Northbridge is named for the stone bridge that takes you back towards the Sydney CBD.
My experience in the pool
Northbridge Baths tick all my boxes. 50m laned swimming in beautiful salty water, with pretty big fish swimming just below you, kookaburras cackling in the trees by the water and if you go in spring, magnificent jacaranda blossoming on the water’s edge. Time the visit really well and you’ll be here at high tide, when the laned section must be around 4m deep.
There’s a sandy beach section, too, where toddlers can play safely in the shallows, though I did spot one little one misjudge his step and disappear under the water, much to the alarm – temporarily – of the Mum sitting in the shade by the beach.
My top practical tip for a hot day, though, is to take your flip-flops (thongs, as they call them over here) or wear your shoes to walk round the edge of the baths to reach the deeper, laned area. Whatever surface they have put on that walkway – and it is great to see they have actually maintained the pool facilities – it quickly heats up in the sun. By 10am on a November morning, when I arrived, I was teasing along that walkway like the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof, and had to rest my feet on my rucksack to get my some relief while I put my goggles on for the swim.
The water was delicious, at 21C minimum, with hundreds of fish darting about, and no jellyfish this week!
Backstroke was a delight in either direction, with that purple shock of the jacaranda to look at in one direction and the enormous yachts anchored just beyond the shark net in the other.
My main problem actually came in doing freestyle laps, where I found myself getting tangled up in the thin string lane markers several times, and remembered how I got my shoulder bursitis at Newcastle Baths just over a year ago now. All was well at Northbridge, though, and my main reason for stopping before I’d done my 20 laps was the scorching sun, which felt like it was burning my Pommy skin even with sunscreen.
The guy I chatted with before taking the plunge told me I’d picked the right time to come – on high tide – and that the pool can be a bit murky for a couple of days after rain, but he agreed he was pretty lucky to have Northbridge Baths as his ‘local’. He also said the Council had done some good work maintaining the Baths recently, but a few years ago had proposed closing them down completely. Thankfully the IMBY community of Northbridge had campaigned to keep their local swim spot and the Baths are now open all year, with warm showers; just no lifeguards now and no turnstile entry anymore.
Getting there, getting in, getting changed
Bus No 202 from Sydney CBD gets you to a few minutes walk from Northbridge Baths. The pool is very well signposted from Bonds Corner, though if I were coming again by bus, I would get off at Northbridge Library and make my way down to the water via the narrow pedestrian lanes. (That’s also the fastest way back on foot to my suggestion for post swim coffee).
Wade in via the small sandy beach or walk round the edge of the baths (not forgetting the footwear for the heat) and clamber down the metal steps into the deep. There are signs saying no jumping or diving, but at high tide with 4m of water, I don’t see why that rule should apply.
Good changing rooms with warm showers if you need them.
Other practical points
No charge to get in to Northbridge Baths. Open all year now.
50m lanes divided by thin rope lane markers.
Daily water temperature is posted (well, it was 6 days old for my visit, but the thought is there).
History and stories of the pool
One of the best stories of Northbridge Baths is surely that of Ernie Wright, who is commemorated with his own plaque and photo on the wall of the changing sheds. Ernie was a local postman who would come to Northbridge Baths every morning before he delivered the mail – he’d feed the fish in the pool and was known as the unofficial caretaker of the Baths.
The guy I spoke to before my swim referred to the local community campaign to keep the baths open when the local authority was talking of abandoning them to nature. And you can see how that community lives on and still puts in the work to maintain the Baths today. I loved the sign asking for someone to water the grass round the beach, and as I left the baths area, some gent was sweeping away the leaves from the path. I guess it’s all just a case of mucking in to keep the place tidy now that there is nobody around who formally manages the site.
People I met in the pool
I didn’t get any names this time but had two or three good chats to locals who come to Northbridge Baths regularly. Two of the older guys I talked to had fond memories of meeting Ernie Wright themselves, and talk of him as something of an institution around here.
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
I have to give top billing here to fellow swimming blogger Therese of Swimming Pool Stories, since this was her local swimming place when she was growing up. She shares some memories in this blog post from 2014.
Therese also wrote about Northbridge Baths on another visit in 2010.
Most recent visitor among the blogging community was this Mums blog website. She came in October 2016. Interesting to see the pool at low tide!
Another Mums blog, the North Shore Mums, also clearly love Northbridge Baths
Seana, of the Hello Sydney Kids website, reviewed Northbridge Baths in 2011.
Beware of some of the info in the Lazy Swimmer’s blog post from 2010 – this was a time when you still had to pay to go into Northbridge Baths
Coffee, tea or milkshake after the swim?
It took me about 15 minutes to walk directly up the hill from Northbridge Baths, along narrow walkways, to reach the main road back to the main shopping area in Northbridge for my post swim coffee.
