About the swimming sessions, how to book a session, what to bring and how to get there, swimming facilities and safety.

About the swim sessions

From Saturday 9 September  to Sunday 1 October 2023, in partnership with All-Aboard Water Sports, Open Minds Active CIC and Swim Bristol Harbour, we're running a second round of swimming sessions in Bristol Harbour.

This means people can swim from 8am to 10am on Saturdays and Sundays in a cordoned-off area of the harbour during this time.

The swimming area will be near All-Aboard Water Sports, in front of The Cottage Inn, in Baltic Wharf on the south side of Bristol Harbour.

The water quality in Baltic Wharf will be tested weekly to make sure it meets bathing water standards. See Water quality in Bristol Harbour.

Book a swim session

You must be:

  • 18 or over
  • able to swim a minimum of 200m continuously in deep water

You can swim for up to 2 hours from 8am to 10am on Saturdays and Sundays only, for a fee of £7.50.

You must book your swim session in advance and complete a waiver, which you will receive by email after booking: 

Book a swim session 

Bookings are non-refundable and non-transferable. However, if there is a cancellation due to bad weather or poor water quality, we will offer you a credit to use for another harbour swimming session.

What you'll need to bring

For safety reasons swimmers must:

  • use a tow float (a waterproof bag filled with air which makes it float)
  • wear a brightly coloured swim cap

You cannot swim without these items.

A limited number of tow floats will be available to loan for £1 (cash only). During times of high demand we cannot guarantee availability so would recommend buying a tow float before your swim session.

You can buy a swim cap at the swim session for £7 (cash only) or order in advance to collect when you arrive.

We encourage swimmers to wear earplugs to stop cold water entering your ear canal, which can cause dizziness and nausea.

You do not need a wetsuit, but it's recommended if you're not used to swimming in cold water.

Bring warm clothes for when you get out of the water. You can leave your clothes and belongings in a supervised enclosed area.

How to get there

The swimming area will be in Baltic Wharf on the south side of Bristol Harbour.

You access the water from a ramp near All-Aboard Water Sports, in front of The Cottage Inn.

When you arrive

You can arrive at any time from 7.50am until 9.45am, depending on how long you want to swim. Entry into the water will stop at 9.45am.

Check in for your session at the desk by the swimming area. You'll be given a band before you swim which you will hand back afterwards.

Swimming facilities

Swimmers can use the toilets and shower at Underfall Yard.

The Underfall Café will extend its opening hours on Saturdays and Sundays during the swimming sessions. It will serve hot and cold drinks, breakfast and snacks from 8am.  

Safety for swimmers and other harbour users

We'll put water safety measures in place to make sure swimmers and other harbour users are safe. These will include:

  • buoys to mark the 100m swim out and 100m swim back (200m in total) course, with options to do a shorter swim loop
  • a ramp to access the water, we do not yet have access to the water via a ladder
  • lifeguards and safety boats
  • testing the water quality weekly to make sure it meets bathing water standards (see Water quality in Bristol Harbour)

You must not swim outside of the harbour swimming area.

Swimming at times other than those stated, or in any other area of the harbour or other waterways in Bristol is:

  • dangerous
  • against the byelaw

After these swimming sessions

The swim sessions for September and October 2023 are being run in partnership with local, community-based organisations.

The costs of planning and running the sessions are substantial and the fee will make sure they will be covered.

These four weekends of swim sessions will allow us to observe demand as the temperatures start to drop and the weather changes as we move towards the Autumn. We'll monitor:

  • costs
  • popularity
  • any impact on our ability to maintain a safe environment

If demand and interest in the swims continues, and we're able to maintain a safe and financially sustainable open water swimming area in Bristol Harbour, we will look into options for providing swim sessions on a regular basis for Spring/Summer 2024.

If we decide to run open water swimming sessions regularly in the harbour, we'll think about how to:

  • allow children and inexperienced swimmers to swim
  • provide a more accessible service
  • provide free and affordable swims for those where the cost is unaffordable

Get involved

If you would like to volunteer to be part of the team setting up and running the swimming sessions, email harbourswim@openmindsactive.org