Sydney’s Ocean Pools

I learnt to swim at one of these pools, waking up at dawn to walk down to the pool with my cousins every morning of every summer for far too many years. We would trudge down, get shouted at and our strokes demolished by an ex life guard by the name of Johnny who it seems, had never spent a moment out of direct contact with the sun and had the skin to prove it. If Johnny was feeling particularly nasty, he would lead all the kids up to the point, and instruct us all to jump and swim back to shore.

Sydney, as we all know shares one of its edges with the Pacific Ocean, and another with the Blue Mountains. Along the eastern edge are many beaches, and to my surprise in putting this post together, almost all of these beaches has its own pool carved somewhere into its rocky perimeter.

The geometry of each is slightly different. They are skewed rectangles, triangles, they are of indeterminate length – although most are around about 50m – they are embedded along the edges of cliffs, they sit solitary on reefs, they occasionally like at Narrabeen, spectacularly hinge off the point of a peninsula. At Wylies Baths they play host to a wonderful timber platform. At Collaroy, the ocean side edge of the pool bends as an abstraction of the bend of the cliff behind. At South Bondi they have a mythical status and provide the foreground to fine dining and summer boozing while at North Bondi, the pool recalls Corb’s ear of God at La Tourette.

So, from North to South here are Sydney’s 26 ocean pools:

Sydney's ocean pools

Palm Beach

Sydney's ocean pools

Whale Beach

Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools

Mona Vale

Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools

Dee Why

Sydney's ocean pools

Curl Curl

Sydney's ocean pools

South Curl Curl

Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools

North Steyne

Sydney's ocean pools

Manly – Fairy Bower Pool

Sydney's ocean pools

North Bondi

Sydney's ocean pools

South Bondi

Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools

Wylie’s Baths

Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools


Sydney's ocean pools

Shelly Beach

Sydney's ocean pools

Oak Park

[I am no expert on these things – if I have mislabelled one of the pools, or missed anything, then let me know!]






16 responses to “Sydney’s Ocean Pools”

  1. peacay Avatar

    I don’t know that I would have been able to guess 26. I grew up playing and (near)drowning at the last three. I guess we shire-ites would call the last 2 Shelly Beach and Oak Park but your names aren’t inaccurate. In the one marked ‘Cronulla’ – I used to live above the lower pool: the building where you can just make out a window in the centre, at the northern end of the southern pool. But that might well pre-date these pictures.

    Thanks Marcus – it’s just the weather for it!

  2. Marcus Trimble Avatar

    Thanks Peacay (and fellow shire-ite Brad)!

    I have updated the list. I would hate to upset The Shire…

  3. sheila Avatar

    sydney’s lovely ocean edge pools . . .

    thanks marcus
    some extras to enjoy

    some of these sites have several pools, such as cronulla which has three, a tiny toddler pool is just north of the photo frame
    coogee also has a “ladies” pool just north of wylies
    and at north coogee there is a well used “remnant” pool which used to be associated with Giles Gym on the headland – its depth varies with the tide and it can be like a washing machine in a big swell – its a favourite of mine as its particular situation is unexpected each time i visit it
    from Ballina to Eden there are more than 60 ocean edge pools – two beauties @ Forster + Bermagui

  4. Matt Avatar

    Thanks – these are great. I lived in Maroubra for a time and used to regularly walk along the coast to Bondi and beyond. This brought back some great memories


  5. Garvan Avatar

    There a Flickr dude / dudette that is doing a masters on ocean pools (?).
    Check it out:

    What sort of trade related procrastination is this anyway?

  6. Andrew Browne Avatar
    Andrew Browne

    How were these built? Are they separate from the ocean, or do the waters mix? How old are they? Were they built by government or local residents?

  7. min Avatar

    the mother of all ocean pools is found in newcastle at the south end of merewether beach. the length of an olympic pool forms the short dimension of the merewether baths. the long dimension is at least double that. a body-width concrete ledge separates the pool from the ocean at high tide. at low tide the pool is lodge into the rock platform. in any reasonable swell, the ocean rolls in over the ledge in easy sets. there are two pools. closer to the cliff is the shallow pool: where the huge length is matched, but the width of the shallow pool might be closer to 25m.
    a beautiful pool known as the bogey hole is cut out of the rock at the base of a cliff, one headland south of newcastle beach. it was cut for the commandant’s bath in the early 1800’s.
    the newcastle baths have big airy change areas enclosed behind the bath’s art deco (kind of) facade. a stepped, curved, ocean-liner wall breaks the north esterly wind and forms a stage for sun bathing. the oval pool was added later an has a map of the world described at it’s base. the map is always lost under the sand. these baths are being renovated right now so we hope the council is not ruining them.
    i will send satellite images if you want to upload them.

  8. sheila Avatar

    this site, includes a history of most pools

    some were council projects, some were work creation projects during the depression, others were built by private speculators – Wylies, and some by energetic local residents – copacabana, newcastles boggie hole was a natural pool enlarged for Goveror Morriset by convict labour C1830/40’s

  9. Tom Avatar

    This is just a thought of course i have used and swum in these pools and loved them,
    I participate and use a site known as Yahoo Answers where people ask or answer questions on many subjects participants
    are located all over the globe,lately i have tried when ever possible to promote our fair Country and often include sites such as your own in my answers,just with this one i thought it would be great if there was more options available such as zooms or other enhancements.

  10. Marcus Avatar

    @Tom –
    The images on this post are all from Google Maps,
    so are easily and widely accessible. I am not sure if what Yahoo’s position to linking to google maps is however…

  11. Chris Fiore Avatar
    Chris Fiore

    Yer , started at Palm beach going south ,we take our three kids to a differnt pool each trip in summer , in two seasons we still havent been through them all , it will great to see them all before we cling to a favourite.

  12. Manuel Avatar

    Never noticed that there is a ocean pool in bondi. Ah its to crowded anyways ;)

  13. Rachel Avatar

    I have been coming to Sydney for the past 3 years from Boston, Mass., USA, and find swimming the pools to be the most wonderful experience. So far, I’ve found 9 and I appreciate this list. Is there a guide to the pools? I visited the tourist center and they said no, gave me this page, and directions for a few of the pools. Why don’t you do a small book that will be a guide to all the pools with information on their history and so forth? These pools are a gift to dedicated swimmers and a remarkable treasure.

  14. Angela C.F.S Avatar
    Angela C.F.S

    Ahh, I love an ocean pool. Of course my favourite is Bronte Ocean Pool and the bogey hole next to it (where is that term from? Bogey?). Slap on some gopggles and the bogey hole is a true reminder that things live in the Sydney sea – large fish, swooshing locks of seaweeds, a blue bottle- ouch…
    The pool even has warm showers during the winter months (for free- used to be 10c but the machine broke a few years back). A dip in the crisp clear pool on a weekday morning, a warm shower and a latte from across the road makes for an impressive start to any day. Love cousin Angela.

  15. Tara Avatar

    Dont forget Fairlight Ocean pool, off fairlight cres!

  16. Alice Avatar

    Thanks for this, Marcus – I’ve been looking for a good guide to these beauties, and this is fantastic. I plan to visit (and swim in) them all! Will post photos as well, if you care to take a squiz. Have made a bit of a start but have a long way to go:

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