Here are the best spots to swim in South Canterbury

When you’re heading to the beach, local river or lake to swim this summer, don’t forget to look out for water quality information signs.

These will tell you if there’s a health alert in place or whether to avoid swimming if it’s been raining in the past two days.

Regular monitoring for bacteria and toxic algae

Each summer, starting in mid-November, key recreational sites around South Canterbury will be monitored weekly by us to check for bacteria or cyanobacteria (toxic algae) that might be harmful.

If the results show the water is unsuitable for recreation, Community and Public Health will issue health alerts and warning signs will be erected.

It’s also important to avoid swimming for 48 hours after there has been rainfall. This is because rain can wash bacteria from roads, paddocks and other sources into the waterway.

You can find out the latest information about water quality and cyanobacteria risks for any monitored site in the country at the Land and Water Aotearoa website.

Key swimming spots in South Canterbury

Here’s an update on the key swimming spots at the start of the 2020/21 season, based on our annual recreational grading (PDF File, 8.45MB). This considers the past three years of summer-time water monitoring data to inform a grade that gives an indication of overall risk to health.   

Only two sites in South Canterbury have been graded as unsuitable for swimming this year, with the remaining 29 sites graded as very good, good or fair. 

Once summer-time water monitoring is underway you can see the most up-to-date results at


  • Caroline Bay has good water quality for swimming near the yacht club and in the middle of the beach.
  • It’s best to avoid swimming near the stormwater outlet ‘Whale Creek,’ especially up to 48 hours after rainfall.


  • The Waihi River at the Wilson Street Footbridge spot in Geraldine has been graded as poor this year and should be avoided. The Waihi Gorge location is good for swimming.
  • Pareora River at the Huts settlement is safe for swimming, after being graded as poor last year. Evan’s Crossing on the Pareora River is suitable for swimming. Both sites should be avoided for 48 hours after moderate rainfall or when there is any discolouration of the water.
  • Sites at Otaio River Gorge, Opihi River at Saleyards Bridge and Waipopo Huts, are all suitable for swimming.
  • All other monitored river sites in South Canterbury are suitable for swimming except for the Black Hole on the Waihao River.


  • If you’re heading up to the lakes, there is very good water quality at Lake Opuha – Recreation Reserve and Lake Tekapo Beach.
  • All other sites are also recommended as suitable for swimming.

Swimming grades for 2020/21 summer 

Timaru District 2020/21 Grade (*except for 48 hours after rainfall)
Hae Hae Te Moana River at Gorge Good*
Opihi River at Saleyards Bridge Good*
Opihi River at SH1 Good
Opihi River at Waipopo Huts Good*
Orari River at Gorge Good*
Pareora River at Evans Crossing Fair*
Pareora River at Huts Fair*
Temuka River at SH1 Fair*
Waihi River at Gorge Good*
Waihi River at Wilson Street footbridge Poor
Caroline Bay mid beach Good*
Timaru Coast Yacht Club Very Good
West Caroline Bay Fair*
Mackenzie District  
 Lake Alexandrina at both huts  Good
 Lake Opuha at Ewarts Corner Boatramp  Fair
 Lake Opuha at Recreation Reserve   Very Good
 Lake Ruataniwha at camping ground  Fair
 Lake Tekapo Beach  Very Good
 Opihi River at SH79, Fairlie  Insufficient data
 Twizel River at Picnic area  Fair*
Waimate District  
Hakataramea River at SH82 Good*
Lake Aviemore at Te Akatarawa Camp Good
Lake Aviemore at Waitangi  Good
Otaio River at Gorge Good*
Waihao River at Black Hole  Very Poor
Waihao River at Bradshaws Bridge Good*
Waihao River at Gum Tree Flat Road (Don's Hole) Fair*
Waitaki District  
Lake Aviemore on Loch Laird Fair
Lake Benmore at Pumpkin Bay Good
Lake Benmore at Sailors Cutting  Good
Lake Middleton at north end of lake Fair