Boxing Day dip in the briney at the Woolwich tidal baths

Woolwich Baths 7

Woolwich Baths 7

With the tide almost reaching the two metre mark, yesterday Bruce and I and my sister and her kids went for a swim at Woolwich Baths. The simple baths on the Lane Cove River used to be known as ‘Mooney’s mud hole’ after the chap who lived behind the ticket booth and shop (no longer there) in a large canvas tent with wooden floor.

In the 1950s and 60s Mr Mooney looked after the pool and taught some of the locals to swim among the jelly blubbers and occasional blue swimmer crabs. For my sister and I,  products of Northbridge Baths, another Sydney harbour pool, swimming in the high tide, salt water was bliss, and Bruce, Will, Rosie and Mary thought it was pretty good too!


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  • I thought I was the only non-local who knew about these baths. Though I only manage to visit once or twice a year (it’s a bit of a haul from Caringbah), I’ve also noticed it’s not the best at low tide. The actual beach itself is not very enticing, but mid week during school term it’s wonderful to lounge on the timber boards and pretend it’s my private pool.

    • Hi Graeme, my cousins live near by so have been hearing about the Woolwich Baths for many years but this was my first swim there. It was really high tide the day we went there so was quite lovely in but as you say not so sure what it would be like at low tide. I think my cousins used to call it the mud hole! When we first arrived only one woman was there – chilling out near the change rooms – so I think it is a place where you could have it all to yourself and as you say pretend it’s your private pool.

      Living down at Caringbah do you ever swim at the Gunnamatta Bay Baths or the Gymea Baths? The Gymea ones are a bit hidden like the Woolwich Baths and I imagine would be at their best at high tide too. Happy swimming!

      • Have done Therese, but was somewhat wary about both places. Gymea Bay had a bad reputation relating to a long term leaking sewer main. May have been fixed, but still has one of the worst Beachwatch ratings in Sydney. Gunnamatta was more popular, but it was generally believed that the boat waste removal system was overwhelmed by the number of boats! Again, may have been fixed, but I still have doubts about how well the bay is flushed by the tide.

        The one you did not mention, Lilli Pilli Baths, is probably the cleanest (and closest) of the three Port Hacking baths as the northern channel virtually goes through the pool. I swam here regularly for exercise when still working. No beach, lots of sharp oyster shells, overgrown grass and a jetty often crowded with fishermen who had an aversion to cleaning up when they left did not encourage one to hang around. Now retired with more time to spare, I can go a bit further afield for a nicer ‘experience’.

        • I haven’t ever swum at Gymea Baths but dropped by there one day to have a look when I went to an exhibition at the Hazelhurst Gallery. They looked good that day but I had read reports about pollution. When I played water polo for Northbridge back in the mid to late 70s I played a few games at the Gunnamatta Bay Baths. Back then I thought every other harbour tidal pool wasn’t as good at Northbridge Baths, even though from time to time it had and still does have issues with stormwater rushing in after rain and has to be closed. I must try the Lilli Pilli Baths. Stay in touch and let me know if you discover somewhere lovely to swim. Happy swimming.


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