While Sydney does beaches better than most cities, there is something to be said for its natural ocean rock pools.
New South Wales has more than 100 natural rock pools and several are in Sydney. Throw in the added comfort of lanes, the protection of barriers around the pool, hand rails and an adjoining cafe and you’ve got yourself a nice afternoon. Here are our top picks.
Dee Why Rock Pool
Located beside the promenade along Dee Why Beach, this 50-metre pool is enclosed by natural sandstone and concrete walls. There’s a separate shallow area for toddlers (or adults who just want to relax). It’s well maintained by the Warringah Council and there are nearby toilets and showers. A few kilometres down the coastline you’ll find a smaller rock pool (25-metres long) at North Curl Curl Beach and a similar lap pool at the northern end of Freshwater Beach. Both are run by Warringah Council.
Bilgola Rock Pool
If you want a lane to yourself, try Bilgola Beach – one of the most secluded of Sydney’s northern beaches. You can take the South Bilgola Headland Walk from Newport Beach or avoid the trek and park off the Sepentine. The eight-lane, 50-metre Bilgola Rock Pool awaits, with impressive views of the Bilgola North Headland.
This dramatic, 50-metre-long landmark is built into the Tasman Sea at the southern edge of Bondi Beach. Open to the public, the saltwater baths and beach club date back to 1929; they were built to keep lifesavers fit in the winter. There’s also a smaller kids pool and a sauna, gym and cafe (or alternatively, pop up to Icebergs Dining Room & Bar afterwards. Patrolled by lifeguards during opening hours, it’s safe to swim here. But unlike others on this list, you will have to tuck some cash into your swimmers for this one – entry is $6.50. Keep an eye on the fluctuating temperatures on the pool’s Twitter feed.
One of Sydney’s well-kept secrets, MacCallum Pool is a two-lane, harbourside lap pool off the Cremorne Point walking track on Milson Road. A popular spot for locals since the 1920s, this secluded pool has free entry, brilliant views and a quiet, shady outlook – bring your book and a spare afternoon.
The Bronte Baths are on the edge of Bronte Beach and are free of charge for swimming. This spot has the safety of a human-made pool with the natural scenery of the ocean. Opened in 1887, the Bronte Baths are one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful pools. Also worth a mention is Bronte Bogey Hole, a natural rock pool, at the southern end of the beach. It’s a shallow, naturally occurring rock pool formed by a circle of rocks, though it’s only exposed at low tide.
Burning Palms, Royal National Park (Figure Eight Pools)
The natural joining of sinkholes and rock pools on a coastal shelf near Burning Palms Beach forms the much-talked-about “Figure Eight Pools”. While it’s free and often quiet, you have to work for it. They are located south of Burning Palms beach, which is a difficult, six-kilometre return walk from the nearest car park (Garrawarra Farm). The walk will also require some planning – the final leg, across the coastal headland, is only accessible at low tide. Bear in mind also that the coastal shelf can be slippery and dangerous in certain weather conditions; you can refer to the official website for any warnings. Freak waves have been known to wash people against the rocks, too. There are also no facilities or lifeguards at the pools, so come well equipped with food and water.
Ivor Rowe, South Coogee
This spa-like natural rock pool is one of the smallest and most shallow on the list, so a great one for children. Access it via foot along the Coastal Walkway – it’s about two kilometers south of Coogee – or via car from the Bunya Parade. While a great place to observe tropical fish and sea life, exercise extreme caution in rocky weather – there are no barriers at this one.