Ahhhwhoomp… and you’re under. Teeth clenched from the cold. Ahhhshhhure… you re-emerge from the water, laughing brightly, hairs on end. Skinny dipping is one of life’s great freedoms: a spontaneous collision of giddy excitement and the right environment. Quick, there’s no one around. Clothes off… and in!
Up near the Arctic Circle, where huskies pant in the cold and the Northern Lights dance like psychedelic flames against inky-dark skies, there is a type of skinny dipping favoured by hardy Finns: talviuinti (ice-swimming). Lakes are frozen October to May, so locals carve out an aavanto (ice-hole) for the perfect post-sauna cool-off. At a bits-shrivelling -20°C, even the quickest of sploshes sees skinny dippers reappear alive and bright-eyed.
Essential information: Jätkänkämppä, a traditional savusauna (smoke sauna) in Kuopio, eastern Finland, is a great place to start.
Alexandra Bay, Australia
You won’t need to pack your budgie smugglers for this glorious arc of pristine sand in Noosa National Park, some 120km north of Brisbane. It can all hang loosa at A-Bay, one of Australia’s first and finest nudist beaches. Skinny dipping spots don’t come much better, but only the most hardened of naturists make it to this remote east-coast shoreline. Most days, the only thing between your privates and Peru will be the South Pacific.
Essential information: A-Bay is a 3km walk from Sunshine Beach; park at Seaview Terrace car park and head north to the signposted Coastal Walk and A-Bay.
Hague Lake Cortes Island, Canada
It’s a good ol’ schlep up to Cortes from Vancouver Island, but you’ll be glad to arrive: white-sand beaches, warm water (in summer); and a backdrop of the Coast Mountain Range’s glacial peaks make this a spellbinder for skinny-dippers. And, the lake’s no-motor rule and remote location ensures pristine swimming. Just watch out for kayakers! Back on land, hiking and biking await in the surrounding parks.
Essential information: Ferries from Campbell River on Vancouver’s northern side run to Cortes’ Whaletown Terminal, an 18.5km drive from Hague Lake.
Kurokawa Onsen, Japan
Volcanic-spring (onsen) bathing is among the most popular of Japan’s ancient traditions – particularly with city dwellers, who repaire to locations around the country for a revivifying dip, in the nude. Among the most picturesque are the springs of Kurokawa in the Kyushu prefecture, with over 30 baths: purchase a wooden tegata pass for access to three different onsen. Alcohol and tattoos (unless very small or covered in bandages) are verboten.
Essential information: There are regular daily buses to Kurokawa Onsen from Aso (1hr), Kumamoto (2.5hr), Beppu (2.5hr) and Hakata Station (3hr).