A visit to a Sydney beach without a swim in the ocean is a little like walking past a church without entering its doors. While the city is famous for its stunning beaches, there are also an array of iconic coastal pools that offer a relaxing swim in the ocean without the risk of shark attacks or big waves. From Elkington Park to Coogee, these pools are a must-visit for any Sydney visitor or local.
The city’s ocean pools were built in the late 1800s to protect swimmers from the strong waves and shark attacks that dotted Sydney’s coastline. Author and academic Marie-Louise McDermott, who wrote about the history of sdy pools for a website called All Into Ocean Pools, says local councils and private individuals came together to build them. “People were very much concerned about shark attacks and a desire to have nice safe places to swim,” she said.
McDermott describes a corrugated iron, cream and green pavilion tucked below Balmain’s sandstone cliffs. Then known as the Elkington Park Baths, it was designed by architect William Norman and is one of the most unique of Sydney’s harbour pools. A curved wooden deck wraps around the arc of the pool and is topped by a sandstone arch that’s perfect for lounging.
Another popular Sydney coastal pool is the natural rock pool at Coogee, which is protected from the sou’westerleys by a low-lying rock shelf. It’s a great place to relax, sunbathe and take a dip. Nearby are McIver’s Ladies Baths, which have provided women with a private space to swim since the 1870s.
For a swim in the ocean that’s more of a challenge, head to Mahon, a rock pool in Lurline Bay. Built in 1932, it’s a 33-yard pool that is completely open to the sea’s elements. It’s popular with recreational and competitive swimmers who like to test their skills in the rough surf.
If you want to find out more about the city’s iconic pools, take a tour with the Bondi to Coogee Walk or a visit several of them on an Iconic Sydney Pools tour. And if you’re visiting during summer, don’t miss the chance to enjoy an ice-cream cone at one of the city’s iconic ice cream shops. It’s the best way to cool off after a day in the sun.