This weekend, I turned the faucet taps on cold water in my kitchen, and what came out was lukewarm at best. The record February temp of 113F was hit recently in the Sydney region, and weather forecasters have moved past the traditional weather map ‘red’ color to describe the hot temperatures and onto an Armageddon-inducing devilish purple hue.
Yes, the Sydney heatwave is upon us. Beyond the very real dangers of global warming, bush fires, heat stroke, and dehydration, this weather is just miserable and uncomfortable. Especially for those unfortunate souls who exist in a world with air-conditioning. (An amenity surprisingly not all that common in Sydney homes.)
My top tip for cooling off is heading to the beach- specifically, one of the quintessentially Australian ocean pools. These natural rock pools are built almost into the beach, and are filled with salt water from the sea, but provide protection from waves, marine life, and often have lanes for swimming laps.
They originated in the 1800’s, and were popular with winter swimming clubs, and also provided an escape from pollution in later years. They are great for exercise, for swimming with kids, or just to float around and stay cool without having to worry about riptides and getting knocked over by an angry wave.
Ocean pools can be found across Sydney’s beaches, but check out a few of the best:
Bronte’s ocean pool, situated in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, between Tamarama and Clovelly, is a picturesque spot to cool off, relax, or swim some laps.
Sit on the far edge, closest to the open ocean, and get drenched by the surf as it roars over into the pool, or seek some shelter from the sun under the sandstone rock overhang.
Showers and facilities are just adjacent to the pool, and a snack bar is also nearby. But, as always, best visited on the weekend when the Bronte Surf Lifesavers have a sausage sizzle on- snag a snag, or hot dog, drenched in ketchup and fried onions, and veg out on the sand between swims- all while supporting a good cause. (An aside, but almost all lifeguard programs in Australia are volunteer-run, so they definitely need your support!)
The most famous and well-known of all Sydney’s ocean pools, it would be amiss to write about ocean pools without including Icebergs– also the only ocean pool in Sydney which isn’t free to access.
The Icebergs began in 1929 as a winter swimming club, and continues to be to this day. Members, as per their constitution, must swim at least three out of four Sundays out of the each month, for a period of five years. Spare a thought for the swimmers on a cold July day…
If you’re not that hardcore, rest assured- you are still able to visit Icebergs as guest, and their day fees are reasonable. In addition to the pool, a very popular cafe is also on site, and swimming lessons and ocean-side yoga are also available.
Northbridge Baths, located on the northern Sydney harbour, is an open ocean pool maintained by Willoughby Council. Although it is protected, water does flow freely from the harbour. This mean there can be fish and sometimes pollution, so best avoid after heavy rain.
The baths are situated in the shelter and leafy harbourside suburb of Northbridge. It’s a calm and serene place for a swim and some sun, and is mostly only visited by locals.
This large swimming area offers lap lanes, enter and exit platforms which are a mecca for bellyflops and cannonballers. An access walkway into the water makes entry to the water easier. Changing facilities, barbeques, and free parking are also available.
It’s a bit risky including Clovelly Beach as an ocean pool, therefore consider it the 1/2. You could say it’s partly a ‘traditional’ beach, and partly an ocean pool- this also makes it a perfect spot for snorkelling, and the shallower section is great for kids to explore.
In Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, this beach is exposed to the open ocean and can be quite deep in points. However, both the north and south sides are locked in by rock or manmade barrier. This creates a very protected swimming area, and allowing for a calm environment for a range of marine life.
Where’s your favourite spot to cool off on a hot day?