Brad Neal 2019. All rights reserved.