Lost in time - McIver's Ladies Baths

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Beaches & Lifeguards, Sustainability & Environment
McIvers Baths at sunrise

Flip a gold coin into the bucket at the entry to McIver’s Ladies Baths and a wonderland of salt, sea and sun is all yours to enjoy at this historic pool.

Often cited as one of Sydney’s top oceanside pools and a beacon for many overseas visitors, McIver’s Ladies Baths are sheltered from view on a rock platform just south of Coogee Beach and offer panoramic views of surrounding beaches, bays and cliffs. You have to know what you’re looking for to find this secret spot, but when you do it’s a summertime treat.

McIver’s is open to women and children only, which has been the case since early colonial times. The Randwick and Coogee Ladies Amateur Swimming Club took over the lease in 1922 from the McIver family who took ownership of the baths and remodelled it to its current form in 1918.

Prior to this, the baths were considered a sacred space for Aboriginal women who used it as a birthing site as well as fishing and bathing.

McIver's Ladies BathsLocated beneath Grant Reserve on Beach Street, access to the Baths is via a pathway opposite the children’s park. Above the pool, the grassy knoll offers prime sunbathing and reading opportunities pre- and post-swim. On a Saturday many women can be spotted with the weekend papers or a book, settling in for the day. But don’t worry if you forget to bring reading material, there’s a free little library located inside the change rooms.

Down the stairs, the natural salt water pool is also home to a number of sea creatures that surf a wave into the Baths. You can swim leisurely laps alongside tiny dartfish and whiting and perhaps spot sea urchins or tiny crabs. If you’re particularly lucky you’ll go home with tales of an encounter with the local friendly Sydney octopus.

The Baths are deep but high tide or a big swell can turn them into a bit of a washing machine, so be careful if you’re not a strong swimmer. A good rule of thumb is if the beach is closed due to dangerous conditions, then so are the pools.

While Olympic swimmers Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie may have trained here, the Baths are not Olympic-sized. Measuring at only 20 metres long – so say regular patrons at the Baths – short laps can make non-swimmers feel like professionals.  

Not much about the Baths has changed in its long, storied history. The entrance fee will be increased to $2 this summer, which can be tossed into the blue bucket at the entrance. All money goes to the upkeep of the building and surrounds, so you’ll be giving back to a tranquil coastal retreat that offers so much to the community.

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