California’s Dives of a Lifetime

A creative couple document the sun-drenched coves, rivers winding through redwoods, desert hot springs, and lush waterfalls across California



Shasta County’s secluded Potem Falls.


“California has such a variety of environments that it feels like a small country,” says Caroline Clements, who coauthored Places We Swim: California (Hardie Grant, $45) with environmental scientist and photographer Dillon Seitchik-Reardon. The couple, who have created guidebooks and fine art prints for water seekers in Australia, traversed hundreds of spots in the state over a six-month span and penned details on more than 50 locations for this deep dive into much-traversed treasures and hidden gems plus the hotels, campsites, and eateries surrounding them.


A deep dive into much-traversed treasures and hidden gems in California


Purdon Crossing along the South Fork of the Yuba River.


“We had an initial attraction to beach life,” says Clements, an editor from Melbourne. But the pair and their 2-year-old quickly realized that freshwater settings amid inland landscapes are also awash in outdoor culture. “Rivers, lakes, and hot springs loom large in the Californian consciousness,” she says. “We ask a lot of our river swims,” adds Seitchik-Reardon, who was raised in New Mexico and credits a summer spent in Yosemite with setting him on the exploratory path that has led him around the world. He points to what he calls a “Goldilocks equation,” which the couple use to evaluate places they visit that combine “the right amount of water movement, temperature, and time of year.” Other factors are at play too. “We look for big bends and high rocks to slow the water down and create deep pools,” he says.

A host of lakes are listed, including one in Lassen Volcanic National Park and Tahoe’s Emerald Bay, as well as a natural mineral bath and various hot springs in Calistoga, Bishop, Long Valley, Bridgeport, and beyond. Clements notes that “each destination embodies a specific character, culture, and landscape of the region.” As the pair make their way south, they bolster the volume’s saltwater entries. A number of idyllic beaches along the coast make the cut, from La Jolla’s white sands and Laguna’s Treasure Island Beach tide pools to the rocky headlands of Malibu’s Point Dume and Sunny Cove in Santa Cruz, a place Seitchik-Reardon calls “a true neighborhood beach” that he has continued to visit for more than 20 years.


The Mojave Desert’s Tecopa Hot Springs.


Feature image: Sparkling Minaret Lake in the Sierras. Images from Places We Swim: California published by ‎Hardie Grant Explore (2024).


This story originally appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of C Magazine.

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