Why Sydney’s Tidal Pools Are a Popular Recreational Spot

Sydney’s coast is toothed with headlands that plunge into the Pacific Ocean, hammered by winter swells that travel up from the south and summer cyclone swells that trundle thousands of kms up from the north. It’s no wonder that tidal pools are a feature of the city’s landscape and a favourite recreational spot for locals and visitors. These sheltered swimming pools offer people of all ages the opportunity to swim, play, exercise, snorkel, sunbake, socialise and become acquainted with the plant and animal life on Australia’s rocky shores.

The earliest of the city’s ocean pools were tidal rock baths built to give people a safe and reliable place to swim when the waves at the beach were too dangerous. These baths, which were used by Aborigines before European settlement of NSW, are still in use today. They can be found all over the country, but they are especially popular in coastal cities with warm climates.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a boom in unemployment relief projects saw many new ocean pools constructed up and down the NSW coastline. These pools offered people a safer alternative to bathing at the rough surf beaches, where encounters with bluebottles, seaweed, sea urchins, slippery rocks and the occasional shark were not uncommon.

These tidal pools have had a profound effect on the lives and identities of Sydney’s people, particularly for women, who were not allowed to swim at surf beaches until the 1930s. Their contribution to the development of the city’s culture and society has been celebrated in recent exhibitions.

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