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Welshmans Reef, Cairn Curran Reservoir
Swimming Hole Heaven in Victoria

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. Swimming in Cairn Curran Reservoir at Welshmans Reef 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 2014 that it would pull the plug on the caravan park. Swimming in Cairn Curran Reservoir at Welshmans Reef Above: A sign of times past at Welshmans Reef (Order this image)

A grass roots campaign fought 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.

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:
Location: Fishermans Rd, Welshmans Reef, 150 km (approx. 2 hr drive) north west of the Melbourne CBD
Latitude:-37.069701 Longitude:144.021334
Getting there: 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

Facilities: Picnic tables, boat ramp, caravan park (until November 2014)
Entrance fee: None
Water temperature: Mild
Water clarity: Cloudy
Under foot: Gravel, red-brown mud
Maximum water depth: Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Beginners
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
Sun shade: Shade available out of the water (in the picnic area, usually about 100 metres from the water)
Opening times: Always open
Wheelchair access: None
Managing authority: Goulburn-Murray Water
Nearby attractions: Vaughan Springs, 25 km by road to the south-east of Welshmans Reef
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 day car park at Welshman's Reef. 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
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