Dive in: 7 of the best ocean swims in Queensland

Swimming in a pool? Been there, done that. If you crave a different kind of challenge, it’s time to make a splash with an ocean swim.

Queensland punches well above its weight with pristine beaches and 283 days of sunshine a year making it the perfect place to set a personal best.

Here are seven of the best ocean swims that will have you grabbing your goggles and diving in quicker than you can say on your marks, get set, go!

1. Cooly Classic Ocean Swim

When: 13 May 2018
Where: Coolangatta, Gold Coast

Sun, surf, sand, swim.

Seasoned swimmers and aspiring tri-athletes will rush at the opportunity to conquer this 3-kilometre Cooly Classic Ocean Swim. It’s a great way to challenge yourself beyond the typical open water distances. Why? well, competitors will face the ultimate test of swimming at three of Australia’s most revered surf breaks – Snapper Rocks, Coolangatta and Kirra Beach.

And, to get you warmed up for the big swim, join a free Stretch Yoga class. BYO yoga towels.

2. Cairns Airport Adventure Festival’s Quicksilver Reef Swim

When: 7 June 2018
Where: Green Island, Tropical North Queensland

Since 2006, the Quicksilver Reef Swim has attracted thousands of intrepid swimmers for both the 1.5 and 3-kilometre races in the sparkling waters surrounding Green Island.

Competitors have the rare opportunity to swim over the Great Barrier Reef and spot colourful fish, turtles and corals as they navigate one of the most amazing ocean swims in the world. 

Oh, and before you say “I’m too old for that sort of thing” keep in mind that Cairns’ local champion swimmer, 88-year-old Thelma Bryan, competes almost every year. Yeah, the swim is THAT good.

3. Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim

When: July 2018
Where: Magnetic Island, Townsville

Just like a magnetic force, budding athletes are drawn to the Magnetic Island to Townsville Swim and it’s not hard to see why.

Now in its 64th year, it’s the longest-running and ironically, the longest-distance open water swim in Queensland – a whopping 8-kilometres to be exact!

Freestyle your way through the azure blue waters of Magnetic Island and navigate your way to the Strand Park Jetty in Townsville. You’ll be buggered by the end of it, but the pride you’ll feel when you cross the finish line is worth it.

4. Hamilton Island Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday IslandWhen: 18 November 2018
Where: Hamilton Island, The Whitsundays

You wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that Hamilton Island is just a place to relax. But it’s also the perfect place to push yourself in paradise.

Gear up for the most picturesque race of your ocean swim career: the Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim.

Nestled in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, this annual 2km and 750m ocean swim meet, plus a fun 350m junior swim for children 13 years and under, is set to become as iconic as its location.

5. Noosa Summer Swim

Noosa Summer Swim | endurance challenge events for beginnersWhen: February 2019
Where: Noosa Heads, Sunshine Coast

The fashionable resort town of Noosa Heads is home to boutique shops, restaurants and up here, they are big on health, fitness and keeping active.

Look around the town on any given weekend and you’ll spot stand-up paddle boarders, kayakers, cyclists and surfers immersing themselves in what they love: the great outdoors. And, the Noosa Summer Swim is no exception.

Join the crowd and tackle the one-kilometre course conveniently finishing at the local Surf Club where you can grab a celebratory beer afterwards.

Sounds like a good trade-off, hey?

6. Straddie 1000 Ocean Swim

When: 18 May 2019
Where: North Stradbroke Island (Straddie), Brisbane

Tackle the Straddie 1000 Ocean Swim and swim the length of Cylinder Beach along the North Stradbroke Island coastline.

You’ll dive in at the eastern end of the beach and finish below the iconic Straddie Beach Hotel – the perfect place to refuel after a conquering such a massive ocean swim.

7. Sunshine Coast Spring Swim

When: November 2019
Where: Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast

For those who love to go from zero to 100 real quick, test your mettle in a 5-kilometre marathon distance swim at one of nature’s great open water arenas – Mooloolaba Beach.

Opting for a shorter ocean swim experience? Paddle your way along the 2.5-kilometre or try your stroke at the 1.25-kilometre course ideal for beginners. And, tweens and teens (aged 10 to 16 years) can also start their ocean swim career in the Juniors Giants event.

Have you done an ocean swim in Queensland before? If so, which one?

This post was originally published in 2012 and updated 6 April 2018.