Pool Reviews

Ivo Rowe Rock Pool – South Coogee, NSW 2034

Ivo Rowe Pool at South Coogee

Named after a local resident who worked to improve the pool from the 1930s onwards.

My experience in the pool

The waves were crashing into this tiny, round rock pool south of Coogee when I first arrived, so for a change I decided to go for my coffee and cake before the swim instead of afterwards.

By the time I got back there around midday on a hot February day, there were already two other guys in the water, and that makes this pool pretty full. That’s how small it is.

They squeezed up and made room for me, but Ivor Rowe Rock Pool is not one you’ll be trying to do laps in. It can’t be more than 10m from the shore side to the ocean side, and it was barely over my waist at its deepest point in the middle.

Still, on a hot day, it’s a great place to cool off: lie back and let the water carry you, or dip under occasionally to immerse your whole body.

When I finally got into the water, some four hours after high tide, there was just the occasional wave still crashing and bubbling over the wall into the pool itself, so that kept things entertaining. At high tide during a storm, I don’t think you’d want to attempt to get in to this pool, and you may well struggle to get out alive!

The five wooden posts sunk into the rock platform suggest there was once a more formal chain fence here, but I guess that went the way of so many ocean side constructions, leaving just the posts, which help you identify the pool as you approach along the Bondi-Maroubra coastal path.

The three of us passed the time of day in the way I always imagine those sauna-loving Nordics must do, comparing notes on whether ‘budgie smugglers’ were the thing to wear or whether ‘boardies’ are the way to go – I think being a Pom sometimes helps me get away with those speedoes in pools where the men like for some reason to cover up half their lower body!

On a day when temperatures were hitting 33C, this was a lovely spot for a cooling dip. And there are nice shaded spots on the rock platform where you can sit and read or just watch the surf crashing in (once the tide has retreated far enough!). Great views back north towards Coogee and Clovelly, though southwards all you see is the headland before the bay that turns into Maroubra (and its wonderful Mahon Pool).

Getting there, getting in, getting changed

Free parking on the streets just above Ivo Rowe Pool. I walked along the Bondi-Maroubra coastal path (about 15 minutes from Coogee), and caught a bus back to the Sydney CBD from Malabar Road, five minutes walk from the pool.

The pool here is far below the cliff path, so you have to walk down 40 or so stone steps to get to the rock platform. The pool sits a further 20m or so out on the edge of the rock platform. Take care as you get to the edge of the water; there are no steps and it is not steep but the rock floor is covered in green seaweed – not too slippery for me, but I guess it might be some days.

That rock platform may well be covered during high tide, but it’s a good place to leave your clothes as long as the sea has stopped reaching this far. The only shower comes from the natural fresh water sprinkling off the cliff face at the foot of the stairs. You can’t avoid getting wet from that so you might as well go the whole hog and have a shower…

Tidal differences

Big differences. On a king tide, it’s best to come when I did, about 4 hours after high tide. That way you have the occasional wave breaking into the pool, but no risk of being washed out to sea.

Other practical points

No facilities, though some fresh water flowing down off the cliff at the foot of the stairs to the pool make for a beautiful natural shower to rinse off after your dip.

History and stories of the pool

I struggled to find any history or even any stories about Ivo Rowe Pool, beyond the other bloggers and articles linked to below. Got a story about this rock pool? Let me know via comments or contact the site.

Thanks for the comments on the pool and the extra history and stories. I was particularly pleased to hear from Leanne in January 2020, who let us know that before Ivo Rowe had his name attached to this pool, it was apparently known as the Honeycomb!

People I met here included…

I’ve walked past here a few times and seen nobody in the pool so you may get to swim alone. The two guys I chatted with live locally and try to get down here for a break most days when the weather is good. I saw them drive past later in their tradie Ute, so not a bad life, if you can take an hour away from the job to come down for a daily dip…

What’s your story? Any memories of swimming here? Any stories to tell? Or did you just have swimming lessons in days gone by?

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

Ivo Rowe Rock Pool appears two thirds of the way down through this article from Australia’s Daily Telegraph from January 2016.

