Sublime Swimming

A communal list and profile of Richmond’s best swimming locations for fellow RVA lay swimmers.

Original — July 01, 2011

If the choice is for us to either sink or swim, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll choose the latter. But where? I’ve heard names like Hadad’s and Belle Isle and Texas Beach ever since I moved to Richmond, but would you be shocked if I told you that in the seven years I’ve lived in RVA, I’ve only ventured to Belle Isle?

Below is not only a list of the most discussed swimming spots, but some details about each location to help you figure out which spots are best suited to your liking.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. I hope that you’ll add your comments, thoughts, and recommendations in the comments below. What are the best times to go? Are there any spots that most people don’t know about? Happy Swimming!

Belle Isle

This is probably the most popular place for Richmonders to go swimming on the James River. Once you get there you can see Hollywood Cemetery, the Downtown skyline, and Tredegar Iron Works. The location tends to attract all sorts of Richmonders.

  • Getting there: From the Museum District/Fan head downtown. At 2nd street, make a right. You’ll see Belle Isle signs from there.


Hadad’s is one of Richmond’s best know swimming holes. According to them, it’s “a family oriented water park and picnic ground that offers something for everyone.” Hadad’s is very popular with the cool crowd, but don’t let that dissuade you from heading there. It has ample room for BBQ’s and is open seven days a week. It’s a private location, and there is a fee to gain admittance. Individual rates are $12.

  • Getting there: located at 7900 Osborne Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23231

42nd Street

This is one of the quieter locales on the James, located on the south side of Richmond. Park your car in a lot, and then follow the walkway across railroad tracks. Camp out on some of the many rocks, or spend some time lounging in the river; you’ll probably see kayakers, too.

  • Getting there: Follow 2nd Street to the Robert E. Lee Bridge. Cross the James River and turn right on Riverside Drive. Travel 1.4 miles to the James River Park System entrance just beyond 42nd Street (a right turn from Riverside Drive into the parking lot).

Texas Beach

Texas Beach is one of the best locales to get your local swim on. Back in the day, VCU Creative Writing MFA students would go skinny-dipping after their workshops, so says well-known Richmond writer and resident Dennis Danvers, who wrote a short story involving Texas Beach for the Richmond Noir.

  • Getting there: From the Museum District/Fan go south on Meadow St. and turn left onto Colorado Ave. Take your third right onto Carter Ave and then turn left at Kansas Ave. Turn right onto Texas Ave and it’ll be on your right.

Pony Pasture

An oddly-named destination, as there is no pasture and no ponies. But there is water! It’s located on the south bank of the James River, two miles downstream from the Huguenot Bridge on Riverside Drive and is a popular spot to begin a canoeing, kayaking, or inner-tube trip. There aren’t as many rocks as Belle Isle or 42nd Street, so getting cozy on a rock with someone may be tricky.

  • Getting there: Pass over Hugenont Bridge and take your first right, take a right on Riverside Drive, and keep on until you get there there.

Paws to Swim

While you’re out swimming and yakking it up with hotties, your dog sits at home and pines for some water fun of their own. Some owner you are! But taking pets to private pools is almost certainly a no-no, and taking them with you into the Richmond wildlife may be a bit demanding. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a dog-centric pool? Wait, there is?

I mean, THERE IS!

Paws to Swim can accommodate your dog with only a few restrictions. It’s a great way to get your dog some exercise, and even help rehabilitate dogs that have had a recent surgery.

  • Getting there: 12082 Walnut Hill Drive – Rockville, VA 23146 804.749.4972

Public Pools

Richmond pools are open to the public and are FREE.

* Monday to Friday, 1pm – 4:30pm and 5pm to 7pm
* Saturday, 1pm – 5pm
* Sunday, 1pm – 5pm
* Holidays, 1pm – 4pm


  • Battery Park Pool, 2917 Dupont Circle., 804.646.0127
  • Calhoun Pool, 436 Calhoun St., 804.646.4751
  • Hotchkiss Pool, 701 East Brookland Park Blvd., 804.646.3762

East End

  • Fairmount Pool, 2000 U St., 804.646.3831
  • Powhatan Pool, 5051 Northhampton St., 804.646.3595
  • Woodville Pool, 2305 Fairfield Ave., 804.646.3834


  • Bellemeade Pool, 1800 Lynhaven Ave., 804.646.8849
  • Blackwell Pool, 238 East 14th St., 804.646.8718
  • Swansboro Indoor Pool, 3160 Midlothian Tpke., 804.646.8088

West End

  • Randolph Pool, 1401 Grayland Ave., 804.646.1329

photo credit: joepyrek

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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