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We’ve put this one into our ‘ESCAPE’ section because being on the water is an escape for us here at Voyage & Soap and in Sydney visitors and tourists alike, head to the water surrounding this angelic city for exactly that. Zen.
Life on the water is what Sydney is all about. There’s nothing quite like a refreshing, energetic paddle in the surf before warming up on the beach or hitting up one of the many beach side cafés for food. Sydney is all about water – the harbour is as famous as the beaches. If you want to see the city and the coast from a different perspective, it’s time to get wet.
Along with its glorious coastline and famous beaches, Sydney has a superb collection of ocean pools and swimming baths. Whether you’re a lap swimmer or out for a leisurely family dip, you’ll love the dazzling Sydney Harbour views or the brilliant freshwater outdoor pools.
Open Air Swimming Pools
Water is the thing in Sydney. The Aussie swim team didn’t become world class for no reason…how many places can claim such stunning open-air swimming pools? From the beach to the harbour, you’ll find a pool to suit you. All are reasonably priced (some are free) with decent facilities. You’ll feel just like a local in no time.
While you’re in Bondi, swimming at Icebergs Pool is a must. It’s a proper lap pool, so long as the surf isn’t up (in which case, it’s challenging and super fun – like being in a washing machine!). We think Andrew Boy Charlton Pool is the best public swimming pool on the planet – it’s set on Sydney Harbour in the heart of the Botanical Gardens and is a salt-water pool. Heaven.
Icebergs Ocean Pool (Bondi Beach)
The famous Bondi Baths have been a landmark of Bondi Beach for over 100 years. You can enjoy some laps in the large pool or take kids in for a dip in the smaller kid’s pool. Fully qualified lifeguards patrol the pools during opening hours, with wheelchair access available from street level down to the pool.
The views are to die for and if you’re not swimming, then the cocktails on offer are pretty sweet. It’s tourist 101 but why not when it’s this amazing?
Andrew Boy Charlton Pool (Woolloomooloo)
Now this place really does it for us. In fact, we think this is the best public swimming pool on the planet. Let’s start with the two main reasons. Firstly it’s a salt-water pool – so healing and very earthy. And second – Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Pool is an outdoor lap pool perched above Woolloomooloo Bay with the sweetest views of navy ships in this majestic harbour. Like wow me right now. The café’s not bad either. You MUST go!
Prince Alfred Park Pool (Central Station)
Hot day? Don’t want to go all the way to Bondi but want a dip? Try the pool in Albert Park next to Central Station. Only AUS$6 to get in, relax on the lawn, have a swim, read a book. It’s clean, well-run, they operate on green principles which we’re fans of. Such a fabulous oasis in the heart of Sydney. Doesn’t get much better than this. Oh how we love this city. It rocks!
North Sydney Olympic Pool (Milsons Point under Sydney Harbour Bridge)
With incredible amazing views of Sydney Harbour, the North Sydney Olympic Pool facilities include a 50-metre heated pool, gymnasium, sauna, spa, indoor 25-metre pool and cafe. It could do with an update however the location certainly makes up for it. The pool complex gives customers the opportunity to combine swimming with other leisure pursuits in the one spectacular location overlooking Sydney Harbour, next door to Luna Park and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Get a ferry to Milson’s Point have a swim and then a walk a coffee or meal at nearby Ripples Café. There are hot showers and a heated pool for all year round swimming. We enjoyed going in the evenings to take in the night-time harbour views.
This is where you can swim in the harbour with the comfort of a shark gate around it.
Here are our two favourites:
Nielsen Park (near Vaucluse)
Nielsen Park has a large netted swimming enclosure, so you can swim far out and feel really safe. The nets go all the way down to the sand. Some even say they’ve seen real sea horses feeding underwater on the net. This is such a great family friendly beach and park. Big, shady trees for picnics, and from here you can start the foreshore bush walk around to Rose Bay. All the land in front of the Vaucluse mansions has been reclaimed as Crown land, so its available to all.
Murray Rose (formerly Redleaf Pool in Double Bay)
A well known ‘secret’ with Sydney-siders this classic ‘Red leaf pool‘ has been a great hidden swimming spot for Sydney locals for years. There is a great cafe on site, changing rooms, lots of places to sit either on grass, cement or sand. The water is safe for kids and you can do laps there no problems.
It’s a beautiful pool surrounded by beach (so it’s sea water) and it has the CBD as background. And apart from swimming and enjoying the relaxing time you can have there, you can watch the best sunsets ever!
Big Ocean Swimming
Usually most beaches have a local swim group who do ocean water swims and there’s also lots of regular competitions during summer. So check them out.
The Bold and the Beautiful
Our hidden Sydney fitness gem would be to swim Manly beach to Shelly beach with ‘The Bold and the Beautiful‘ at 7am every morning. The swim is great! 750m each way and pretty sheltered. To make things even better ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ is a free group. Just show up and say hi. It’s popular in the summer and we felt it safer and pretty cool to swim with a crowd nice and early before the rest of the city has awoken.
