Down Under Natatorium cousins: Australia's ocean pools

Friends of the Natatorium Vice President Donna L. Ching is just back from a visit to Australia, where she says there are more than 30 ocean pools in the Sydney area alone. She swam in several Aussie “ocean baths,” and brought back photos for us.

“They’re everywhere in Australia!” she says. “You’d think we could get it together and fix our one and only Natatorium!”

Bondi Baths

Perhaps the most famous of Sydney’s ocean pools are the Bondi Baths at the Bondi Icebergs Club at the south end of Bondi Beach.

Bondi Baths

The pools at the Bondi Icebergs Club

Bronte Beach pool

Farther down the famous Coastal Walk towards Coogee Beach, Donna reports, she came across ocean pools at nearly every beach. Here’s a photo of lap swimmers in the pool at Bronte Beach, 2 kilometers south of Bondi and the birthplace in 1903 of organized, professional ocean lifesaving.

Bronte Beach

Swimming at Bronte Beach

Clovelly Beach pool

Just a bit further south is this pool at Clovelly Beach.

Clovelly Beach

The Clovelly Beach pool

You can see more ocean pools and “ocean baths” in the Sydney area here and here.

Why not in Honolulu?

Donna’s point is a good one: If Australia can build, maintain and safely operate so many ocean pools, why can’t we take care of just one? Particularly, when that one also happens to be Hawai’i’s official World War I memorial and, for nearly 90 years, a cultural and historical treasure for Honolulu.

The Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium: Let’s fix it and swim there again. Soon. ‘Cuz, hey: Why should the Australians have all the fun?

Categories: Friends of the Natatorium, Images, and Uncategorized.


  1. Marie-Louise McDermott

    Having completed my PhD thesis on Australia’s ocean pools last year, I can assure you, that there are more than a hundred of these pools on Australia’s surf coast. Most of them are in the state of New South Wales and the cities of Newcastle and Wollongong have ocean pools developed decades before Sydney began developing ocean pools in the late nineteenth century. Development of ocean pools peaked in the early twentieth century, but Olympic-size ocean pools were still being developed in the 1960s. Few of Australia’s ocean pools are supervised, as even unsupervised ocean pools offer valued protection from the hazards posed by rips and sharks and are therefore much safer swimming places than unpatrolled surf beaches.

    I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting and photographing more than 50 ocean pools in South Africa, where ocean pools are likewise valued as safe and beautiful bathing and swimming places.