Sydney and the surrounding area is home to some of the world’s most spectacular ocean pools. When I first moved here 8 years ago from a grey (and not very beachy) London, I was instantly wowed by these pools which are thoughtfully built into the coastline. As my interest and experience in photography grew (especially aerial photography), these pools have become my favourite things to shoot. Here is a guide to my favourites.
1. Bronte Rock Pool
Top of my list is Bronte Pool. Officially known as Bronte Baths, this pool was opened in 1887 and is one of the most photographed locations in Sydney. It's part of the Sydney to Coogee coastal walk and is located at the southern end of the beach.
The pool gets very busy at sunrise - especially at weekends. There were so many photographers here one Saturday morning that one of the regular swimmers asked me if there was some kind of special event on! It can also get a bit hairy at high tide and has a well-known 'splash zone' so be sure to watch the waves or you might get a bit of a soaking. That’s fine if you are there to swim but not so great if your expensive DSLR cops a soaking! If your main goal is to shoot along the pool edge, then it’s best to go during low or mid tide. If your goal is to capture the pool from the promenade then high tide is a good time to go as you are less likely to find photographers cluttering up the edge of the pool.
There are lots cafes of within a couple of minutes walk from the pool. They are all great but I have a soft spot for The Bogey Hole. Great coffee, diverse menu and lovely people. There's also a beach kiosk that sells a full range of drinks, snacks and ice creams.
2. Newport Rock Pool
Newport is a new discovery for me and I loved it immediately. The suburb is nestled in Sydney’s northern beaches about an hour’s drive from the city centre. The beach itself is 1.3 kilometres of golden sand and the 50-metre rock pool is located right at the southern end of the beach. I visited it for the first time on a mild autumn morning. It was mid-tide with a very small swell and the waves were only just breaking over the side of the pool. Good for the many locals visiting for their daily swim.
The best thing about this pool (and the beach for that matter), is how quiet it is. Other than the swimmers in the pool, I had the whole place to myself. It’s rare to never see another photographer on a Sydney beach at sunrise! I particularly love this pool for aerial photography due to its position amongst the rocks and it's photogenic shape. I’d guess that this would be a great spot at high tide too as it’s likely that waves would break well over the pool, which would create dramatic shots, especially from above.
3. Mahon Pool
Mahon Pool is in Maroubra, a few kilometres south of Coogee Beach. Unlike the other pools in this list, it doesn’t form part of a beach but is instead located a short walk away. You’ll find it at the bottom of the cliffs as part of the sandstone rocks that jut out into the ocean. The pool is big and the rock platforms either side of it means that there are lots of options for good seascape photo compositions.
It’s not as protected as some of the other pools and can take a hammering at high tide. If you prefer to shoot along the pool edge then definitely save the trip for low tides. If you fancy a swim, then the same may apply, unless you like swimming in a washing machine! It is sensational to watch and high tides are perfect for aerial photography. Be particularly careful here and watch the ocean for a while before choosing a spot to shoot. The waves can be very unpredictable.
4. Austinmer Rock Pool
I hadn’t heard of Austinmer until I happened to drive by very recently. It's part of the Illawarra region of Sydney, a 90 minutes (ish) drive south of Sydney past the Royal National Park. It’s a beautiful little town with a stunning beach, lovely cafes and one of the most picturesque ocean pools that I have seen. It actually comprises of two pools that were built side by side with a connecting walkway. I visited at high tide about three hours after sunrise on a crisp but clear winter’s day and conditions were perfect for aerial photography. I can’t wait to go back and shoot a sunrise here too.
5. Bondi Icebergs
It’s impossible to talk about ocean pools without mentioning Bondi's famous swimming club - Bondi Icebergs, as it’s probably the most famous ocean pool in Sydney. It opened in 1929 to cater for life savers looking to maintain their fitness in the winter months and now it’s open to everyone all year round with an entry fee of $6.50 for adults. There’s also a bistro, bar and a two hatted restaurant on site (equivalent to two Michelin stars), all with outstanding views of Bondi Beach. There’s nothing like sipping a glass of champagne here on a summer's day.
The pool is closed for cleaning on Thursday so if you are coming from afar to shoot sunrise here, please bear this in mind. The pool will be empty!
I love it here at high tide when the waves crash over the edge of the pool. It can be spectacular to watch the power of the ocean in action and you can capture some very dramatic images.