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.
Above: The wall of the Box Hill Aqualink Cafe highlighting the pool's historical connection to the former Surrey Dive
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. 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.
Above: Model boat racing on a Sunday morning at the former Surrey Dive swimming hole
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.
This swimming hole did not make it into my top 50 in Victoria, because it no longer exists as a swimming hole. If you are looking for a
swimming hole in Melbourne that hasn't been filled in and taken over by ducks and remote controlled boats, grab yourself a copy of the guide to
Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria.
Essential Information Before You Go:
Surrey Park, Surrey Drive, Box Hill, 14 km east of the Melbourne CBD
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.
Walking paths, bike paths, playground, sports fields, public toilets, park benches, barbecues, the adjacent Box Hill swimming pool.
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
Limited shade around the walking paths, so bring sun protection
Yes, but only from the northern end of Surrey Drive, not via the steps from Box Hill Aqualink.
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.
The marker indicates the approximate location of the former Surrey Dive.
Here is one personal recollection that I have received about swimming at Surrey Dive:
"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 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
"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
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.
ABC news ran a feature article on Surrey Dive
in 2018 which inspired some of the contributors above to get in touch with me. The ABC article has an extended history of the dive
and additional swimmer recollections.
© Brad Neal 2018. All rights reserved.