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The Six Best Swimming Spots to Make a Splash

For Olympic-style and doggy paddle alike.

Felton's Garden of Eden.


Need to cool off (or warm up) this summer without the pelting winds at the beach? Here are six of the best spots for a quick dip, all within a couple of hours of the city and the fog.


Garden of Eden, Felton
About a two-hour drive south of San Francisco, you’ll find the Garden of Eden. No, really, that’s what it’s called. It’s tricky to locate (check here for detailed instructions), but it’s got that reliable South Bay weather, sun-baked stones, and, erm, plenty of naked people. Tall trees provide shade (and cover) and the more adventurous members of your party can venture onto a high branch before taking a jump into the naturally-formed pool.

Mission Pool, 19th Street
This pool on Linda Street has a communal vibe and brightly-colored bunting, and stays open until 7pm during the week for after-work dips. It’s not exactly conducive to a day spent lazing poolside, but you can get your laps in, indulge yourself with a creamsicle éclair from nearby Craftsman & Wolves, and soak up that beautiful late-evening Mission sunshine on the walk home.

Lake Anza, Berkeley
This idyllic picnic spot in Tilden Regional Park is only reachable by car, and the zealous lifeguards might make you take a swim test before letting you venture out into the deeper waters (vaguely competent breaststroke required). But once you finally get in you’ll find the water transcendentally temperate. Picnics are de rigueur on the sandy shore, but park rangers are pretty keen-eyed when it comes to smuggled-in alcohol or glass containers, so pack sensibly and stick to soft drinks. Or be extra classy and decant your rosé into a water bottle.

The Olympic Club, Post Street
We’re not saying it’s easy to get into the Olympic Club’s City Clubhouse, built in 1912. You have to be a member of the club—or alternatively, be the guest of a member. Also, you can’t take your phone in with you. But if you make it through the Byzantine regulations, this exclusive swimming spot is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city for a bit of water therapy beneath a stained glass dome, and just a block from Union Square.

Russian River, Healdsburg
Look, if you mess up our favorite spot, we'll have words, so let’s keep this one between us. Head up to Healdsburg and aim for the junction of North Fitch Mountain Road and Redwood Drive, stopping at the perfectly serviceable Big John’s Market along the way for picnic supplies. If you walk down Redwood Drive, you’ll find a steep path to a quiet riverbank. It’s not the sandiest beach, but the views are perfect, the waters placid, and the vibe relaxed. Bring an inflatable—this is the perfect spot to crack open a beer, float along, and enjoy the sunshine.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Alexander Valley
The perfect place for a poolside hotel Instagram shot without the hotel. At the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Alexander Valley, a day pool pass will cost you $35, or you can splash out on a cabin with chaise longue chairs, a private shower, and four cans (!) of sparkling white wine for $195. Be aware that cannonballs will not go down well and picnics aren’t allowed. Instead, fuel up on sandwiches, salads, and pizza at the very reasonably-priced Pool Café. 


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