Swimmable Cities & Communities

Imagine a city renowned not just for its architecture or cuisine but for its ‘swimmability’. Such places don’t just offer a dip; they boost the quality of life for locals, provide an immersive experience for visitors, invigorate workplaces and can regenerate urban ecosystems!

At Regeneration Projects, swimmable city design and development has become one of our service superpowers. Building upon the passion and industry experience of our Founder Matt Sykes, this is expanding through interdisciplinary collaboration with specialists around the world.

Splash!!! The Swimmable Cities Handbook is here!

In March 2020, our Founder Matt was preparing to embark on a new chapter of international research on the design and development of urban swimming experiences, building on the 2019 Great Victorian Bathing Trail strategy (see below) which he authored while working at Peninsula Hot Springs, Melbourne, Australia.

More than three years later, the Swimmable Cities Handbook has launched! It’s designed as an introduction to the world of urban swimming, especially for decision-makers who are looking for ways to reimagine their city waterfronts and harbours post-COVID.

Cool Off: Urban waterway swimmability = climate action

When we think about climate change, urban heat island-effects and the increase of heat wave events, it’s vital that urban communities have safe and accessible ways to cool off. So, should we start seeing access to swimmable urban waterways as a human right?

For Regeneration Projects, the Handbook is part of our commitment as an Actor in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, combining climate and biodiversity action.

Can you imagine swimming in the Birrarung / Yarra River? We can!

Regeneration Projects has launched a concept for an amazing trail of swimming experiences between Dights Falls and Nairm / Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne, Australia. It’s designed to spark conversations and inspire stakeholders to imagine what could be possible if we can combine deep local knowledge, including that of Kulin Peoples, with the best lessons from overseas. Whether you’re a local council, tourism business, university or community organisation, we’re excited about working towards this collective vision!

Research partnership

During 2021-2022, Regeneration Projects teamed up with Dr Loretta Bellato as part of her research on regenerative tourism and community development at Swinburne University’s Centre for Urban Transitions. Our work towards the swimmable Birrarung / Yarra River formed the foundation of a key case study within her thesis. Matt was also part of a supporting Advisory group made up of international experts.

Podcast conversation

Achieving a swimmable Birrarung by 2030 is like an Earthshot. In this episode, Matt and Loretta sit by the banks of Melbourne’s most iconic River, near Dights Falls, as they discuss their academic x industry research collaboration, its significance for our city and what it might mean for swimmable cities around the world.

Industry Leadership

Ever since publishing the Great Victorian Bathing Trail strategy in Spring 2019, Matt has been strategically investing in the vision of urban swimming in Melbourne. The strategy was achieved with the support of the Victorian Tourism Industry Council’s Lynette Bergin Fellowship, while working at Peninsula Hot Springs, where he was able to learn detailed aspects of bathing facility design, development and operations. Eventually this document led to an industry alliance of hot springs, mineral springs and sea baths called Bathing Australia, which Regeneration Projects set up and convened between 2021-2023.

Despite the impacts of COVID-19, this has continued to develop through our consultancy and is accelerating. Here are some highlights of our journey so far:

Spring 2019 – Great Victorian Bathing Trail strategy (created while at Peninsula Hot Springs)

Spring 2020 – Great Victorian Bathing Trail roundtable (Pre-Regeneration Projects)

Spring 2021 – Swimmable Birrarung workshop (Swinburne University x Regen Projects partnership)

Winter 2022 – Research in Copenhagen & Stockholm (Photo: Water Culture House, Copenhagen)

Spring 2022 – Regen Melbourne’s ‘World Rivers Day’ lunch (Matt contracted as ‘Projects Lead’ at RM)

Winter 2023 – #RegenFridays clean up (a regular practice of re-investing back into the Birrarung)

Winter 2023 – SB2030 Alliance: World Bathing Day ride

Combining our skills in multi-stakeholder engagement, nature investment, and place-based business and tourism development, Regeneration Projects is passionate about continuing to play a key role in the international swimmable cities movement.

If you’re looking for support in your city or community, please contact:


Photo: La Banchina, Copenhagen