TRY THESE COOLING TACTICS IF YOU WANT TO BEAT SYDNEY’S RECORD-BREAKING SUMMER HEAT.
If complaining about the summer heat was a national sport, Sydneysiders would probably be dripping in gold medals.
Without fail, the first big heatwave of the year gets us all sweaty, snappy and stripping off.
Thankfully – in a country where summer temperatures regularly soar above 35 Celsius for days and weeks on end (and even higher inland) – most of us have perfected the art of cooling off.
Apart from sucking ice cubes and turning the A/C on full bore, here are some useful ways to beat the heat, and the relentless humidity, whether you’re a local or just visiting.
Sydneysiders are spoiled for choice with world-famous beaches and secret coves that stretch from the golden sands of Cronulla (pictured) and Bundeena in the city’s south, to Manly and Palm Beach in the north.
While Bondi is Australia’s best-known beach, it’s just one of more than 100 beaches dotted along the coast line worth exploring, as well as some in the Harbour itself.
Gordons Bay, for instance, is a little-known oasis tucked between Clovelly and Coogee beaches in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and it’s home to a 500 metre (1,640 foot) underwater nature trail.
At the far northern end of Sydney’s northern beaches you’ll find Palm Beach. It’s a bit of a hike from the CBD (around 45kms) but it’s popular with visitors because it’s where the Australian soapie Home & Away is filmed.
There are also dozens of calm, sheltered beaches inside the Harbour, including Balmoral Beach, Chinaman’s Beach, Milk Beach and Nielsen Park (Vaucluse), Murray Rose Pool (also known as Redleaf Pool) and Lady Bay Beach and Camp Cove (Watson’s Bay).
Obelisk Beach near Mosman is also one of Sydney’s few legal nude beaches, for those who really want to strip down and stay cool.
Rock Pools, Ocean Baths and Harbour Pools
While Sydney’s beaches are some of the best you’ll find, it’s easy to forget the city also has a collection of outdoor pools unlike anywhere else in the world.
There are 35 ocean pools in Sydney – more than any other city anywhere.
Situated in bays or protected by cliffs, some swimming pools are tranquil, their waters mostly still. Others are more exposed to the elements, with colossal waves breaking over their edges in a big swell.
Here’s a selection of Sydney’s best ocean and harbour pools, most of which are netted:
Andrew Boy Charlton Pool is perched right in the heart of the Royal Botanic Gardens overlooking Woolloomooloo Bay. It costs $6.50 for an adult to swim here, although there are a range of membership packages for regular swimmers.
Bondi Icebergs, at the southern end of Bondi Beach, is arguably as famous as the beach itself. This ocean pool has welcomed swimmers year-round (it’s called Icebergs because of the winter swimming) since 1929.
Bronte Baths are a great alternative to swimming in the surf, particularly when its choppy. Built into the rocky cliffside, stairs lead down to a shallow pool area, which is great for families and little nippers.
The Geoff James Pool at Clovelly is a salt water pool. The pool is built into the concrete platform and is 25m with marked lanes and good for lap swimmers.
Just south of Coogee Beach along the coastal walk, Wylies Baths are an ocean tidal pool that sits right below the Maroubra to Bondi coastal walkway. There’s also a canopy and kiosk elevated above the pool to provide panoramic views out to sea.
Mahon Pool at Maroubra is located several beaches south of the more popular tourist beaches at Bondi and Coogee, and therefore it’s a little more relaxed and usually not as crowded.
Murray Rose Pool (aka Redleaf) is a little piece of inner-east paradise, hidden from the road and only accessible by foot, down the stairs behind the Woollahra Council Offices on New South Head Road.
Nearby is Nielsen Park at Vaucluse – one of the most picturesque places to swim and picnic year round. Ominously named Shark Beach, the beach here is protected by 100 m of netting that is replaced every winter.
On the grassy lawns fronting the beach you’ll find Greycliffe House, a Gothic-style mansion built in 1862 as a wedding gift from explorer and journalist William Charles Wentworth to his daughter Fanny.
Dawn Fraser Baths is the oldest pool and swimming club in Australia. The netted, salt water pool at Balmain is completely enclosed and features an elegant green and cream two-storey classical building with wooden fences and decking. There is a 50-metre lap swimming section, a small, shallow beach area (except at high tide), lots of unshaded decking for sunbakers and shaded seating areas.
McCallum Pool (pictured above), just a five-minute walk west from the Cremorne Point ferry wharf, is one of the best kept secrets on the Lower North Shore. Surrounded by a picket fence painted fir-green, this harbourside saltwater pool has been popular with locals since it was built in the 1920s. Framed by timber decking and shaded by trees – with the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a backdrop – it’s an ideal place to relax, sunbake and fritter away a summer’s day.
Watsons Bay Baths were renovated in 2010 to include a new Olympic-size pool with two floating sunbathing pontoons, boardwalk, better seating, Australia’s first deep water wheelchair access to a tidal harbour pool and increased views of the harbour. There are changing rooms, toilets and a kiosk. You can take the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay for an afternoon of swimming or take the 380 bus.
Balmoral Baths (pictured) is located at the southern end of Balmoral Beach, near Mosman. The ocean baths are enclosed with a wooden boardwalk running around it – a magnet for kids who love to run along the boardwalk and jump into the water. Balmoral Beach is not far from Taronga Zoo, so it’s a great spot to cool off after trudging around the zoo all day. It’s biggest downside is that parking is a nightmare.
