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Polar Bear Plunge

In many countries the annual polar bear plunge is a centuries-old New Year’s tradition. For some swimmers, it’s a chilly challenge to raise funds for a charitable organization, while others brave the subfreezing waters for the health benefits. If you are interested in taking the plunge, read on to discover the very best places to take an icy dip this New Year’s Day.

Scheveningen, The Netherlands

Scheveningen beach is a popular swimming spot

Scheveningen beach is a popular swimming spot

Why to go?

This is one of the most popular polar bear plunges. It's only a 15-minute tram ride from The Hague’s Central Station.

With a staggering 89 official plunge spots, the Netherlands is the perfect place for a New Year’s dive (locally known as Nieuwjaarsduik). The most popular swimming point is the pier in Scheveningen. Each year more than 10,000 brave swimmers head to this coastal town to test their iron will in the frigid waters of the North Sea. You can recognize the participants by their bright orange caps, provided by the event’s sponsor Unox, and by the steaming bowls of snert (split pea soup) the swimmers eat to warm themselves up after the plunge.

Vancouver, Canada

New Year's Day in Vancouver

New Year's Day in Vancouver

Why to go?

The English Bay water is often slightly warmer than the air temperature – making this a mild polar plunge.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the oldest Polar Bear Clubs in the world. Their annual swim dates back to 1920, when the club’s founder, and five of his friends, first braved the cold waters of the English Bay on New Year’s Day. This plunge is also said to be one of the warmest because the water temperature can climb to over 8 °C this time of year.

South Queensferry, Scotland

For Scotland's Loony Dock swimmers dress fancy

For Scotland's Loony Dock swimmers dress fancy

Why to go?

This charitable plunge is a fancy dress fest. Only a short bus ride from Edinburgh, we recommend getting tickets early – it sells out fast.

Scotland’s Loony Dook takes the cake when it comes to wild plunges. Torchlight processions, candlelit concerts, and a massive street party are all included in this celebration. Participants, lovingly referred to as ‘Dookers’, commence New Year’s Day with a parade down High Street before diving into the freezing River Forth – all to raise pounds for charities across the UK.

Coney Island, New York, USA

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States

Why to go?

If you are interested in the healing benefits of cold-water immersion, this is the plunge for you. Water temperatures here can dip below 1 °C.

The history of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and their annual New Year’s Day Swim is rooted in health and wellness. This New York tradition was founded in 1903 by a wealthy publishing tycoon who proclaimed that cold-water plunges were the secret to his longevity. Today swimmers take the plunge not only for health, but also to raise funds for their favourite children’s charities.

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