If you’re a Sydney local, you know the joy of swimming in an ocean pool. Just about every beach has one, built to protect swimmers from southerly winds and big seas. Serene at low tide, choppy at high, they’re like the original infinity pools – and free for swimmers.
Many also offer changing rooms and showers. Whether you’re an experienced swimmer or just starting out, they’re the perfect place to practice your strokes in a beautiful setting. Some, such as the iconic Bondi to Coogee Walk, are best visited on a guided tour led by a local. But even just strolling around the area will show you why these natural rock pools are so popular.
Sydney’s ocean pools were originally built for recreational and competitive swimmers who needed a safe place to swim away from the pounding surf and risk of shark attacks. “Back then, very few non-Indigenous people had any surfing skills, so they wanted to swim in nice safe places where they could do laps,” says author and academic Marie-Louise McDermott, whose website All Into Ocean Pools features some of the city’s historic pools.
There are now more than 150 pools in the Sydney region, many surrounded by grassy lawns and picnic areas. Located on the shore, near cliffs or between headlands, they’re often built into rocks or sheltered by a reef or grotto. They’re open all year round.
Some have been in operation for more than 100 years, including the Manly Ocean Pool, which opened in 1929. This rocky pool sits beside the promenade between Shelly and Manly beaches on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It is framed by the Sea Nymphs sculpture, and is easily reached from the Cabbage Tree Bay Eco Sculpture Walk on the northern coast of the peninsula.
Another of the most popular ocean pools is Coogee’s Giles Baths, which has been providing a calm and protected spot to swim since the 1870s. Located near the famous Coogee and Bronte beaches, they’re a great swimming option when the wind picks up or the surf is too rough for regular swimmers. The area is also home to McIver’s Ladies Baths, a sheltered natural rock pool that has been used by women since the 1930s.
A more recent addition is the Marrinawi Cove, which opened in Barangaroo in 2021 after major clean-up efforts. This harbour swimming spot is a real winner, with gentle waters and large rock steps for swimmers to sunbathe on.
If you’re thinking about installing your own pool, check out the Sydney Pool + Spa Design and Renovations page on Trades Pages. Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of local industry professionals that will help with the planning, design and construction of your new outdoor pool. From luxurious custom-designed concrete pools to stunning mosaic finishes, the tradies on this page can help. They’ll guide you through the process and make sure your project is a success from start to finish. Visit them online today to get started.