When swimming at the beach is too cold or you don’t feel like splashing about in waves, a local pool can be the perfect alternative. From historic rock pools to purpose-built aquatic centres, Sydney’s city and suburban pools have a long history of bathing for all. From the iconic Wylies Baths to the modern Des Renford Aquatic Centre, there’s a public pool in Sydney for every 17,200 people. In Randwick alone there are nine ocean or man-made pools, including the heritage-listed MacCallum Pool. The oldest harbour pool in the Southern Hemisphere, the 33-metre pool was originally a rock pool built by residents as a safe harbour swimming hole before being reconstructed in the 1920s above the high water mark. Now the pool is surrounded by a wooden boardwalk and plenty of shaded spots to enjoy a swim and take in the stunning harbour views after your dip.
During the boom years of Australia’s industrial expansion in the late 19th century, cities, suburban and regional councils were tasked with building a wide network of public swimming pools to provide safe places to do laps, away from the hazards of strong waves and shark attacks. These ocean pools were often built to celebrate a national event, like the Beatty Park Pool in Perth that opened for the Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1962, or as memorials, such as the Harold Holt Pool in Melbourne named after a drowned prime minister.
As time passed, many of these pools ceased to meet community needs and were closed down. As a result, swimming pools have become places of nostalgia and memory, as reflected in the collection The Memory Pool: Australian stories of summer sun and swimming edited by Therese Spruhan and published this month. The book features personal recollections that show how public swimming pools have shaped Australian life.
Swimming in a pool is a great way to get exercise and have fun. However, it’s important to know if a pool is safe. Fortunately, the NSW government has a tool to check whether a pool is safe for swimming: The Safer Swimming Checklist. This checklist lists the safety measures a pool must have in place to be considered safe. It also includes recommendations for improvement. If you’re looking for a pool to swim at in Sydney, be sure to check out the Safer Swimming Checklist.