A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published November 7th 2016
Plunge into northern Sydney's glorious ocean pools
This glorious spring weather is rapidly moving into summer temperatures and a swim in the ocean is high on my agenda. However, having grown up in the country, I'm more land-lubber than water-baby. While I find the ocean inviting and invigorating, it can also be scary and intimidating; there are rough waves and rips that I don't know how to 'read', so I often end up tumbling around on the bottom and getting sand in my pants, not to mention big bitey things out there (Thankyou very much to the makers of "Jaws", my trips to the beach will never be the same again).
That's why I like a beach that also has an ocean pool. Granted, if the tides are high and the swell is big, they're not 'automatically' safe. Always check the beach signs and talk to the lifeguards if you're still unsure. But with a little research and planning, you can find the right ocean rock pool to fit your needs and experience that wonderful cleansing feeling that only a divine dip in the ocean can give you. I've partially categorised them for you to make your choice a little easier, and list them from north to south. They all have amenities blocks and a café/kiosk nearby.
For that French-Riviera-feel with views of beachside mansions at your back, then head to:-
Palm Beach - at the very end of the northern Peninsula on Ocean Road, the pool is accessed by both car and public bus (L90 and 190 from the city). It's christened 'kiddies korner' by the locals because it's one of the safest. Nestled into the base of a cliff face and protected from southerly busters, it's hard to beat. Bonus Bits - Barrenjoey Lighthouse is nearby and makes for a wonderful walk and lookout. The gentle Pittwater is on the other side of the isthmus and is perfect for paddleboarding.
views from the pool looking across to Barrenjoey Lighthouse
Whale Beach - it's a little way off the main road on Surf Road, so car transport would be best. The pool here is much smaller than the others, suitable for just a casual dip, so just float around and admire the engineering expertise of the homes perched on the surrounding steep hillsides. Bonus Bits - some lovely shady spots under the towering pines that line the edge of the sand.
Bilgola Beach - this one too is tucked away off busy Barrenjoey Road, so car transport is best. Driving down the windy Serpentine Road transports you a world away. The coffee shop is literally on the sand's edge; just prop in your cossies and enjoy your cappuccino in the quiet ambience of the beach's seclusion. There's not a lot of shade here so be sure to bring hats and beach umbrellas. Bonus Bits - If you're lucky enough to get here through the week, you could be the only one in the pool.
Sure you want a swim, but if a retail hit is also high on your list then head to:-
Avalon Beach - oh so handy because the bus stops on the corner of Barrenjoey Road and Avalon Parade. Then it's a few metres walk to the beach on one side of the road and the main shopping precinct on the other. Swim, dry off, then track through trendy boutiques or catch a movie at the local cinema. Bonus Bits - The pool is cradled in the foot of the cliff-face and watching the local surfers provides some additional entertainment. Keep an eye on those waves that attract the surfers; the wash into the pool can get a bit strong.
Newport Beach - easy access by car and bus makes this beach one of the best. The pool is at the far south end of the long strip of sand, and it's oh, so quiet here. The pool sits a little low in the water so can cop a bit of hammering if the surf's up. There's an amenities block nearby, plus more change-rooms in the surf club. There's a carpark behind the shops and a playground behind the surf club. Bonus Bits - fashion boutiques, homeware stores and coffee shops fill the main street nearby.
Collaroy Beach - positioned right on the main arterial Pittwater Road, it's handy access by both bus and car. The pool sits at the south end of the beach and there's a coffee shop within cooee. The main strip of shops across the road is lined with eateries, including Italian, Thai and the local Beach Club Restaurant. Bonus Bits - a large and shaded children's playground is located on site and the main ocean pool also has a childrens' section. There's also a local cinema.
Dee Why Beach - car access is easy, or catch buses from Manly and Warringah Mall. Hop off at Oaks Avenue. It'll take 10 -15 minutes walk to get to the beach but it's worth it. The long stretch of golden sand is 1km long, and the pool is at the south end. Protected from southerly winds, enjoy a leisurely dip then plonk on the grass in the shade of majestic Norfolk Island pines. The children can keep themselves entertained in the fully equipped playground. Bonus Bits - you've got plenty of dining options, ranging from ice-creameries to fish and chips and Thai, and the coffee options are infinite.
If you like a bit more space and sand dunes around you, then head to:-
Mona Vale Beach - the pool sits out on a colourful rock-ledge which, at low tide, is fun to explore. There is a shallow section for little ones, and the sheltered 'Basin' or bay is also a safe swimming option. Just behind the beach is an expansive childrens' playground and park for picnics. If the waves are rolling over the pool wall there will be a strong current pulling towards the outgoing ocean. Bonus Bits - at low tide walk all the way to Warriewood Beach and watch the hang-gliders.
Narrabeen Beach - drive down Ocean Street and park near the Caravan Park, or hop off the bus at Lake Park Road and walk the Pelican Way footpath for about 10 minutes. The pool is nestled at the base of a cliff-face on a rock platform that's a delight to explore. There's no shade at the pool so bring something to cover up. Coffee shops are 5 minutes walk away. Bonus Bits - one side of the pool is a full 50 metres if you like to do laps, otherwise tottle around in the shallow side and daydream as you gaze out over the ocean. If you're feeling more energetic, climb the 100 steps up a portion of the Bicentennial Coastal Walk for beautiful views over the beach and surrounding lake.
Narrabeen Beach pool has a lap side plus a shallow side to it
Curl Curl Beach - this wonderful stretch of golden sand is hemmed by two headlands and stretches inland to a lagoon. At the Northern end there's ample space with sand dunes at your back. Buses run from Manly; hop off near Huston Parade. The pool is at the end of a bush track on the point of the headland. It's fully exposed to the ocean and often closed, but fun, nevertheless, to explore the area. The pool at the Southern end has parking just a few metres away, plus a safe children's section. The endless view out over the majestic Pacific Ocean is just awesome. Bonus Bits - The coffee shop serves great coffee and healthy snacks.
Freshwater Beach - almost hidden between the two headlands of Queenscliff and Curl Curl, this pool is tucked into the bottom of the northern headland. Park in McKillop Park carpark and take the steps down to a dramatic and stunning rock-platform. Protected from the summer nor'easters, you could plonk here all day admiring the colours and contours of the cliff-face above you, but with a full 50-metre salt-water pool at your feet, it really does deserve some laps. Bonus Bits - a short walk around the foreshore takes you to the main beach and the 'back door' of Harbord Beach Hotel, the perfect place for a summer lunch.
So take the plunge - that mineral-rich salt water is so good for you. It's mood-changing, invigorating, stimulates your circulation, and carries anti-bacterial properties to boost your immune system, not to mention cleaning out your sinuses if you've suffered hay-fever in this windy spring weather.
So always remember to slip, slop and slap, and if you'll excuse me now, I'm off for a quick dip.