Manuka Pool is located in the Inner South suburb of Griffith, 5 kms south of the CBD. Manuka Pool is Canberra's first pool, opened officially in 1931. The planning committee decided on Manuka for Canberra's first pool as the area was highly populated at the time and had electricity and public transport. Prior to this, Canberrans would swim in the Molonglo, Cotter or Murrumbidgee Rivers, so when Manuka Pool opened it was "the place to be" in Canberra. Known simply as "The Swimming Pool", as it was literally the only one, Manuka Pool is now heritage listed and has reminders of its past with period signage and its Federal Art Deco style, unique to Canberra.
The 30 metre pool was used for the first time on Christmas Day 1930 and was officially opened on Australia Day, 1931. It had facilities for 86 men and 41 women, which I can only assume is related to the unequal sizes of the changing room facilities when it first opened. Today the change rooms are large (including the womens!) and the pool is still as impressive, with six lap lanes and history surrounding it on every wall.
Photo taken by William James Mildenhall in approximately 1930 - National Library of Australia. Source: Wikapedia
On our visit on the last day of February, the water in the main pool was surprisingly warm and easy to slide into. Outside the main building there is also a shaded toddler pool with a fountain and shallow water to splash in. On the day that we went, the water was quite cold for a toddler pool, however I imagine it would warm up later in the day. This pool looks in good condition and it was a surprise to learn that it was actually built in early 1960 and has been enjoyed by families for over 55 years. It equals any other modern toddler pool in other parts of Canberra.
This two hectare grassy outside area is another highlight of Manuka Pool with its picnic benches, room to run around on the grass and shaded pirate ship playground. There is a steering wheel upstairs and downstairs, as well as a rope ladder, fireman's pole, slide and an area underneath for pretend play.
Manuka Pool is open in the Summer months between the end of October to the end of March, check their website for exact dates each year. The friendly owner was also operating the food outlet Tav's, which although technically wasn't open, he happily made everyone coffees, hot chips and sold icecreams from the side door. With such friendly hospitality, it made for an enjoyable visit at this historic pool.
Another feature of the pool that we found interesting was the signage from years gone by. It helps you imagine what this pool would have been like back in the 1930's to 1960's, with people coming from miles around to experience Canberra's first pool - without spitting!
Our family had a relaxing and enjoyable morning at Manuka Pool, exploring its history and having fun in the kids area. The large expanse of grass is ideal to lay out the towels, have a picnic, jump in and out of the pool and make a day of it. With such spacious grounds, even on a busy day there would still be plenty of room for everyone. With the trendy Manuka café strip just down the road and the city a mere 5km's away, it is a handy swimming pool so close to the city centre.
Back in 1931 it was described as an "oasis" in Canberra's hot Summers and in 2016, we would describe it exactly the same.