While villas and resorts around the world are graced with chlorinated beaches and infinity pools, Australians are blessed with rustic ocean pools cleverly tucked away in secret nooks under headlands or by public beaches.
Scattered along the south coast of New South Wales with stunning sea views, several rock pools can be found within the Wollongong LGA. Regardless of age or origin, anyone can bathe for free in this luxury of salt water.
Is it the feeling of swimming in a safe space in an often ruthless ocean, or is it the challenge of finding some of these pools that make them so alluring?
A good ocean swimming pool provides a day of fun – from sneaking over mollusks down slimy steps into a salty rock pool and reappearing rejuvenated by its waters, then heading to the local milk bar for a serving of fried food. and a smoothie.
Here’s an itinerary for a day trip from Sydney, passing Coalcliff to the town of Wollongong at some of the area’s finest coastal pools. Eliminate them all at once or slowly run one pool at a time.
Pick a great day, get your swimmers ready, and set off early to head south along the Princes Highway. The first stop is Coalcliff Rock Pool.
Coalcliff Rock Pool
Start your morning with a dip in this charming neighborhood rock pool frequented by local families. The pool is set against dramatic cliffs and rocks, next to a secluded beach. Park your car at the side of the road and it’s an easy walk to the water. The changing rooms are 200 meters from the swimming pool. Take a dip in the sea water and take in the views just below the Sea Cliff Bridge.
Paterson Road, Coalcliff
Wombarra rock pool
Cross the enchanting Sea Cliff Bridge to your next stop, the Wombarra Rock Pool. If size matters, this pool takes the cake. Swim laps or float on your back – there’s plenty of room to cover in this ocean-going pool.
The picnic tables are perfectly aligned to face the sea in the shade of tall Norfolk pines, ideal for a sit-down breakfast. Enter the pool via a slope with a handrail at the south end. Further south is a large, flat bed of rocks ideal for exploration at low tide. Toilets and changing rooms are available and showers are located outside the dike. Parking is quite limited, but you can park at the top of the hill and walk around the bottom.
Reef Avenue, Wombarra
Coledale Rock Pool
A five-minute drive further south you’ll come to Coledale Rock Pool, a long, narrow pool with a sandy bottom. Set against a wide bed of rocks south of Coledale Beach, think of this rock pool like a giant inground tub by the sea.
Quiet and tranquil most of the time, this pool is a short walk from the road. You can enter the pool by a slightly slippery slope at the north end or by two sets of steps with handrails at the south end. There is a bench to store your belongings, and the changing room and showers are 200 meters above the rocks on the south side of the pool.
If a well-watered refreshment is on the program, Coledale Fine Wines (746 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Coledale) has a great selection of craft beers and wines.
2 Cater Street, Coledale
Austinmer Rock Pool
Head to Austinmer Beach, a five-minute drive from Coledale, and you’ll find this gorgeous double pool at the south end of the beach. The twin pools are located next to each other, separated by a wall. The southernmost pool is longer than the other and naturally shallow, making it perfect for toddlers – this spot is popular with families. The rock pool is adjacent to a historic pavilion with toilets and showers.
Across the street is the popular Shells Diner (106 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Austinmer) for your classic milk bar in chips, burgers, and shakes. If you’re looking for cafe-style refreshments, grab a sandwich and a fresh cup of coffee at Bread, Espresso & (190 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul) or The Fitz Cafe & Bar (251 Princes Highway, Bulli) on the ride to Bulli Rockpool .
135 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Austinmer
Bulli rock pool
No visit to ‘Gong is complete without a stop at the large rock pool at Bulli Headland. This area is a popular place for swimming, gatherings of families and friends, and couples on day-long dates. With gorgeous views, lots of grass to lay out on, and thriving beachside cafes, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with locals and visitors alike. It is a large 50 meter swimming pool with changing rooms and showers a few meters away.
You can skip the lines at Bulli cafes and opt for a classic order of breaded fish ‘n’ chips at Fishnets Takeaway (114 Pioneer Road, East Corrimal) in East Corrimal, just 10 minutes away, on your trip to the next rock pool.
Lot 68 Trinity Row, Bulli
Towradgi rock pool
With hot food on hand, head to Towradgi Rock Pool, another popular spot for people-watching and picnicking on the lawn, which faces the 50-meter rock pool and the sea.
The inhabitants go to sunbathe on the concrete slabs under the grass. The cycle path passes the area, so expect to see cyclists pedaling around here. You’ll have stunning views of the Wollongong CBD in the distance, with the Illawarra Escarpment just behind. Changing rooms, toilets and showers are a few meters from the swimming pool.
Lot 113 Route de Towradgi, Towradgi
The men’s pool
The last stop on your rock pool-hop is the Gentlemen’s Pool. Who would have guessed that the most rustic rock pool is in Wollongong town? It is one of the first rock pools in the area and is located on a rock platform. Formerly a male-only bath, it is now a public swimming pool next to Wollongong Harbor with an uneven and rocky bottom. The pool is most visible at low tide and is popular with locals in the CBD for cooling off after a long day. Park at the end of Stuart Park and it’s an easy walk to the pool. There are no facilities here, so you’ll have to walk to the nearby continental pool to change and shower.
Cliff Road, North Wollongong
End your day with a majestic sunset. Walk to Flagstaff Point Lighthouse in Wollongong and join locals to watch the sunset as surfers return to the town’s sandy beach.
Now that you’ve taken a dip in the finest waters of the area’s rock pools, it’s time to dine on the town. Feast on juicy burgers at His Boy Elroy (Keira Street, Wollongong) or dine on a rustic wood-fired pizza at Kneading Ruby (5 Crown Lane, Wollongong) before returning home to Sydney with a rejuvenated body and soul.