Explore The Shire's Ocean & Tidal Pools

By Evie Farrell
31 January, 2020

Swimming in an ocean or tidal pool is a summer must-do in the Shire, they are a fabulous way for all the family to cool off in the sunshine. Our almost 100-year-old pools, nestled into the rocky platforms along Bate Bay, are part of the fabric of the Sutherland Shire and its history as a beachside playground. Exploring our pools is one of the best ways to spend a day or two on our coastline.

There are around 100 ocean pools in NSW, and more than 35 in Sydney. The Shire has five of these pools hugging its coastline as well as it’s tidal pools from Gunnamatta Beach to Como Pleasure Grounds.

The pools are just as popular today as they were when they were carved from the rock. Photographers snap sunrise reflections on the mirror-like surfaces, decades old swimming groups glide through the water on their morning laps, mums and children paddle in the calm shallows, and locals wander down for a dip during the day. The Pool’s are an important part of everyday life here on the coast.

Pack up a picnic and choose which pool to spend the day at. All have free parking and most have changerooms and toilets.

OCEAN POOLS

Built throughout the early 1900s, in a time when ocean swimming was becoming popular, Cronulla’s rock pools protected swimmers from currents, big swells and marine life, and gave local nuns a safe and secluded place to bathe.

North Cronulla Ocean Pool
Dunningham Park is at the end of the Kingsway and has parking, a children’s playground, and changerooms and toilets. You can grab a burger or a coffee at the North Cronulla Beach Kiosk.

Just a few steps south along the Esplanade will bring you to the North Cronulla Ocean Pool, built into the 300 metres of rocky outcrop that divides North Cronulla and South Cronulla beaches. The pool runs lengthways out along the rocks and is quite shallow – the perfect spot for smaller kids and non-swimmers to paddle.

Cronulla Rock Pool
Cronulla Rock Pool runs lengthways across the rocky platform and is just a few footsteps from North Cronulla Ocean Pool. It’s easily reached from the train station through South Cronulla Park which has a small kids playground, beautiful Norfolk Island Pines to sit under and public toilets in the gorgeous art deco pavilion, next to the Cronulla Surf Lifesaving Club. Grab a coffee or snack at Barefoot on the Beach or lunch at Zimzala.

The 50 metre pool is popular for laps and is used by swimming clubs and locals to train.  It was opened in 1932 and was built as part of the Great Depression public works scheme - where people (mostly men) unable to find work were employed to carry out publics works projects. These works gave communities previously unaffordable ocean pools that made a huge impact on life on the coast – for locals and beach day trippers. The Cronulla Rock Pool was originally used by lifeguards (Cronulla Surf Club began in 1907 and North Cronulla Surf Club 1925) for training.

The Nuns Pool
Further around the Esplanade between South Cronulla Beach and Shelly Beach is a naturally formed rock pool, known locally as the Nuns Pool. It is said that the nuns from the convent above (now a retirement village) would nip down to bathe and swim here. It’s a lovely spot for a dip in the natural rock pool, easily accessed down a grassy slope.

Shelly Beach Rock Pool
Shelly Beach Rock Pool was built by locals in the 1930’s and later improved by council. Its wide, sandy beach ocean pool and gentle incline into the water makes it perfect for families with small children and for lazing the day away under a beach umbrella. There’s ramp access from the Esplanade all the way to the water. Shelly Park has lots of grass and space for picnickers, and a big fenced playground with lots of equipment, shade and picnic tables.
It’s about a 15 minute walk from Cronulla Train Station along the Esplanade, and if you’re driving there’s free parking. Shelly Park also has a beautiful art deco change area (with toilets) and pavilion. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic and BBQ before or after your swim and you can easily spend the whole day here.

Across the road from the park is Shelly Park Shop for burgers and coffee and The Nuns Pool Café  for lunch.

Oak Park Rock Pool
Oak Park Rock Pool is a lovely pool just a little further south around the Esplanade towards Bass and Flinders Point. Its child-friendly sandy beach slopes down into the water making it a favourite with families. It’s a little quieter than the other rock pools at Cronulla, and is a favourite place for weekend picnics under the trees. The grassy Oak Park has two undercover BBQs and picnic tables, and a stunning art deco pavilion. There is free parking.

The rock pool has been around since the early 1900s when residents built their own bathing spot, known as the swimming hole. Council upgraded the pool in 1930, and by 1936 it was so popular it was enlarged through the same unemployment scheme that created ocean pools for the local community.

Across the road and a block to the north from Oak Park is Six Smith Café for coffees and lunch.

TIDAL POOLS

If you crave a swim surrounded by bushland, where you can relax after a dip under towering eucalypts and listen to the sounds of native birds and kids playing on the river, then visit us in the Sutherland Shire. Our many tidal baths are free netted pools where you can swim, jump, float and fish.

Gunnamatta Baths, Cronulla
Kids love jumping from the boardwalk into Gunnamatta Baths after school on hot summer days, and on weekends you’ll find families and groups of friends picnicking and swimming here. These netted 50-metre baths are used all year round by surf, swimming and water polo clubs and are on the sandy shoreline of Gunnamatta Bay.

The waves are soft and gentle for children, and at low tide you can walk all the way to Darook Park and kid can play in the shallows.

The baths are on the edge of Gunnamatta Park, a huge leafy bush park with a big children’s playground, covered picnic sheds, accessible toilets, BBQs and a pavilion. Gunnamatta Park, and Baths are an easy five minute walk from Cronulla train station and the ferry and Mit Oragnics café is just across the road @mintorganicscronulla.

Kurnell Baths
Kurnell Baths are midway along Silver Beach at Captain Cook’s landing place on Botany Bay. The huge 200 metre netted pool fronts a white sand beach with a shallow incline and is a lovely spot for kids to play and swim.

There is free parking or you can catch the bus from Cronulla . Grab a coffee or breakfast and lunch from one of Kurnell’s beachside cafes like Silver Beach Café  or Cook at Kurnell and watch the kite surfers out on the bay. You can also explore Kamay Botany Bay National Park from here, learn more about Captain Cook’s landing place and enjoy whale watching from Cape Solander.

Click to download the bus timetable

Lilli Pilli Baths
These 30 metre baths are another picturesque Shire swimming spot on the Port Hacking, with views across the water to the Royal National Park. Follow the path from the end of Lilli Pilli Road along the river to a grassy hill with seats overlooking the baths and the beach. You can enter the baths from the shore or the pier – there’s lots of fun for kids and adults climbing up and jumping off here. These baths were said to have been built in the 1930s and are still a lovely spot for a swim or some quiet time enjoying the river and the water.

There is parking right down near the baths, but if it’s full you can find spaces in the surrounding streets. 

Como Tidal Pools
A visit to the Como Pleasure Grounds on the Georges River is not complete without a dip in the Como Tidal Baths and a jump from the boardwalk into the deep water below. The baths are netted with a wooden boardwalk on two sides, and are reached from the beach or ladders down into the water. They’re best at high tide for jumping and have lovely views up and down the river. Children will love the Como Pleasure Grounds playground and you can grab a bite to eat at the Como Waterfront Café or Thai Rim Nam after your swim and wander over the train bridge to Oatley. There is free parking here, and the Como train station is an easy 15 to 20 minute walk away.

Exploring our ocean and tidal pools is a fabulous way to spend a day or a weekend in the Shire – Enjoy a day in our stunning rivers and bays soon!

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Evie Farrell

Evie Farrell

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