Pool Reviews

Bronte Rock Pool – NSW 2024

Bronte Pool
Bronte Pool

Bronte named after Lord Nelson, who was Duke of Bronte (Sicily)

My experience in the rock pool

This must be one of the most photogenic and irresistible pools along the NSW coast. It’s a 30m pool, but who needs Olympic size when it’s as exquisite as this.

I was there on a bright, sunny day in May, with air temperature around 20C but a chilly breeze making it feel cooler, and water temperature at about 19C.

It’s in a fantastic spot, carved into the cliff face. There’s a coastal path above the pool (where best views are for photos) and just below the coastal path a mid-level walkway with benches, which were slightly annoyingly filled with sun-bathers, meaning I had to store my things on the pathway itself.

The pool is a pure delight. Walk down steps at the shallow end to a calm area where the water is right up to the rim of the pool walls, giving it a luxury hotel feel as the water gently overflows into the ocean behind.

There are lane markings for the 30m sections. One end of the formal lanes is a wooden barrier separating the shallow area from the lap swimmers; the other end is at the rock face itself, and if you swim your lengths in some areas, it will be shorter than 30m as the pool curves around under the cliff.

The deep end is a lovely 2m or so, meaning for me (at 6’2”) I can just bounce on my big toe if I want to have my feet in touch with the ground, but there is also a ledge to stand and rest on if you need it.

The tide was coming in but still 2 hours off high when I went for my dip. A few waves were gently splashing over the edge of the laned area, so I’m guessing this can be quite dramatic at high tide and probably quite lively in a strong swell (in fact Council signs say the fence to the pool will be closed during both cleaning – once a week – and dangerous seas).

It was relatively busy with half a dozen swimmers, mostly doing laps, but nothing terribly strenuous and there was a relaxed feel to the place, which is clearly well-used even off season and midweek.

Getting there, getting in, getting changed

The pool is at the southern end of Bronte Beach. It has fencing which is apparently closed when the pool is being cleaned or when the Council judges it too dangerous.

There are steps down into the water at the shallow end, with a slightly confusing set of metal handrails since they create three lanes down into the water, but when you’re coming out, make sure you pick the right lane for your things if you left them at the mid-level pathway area.

At the deep end, there are steps, but these were blocked off when I was there – possibly a victim of the recent storms round Sydney (April 2015)

Warm showers in the toilet and changing facility (open 8.30am – 6pm daily) and outside showers just along the wall outside the toilets if you’re outside those times.

Tidal differences

For an hour or so around high tide the waves come crashing over into this pool, but for many that’s all the fun of this spot. Swimming is possible at any tide, provided the pool hasn’t been closed because of dangerous conditions.

History and stories of the pool

This pool opened in 1887, making it one of the first rock pools of its kind down the NSW coast.

The now defunct NSW Ocean Baths website reported that after complaints from locals during that first year after the pool opened, strict swimming times for men and women were introduced, with men allowed in the water from dawn to 10am and from 4pm to dusk. Ladies could bathe here from 10am – 4pm every day.

The oldest winter swimming club in the world was formed here in 1921. The Bronte Splashers are still going strong and run weekly swimming get-togethers every Sunday morning from May to September inclusive. They even have their own website: http://www.brontesplashers.com.au/

Don’t miss the plaques laid into the footpath leading back to Bronte Beach. One of them speaks of Evelyn Whillier, a local lady who for 48 years gave swimming lessons in the pool. She had been an Olympic swimmer at the age of 18 in the Berlin Games of 1936. What a shame she isn’t still around to tell the tale in full.

People I met here include:

Mark, who lives in Clovelly but comes swimming here and has done all his life. His biggest regret is that his Mum decided to buy a house down the coast at Clovelly because she was afraid of her car getting rusted from all the salt in the air at Bronte. It’s now one of the most desirable – and expensive – of Sydney’s suburbs.

What’s your story? Any memories of swimming here? Any stories to tell? Or did you just have swimming lessons in the cold of winter in the 1960s?

Whatever you have to say, however brief, I’d love to hear from you and will add any stories to this section of the site as and when I receive them.  Add your comment or story under ‘Leave a Reply’ below.

Links to other articles on this pool

Swimming story teller Therese came here in 2014 and met Les…

Swim blogger Sally came here in 2009 (with lovely photos).

Coffee, tea or milkshake after the swim?

There is a whole run of cafés on the main beach side road. My favourite closed down some time in 2017, sadly, and I haven’t been back to Bronte since. If you know a good place for coffee in Bronte, drop me a line…

7 thoughts on “Bronte Rock Pool – NSW 2024”

    1. Well spotted, Therese. I omitted the vital word ‘winter’ from the opening sentence of that section. They claim to be the oldest winter swimming club in the world. I’ve yet to get to Dawn Fraser Baths, but hope to do so soon…

  1. Hi Simon, I’m enjoying reading your blog so much. I discovered Bronte pool in early November 2017 and fell in love with it. It was a beautiful day when we visited, but quite chilly, about 18°. The water was at 12° according to the lady life guard, and there were very few swimmers, but finding the sea a little rough, and determined to swim in seawater whilst on my Aussie trip, I braved the temperatures and went in making my way down the steps at the deep end. It was sublime, the best swimming experience of my life. The people were so friendly and I chatted to many regulars, very popular with local ladies. We continued or visit in Tasmania where I swam in the Launceston aquatic centre baths. Nice olympic pool. The weather was too cold for me to try the outdoor pool at Catarat Gorge but it looked so appealing. I tried to swim in the sea on the Tasmanian east coast but the cold winds made it impossible. However, I did manage a dip in Apollo Bay, on the Great Ocean Road. Even though it was cold the sea was quite calm apart from the undercurrent ! Wonderful experiences – if you like swimming Australia is the place to go!

    1. Glad you had a good time over here Janice. I have become more of a wimp since being here a few years now. Maybe 6 years ago I swam in Ilkley’s unheated lido in Yorkshire and it was about 12C that day (I didn’t survive more than 4 laps though). Thanks for sharing

  2. Until the early ’60’s?? there was an entry fee to the baths with kiosk. Pool managed by Andy Cleland and his wife Emelda. Until the early ’60’s there were weather board dressing sheds built on the cliff face along the top path. The women’s dressing sheds were attached to the entrance kiosk and extended over the dry rocks of the men’s bogie(y). In approx.(I would love to find out which year exactly)’65 a huge storm direct hit Bronte and wiped out all the dressing sheds, men’s and ladies. The waves and tide was huge. Waves were breaking on the grass and the original timber kids train shed was wiped out, thus the steel one was built. I could go on for years but I’m tired. My dad was Bob the butcher.”Bob’s better Bronte Butchery Buys Better Beef Builds Better Babies”

    1. Fantastic memories, Bob. Thanks for sharing them and if you have more to add, please feel free. I’d love to read them and I’m sure others would, too. Very interesting re the sheds and that big storm. So Bronte sounds as if it was a bit like Wylies Baths structurally until that storm?

  3. The Serpentine Swimming Club in London has been having Christmas Day Races since 1864 – perhaps an older winter swimming club than Bronte!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *