Pool Reviews

Canterbury Aquatic Centre – NSW 2193

Canterbury Aquatic Centre
Canterbury Aquatic Centre

People swam in the Cooks River until this centre was built

My experience in the pool

It was a bit overcast for much of my swim and the air temperature was in the low teens. I guess I understand that most people chose to swim in the indoor pool next door, but I don’t really get it, coming from northern England, as I do.  I just feel that Australia has such fantastic swimming resources and they are perhaps taken for granted by many people here.

Even with school holidays (yes, the kids were swimming in the warm or ice-skating at the rink on the other side of this complex), there were only three of us swimming in the whole of this Olympic pool on the morning I was here.

With so few customers, they take the energy-saving measure of keeping the covers on most of the lanes so there were just three lanes open for the three of us. Good policy, really, and the lifeguard assured me that if it got busier, they’d be opening the other lanes too.

So I had a whole lane to myself for the whole swim, which means I can swap strokes as often as I like, since there’s nobody around who needs to get past my clumsy slow backstroke or who gets in the way of my medium-paced freestyle.

The pool is a little less deep than many, at 1m shallow end and only 1.6m deep end. It actually doesn’t affect how I swim, but it is noticeable when you put your feet down at the deep end and find you can stand with head above the water.

There’s lots going on immediately around this pool. At one end you have the railway line so you can train spot while you do your laps, there’s a constant to-and-fro from the indoor pool, and next door there’s the ice rink (which, I was told, was the reason the pool car park was so full). There’s also the Cooks River, though you can’t actually see it from the pool, and just beyond the river is Canterbury racecourse (again, invisible from the pool).

The big grandstand along one side suggests that there’s a big turn out for the annual schools carnivals. And Cyril the lifeguard was telling me how it is an interesting feature architecturally since it is hollow underneath, so saving on massive amounts of concrete used at many such stands, and providing lots of space for the pool to store stuff.

Getting there, getting in, getting changed

Officially it’s Canterbury Leisure Centre, but Campsie is probably the nearest large shopping area. Campsie station is about 15 minutes’ walk away. Lots of car parking, on the street if the car park is full, as it was when I turned up.

Gentle steps at the shallow end, with vertical steps nearer the deep end too. Also a disabled lift by the pool side.

There are lots of warm showers in the changing rooms.

Other practical points

Entry fee $6 (with other concessionary rates) in 2015.

There’s a paddling pool, but that was empty for the winter. And there was the indoor pool, which looked cramped and busy from my perspective on the outside. Much shorter, too, though I didn’t check its length.

Open all year round.

History and stories of the pool

I was 7 weeks old when this pool was opened in 1959. I wonder how much it has changed since then.

One of the lifeguards, Sean, told me it was needed at the time because people had been swimming in the Cooks River until then, and with industrial waste that was becoming a more unpleasant experience, so there was local demand for a proper swimming pool.

People I met here included:

The other swimmers were busy doing their laps, but I had a long chat with a great team of lifeguards here: Sean, Cyril and Therese. It just shows what a difference a friendly bunch of lifeguards can make to the community feel of a pool.

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 1970s?

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

I’m intrigued by the comments to this blog post, by swim blogger Sally, which refer to the imperial measurements at Canterbury Pool. I didn’t notice them, but that’s maybe because half the pool was under wraps…

The Pool Lady came here in 2007.

Coffee, tea or milkshake after the swim?

I walked into Campsie (about 15 minutes on foot) for coffee:

Cherry Beans Caffe – Officially in the Campsie Centre mall, but in fact just outside on Amy St

Open Daily from 9am

Cherry Beans Caffe in Campsie
Cherry Beans Caffe in Campsie

I don’t usually recommend going to chains, but this group, with their 40 or so outlets across Australia, have kept their boutique feel. They roast the coffee in-house and it’s really very good. They also supply some interesting loose leaf teas from SereniTea in Victoria, and a nice selection of home-baked goods.

The Corner Espresso-On the corner of Anglo Road and Beamish St

It’s more of a caff than I’d normally choose, but they gave me my first opportunity to taste the rather good coffees from Frankie Shi under the brand name Tulip.Shi. For quality, as good as, if not better than Cherry Beans.


20 thoughts on “Canterbury Aquatic Centre – NSW 2193”

  1. I go to Canterbury pool about once a week on average. Currently it pips Botany as my favourite pool by being open all year round. Can’t understand why it is not more popular, though being a bit like you alternating freestyle and backstroke, having a lane to myself helps.

    I also mix the above in with relaxing on the grass behind the deep end of the pool. There was once a diving tower and pool here.Therese showed me a couple of steps and tiles, suggesting that the pool may still be there under the grass and palms. I could not find out when or why the tower was removed, though it was suggested a fatality may have influenced the latter.

    It was I, by the way, who made the comments about the pool measurements on Sally’s blog.

    1. Thanks for the comment Graeme. I think those tiles must have been covered the day I was there because normally I’d spot such things.

      Interesting to know about the diving tower and the potential older pool under the grass. I must take a closer look next time I’m there.

      Where do you go in Botany? I haven’t started swimming there yet…

      1. Botany Aquatic Centre. Old style centre without a gym and only the toddlers pool shaded, but has twin 90m water slides and even handball walls. Huge grass area with lots of trees. Open till 24 April.

        Re closest station to Canterbury pool. Canterbury is five minutes closer than Campsie if you use the footbridge across the river.

        1. I’ll add Botany to my list of pools to swim in next season; not sure I’ll make it by 24th this month. Thanks for the tip re Canterbury station!

    2. hi I come across this page because I was looking up history on the diving pool that use to be there but now covered up by dirt. I use to go to Canterbury pools in the late 70’s / 80’s and we use to have our school carnivals there being that I use to go to Canterbury High.

      Back then we asked why the pool was covered and they told us, that they had to shut the diving pool down because, I think from memory a young man dove off the diving board and as he sunk to the bottom his foot got stuck in the drain at the bottom (I think that it wasn’t closed properly) rescue people managed to saw his foot off but it was too late he had passed away.

      I was actually looking up to see If I could come across the news story.

    3. I learnt to breath out on the bottom of the deep dive pool and just lay there on the bottom looking up. I then had to swim to the surface. I could hold my breath for a long time it seemed and it was very relaxing.
      I was 9 when it opened and left the area when I was 13. We would bus over from Kingsgrove with older mates.
      Once when we left the pool we walked across the grass to catch the bus home. Some young kids on the other side of the river threw rocks over at us. My older mate returned the rocks close to them, he was a pitcher at baseball, he walked them back with bigger throws, but i digress.
      I would like to know what happened with the pool, it did look dangerous even then.
      Many wanted to swim in the deep water and the kids kept jumping off the top, all at the same time. The long stay at the bottom could lead to black outs coming up I now know.
      I could also swim the length of the 50m pool underwater on one breath and with flippers I could swim part way back, but only once as it took time to get ready and then to recover.

        1. thank you Simon.
          i have good memories of our days there
          i am surprised how much freedom we had then as young kids, we went without adult supervision all day.
          we taught ourselves how to swim !!!
          i was one of 6 children in our family.

  2. I remember Canterbury Pool opening. I was a member of Frank Guthrie’s Swimming squad. Lorraine Crapp, John Monckton, David Dickson and many other Olympians were in the squad. At that time there was only the main pool, learn to swim pool and diving pool. The Ice Skating rink came much later.Wonderful memories.

  3. I was born and bred in Campsie I remember when there was no pool and when the scrappers came and cleared the vast area of vegetation and the building of the pool and walking around the unfinished pool area and the opening it was a great achievement for us a place to meet friends and then the night time swimming

  4. Wow the memories of Canterbury pool .I was looking on Google to see if it still had a diving tower, and I’ve stumbled across all these wonderful comments and memories of folks, Geez I was just kid I went to Canterbury public and a short time at Canterbury girls high so Canterbury pool was a highlight for me in my life . we did ice skating as a sport as well at the rink next door,
    I remember vividly Russell Morris SINGING REAL THING on the speakers it must have been around 1967 to 1969 I was 12 13 14 ish and I absolutely loved the pool with its diving board and 1st tower and (top tower you knew you’d made it as a cool kid when ya finally summoned up the courage to finally jump top tower) took me a long time I remember going up the ladder quite a few times over months and chickening out and other kids helping me getting back down the ladder looking back no workplace safety going on then lol But one day some kid dared me and there was no going back I DID IT and I’ve never forgotten it Looking back I remember hitting that water like it was yesterday, and coming up to the surface it seemed sooooooo deep I’m 65 now and that exhilaration has never left me, I can still smell the wet concrete also after getting out of the dive pool because it was always really cold in there compared to the big pool and we all layed on the hot concrete to get warm Time never seemed to be a issue back then. When we had a little bit of money from scrounging empty bottles and cashing them in we would buy a pie and a ice block and go and sit on the grass area near the big pool Gosh we were lucky in so many different ways back then PS I also had my first kiss at Canterbury Pool after I’d swam my first 50 metres in the big pool. SUCH FOND MEMORIES like it was yesterday.

  5. Hello there Sharon-Your comments are a interesting read.I am 72 years old now and have fond memories of the Canterbury Pool when we went there regularly in summer about 1960.The diving tower was a challenge when you are only 12 but my older friends said I had to do it.So I worked my way up jumping from the middle tower several times and gaining in confidence.
    I took the ladder up to the top tower and wowie that seemed to be so high.After about 10 minutes I went to the edge and made sure there were no swimmers in the water that i may land on.So off i went foot first of course and hit the water and must have went under many meters.All was ok no injuries but I said never again guys.I think it must have been a 10 meter tower the lower one at 7 meters.
    I do not know about the poor diver being killed there it is probably true and been concealed to us public All we knew that there had been too many accidents so the tower was closed by he Council for good.
    I went to Punchbowl BHS and we used to attend many CHS swimming carnivals there.I learnt how to do bomb dives there by instruction from my mates head first and the back technique.Had to be careful doing that the life savers would throw you out of the pool if they caught you.
    It is amazing the things you used to do in those olden days of the 1950/1960s it would not be possible now.

