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Historically ocean pools were nature’s swimming pools that were constructed to dam the seawater in a purposely built enclosure with the changing tides. These manmade pools moulded into the natural rocks, grew in popularity in the 1900s as they provided swimmers relief from the heat during our hot summers and also protected swimmers from rips, big waves and bitey marine creatures such as sharks. Some of the best ocean pools in Australia are located along the eastern coastline of Australia.
The earliest known ocean pool in Australia was built by convicts in Newcastle in 1819, known as Bogey Hole. The Commandant at the time commissioned it for his own personal use, but is now heritage-listed and open to the public.
There are over 100 ocean pools along the coastline of New South Wales and Sydney has its fair share of them. There are 35 ocean pools dotted along the coastline of Sydney, including Bronte Baths, Fairy Bower Pool at Manly, Mahon Pool at Maroubra, Bondi Icebergs, Bilgola Rockpool, Wylie’s and McIver’s Baths at Coogee, North Curl Curl Rockpool, Cronulla Rockpool, Malabar Ocean Pool, and Dee Why Rockpool, to name a few.
These ocean pools were shaped around the natural rockface of the coastline’s beaches. They were originally built to allow swimmers to do laps protected from large waves and sharks. At many ocean baths men and women had to swim at different times and in ‘appropriate attire’ under strict council regulations. There were also some baths that were designated as men only or women only. How times have changed!
The best thing about ocean baths is that they all offer enticing scenic views and remain major tourist attractions along the New South Wales coastline. There are even plans to bring back the ocean pool in locations such as Ballina and Port Macquarie on New South Wales north coast.
Here are some of the best ocean pools in Australia that I have personally visited:
Possibly the most prolific ocean pool in Australia, Bondi Icebergs is located on the southern end of Bondi Beach, originally constructed in 1897. The Bondi Icebergs Swim Club was formed in 1929 for winter swimmers with the choice of a 50 metre adults pool or a shallower 25 metre children’s pool.
The buildings adjacent to the pools houses a typical Australian club, with bars and a brasserie. Visitors are welcome to come into the ocean pool for a swim or for something to eat and drink.
The northern New South Wales beachside town of Yamba features ocean baths that adjoin the southern end of Main Beach. The pool was constructed in 1960, making it one of the most recent ocean pool in Australia. The 33 metre long pool is open to the public and is ideal for doing laps.
The interesting thing about this ocean pool is that it is dedicated as a war memorial with an inscription on a granite rock. It is located in the seaside town of Sawtell along the Coffs Coast on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. The pool was built in 1962 into the rocks at the bottom of the headland in Sawtell adjacent to Bonville Creek. It’s a great place for a swim away from the waves, being protected by the headland.
Kiami, just south of Sydney on the New South Wales South Coast, boasts two ocean pools: Blow Hole Point Rock Pool near the Kiama Blow Hole and the Continental Rock Pool at the northern end of Black Beach Reserve.
The Blow Hole Point Rock Pool constructed in 1889, is the smaller of the two, having an irregular shape with variable depth and a natural rock bottom. It also has a shallow wading area suitable for young children off to the side.
This tidal rock pool, that is one of two in Gerringong on the South Coast of New South Wales, is located on the southern end of Werri Beach. The pool built into the rock shelf in the 1930s has a smooth, sloping concrete floor and nearby is a separate concrete-formed children’s wading pool.
The Entrance ocean pools are located at the southern end of The Entrance Beach and are open to the public free of charge. These heritage-listed baths built between 1938 to 1965, consist of a 50 metre lap pool, 22 metre pool and children’s wading pool.
Tucked into the cliff at the southern end of Terrigal Beach on the central coast of New South Wales, this rock pool constructed in the 1950s, is a summer favourite with visitors and locals.
A 50 metre Olympic natural seawater pool that is located near Ulladulla Harbour on the South Coast of New South Wales, is only open from November to May. This concrete pool dates from the 1950s.
Queensland only boasts four ocean baths: one at Snapper Rocks in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast; one ocean-fed pool at Caloundra’s Kings Beach; one on the Wynnum foreshore of Brisbane; and one at Townsville. A fifth is planned for Maroochydore as its new CBD is currently being developed.
Almost abutting the Queensland and New South Wales border on the Gold Coast is this ocean pool that was originally built at Snapper Rocks by Jack Evans in 1956 as part of his Porpoise Pool tourist attraction. The abandoned tourist attraction is now used by swimmers and bathers on occasion.
This tidal swimming pool located on the stunning Kings Beach foreshore in Caloundra on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is equipped with shade sails, and has a free 25-metre sea-water lap pool, children’s swimming pool and wading area. The heritage-listed Kings Beach Bathing Pavilion at Caloundra overlooks the rock pool and the beach as it has done since 1937, following the enhancement of the natural rock pools in 1928.
This stinger-resistant seawater rockpool was constructed along The Strand on the beachfront in Townsville in 2000. The pool is surrounded by parkland and is gently sloped with a shallow area suitable for children, which leads into a deeper pool for swimming. It’s a beautiful space for some relaxation, a refreshing dip and a picnic.
This shark-proof 50 metre tidal pool was built in 1950 located near Kingscote Wharf, is ideal for swimmers to do their laps. The shallow beach entry also makes it perfect for children and there is a sheltered picnic area nearby.
Although from a bygone era, ocean pools still serve a useful purpose for ocean swimmers all over Australia. I must admit that they do hold a certain amount of nostalgia and I’m always drawn to them wherever I travel throughout this country. I like the fact that they are flushed clean with natural seawater with the changing of the tides. I for one would vote for them as an added attraction to our already spectacular coastline.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.