Yes, yes, Australia has amazing beaches – tell us something we don’t know. But almost as iconic as the sandy stretches they overlook are the ocean pools that also dot the shoreline, filled with cool seawater as waves wash over their walls. Especially common up and down the New South Wales coast, ocean pools are a summery oasis for those days when the waves are especially big and the crowds are thick. Here are five of the most beautiful to try – go on, jump in.
With celebrity-like status in the gloating Instagram feeds of Sydneysiders, it’s not hard to see why Icebergs is Australia’s most photographed ocean pool, situated at the southern end of famed Bondi Beach. At 55 yards long, this view-hogging landmark opened in 1929, and gains plenty of onlookers in the summer, doing the Bondi to Coogee walk. After swimming a few laps ($6.50 for entry), try out the sauna, gym, or Yoga by the Sea classes throughout summer ($25 a pop). Failing that, there’s also Icebergs Dining Room and Bar next door – a crisp white dining space serving refined Italian fare, overlooking the pool (and ocean).
Bermagui Blue Pool
A dazzling gem on New South Wales’ ‘Sapphire Coast’, you’ll find this natural tidal pool about 250 miles south of Sydney in the sleepy seaside town of Bermagui. Carved into the base of a dramatic cliff, the pool is protected from the brunt of the Pacific Ocean by a surrounding rock wall. A prime spot for paddling and snorkeling, it’s also a great place for whale watching, especially from May to November.
While Maroubra in Sydney’s south is something of a surfing hotspot, you can escape the city’s frantic summer crowds just north of the beloved local beach at this charming ocean pool, often missed by tourists. Cut into natural rock, there have been minimal man-made additions here, minus some steep steps that lead down to the pool, which take pride of place among the sandstone cliffs. As part of the Jack Vanney Reserve, it’s also surrounded by lush green headlands (read: really pretty picnic territory).
Newcastle Merewether Ocean Baths
You'll find Merewether Beach in Newcastle, about 100 miles north of Sydney, where in the height of summer it's overrun with surfers and pool paddlers alike, basking in the glory of the largest ocean pool complex in the southern hemisphere. Having opened in 1912, these historical baths have a rather photogenic 1930s-built Art Deco façade, worth a visit any time of year.
Bronte Ocean Pool
Also in Sydney and within walking distance south of Bondi, you'll find this little gem at the southern end of Bronte Beach. About 100 feet in length, it's especially impressive at high tide, when jumbo waves crash over the edge. There are marked lanes if you fancy doing the serious swimmer thing, but our tip is to sit up on the pool edge, let the waves crash over you, rinse and repeat.