In the days before the city’s many swimming pools were designed and built, ocean pools acted as a vital safety measure for swimmers who wanted to enjoy Sydney’s seaside – but did not want to risk being cut up by rough waves. Many of Australia’s most famous beaches have ocean pools at their feet, and these sheltered waters can also be found at popular beachside destinations across the country, including at some of the world’s most stunning coastal scenery.
The sdy pools are part of Sydney’s natural and cultural heritage, and recent exhibitions by photographers and artists have directed attention back to them and the convivial but respectful relationships such swimming environments can foster with the sea and marine life that inhabits them. Encounters with bluebottles, seaweed, urchins, sharp rocks and slippery rocks are not unusual in these relatively wild swimming environments, but swimmers have always adapted to these hazards by adopting certain techniques and by using local knowledge.
Swimmers have also developed an intimate relationship with Sydney’s ocean pools through the generations, and they are a source of great personal pride for many residents of the city. They remain popular for visitors and are a much-loved and well-maintained feature of the city’s beaches, and a number of them have been restored over time to better reflect the historical environment in which they were originally conceived and built.
One of the most famous is the Bondi Pool, a rock pool nestled under the famed Sydney Harbour Bridge and built as the nation came out of depression and just two years before the city would host the 1938 Commonwealth Games. The Bondi boy who whipped the boys at that first swim would go on to break 86 world records, including eight at this iconic location.
Other notable sdy pools include Wylie’s Baths, built in 1912 on the north-facing cliffs of Coogee Beach and considered one of Sydney’s most beautiful tidal pools; and McIver’s Ladies Baths, the only man-made ocean pool in Australia exclusively for women and children, which has been providing female swimmers with a private place to take a dip since the 1870s. Swimmers can explore a selection of these iconic ocean pools by following the Bondi to Coogee Walk, or join a local Sydney guide for an Iconic Ocean Pools Sydney tour and let them show you their favourite swim spots.
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