Chowder Bay Baths at Clifton Gardens is a popular spot for swimming and picnicking. Surrounded by bushland and historic naval buildings that now house popular restaurants and cafes, it’s just five minutes from Taronga Zoo. There is a wharf, enclosed baths, change rooms, childrens playground, lots of grass, picnic tables and several places to buy food.
There are almost a dozen ocean baths and tidal pools in the Sutherland Shire, in Sydney’s southern suburbs. Cronulla’s main ocean pool (pictured), opened in 1932 and was a longtime training facility for local lifeguards.
The Oak Park rock pool, south of Cronulla beach on the Esplanade walk towards Bass & Flinders Point, is also popular. It also made the news in 2017 when a swimmer rescued a young shark trapped in the pool.
The baths at Gunnamatta Park, at Cronulla, are ideal for families and are a great spot to picnic, with plenty of shade and a large covered picnic hut.
The beauty of the Cronulla beaches and ocean pools is that they are the only Sydney beaches connected by a rail line – perfect for tourists wanting an easy day trip from the CBD by train.
The northern beaches are also home to some of Sydney’s best rock pools, many of which are found at popular surf beaches like Dee Why, Collaroy, Freshwater, North Curl Curl and Newport.
The 25-metre Mona Vale rock pool (pictured) – located on a rock outcrop right in the middle of the beach – is one of the most popular and visually appealing.
There’s actually two rock pools here – one for the grown ups and one for the kids.
Cook & Phillip Park Aquatic Centre, located alongside Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral and opposite the Australian Museum, is a great way to cool off in the heart of the CBD. There are three indoor pools – a 50 metre pool, a leisure pool and a hydrotherapy pool. The leisure pool is great for young children and includes a slide, a bubble beach, fountains and a small rapid river run. There’s even a wave machine usually operating on weekends.
Named in recognition of Australia’s five-time Olympic Gold medal swimmer, Ian Thorpe, this aquatic centre next to the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo has three indoor pools and a spa. The building has an iconic wave-shaped roof that rises from the Darling Harbour side towards Harris St.
With a 50m Olympic pool, 50m training pool, a large leisure pool, two baby splash pools, a bubbling beach and a waterslide, this is one of the premier locations to cool off is Sydney’s west. The Aquatic Centre was built for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and is now a magnet for families with young children. It has been known to attract 20,000 to 25,000 on really hot weekends.
If trying to find an elusive parking spot at the beach on a scorching hot day is just not your thing, head to Manly Dam instead. This freshwater lake, officially known as Manly-Warringah War Memorial State Park, is ideal for swimming, kayaking and even water skiing, if booked in advance. There are plenty of towering trees for shade cover and picnic tables that can be booked in advance. To find the dam, head down King Street at Manly Vale until you reach the end. At the entrance you’ll find a small carpark and the start of Picnic Area 1.
When the heat gets a little too much, the best way to cool off and have a great time is by heading for the water park. Wet ‘n’ Wild is Sydney’s newest water park and has some of the biggest and best slides in the country. There are more than 40 rides and attractions at the western Sydney mega park including the Sydney Skycoaster, the Surf Deck, Nickelodeon Beach, the Tantrum, T5, Tropical Cyclone and 360Rush.
Located just two minutes walk from the Manly ferry wharf, Surf ‘n’ Slide has four huge slides, a FlowRider wakeboarding pool and a toddlers’ interactive water zone to keep the kids cool during summer. Manly Surf n Slide is located on the site of the old Manly Waterworks.
What better way to cool down than taking a boat ride through the sub-Antarctic environment at 6 degrees Celsius to meet a colony of King and Gentoo Penguins. A new penguin exhibition at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium – touted as a world first – lets you get up close and personal in an icy cool environment. The ride is included in general admission prices. The aquarium is very busy in summer, so book online to both save money and time.
I have to admit, I’m one of those people who does laps of the frozen food aisle at Coles or Woolworths when the temperature starts to soar. But seriously, just visiting any large air-conditioned shopping centre is a God-send during an Aussie summer, and thankfully Westfield is everywhere. As well as being the biggest shopping centre in Sydney’s CBD, you’ll find Westfield Shopping Centres in the suburbs as well, from Miranda in the south to Chatswood and Hornsby in the north. Westfield Bondi Junction is also a good spot to cool off before or after a day at the beach.
Many of Sydney’s museums are free, air-conditioned and actually quite interesting. So when the temperature soars, this is one of the best places to go. Sydney’s top list of museums include: Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of NSW, Powerhouse Museum and the Australian Museum.
Summer is a great time to catch up on the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Most cinemas are a consistently chilly 11 degrees, so it’s a cool oasis when the temperature is blistering outside. Event Cinemas, Hoyts Cinemas and Dendy Cinemas are the three main cinema chains in Sydney. Why not push the boat out and treat yourself to the Gold Class experience with food and drink delivered to your seat.
It might seem odd, but ice skating is a thing in Sydney all year round, and it’s possibly the best way to keep cool.
Thankfully, a community campaign to save the 39-year-old rink prevailed, and an Olympic-sized rink will be part of the shopping centre planned for the site.
The existing rink is on level one of the Macquarie Shopping Centre at North Ryde. You can leave the kids to skate while you catch up on some shopping.
Skate hire is included in the entry price and each session runs for up to two hours. They have even invited a wacky new sport called Bubble Soccer which sounds like a fun thing to do on a hot day.
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