- On 10/08/2017 My experience in the pool Swimming at Macquarie University Aquatic Centre was a bit like coming home from one of those holidays when you haven't had a decent coffee for two weeks (more on the coffee at Macquarie University later, by the way). My first chance in about six weeks to stretch out and do laps in a 50m outdoor pool... Continue Reading
- On 28/07/2017 My experience in the pool The Little Street Baths in Forster are a funny spot. With such a fabulous ocean pool just ten minutes' walk away, why would anyone ever want to swim in these baths, you might think? I like the idea of netted swimming enclosures in Sydney along the George's River or Port Hacking when locals might feel it's just... Continue Reading
- On 18/07/2017 Tuncurry means 'plenty of fish' in local Aboriginal language My experience in the pool Tuncurry Rockpool would not count as a rock pool in most people's definitions of the term. There are no rocks anywhere, unless you count the material used to build the harbour wall, and it is more a netted beach than a pool as such. Still, for my ocean... Continue Reading
- On 30/06/2017 My experience in the pool Black Head Ocean Baths ticked all my boxes. The pool is nearer 30m than 50m but that's a good enough lap length, and with the surf pounding just beyond the pool wall, a pod of dolphins darting about in the bay near the pool, a friendly local to talk to, and best of all a local... Continue Reading
- On 23/06/2017 Auburn was named after a village in England that features in an 18th century poem. My experience in the pool The Auburn Swim Centre, whose official name is the Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre, only reopened in April 2017 after major refurbishment. It was quiet here on a chilly May morning, but the sun was bright and the outdoor Olympic pool looked very... Continue Reading
- On 15/06/2017 Forster is named after a 19th century NSW Premier. My experience in the pool Forster Ocean Baths are an absolute delight. If you're heading north, as I am on this quest to swim in all the NSW outdoor swimming enclosures, make the most of Forster because there aren't many more genuine ocean pools between here and the Queensland border. Forster Baths must have... Continue Reading
I’m a recent arrival in Australia from the north of England.
Before emigrating at the end of 2014, I embarked on a tour of the UK’s open air swimming pools, most of which are inland, chlorinated pools which are only open in the summer months from May-September. There are a few remaining ocean baths (though we Brits don’t tend to call them that), most notably at the two opposite ends of the country: some in Scotland and some in the far south west of England.
Even at the height of summer, you’re better off wearing a wet suit to swim in those Scottish pools, but it’s the most exhilarating experience to do so, I’m guessing on a par with how Scandinavians feel coming out of the sauna and diving into an icy bath, though I prefer the swimming pool option any day.
I only managed about 25 of those UK pools before my wife and I set off for Australia but loved the variety of pools I found, the sense of community around them, and the local history attached to each pool, whether built in the 19th century, or in the other waves (no pun intended) of swimming enthusiasm in the 1920s and 1960s.
The great thing about living on the NSW coast is that there are over 100 tidal baths, rock pools or ocean baths, and I imagine even in the depths of an Australian winter, the water temperatures will be warmer than what we experienced off the coast at Wick in north east Scotland.
So, I couldn’t resist the challenge of swimming in all those NSW tidal baths and recording both my own experience and that of others I meet along the way.
Since I also write and maintain a regular blog and website on coffee and tea, it’s an easy add-on for this website to include pointers of where to go for a warming coffee or tea after your swim, or a cooling milkshake if it’s really hot outside the pool.
I have a bit of a history of turning this sort of tour into a book, having published A Cathedrals, Coffee and Tea Tour in the UK, and Fancy a Cuppa, North Yorkshire, which found great coffee and tea in every town of the county we moved from when we came to Australia. We’ll see if there’s a book in this tour, too; but for now I’m happy just to do the swimming, the drinking and the writing, hoping it ends up being a resource that others will find as useful as I probably will myself…