Beat the Summer Heat: The Best Swimming Spots Near Seattle

Plunging into Green Lake has long been a Seattle favorite.
Plunging into Green Lake has long been a Seattle favorite. Seattle Municipal Archives
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This summer in Seattle has been hot. Really hot. In fact, after it brought us the tenth above-90 degree-day of the year—more than we’ve ever had—July marked the city’s warmest month on record. And there could well be more scorchers ahead this August.

When the mercury rises, there's no better way to beat the heat than to take a plunge in some cool, refreshing water. Luckily, that’s something Seattle has a lot of. So, next time you find yourself sweating it out, here our suggestions for where to go for some quality swim time at the best swimming spots near Seattle.

For City Slickers: Lake Union

Located in the heart of the city, Lake Union offers spectacular views of the downtown skyline to the south, Capitol Hill to the east, the iconic Space Needle to the west, and  Gas Works Park to the north, all of which are sure to fill you with a certain Seattle pride. The best spot to get your feet wet is from the lake's south side, in Lake Union Park. Though take note: All those motorboats putting around can make the water a little, erm, oily. Water quality is monitored—there will be signs up when it’s not safe—but it might be a good call to shower afterward, regardless.

For Joggers: Green Lake

The best way to finish a loop jogging around Green Lake is to jump inside of it.
The best way to finish a loop jogging around Green Lake is to jump inside of it. Seattle Municipal Archives

It can be hard to motivate for your regular run in the midst of soaring temps. But the promise of a plunge into a perfectly cool lake afterward might just make it a little easier to get out the door. The three-mile loop around Green Lake ’s perimeter is one of Seattle’s most popular jogging routes—and the water within one of the most popular spots to swim. There are several docks and beaches to jump in from around the lake, including diving boards off a platform on the north side.

For Families: Matthews Beach

Seattle has quite few bodies of water to choose from, but it doesn’t get better than clean, crisp Lake Washington. There are many access points (keep reading for more of them), but Matthews offers the biggest freshwater beach in the city, with plenty of space for the whole family to run around, sunbathe, and play in the water. There is also a playground, picnic area with grills, and diving boards.

For Competitive Swimmers: Seward Park

The annual Emerald City Open Water Swim on August 15 held in Andrew’s Bay in Seward Park is a fun event for those who want to bring a competitive spirit to their summer dip. There is both a half-mile and one-mile race through Lake Washington. The contest has a fun, relaxed vibe complete with entertainment and quirky awards. The weirdest prize so far?  was a\ free tattoo!

For Dog Lovers: Magnuson Park

Dogs can play in Lake Washington in Magnuson Park's off-leash area.
Dogs can play in Lake Washington in Magnuson Park's off-leash area. Wonderlane

Pooches get hot, too—and many of them also love to swim. Magnuson Park’s 9-acre off-leash area is the biggest place in the city where you and your canine can roam free, and it’s the only one that has beach access. Let your city dogs cool off in Lake Washington (and join them if you're up for it).

For Hipsters: T-dock

The platform that juts into Lake Washington just south of Leschi Park—known as “T-dock”—is the place to be seen among Seattle’s ranks of the young and tattooed. The dock provides a perfect spot for lounging and people-watching on a hot summer day. Expect to see lots of fashionable, ironic swimwear and cans of Rainier.

For Nudists: Denny Blaine

Also on Lake Washington, the secluded patch of beach just south of Denny Blaine is the go-to for anyone who’d rather get in the water au naturel. It can feel a bit crowded since the space is small—so be cool, and remember not to stare. Expect to see lots of sausages.

For Thrill-Seekers: Fremont Rope Swing

Nothing says summer like a rope swing!
Nothing says summer like a rope swing! Joe Goldberg

For Polar Bears: Golden Gardens

Swimming in a freshwater lake has its perks, but sometimes you might want to take a good saltwater plunge—or work on your tolerance for cold temps. Swimming anywhere in Puget Sound is guaranteed to satisfy both. Golden Gardens is one of Seattle’s best beaches on the sound, complete with fire pits to help warm you back up after you dunk in.

For Californians: Alki Beach

On a sunny day there is always a crowd at Alki Beach.
On a sunny day there is always a crowd at Alki Beach. D Coetzee

Walk down Alki Beach  in West Seattle, and you may wonder whether you’ve been transported to a seaside surf town down south. Beach volleyball players and sunbathers cover the sandy shores, rollerbladers and joggers barrel down the paved path on its perimeter, and hamburger joints and ice cream shops line street across the way, all coming together to create a lively scene that will put homesick Los Angelenos feel back at ease (until they actually get in the water, that is—yeah, the ocean’s still cold here).

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