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Werribee Gorge at Needles Beach
Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria


 
After a spectacular but challenging walk down to the bottom of the gorge, you will appreciate a swim at this little beach on the Werribee River. The needles rock formation, which are layers of shale that have been tilted vertical during a past geological event, tower over the swimming hole, which has steep mountains surrounding it on all sides. The water quality in the Werribee River is however poor for swimming much of the time, which can restrict your appetite for getting into the water, especially if it has been raining over recent days. The rock wall opposite Needles Beach in Werribee Gorge Above: The rock wall opposite Needles Beach in Werribee Gorge (Order gifts or prints of this image)

Entry into the water is quite easy from the middle of the beach, with sand extending out well into the water. The pool gets deep quickly, but on my swim, the current wasn't too swift, so I could swim slowly across the river and even perch myself like a Lorelei on a submerged rock close to the opposite bank.
Swim to the upstream end of the pool to get a closer look at the Needles, as well as the little rapid over which water flows into the pool. The upstream end of the beach has a fair bit of weed growth and some rocks under your feet, so if you feel those, head a few metres downstream to find sand again.

The beach is the largest in the Werribee Gorge, with plenty of room considering how difficult it is to reach. Bring a separate towel or a small brush for your feet because the sand is quite sticky and gritty, and could be uncomfortable on the walk out if you are unable to remove it. View to the top of Werribee Gorge from Needles Beach Above: View to the top of Werribee Gorge from the middle of the river at Needles Beach (Order gifts or prints of this image)

The walk along the Circuit Trail from the top of the gorge is steep and strenuous, with several challenging sections that involve walking over loose shale, or balancing along a rock ledge close to the river. I personally loved these challenges, but was well prepared with a pair of sturdy boots with ankle support. The views along the trail are nothing short of spectacular from both the top and bottom of the gorge, with two designated viewing areas along the way. The open landscape and steep terrain give the impression of a genuinely wild place, particularly when the wind whips up and clouds blow in quickly over the roof of the gorge.

Here is a video with some track notes on the walk in and a swim at Needles Beach. I wasn't able to capture it on film, but for the record, along the way I saw plenty of wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, a blue tongue lizard, and several willy wagtails.



Finally, a note on water quality. When I visited, the water had a distinct green tinge to it, illustrative of algal growth in the water column, as you can see in the photos. I didn't see any visible scum on the surface, but I wasn't prepared to put my head under, particularly as it had been raining earlier in the day. The Werribee River has experienced regular algal blooms both upstream and downstream, so don't expect crystal clear, clean water. There are no formal blue-green algae alerts for the Werribee River at this location, so you will need to assess the risks for yourself. Blue-green algae has been linked to a variety of conditions, from skin irritation to motor neurone disease. For this reason, this swimming hole did not make it into my top 50 in Victoria. One of my favourite swimming holes nearby did make it into the top 50, so if you are looking for a swimming hole in this area in clearer water, grab a copy of the guide to Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria.
Essential Information Before You Go:
Location: Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk, Werribee Gorge State Park, 65 km (approx. 1 hr 15 minute drive) west of the Melbourne CBD.
Latitude:-37.662527 Longitude:144.350041
Getting there: From Melbourne take the Western Fwy (M8) to the Pentland Hills Road exit. Head north-west along Pentland Hills Road and then turn back up Myers Road, immediately after passing under the Western Fwy. Park in the car park on the right hand side after passing the gate at the State Park. The start of the walk is actually just in front of the gates on the left hand side as you walk back from the car park. You can also walk in from Meikles Point Picnic Area to the south.
Facilities: None at Needles Beach. Toilet facilities, picnic tables and fire pits with hot plates are available at the two picnic areas in the park.
Entrance fee: None
Water temperature: Mild

Water clarity: Cloudy
Under foot: Sand, rock, reeds
Maximum water depth: Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Experienced
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: No dogs, no cats, no horse riding, no firearms, no camping, no trail bikes. Light fires only in the fireplaces provided.
Sun shade: Shade available out of the water. Limited shade in the water from overhanging trees.
Opening times: Always open except on Code Red fire danger days
Wheelchair access: None
Accommodation Options: Camping is not permitted in Werribee Gorge. If you are visiting and want to stay overnight close to this swimming hole, you can try accommodation in nearby Bacchus Marsh 6 km to the east.
Managing authority: Parks Victoria
Nearby attractions: Swimmer's Cove at Pykes Creek Reservoir, 8 km to the north-west.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information. Specific to this site there are steep cliffs and the walk to Needles Beach can become unpassable during high river flows.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the approximate location of the car park just past Lawson Spring.
Change of Conditions:
I am not currently aware of any change of conditions reported at this site by the managing authority, or by swimmers on this website. If you are visiting this swimming spot and have an update on any change of conditions, let me know via the comment form below.
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