Take a dip in an ocean pool – a beautiful, refreshing and sustainable Australian institution.
By Simon Wesbter
Published: 29 January, 2018
A swim in an ocean pool is a classic Australian experience. Built right on the coast and replenished by ocean waves, the pools offer clean, chemical-free swimming in stunning locations.
You’ll find views that the best infinity pools can’t match, and mostly locals for company – including fish that want to share the fun. Australia’s earliest ocean pools were built by convicts, so you’ll be getting a slice of history, too.
Most of Australia’s 100 or so ocean pools are in Sydney and elsewhere nearby, up and down the New South Wales coast. Here’s a selection of the best.
Australia's ocean pools
Bronte Baths and Bondi Icebergs, Sydney
Bronte Beach, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, offers a short but scenic stretch of sand, with plenty of nearby grass for barbecues and picnics, and a cute little row of cafes for when hunger strikes. At its southern end is Bronte Baths, an ocean pool that dates back to 1887 and offers a stunning spot for swimming a few laps or just having a paddle, protected from the surf.
While you’re here, make sure you have a look around the headland to the north, where you’ll find Bondi Icebergs, the famous ocean pool overlooking Bondi Beach. It’s an iconic location for a bite to eat and a drink too, while watching the surf – and the surfers – roll in.
Ocean Pools in Coogee, Sydney
Just to the south of Bronte, residents of the beachside suburb of Coogee are spoilt for choice when it comes to ocean pools. Try Wylie’s Baths, an ocean pool with great views of Coogee Beach and a real sense of history. Yoga, Pilates and meditation classes are on offer poolside, as well as massages. If you’re not relaxed after all that, you never will be.
Coogee is also home to Giles Baths, a natural rock pool, and McIver’s Ladies Baths, a man-made pool that has been providing women and children with a private place to swim since the 1870s. A great way to explore this stretch of coast (and its beaches and pools) is on the remarkable Bondi to Coogee Walk.
Fairy Bower Pool, Manly, Sydney
Manly, in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, is just a half-hour ferry ride from the city centre, but feels much further away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and seems to bask in a permanent holiday atmosphere.
Thinking outside the square (or the rectangle), Manly residents opted for a triangular shape when they built Fairy Bower Pool in 1929. As the name implies, it’s a magical spot, with bronze sculptures, protection from waves and views over the famous Fairy Bower surf break.
Dawn Fraser Baths, Balmain, Sydney
OK, we’re cheating a bit here. This is not technically an ocean pool, but a harbour pool, fed by water from Sydney Harbour. You could call it an inner city version of an ocean pool.
Named after legendary Australian Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser (a resident of the Inner West neighbourhood of Balmain), this pool claims to the be the oldest in Australia, and home to the nation’s first swimming club. It’s also a water polo venue, and a popular spot for families on a hot day.
And while we’re talking about harbour pools, we really should mention Maccallum Pool in Cremorne, on Sydney’s North Shore. It’s very cute. And it’s got great views of the Harbour Bridge.
Newcastle Ocean Baths, Newcastle, New South Wales
An Art Deco pavilion is a striking backdrop for the Ocean Baths in the city of Newcastle, a couple of hours’ drive north of Sydney. There’s plenty of space for serious lap swimmers if you feel like a workout, as well as room for those who just want a relaxing dip.
The same can be said for Merewether Baths, another seriously impressive historic ocean pool in Newcastle, a former steel town that has reinvented itself in recent years and now has a cultural vibrancy to match its spectacular coastline. While you’re touring the city’s ocean pools you should also visit the historic Bogey Hole, hand carved out of rock by convicts in 1819. They would have deserved a swim after that.
Blue Pool, Bermagui, New South Wales
Five hours south of Sydney, in the pretty seaside town of Bermagui, the Blue Pool offers a spectacular ocean pool for swimming and snorkelling, as well as a smaller pool for children. It can be an incredible location for sunrise and sunset photos.
Also on the South Coast (the stretch of NSW coast south of Sydney), you’ll find ocean pools everywhere from Wollongong (another former steel town getting a new lease of life) to Gerringong (think surf beaches and rolling hills). So get out there, get your togs on (a swimming costume, in other words), and dive in.
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