Ellas List blog for kids in Sydney shows how tiny the pool is

Ivo Rowe Pool is the first entry on this 2009 blog post from the Lazy Swimmer

This Aussie Blog from 2011 shows that it is popular also with local dogs…

And the Wild Swimming Australia website includes an entry on Ivo Rowe rock pool

Coffee, tea or milkshake after the swim?

Continue along the cliff path southwards until you reach the next road and then walk up to Malabar Road (5 minutes away) to find…

The Lion & Buffalo – 203 Malabar Road, South Coogee 2034

Open: Daily 7am – 3.00pm

The Lion & Buffalo reviewed by Fancy a Cuppa website

Post swim coffee near Ivo Rowe Rock Pool

Coffee here is from the excellent Single Origin Coffee Roasters, and the espresso machine is an impressive Marzocco, facing you as you enter. But what makes this coffee shop special is the home-baked cakes: The owner is Polish and she has a nice line in genuine Polish pastries, including apple cake and a rather wonderful vanilla cream creation called Karpatka. Or choose one of the excellent Hungarian strudels made in a bakery nearby. Love the décor of this place with its street art murals (by local artist Magee), it old worktops as tables, and even the old Underwood typewriter on the counter, with the coffee shop menu all typed up and waiting to be read. Friendly staff too. Love this place for coffee in South Coogee.


20 thoughts on “Ivo Rowe Rock Pool – South Coogee, NSW 2034”

  1. Hi Simon,
    Great idea for a blog. I will be following very closely. I have just started lessons to learn to swim properly two weeks ago (always had great water confidence and ability to keep afloat – but swimming has never been good). I set myself a goal this week to swim in every ocean pool within 100km of my home (Sydney city). So far I’ve knocked three over this week. Murray Rose pool (previously Redleaf) in Double Bay. Geoff James Pool, the Clovelly Ocean Pool and today was the continental pool at North Wollongong just by the harbour. I am really chuffed with my little challenge (and hope to be chuffed with my swimming improvements soon too). I will be watching closely to see what you come up with and help me to prioritise pools … This challenge is going to be hard to keep up over winter but I hope you’ll keep at it too. Will be further motivation for me!
    Keep up the good work!!

    1. Thanks for getting in touch Bee, and good luck with your own challenge. Always worth expanding the definition of ‘ocean pool’, I think. There are so many harbour baths, I think I’ll be on this project for a while yet. And some of the pools up the north coast will require more than a day trip for me. I was struck this week when I swam a few laps in Shellharbour 50m pool, about a year after I swam there for my review, and my swimming has really improved in that time. The more you get in the water, the more you’ll find you improve and just get more confidence, I’m sure. Let me know how you’re doing from time to time. You never know, our paths (or lanes) might cross one day.

  2. Ivo Rowe was my grandfather and he had a lot of involvement in the local community. Actually both of my grandparents were very involved. He lived in Evelyn Street South Coogee. He also started the Progress Association..the children from South Coogee had to go to Coogee public school so he fought for a school to be established locally..therefore South Coogee Public school was established.

    1. Thanks for that Pauline. Great to know about your grandfather. So was he a regular taking a dip in the pool? What was it called in those days?

      1. When I was young my family frequented the pool that was then known as Honeycomb with the small side pool known as the Coral Pool. My father grew up in Cuzco street and he use to rock fish there. I’ll show him this page.

    2. Hi Pauline. I’m writing a book on tidal pools around the world and will be including Ivo Rowe Rock Pool. It would be lovely to chat with you about your grandfather and your memories of the pool, via email or Zoom/Teams, would you be up for that?

      1. Hi Chris, according to my Aunt’s memoirs, my family built the Iva-Rowe pool when they lived directly above it on the top of the cliff at 58 Cuzco St South Coogee. It was built by my great-grandfather Giles Darke and his son Sidney. It is thought this was excavated by hand using picks, chisels, hammers and shovels etc. If you would like more info feel free to reach out. My cousins are quite familiar with the pool.

  3. I lived in Cuzco street from 1965 until 1981.I was 13 when we moved here.The pool was always popular with local kids and we often swam in the sea by diving off near the honeycomb platform where the fisherman used to go to catch blackfish.A man named Bradshaw who lived in Bunya parade did a lot of work on the pool and regularly treated to weed with chemicals that turned it from green to whole and then it was washed out. I returned there regularly with my wife in 1987 – 88 and nothing much had changed.The chains that the lions club had installed to stop kids from getting washed out in big seas were gone but that was about the only change. In the late 1960’s the king tides washed a huge rock into the pool and took a lot of work to remove.This was a great area to live as a teenager.

