Cooling off on a hot day at the beach doesn’t have to involve braving the surf.
Whether it’s a man-made bath or a natural pool hewn into a cliff face, these beautiful spots by the coast offer the chance for a perfect summer dip without the need to keep an eye out for kayakers and kite-boarders.
Read on for our pick of the world’s best tidal and seaside pools. Do note that some of these destinations are susceptible to tides and rough waters, so it’s best to seek them out when conditions are calm.
Porto Moniz, Madeira, Portugal
Formed over thousands of years by cooling volcanic lava, Porto Moniz’s natural swimming pools are one of Madeira’s biggest tourist attractions. The salty baths have been developed to make access easy, with steps down into the water and footpaths built around the perimeter.
There are handy lockers for stashing valuables and sun loungers too. The water is crystal clear, with fish easily visible to anyone who snaps on a pair of goggles. At high water, waves can come across the walls, so be sure to exercise caution.
Treyarnon, Cornwall, England
On the north coast of England’s most southwesterly county, Treyarnon is home to a popular sandy beach. But for swimmers and snorkelers, it’s the tidal pool on a path just to the north of the small bay that’s its real draw.
Refreshed by the tide every day, the eight-foot-deep pool is ripe for a refreshing plunge. Anyone who jumps in is rewarded with long views across the azure Atlantic. The pool should be avoided at high tide, though, when waves crash over the walls and make accessing it dangerous.
Giola, Thassos, Greece
Accessible only via a rough dirt track, the last part of which must be covered on foot, Giola lagoon on the Greek island of Thassos is very much worth the effort.
This natural lagoon, measuring around 15 meters across and 20 meters long (about 16 yards by 22 yards), has an eight-meter-high wall from which adventurous swimmers can jump or dive.
The Aegean water provides the perfect way to cool off on a hot afternoon – just remember that with no sandy beach close by, you’ll need to lie out on the rocks to dry off in the sun.
Queen Joan’s Baths, Sorrento, Italy
Framed by a natural arch and surrounded by the ruins of a Roman villa, Queen Joan’s Baths (Bagni della Regina Giovanna) is a swimmer’s paradise.
Named after a 14th century Queen of Naples who is said to have brought her lovers to this spot, it’s accessible only by foot. Those who make the trek are rewarded with clear, warm, turquoise water and views to make Instagram followers instantly envious.
Beaches here are few and far between, so if you’re in dire need of a dip, this is the place to come.
Queen’s Baths, Eleuthera, Bahamas
Its famous pink sand beaches make for a picture-perfect sea swim. But visitors to the Bahamian island of Eleuthera keen on a different kind of dip should also head to the rugged Atlantic coast and the beautiful Queen’s Baths.
Inundated at high tide, the water left as the tide recedes is warmed by the searing Caribbean sun, making the pools ideal for a long soak. The rocky surroundings mean visitors should wear a pair of water shoes or at least a pair of sneakers that can be left waterside.
Steer clear of the spot at high tide or when the surf is rough.
Saunders Rock, Cape Town, South Africa
No other city is as blessed with tidal pools as Cape Town. And picking just one is a tough task.
But Saunders Rock at Bantry Bay is home to a perfect small pool surrounded by granite boulders that keeps swimmers sheltered from the attentions of the often harsh wind.
Best of all, its Atlantic coast location means that the sunsets here are unbeatable. Take to the pool as the sun dips toward the water and it’s difficult to imagine a better place for a soothing swim.
Kitsilano Pool, Vancouver, Canada
Open from May until mid-September, “Kits Pool” is the longest pool in North America, stretching out a massive 137 meters (150 yards).
The salt water is pumped in from the Pacific, with three separate sections – one for kids and families, another for lane swimmers and a third for adults looking to chill in the water. The pool is wheelchair accessible and even offers aquatic wheelchairs and a dedicated pool lift.
The pool is easily reached by car or the False Creek Ferry service, which docks at Vanier Park, a short walk away.
Plage de Bon Secours, Saint-Malo, France
This 1930s pool, high up on the sandy Plage de Bon Secours, offers perfect, calm swimming conditions for those not so keen on making the long trek down to the shoreline at low tide.
Its designer, René Lesaunier, included a high board for diving and made sure to emphasize that the water was refreshed by the tide twice a day, unlike the rival pool in nearby Dinard, which only gets new water at high tide.
Today, visitors can still bathe 24 hours a day, just as they could in the 1930s, without the sea inundating the pool itself.
Bogey Hole, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Cut out of the rock by convict laborers in 1820 at the behest of the then Commandant of Newcastle, Lieutenant Colonel James Thomas Morriset, today Bogey Hole, once known as the Commandant’s Baths, is a protected heritage site.
Expanded in the late 19th century, these shallow baths are reached by vertiginous steps, with the swell of the ocean crashing against its walls making for a visceral swim. When the water gets too rough, the pool is best avoided.
Accessible via King Edward Park, it can get crowded on sunny days and during school holidays.
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, Cliftonville, England
A short walk along the coast path from increasingly hip Margate, Walpole Bay Tidal Pool is something of a local treasure. As the tide recedes, it reveals a vast pool, built in 1937, with several handy ladders on the far wall for descending into the deeper stretches.
Hugely popular in summer with locals and tourists down from London, it also entices a growing band of hardy wild swimmers, who come throughout the winter for their cold-water fix.
Copenhagen Harbor Baths, Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen’s harbor baths have quickly developed into one of the city’s hottest attractions, and with good reason.
There are several pools at the Islands Brygge location, including a lap pool and a pool for kids, as well as three jumping platforms. The water is tested daily by lifeguards to ensure its quality, with swimmers known to take a dip on their way home from work.
Despite the chilly winters, locals often brave the water in the colder months, even as the snow comes down.
Azenhas do Mar, Sintra, Portugal
An hour’s drive north of Lisbon, Azenhas do Mar is home to one of Portugal’s most underrated beaches. But for swimmers, it’s the natural pool, cut into the base of the cliffs, that makes this pretty town worth visiting.
There’s easy access via steps, but if the sea’s looking rough at high tide, it’s best to skip the water and head straight for the superb seafood restaurant which sits adjacent to the pool.
At low tide, this is nothing short of paradise for those looking to improve their breast stroke in a stunning setting.
Joe Minihane is a freelance travel writer and editor. His latest book is “Floating: A Life Regained,” a memoir about wild swimming and anxiety.