While indoor public swimming pool attendances continue to decline, Australia’s rugged coastline offers alternative swimming venues that are wilder and less controlled than those found indoors. Ocean pools from Palm Beach to Cronulla provide swimmers with an idyllic way of enjoying sea, beach and sky in an environment less subject to human control; they host recreational and competitive swimming, learn-to-swim programs as well as wave play – embodying values of equality, diversity and mateship for many swimmers.
“Public swimming pools aren’t simply about swimming,” according to Zoe Baker, mayor of North Sydney and founder of Australia’s Wild Swimming Society. “They foster a sense of community where all are welcomed and everyone feels valued.”
Bondi Icebergs, Sydney’s $70 million renovated ocean pool located on its eastern shore and designed by architect Jrn Utzon and opened in 2021, features simple elegance enhanced with an expansive cafe, glass canopy over water surface, terraced platforms to accommodate loungers as well as swimmers – quickly becoming a favourite spot among locals for breakfast or lunch, swim sessions, relaxation or socialising.
Coogee’s natural rock pools boast the sort of simple charm that draws families and locals alike, while Giles Baths (commonly referred to as ‘The Bogey Hole’) and McIver’s Ladies Baths have offered women safe places to swim since 1870s. Visitors on The Bondi to Coogee Walk can explore many beaches and pools along their path – Giles is often known as “The Bogey Hole”, while McIver’s Ladies Baths provide women a safe space where women have been swimming since 1870s!
Bondi Icebergs and Cronulla Oasis pools have undergone significant renovations to address safety and accessibility concerns, such as adding lifts and an accessible toilets; Cronulla Oasis will soon receive new roof, lift, cafe changing rooms as well as lifeguard tower.
As Australia prepares to embrace another scorching summer, public swimming pools provide an oasis of water fun and remind us how vital coastal ecosystems are for future generations.
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Tegan Lyon is a reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and this article first appeared in their February 2019 edition, with permission. You can buy copies in newsstands as well as online at www.thescydneynewspaper.com
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