Ocean Swims is a swim group finder that has lots of options if you’re interested in ocean swimming.
OceanFit is the home of ocean swimming in Australia and the largest and most popular ocean swimming training & education provider.
- Established in 2009 on Bondi Beach, Sydney
- They’ve introduced 700+ people to ocean swimming
- Deliver small-group clinics and private lessons
- Kids lessons to make the ocean fun and safe.
If you’re a pro, then any of the beaches will suffice. Beware of surf etiquette and don’t steal anyone’s wave. For beginners, most beaches have a surfing centre where they rent equipment and offer lessons. e.g. ‘Let’s go Surfing’ in North Bondi. For those of you who are beginners and want to get away to a quiet beach to focus on your technique – we recommend ‘Australian Surf Tours’ who do fab weekend surf camps out of Sydney.
Let’s Go Surfing
Brenda Miley started LGS out of the back of a Kombi van in 1995 as an idea to encourage more women into surfing. In the years since their team has grown and helped thousands of people from all over the world learn to surf, developing confidence, focus and strength and most importantly….to have fun!
Australian Surf Tours
If you’re looking for the best Surf Camp Australia has to offer then Australian Surf Tours are one of the best. They run the closest Surf Camp to Sydney situated only 68 km’s away and are recognised as the absolute best of the best in the industry.
They take you to NSW’s pristine South Coast, offering 1 day adventures, amazing 2 day/2 night weekend getaways for beginners and 7 day/14 day Surf Camps for those looking to master the skill of surfing. Whichever one you choose, you can be sure that you will not only improve your surfing game but also enjoy activities and sights that are uniquely Australian and loads of fun. Time to get on that board!
If proficient, you can paddle round the headland from Rose Bay to Nielsen Park for a bite to eat, a coffee or a sunbathe before returning equipment. It’s about 5km each way. (we think or that may be the round trip) Well it’s a good arm workout with a view.
- Manly kayaks
- Balmoral Beach Sailing Club for paddle board / sail boat rentals
- Kayak hire at Cottage Point in Kurungai National Park. (Amazing!)
- Rose Bay Kayaks & Paddle boards
- Sydney Harbour Kayaks
- Luke Horder Paddle (for advanced paddlers who want to try surf skiing)
James founded PROKITE (formerly known as Alliance Gear) in 2011. His skill background is in engineering and as such he has always had an interest in watersports, equipment and mechanics. With a lifetime experience in surfing, windsurfing and sailing, he discovered kite surfing in 2008 and has loved the new discipline so much he wanted to make it a career. He is always active in the local scene being part of the Kitesurfing Australia committee, events and most notably long time instructor at the ever popular Aquachicks girls events.
A true kite surfing addict, James is also an ASI qualified instructor, who is not only big on water safety but also on bringing kite surfers together and introducing new kiters to the established Sydney kite surfing community. Recent achievments include National vice champion for Mens freestyle and an ambassador for safe kiteboarding RMS campaign video.
If you fancy trying your hand at kitesurfing then they do great lessons from beginner all the way to advanced. Go get some air!
Woollahra Sailing Club
It’s in Rose Bay, so awesome views of Opera House, Bridge and Islands once you’re on the water and as sailing is our retreat – the wind in your hair, salt water on your lips, what better way to see this incredible city.
It’s easy and cheap to join, and there are always staff on hand to assist you. One thing to bear in mind though is they do dinghy sailing only. Some courses/classes are for long term members, but there are often sailing sessions available for drop ins, usually on a Sunday. Best to call ahead to arrange.
SUP Yoga (Standup Paddleboard Yoga)
At Voyage & Soap we’ve been doing SUP yoga for years and think it is quite possibly one of the BEST things EVER. We do it whenever we can get near beautiful harbours, oceans and lakes in hot climes. Sydney has a few where you can learn and build up your SUP capability. If you’ve never given it a go you’re missing out. What’s better than being in up-dog watching the sunset over Sydney Harbour? Exactly, we thought so.
Don’t you dare go thinking you have to be a levitating yoga Jedi in order to conquer a SUP yoga class. The simple and exquisite truth about this practice is that it can cater to every level of fitness and experience. For some, simply standing in Tadasana (mountain pose) is a huge accomplishment, then you get the added benefit of a tan and a swim in the best part of Sydney’s inner harbour.
For others, yoga on paddleboards has given them the fundamentals to be bold and explorative to take more challenging or advanced variations on poses. This is about finding new territory, questioning the limitations of the mind and conquering the inevitable fear of falling in. If there was ever a place to fall on your face, certainly it’s here.
Trust your board to tell you little secrets about your practice. You’ll know very quickly if you have a tendency to put more weight on one side or a tendency not to activate your core. Then reap the sweet rewards of your efforts as you float deeply into your savasana with your fingertips in the water listening to the rhythm of the waves lapping under your board. Heaven on earth.
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