Sydney’s 21 Best Swimming Spots That Aren’t Beaches
The best pools, rockpools, hotel pools and bays around the city.
Oh Sydney, you’re so good – what, with your extensive coastline, crystal clear waters and wonderful beach culture. But sometimes the beaches are crowded, there are rips to contend with, and you don’t always feel like emptying half of Tamarama’s sand out from your swimmers when you get home. For those who prefer a more relaxed and tranquil swimming experience and who would like to steer clear of the main haunts, we’ve compiled the ultimate list for you.
Around the city
Swim like it’s 1907 at Wylie’s Baths. The historic timber structure is built against the cliffs at South Coogee, with struts and stairs descending to the gorgeous tidal pool. Lay down a towel by the water’s edge and take as many leisurely dips as your heart desires. The bottom of the pool is au naturale so be mindful of the sea urchins!
Where: Neptune Street, Coogee
Dawn Fraser Baths
A stone’s throw from Sydney’s Cockatoo Island is Dawn Fraser Baths. Stepping into what’s like a grandstand, you can pull up a wooden bench or nook in this Balmain institution. Water is tidal, and there are lane ropes if you feel like cutting some laps. It’s a popular spot for water polo too.
Where: Elkington Park, Fitzroy Avenue, Balmain NSW
Milky by name, not by nature. Extending from the vast lawns outside the underused Strickland House in Vaucluse, and providing an incredibly unique perspective on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you’ll wonder why you’ve never been here before.
Where: Vaucluse Road, Vaucluse
Just a five minute walk from Milk Beach you’ll come across the calm waters of Hermit Bay, another stunning Harbour swimming location. It’s flanked by impressive houses (read: mansions) so whether you pull up a patch of grass by the fig tree or if you opt for the sand, you can ogle the surrounding houses between dips.
Where: via Queen’s lane off Vaucluse Road
Prince Alfred Park Pool
Take a break without leaving the city. With bright yellow umbrellas and blue and white stripes against the rolling green hills, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re far away from the city, and not just moments from Central Station. There’s a great cafe there too if you need your fix of coconut smoothies.
Where: 105 Chalmers Street, Surry Hills
North Sydney Pool
If you want a pool with a view, this is the place for you. With money-can’t-buy panoramas of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this pool is heated to perfection.
Where: 4 Alfred Street South, Milsons Point
Maccallum Seawater Pool
Maccallum offers expansive views of the harbour from its position at the western side of Cremorne Point. It has a timber deck you can lay out on year-round while admiring the building’s refurbished ’20s architecture.
Where: Milson Road, Cremorne Point
BYO mask and snorkel to this eastern suburbs oasis and you’ll likely see a plethora of sea life including the local and friendly Blue Groper.
Where: Major Street, Coogee
Bondi Iceberg’s Club
A quick Instasearch of #Icebergs will pull up enviable shots of beautiful people enjoying this saltwater pool, dubbed ‘The Home of Winter Swimming’. There are two pools to enjoy here – a 50 metre pool with lane ropes if you’re feeling active, or a small paddling area for those seeking pure refreshment.
Where: 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi
This gorgeous inlet offers a unique aspect to Sydney Harbour. After a swim in the protected waters, take a short walk around the bushland circuit to the bay’s waterfall.
Where: Parsley Road, Vaucluse
The Old Clare Rooftop pool
Fancy a cocktail with your dip? The Old Clare Hotel outdoor pool is open to all and will fill your desires for frolicking among the rooftops of the inner-city.
Where: 1 Kensington Street, Chippendale
The Clovelly Ocean Pool
Also known as the Geoff James pool, this picturesque saltwater swimming hole has four lap lanes and is directly adjacent to Clovelly Beach, so the views are killer.
Where: Clovelly Road, Clovelly
Murray Rose Pool (Redleaf)
With a wrap-around walkway, Murray Rose Pool (formerly known as Redleaf) is popular for those who like their swimming easy and convenient. This spot is entirely enclosed for you to enjoy the protected harbour beach, and there’s a pontoon too if you’re feeling a little like Robinson Crusoe.
Where: New South Head Road, Double Bay
Bronte Baths & The Bogey Hole
The Bronte Baths are a safe alternative to swimming in the often choppy sea in this area. Set into cliffs and marked with lap lanes, the baths are a pretty perfect spot for a dip. Beside the baths is The Bogey Hole. Not to be confused with the Bogey Hole in Newcastle, this natural rockpool at south Bronte is a little haven amongst the often washing-machine conditions of the sea. The water colour will remind you of Fiji, and when the Bronte Baths are overflowing it creates a waterfall effect into the Bogey Hole. It’s pure magic.
Where: Bronte, NSW
Nestled below the north Maroubra cliffs and amongst exposed rocky outcrops, Mahon Pool is free to enjoy.
Where: 15R Marine Parade, Maroubra
Fairy Bower Pool
A gem along Sydney’s northern beaches, the Fairy Bower rockpool is triangular in shape and was created by local residents in 1929, back when coastal saltwater bathing became popular.
Where: Marine Parade, Manly
McIver’s Baths aka Ladies Baths
In use as a bathing place for women since before 1876, McIver’s Baths is the only seawater pool in Australia for exclusive use by ladies. It’s beauty is not only in its ocean outlook, but also by the fact that it’s well screened from passers-by, even in its South Coogee location.
Where: 145-149 Beach Street, Coogee
The journey into Camp Cove is something pretty special, with quaint single story cottages dotted on either side of the street leading in. This is one of the last Harbour Beaches before Sydney heads, and it’s just as spectacular as you imagine. With views across to Manly and back down to the city, the water is clear and there’s even a cafe if you get a hankering for a Frosty Fruit. Lady Bay is a nudist beach just around the corner from Camp Cove, if you dare.
Where: Cliff Street, Watsons Bay
Laying on the golden-sands of Little Bay, you’ll think you’re a lot further than 16 kilometres out of the city. The secluded swimming spot is often flat as a lake, and offers good snorkeling in the protected waters.
Where: 4R Coast Hospital Road, Little Bay
A leisurely walk from Heathcote Train station through the Royal National Park will take you to one of mother nature’s hidden gems. Let the fresh water wash away all the stress of the city, and if you’re still in the mood for a walk, continue further on to Uloola Waterfall.
Where: Royal National Park, NSW
Elvina Track Pool
If you enjoy your swim with a side of waterfalls head to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park for utter tranquillity. A 7 kilometre return walk will take you to this beautiful pool at the top of a waterfall, backed up with a great view – and it’s only 45 mins from Sydney.
Where: Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, NSW
Lead image: Paul Hussey/Flickr