  6. Seeing the news that Canterbury pool is about to be upgraded made me wonder just how old it was because I joined the Swimming Club as soon as it opened. I was amazed to find all these wonderful memories of the diving pool and the big pool plus the pie and coke and grassy area. Also St George girls high had their carnivals there and zone carnivals as well from memory. The swimming club was my life and I couldn’t wait to get their every Saturday. The boys swam on Sunday so we didn’t get to meet them unless we were there at other times but somehow there were definitely occasional kisses. Like Ross I’m 72. I’d love to have a swim there for old times sake but can’t do it at the moment unfortunately. Does anyone know if there is still a swimming club?My mother, Betty Adams, Mrs Lindsay and Mrs Saviane were all officials that I remember but there were many others too.

  7. Wonderful to have found this site. I trained with Frank Guthrie, in the FGT Troop, from around 1956 (around the time the pool opened) until about 1962. Our Blue track suits and swimming costumes were nothing like the current outfits worn by competitive swimmers.

    They were wonderful years. I have brilliant memories of time spent there every morning for two hours then after school for another two hours every week day. My father used to pick me up on the way home around 6.00pm Then on the weekends we had training with Frank Guthrie on Saturday morning for two hours, then had to attend the Swim Meet organised by the Canterbury Swimming Club (you had to swim with a club to swim competitively) then the FGT Troop had to be back at the pool for 5pm Saturday evening for time trials with Frank Guthrie.

    Our parents, mainly our devoted fathers, spent time with us at the pool, mainly in the morning, updated our training documents every day and Frank Guthrie checked these off every week, usually making some unexpected comment.

    I have wonderful memories of spending time watching Lorraine Crapp, David Dickson and Warwick Webster, Bobby Windle – they were our heroes. During my time with the FGT Troop other members were Jan and Jill Andrews, Jan Hogan, Rhonda Townsend, Kathy Wainwright, John Wainwright, Gordon Wainwright (who became a dentist like his father), Dorne Corte from Brisbane, John Tunicliffe, Roger Montgomery, Pam and Shirley Eade, the Brunes sisters, Linda McGill (from memory only a couple of seasons, recall her father was the Police Sergeant at Drummoyne Police Station and he was always chasing her to come out of the change room every morning to go home) and many others whose names I cannot recall.

    Dennis O’Sullivan also swam with us – he lived just down the street from me and during summer holidays on summer afternoons we would have to catch a bus from Kingsgrove, travel to Campsie and walk down to the Canterbury Pool. Dennis passed away in February 2020 having lived and worked as a civil engineer for many years in Port Macquarie. Joe Tonner also worked for Frank Guthrie and I noticed in the SMH that he only passed away in April 2022 at the age of 80. Can remember him singing at the Xmas Party Frank Guthrie used to put on at the pool for the troop every year.

    Frank Guthrie used to charge each swimmer in his troop sixty guineas for the five month training season – October 1 to the end of February. In winter, from April to September, we had to attend a gym in Belmore for two nights a week for two hours, starting at 6.00pm. This is many years before there were heated pools in Australia. The water used to be freezing on an October morning when Frank Guthrie would be yelling at everyone to just get into the water and get going. If you stopped too long at the end of the pool he would also be on your case to “get going”.

    At the age of 19, I travelled to the UK in 1965 – just over six weeks via the Panama Canal – and lived in the UK until late 1966. I can remember my father sending me a cutting from the SMH re Frank Guthrie’s death (and remember being so shocked to read that he had died at 54) – he had a daughter Pauline and a son. He had married Beverly Bainbridge by this time. During my time in London, my father also sent me photos of the marriage of Jan Andrew and Joe Tonner and photos when they had a daughter, which must have been around 1966.

    I have often wondered what happened to all the people I spent so many happy hours with during those years. We all have to be in our seventies now. Wonderful memories. So grateful for all the joy and fun we shared.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2022 Gold Coast Queensland

    1. What fantastic memories Pamela – I hope others from your crowd of fellow swimmers get in touch off the back of your stories here – thanks for commenting and how wonderful to have such great memories of your youth in Canterbury

  8. I remember the day that poor ethnic boy passed away at canterbury diving pool. It was an awful scene. There was alot of panic. Children screaming and life guards helpless. It scared a few of us. The earlier reports of the drain trapping the foot of the Lebanese boys foot are accurate. I believe there was also an incident where a diver missed the pool off top tower and struck the pavement below. Thirdly the pool was leaking quite alot of water from cracks below. It was an ongoing issue that worsened over the years.

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