  4. My mother grew up in Bunya Pde, the very last house on top of the cliff. 1929 to 1952 when she got married and moved out. Sadly her mother sold it not long after as apparently a freak wave entered the kitchen window and she was thus scared of the position. The house there now is the grey concrete castle looking one, obviously a fair change to the modest cottage with white picket fence that once the house that stood there. She told me her grandfather built the pool, I’m not sure if she meant he had some hand in excavating/clearing some rock or installing poles/chains perhaps. She is 90 this August and still lives in Coogee, I will ask her exactly what role her Grandfather played in it’s construction. His name wasn’t Ivor Rowe though. I’m not sure what role Ivor Rowe played but I see Pauline above has made mention it was her Grandfather and was involved in the local community. Another nice note is Mum’s husband (my father), while they were still dating, put on a mask and snorkel, went in to the pool and from then on his life changed. He then started to scuba dive (this is the late 50’s) and soon became President of the Underwater Research Group of NSW (URG). This pool has great meaning to him (Dad), and my mother, and now to me who followed his footsteps and am an active member of the URG. Cheers, Denise.

    1. What a fantastic story, Denise. Thanks for sharing that. It’d be great to hear what role your family member had in building the pool, so do share if you hear more. The freak wave story also sounds extraordinary.

      1. Hi. I’m reading through my mother’s memoirs and she has said that her grandfather Giles Darke and his son Sidney Darke made the pool by excavating through solid rocks using picks, shovels, chisels and hammers etc which took lots of months. Not sure of the year but it would have been in the 1920s or 1930s. Don’t know who Ivo Rowe Is? My family built this pool and think that it should be renamed to reflect this. Darke Pool has a nice sound to it. My mother passed away in July this year and moved back to Coogee a few years ago. She would be very honoured to know this pool is named after its first creator.

        1. What a fascinating story, Jenny. Thanks for sharing that. I don’t know how you’d go about trying to get the name change. But I think others have commented above, so you may be able to start by tracking down those who also had a personal connection to this pool.

        2. Hi Jenny. I’m writing a book on tidal pools around the world and will be including Ivo Rowe Rock Pool. It would be lovely to chat with you about your great grandfather and his role in forming this pool, via email or Zoom/Teams, would you be up for that?

  5. This beautiful rock pool was my playground growing up. I grew up in Palmer Street and spent most of our play time down at the pool with the neighbourhood kids. So many amazing memories – I have a strong connection with the ocean thanks to this beautiful pool.
    I went to Coogee South Public school as well.

  6. My grandfather moved into Cuzco Street in the 1920s with my grandmother and 3 children. I have photos of my mother and her sister beside what was then called “The Bogey Hole” and that was what i always knew it as. My family moved into the house in 1947 and I lived there until 1963, The pool had no iron poles or barriers of any kind all the years my family knew it. There was no formal pathway along the cliffs to Coogee just a well worn path, very muddy after rain, which we and all the locals used. We lived halfway along Cuzco Street and reached The Bogey Hole by walking to the bottom of the street down a couple of steps and then onto grass and bush land. The other pool we used was the one in Lurline Bay, similar in size to the Bogey Hole. It didnt have a name as far as I knew.

  7. Hello everyone. What great memories. I do not know the pool you speak of but plan to visit there next year, 2022. I come here for an unrelated reason but hope it adds to the fabric of what sounds like an idyllic place.
    There is a mention of a Mr Bradshaw helping with the pool in some way, thanks for that info Peter. He lived at 12 Bunya Parade and was the first owner of a 1962 Citroen ID19 I have just purchased. I would love to track him and his wife or children down and see if they have any photos of themselves and the car. And to show them the car again. I am sure it woud be a great thrill for us ALL. Being such an usual car I am also sure that others may remember it and hopefully the family. Denise, your mother most likley sold your home to them. We plan to travel there in January from Melbourne to where the old home once stood. We will make sure we check out the pool. GOLD!!
    If you google my business you can get in touch. Cloud Audio Visual. Go to contact us page and enter your details. Thank you in advance. Shane

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