Sea eagles, Dad’s Army and the Black Head Rock Pool


Travelling up and down the Pacific Highway over the past three weeks we visited a number of pools. First stop was the ocean baths at Black Head about 235 kilometres north of Sydney.



NSW is blessed with 100 ocean baths but there are only five north of Newcastle. There used to be six but I will tell the story of that pool another time. As well as Black Head, the surviving ones are Forster Ocean Baths, Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool, Yamba Ocean Baths and Shelly Beach Wading Pool at Ballina.


The Black Head Pool is the second oldest of the five north coast ocean baths. It was opened on Boxing Day 1941, five years after the Forster pool came into existence. The Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool was opened in 1962 and the Yamba Baths in 1969. I couldn’t find a date for the rock pool at Ballina’s Shelly Beach.


But back to the Black Head Pool. It was very popular with the locals when it opened but with many away serving in World War Two it fell into disrepair. At one stage local fishermen used the pool for a lobster pen as the bottom filled up with seaweed and oysters covered the sides. Fortunately when the war was over members of the Black Head Surf Club and local volunteers cleaned and renovated the pool. They also modified the wading pool and built the footpath and concrete surrounds.


In 2005, Greater Taree Council reconstructed the wall separating the wading pool and larger pool and resurfaced part of the walkway and steps. Two years later, with funds raised from the community and a donation from Dr Billie Greening, Taree Council completely renovated the pool.


We had two swims in the 100 feet long (just over 30 metres) by 30 feet wide pool when we stayed at Diamond Head nearby with keen long boarders’ Graham and Denise. We enjoyed our first dip but our second swim was even better thanks to ‘Dad’s Army’. ‘Dad’s Army’ is a local volunteer group that empty, sweep, hose and refill the pool at low tide every second Thursday.



The second time we swam at the pool it had been cleaned that morning and the water was crystal clear. Late afternoon when we visited it was peak hour with locals and visitors enjoying a dip.


A woman I chatted to had that day recommenced her swimming routine and was pleased to have completed 14 laps. Another local told me she loved to float on her back and watch the sea eagles soar above the pool.


It was great to be back in salt water again and a nice start to our journey to Brisbane. Thanks to Graham and Denise for their wonderful hospitality.


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  • Thanks Jen. I think they are – and pretty much uniquely NSW especially Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. Most of the areas where they were built the Aborigines swam and bathe and then the whites moved in and pushed the Aborigines out. Many of the ocean pools were original rock pools that were expanded by excavating and enlarging and concreting the sides. I could go on and on as it is such a rich and interesting story!

    • Thanks Shayne. So is yours. I enjoy all your reports of the ocean swims. Have only done the Dawny to Cockatoo this season. Hope to do at least one or two this year. Happy swimming.

  • Stayed in the holiday park further up the beach a few times several years ago. As the park had two pools the kids never swam here, but I would jog down the beach, swim a few laps then meander back for breakfast before anyone else was up. Heaven!
    The last photo is interesting as it shows the beach to be a lot narrower now than what it was. This seems all too common, hopefully it is just part of a cycle.

    • Sounds lovely Grame especially if you got the pool to yourself! Hopefully it’s the angle I took the photo or it’s high tide that the beach looks narrower and not the way of the future. Cheers

  • Thanks for posting this very interesting blog. I have been searching many times in the internet which pool in Australia really nice to go for swimming. I think I should try this salt water swimming pool. I am getting excited.


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