Ritual Coffee Traders – 160 Sailors Bay Road, Northbridge, NSW 2063
Open Daily 6am – 3.00pm (slightly shorter hours on Sunday)
Ritual Coffee Traders reviewed on the Fancy a Cuppa website
The best coffee I’ve had for a while and so good I stayed for a second. They use the Gabriel Coffee Roasters and have lots of options for how your coffee is prepared and whether you want the house blend or one of their single origins. I like a coffee shop that shows pride in the coffee they serve and Ritual certainly do that.
Also interesting place for food. Two of the three cake options were good for those on a paleo diet, which is not something you see everywhere. And a really friendly vibe, with no arrogant pretensions you sometimes get in top Sydney coffee shops. Well worth the hike for the best coffee in Northbridge.
11 thoughts on “Northbridge Baths – Northbridge, NSW 2063”
Can a disabled person get in and out of the pool. Is there an access ramp to the pool?
I didn’t notice a ramp, Sophi. A lot of people enter the water via the sandy beach at Northbridge, but my recollection (correct me if I’m wrong, locals) is that to get into the pool area, you’d need to negotiate some steps first
My ex used to manage the baths 20 years ago. I worked in the kiosk a couple of times and we’d often have bbq’s in the evenings after the swimmers went home. I was always amazed at how devoted the locals were to this pool and how they swam in the early hours of the morning everyday even through the winter months. A really lovely community and a much much loved pool. Thanks for a lovely read.
Thanks Alex – Ah, you’re one of the lucky ones who had an ongoing connection with the Baths; makes me very envious
Hi, I grew up in the ’50’s in Northbridge and swam at the baths almost every day after school in summerl. there were caretakers then. I can’t remember the older man’s name but his son was Col. I remember Ernie very well he was our postman and, of course, we saw him at the baths too.
Australia”s junior diving champion at that time, Bruce Bland, was a local. He and his brothers ,Tony and Geoff, a good swimmer, used the diving tower to impress us all with their skills.
I returned to live there as a young mother, in the ’60’s and so my children also swam there also. My parents lived in Northbridge until their deaths.
great memories, thank you! I will return this summer for a swim.
Thanks for sharing those great memories Anne-Marie. Loved the story of Ernie. And your diving stories remind me of the man in north east Scotland I met when swimming at Scotland’s art deco pool in Stonehaven. He told me he’d do flips off the diving board ‘to impress the girls up from Glasgow’ – the disappearance of diving boards must have taken away so many opportunities to impress visitors…
Very big pool, great pool for lap swimming or playing. Good change room facilities with free water.
Back in the days of 50’s & 60’s I would go to my pop’ baths at Northbridge, this is where I learnt to swim. Frederick Stubbing was the caretaker in those days, my uncle was Colin Stubbing, he was the coach. Naturally we didn’t have to pay admittance, I worked in the shop, free, but I sure helped myself to the lollies. Uncle Colin was to enter the Olympic games only the timing was a bit off, with the war. Colin is a full fledge member of Bondi Beach Lifesavers,, his ashes were scattered with a guard of honour at Bondi. My grandfather was one of the older members, in the Bondi Iceburgs, naturally my early start in life was always around water, all members of our family were bought up with swimming skills.
Great stories, Rhoda. Thanks so much for sharing them
I landed on this site on a Google search of “Col Stubbings” for I had come across my old cotton Speedo of the 1950s. Col had taught me to swim. I remember those days so well. Saturday afternoons were when the girls would race. I was either dropped off by car or we scrambled through the bush from Castlecrag.
I have a photo of the costume that I thought might be good for a chuckle but I do not see how to upload it here. These costumes were far from flattering. Think wet T shirt. However they did have a “modesty skirt” even though all else was revealed as we emerged from the water.
The badge that we sewed on across the chest has the bridge centred and “Northbridge” written above and “LASC” below. Wondering if the badge has changed.
Fortunately we did progress to a nylon swimsuit during my swimming days at Northbridge. I think they were Jantzen costumes. Speedo and Jantzen, two iconic Aussie companies.
Thank you Rhonda for your memories.
I grew up swimming at the Pool. The caretaker was Fred Stubbings, his son Col, I believe an Empire or Commonwealth contender, coached the swimming club members. Col’s son Chris was a friend of mine. I am stumped by the postman story. I recall Fred, our postman in the 50’s and 60’s, until I left in 1965 walked the suburb twice a day to deliver mail. I was at the Northbridge Pharmacy in 1998, when in walked Fred. Still delivering mail, and he remembered my address when given my surname.
The pool used to have a diving tower, probably not the 100 feet tall we youngsters believed. When you jumped or dived off the top level, you could easily bring up handfuls of mud.
Great times, great memories. The Stubbings’ were, are, a great part of history of Northbridge Baths, as they were called, and of Northbridge itself.
Very happy to hear the pool is still there. Oh, the was another small safe pool further out on the peninsula, Clive Park. Always a good option if you don’t have enough money to gain access to the Northbridge Baths.