Best swimming spots 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 or visit the ‘Can I Swim Here?’ section of the Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website.

Check the LAWA website before you go, so you can make decisions about where is best to swim. Look out for health alerts in place and avoid swimming if it’s been raining in the past two days.

Regular monitoring for bacteria and toxic algae

Each summer, 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, South Canterbury Health Board will issue health alerts and warning signs will be erected. It will also be listed on our ‘Health Warnings’ page and the LAWA website.

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 LAWA website.

Key swimming spots in South Canterbury

Here’s an update on the key swimming spots at the start of the 2021/22 season. Only three sites in South Canterbury have been recommended as unsuitable for swimming this year, with the remaining 29 sites graded as suitable.

You can see the most up-to-date results from our weekly monitoring at


  • Caroline Bay has good water quality for swimming near the yacht club and in the middle of the beach.
  • Avoid swimming near the stormwater outlet ‘Whale Creek’ at the northern part of the beach (West Caroline Bay).  


  • The Waihi Gorge location is good for swimming.
  • Pareora River at the Huts settlement is safe for swimming. 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 southern lakes – you will have many choices including Lakes Benmore, Aviemore, Tekapo/Takapō and Alexandrina. All monitored sites are recommended as suitable for swimming except for part of Lake Opuha, in the area near the Ewart’s Corner Boat Ramp. The site at the Recreation Reserve is suitable for swimming.