Sydney and New South Wales have the largest number of ocean pools in Australia, offering the best of the sea without the wildness of the waves.
From north to south, here are some of the eastern suburbs’ best ocean pools.
Bondi Icebergs Pool
1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach
Arguably Sydney’s best-known ocean pool, this 50-metre saltwater pool has become an icon of the eastern suburbs. The southern end of Bondi Beach was home to a natural rockpool before the Bondi Baths were built there in the 1880s. In 1929, lifesavers formed a winter swimming club to keep fit in the off-season, and the famous Bondi Icebergs was born. To become an Icebergs member, you have to swim at least three Sundays out of four for five years, but anyone is welcome to pop into the pool for a casual swim for a modest entry fee. There’s even a gym, sauna, massage service, café, and bistro, not to mention the renowned Iceberg’s Dining Room and Bar upstairs.
Calga Place, Bronte
The beautiful Bronte Baths, built into the sandstone cliffside facing the eastern horizon, opened in 1887. Legend has it the Australian crawl was christened here when a swimming coach cried, “look at that kid crawling!” as Solomon Islander Alick Wickham won a race using the then-unusual freestyle stroke in 1901. These beautiful baths are not too deep, making them popular with families. A barrier divides the lap swimmers from the frolickers, but the baths’ short length means they’re better suited to recreation than serious swimming. Toilets and showers are available.
The Geoff James Pool
Clovelly Road, Clovelly
This 25-metre saltwater pool, also known as the Clovelly Ocean Pool, is named after a former Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club president. In 1962, Geoff James was instrumental in convincing Randwick Council to build the pool, arguing that it would mean less concrete would be required for the promenade. The pool’s four lanes make it ideal for swimming laps, and there are toilets, showers and café facilities nearby.
105 – 109R Beach Street, Coogee
Coogee locals are spoilt for choice when it comes to ocean pools. The suburb’s northernmost sea pool is Giles Baths. Found at the beach’s northern headland, this natural rockpool first became popular with swimmers in the 1850s, when it was nicknamed ‘the bogey hole’. At the turn of the 20th century, a more formal swimming area was built, and the baths were taken over by Oscar Giles around 1928. The men-only Giles Gym and Baths (the entry portico of which is still standing) became the fitness venue of their day. The gym closed in 1998, and today, Giles Baths is a popular swimming spot with people of all genders. Because the pool is exposed to ocean waves, conditions can be rough when the surf is up.
Ross Jones Memorial Pool
133R Beach Street, Coogee
At the southern end of Coogee Beach, next to the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, is the Ross Jones Memorial Pool. Built in 1947 and named for a local alderman with strong ties to the surf club, Ross Jones Memorial Pool is popular with children and families. Waves splash over this smaller pool’s concrete walls at high tide and in rough conditions. Rumour has it this pool is popular with Sydney Swans players for a recovery session after a match.
McIver’s Ladies Baths
145 – 149R Beach Street, Coogee
McIver’s Baths, also known as Coogee Women’s Baths, is a delightful sea pool oasis for women and children nestled on a rock platform between Coogee Beach and Wylie’s Baths. Built in 1886, this historic pool is Australia’s last women- and children-only seawater pool. Despite being one of Sydney’s most secluded ocean pools, these baths still enjoy spectacular Pacific Ocean vistas. There are toilets, hot showers and changing facilities available. Access is via Grant’s Reserve.
4B Neptune Street, Coogee
Just to the south of Coogee Beach, below the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walkway, you’ll find the famous Wylie’s Baths. Arguably Coogee’s most popular ocean pool, you can swim a few laps at Wylie’s or just have a dip for the fun of it. The pool, one of the first in Australia to allow male and female swimmers, was built in 1907 by champion long-distance swimmer Henry Wylie. Today the heritage-listed baths host yoga, pilates, tai chi, and massages, and there’s a popular kiosk onsite for a post-swim refuel. You can even have your wedding reception in the marquee on the top deck overlooking the baths, Coogee Beach and Wedding Cake Island.
Ivo Rowe Rockpool
1R Bunya Parade, South Coogee
The Ivo Rowe Rockpool can be found further south along the Coastal Walkway. Once you see the five wooden posts set into the rock platform, you know you’ve found it. This petite natural rockpool is ideal for wading or cooling off on a hot day. The pool is named after local resident Ivo Rowe who lived in Evelyn Street, Coogee, until his death in 1961. Locals say the pool was known as the Honeycomb before it took on its current name. A word of warning: the rocks in and around Ivo Rowe Rockpool can be slippery.
15R Marine Parade, Maroubra
Maroubra’s Mahon Pool dates back to the great depression. Local alderman Patrick Mahon petitioned for the pool to be built as a way to employ local men at a time when many families were doing it tough. It’s located on the site of a natural rock pool at the base of the cliffs north of Maroubra Beach, underneath Jack Vanny Reserve. Today, the Sydney Swans and other elite athletes train at Mahon Pool. Bonus points go to the fresh amenities block, which underwent a renovation in 2019. Wander a little further south and check out the magical Easton Churchill Rock Pool while you’re here too.
Malabar Ocean Pool
Bay Parade, Malabar
Directly below Randwick Golf Club, you’ll find Malabar Ocean Pool overlooking Long Bay and the Randwick Rifle Range. Records from the 1890s show that a rock pool (originally made from boulders) has existed on the southern side of the bay since then. Pollution from the Malabar sewerage outfall made this pool off-limits from the 1950s to the 1980s. After the deep ocean sewerage outfall opened and the water quality improved, Malabar Ocean Pool received an upgrade in 1997. Today the pool features an access ramp, making wheelchair access relatively easy.
Little Bay Rock Pool
4R Coast Hospital Road, Little Bay
The Coast Hospital was built at Little Bay in 1881 to deal with an outbreak of smallpox in Sydney. At first, the hospital’s matron forbade the nurses to swim in the bay because sharks had been seen there. That’s why, in the early 1900s, Little Bay Rock Pool (also known as the Nurse’s Pool) was built at the southern end of Little Bay Beach from a ring of rocks – to provide a swimming spot for the nurses ‘safe’ from sharks. At high tide, it can be hard to make out the circle of rocks that make up this rock pool, and at low tide, the water is too shallow for a proper swim. Visit in between tides to get the best experience.
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