Australians own more swimming pools per capita than any other nation in the world. And can you blame us? It’s hot. It’s dry. We crave that life-giving water. Those summer swimming lessons are more or less a true blue Aussie baptism.


But for those of us without our own personal pool, there’s still plenty of places to access that salty goodness. Forget the claustrophobic-chlorine nightmare of an indoor pool – we’re talking ocean pools. 

NSW is lucky to have a plethora of ocean pools dotted up and down the coast, in particular the Illawarra region surrounding Wollongong, just south of Sydney. Almost each and every suburb around Wollongong has its own ocean pool or bath for lazing away those bright summer days. 

Driving from north to south, explore the Illawarra ocean pools all in one day or take your time and find these gems one at a time. 

Coalcliff Ocean Pool

Coalcliff Ocean Pool really makes you feel like you’re swimming on the edge of the world. The sheer, towering cliffs to the north are almost other-worldly. This particularly shallow pool (the water never made it past my waist) is situated amongst the sprawling rock platform to the south of Coalcliff Beach. It’s shorter and smaller than most other pools on the coastline, so don’t turn up expecting to swim laps. Come for a dip, stay for the spectacular view. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Coalcliff, ocean, pool, escarpment, cliffs

How to get there

You won’t drive past this pool along the main road. If you’re driving south, take the last turn to the left before Sea Cliff Bridge onto Paterson Rd. This quiet residential street does a great job of hiding the pool. Look for the park with a playground and shower/toilet facilities and follow the steep path that leads down to the rock shelf and pool. 

Wombarra Ocean Pool

The quiet and pleasant Wombarra Ocean Pool is one of the most authentic ocean pools in the Illawarra. Sitting between the sand and rocks at the southern end of Wombarra Beach, seaweed covers the bottom and far wall of the pool, making your swim au naturel. There’s a shallow kids’ pool alongside it and a gorgeous view of the escarpment to the north.

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Wombarra, ocean, escarpment, pool, rocks, beach, sand

How to get there

To find this little slice of peace and quiet, turn onto Reef Ave from Lawrence Hargrave Drive and follow the road down the hill and around the corner to the carpark. You’ll find a toilet and shower block, as well as a park and playground just up the hill. 

Coledale Ocean Pool

This is one sneaky ocean pool, but boy is it worth finding. Hiding away on a rocky outcrop at the southern end of Coledale Beach, Coledale Ocean Pool is the place to go for a private float, splash or swim. This sandy-bottomed sanctuary isn’t too deep and has a cute and extremely shallow kids’ pool right by it. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Coledale, pool, ocean, rocks, swim

How to get there

To get to Coledale Ocean Pool, take a turn off Lawrence Hargrave Drive onto Cater St (there’s a great view of the pool from the grassy headland) or Northcote St, and find a park on the street. Walk down the hill onto the beach or rocks and across to the pool. 

Austinmer Ocean Pool

Austinmer is lucky enough to have two ocean pools side by side, located right on the main beach in front of the Surf Life Saving Club. One is slightly longer than the other, but both are great for laps or a cheeky splash. There’s plenty of grass and sand close by, as well as the Austi Beach Cafe across the road, making it a great spot to set up for the day. But don’t expect to have this pool to yourself. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Austinmer, ocean, pool, swimmers

How to get there

Its location on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, the main stretch through Austinmer, makes it hard to miss and very popular. There’s a car park close by, but you’ll be lucky to snag a spot on the weekend. 

Bulli Ocean Pool

Located between the rocks and sand at the northern end of Bulli Beach lies Bulli Ocean Pool. This gorgeous pool faces west to east, meaning you swim towards the ocean during your morning butterfly laps. There’s a small kids’ pool at this one and Bulli Beach Cafe is just metres away, making it a popular place for families. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Bulli, ocean, pool, sand, beach, swimmers, rocks

How to get there

You can cycle or walk to Bulli Ocean Pool along the coastline cycleway, or by driving to the car park on Trinity Row at the northern end of Bulli Beach and wandering down the headland onto the sand. 

Woonona Ocean Pool

Resting on the headland separating Woonona and Bulli Beaches is the gorgeous Woonona Ocean Pool. This 50m long pool is possibly the most established in the area – complete with diving blocks and pavilion style change rooms. There’s plenty of concrete space around the pool to lay a towel, making it a popular spot for families and those looking to get in their daily laps.

To the south of the headland is a popular surf break that offers plenty of viewing pleasure when the swell picks up. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Woonona, pool, swimmers, diving blocks, ocean

How to get there

To find the pool, follow Kurraba Rd to the carpark on the headland and either use the stairs to the south or ramp to the north to access the pool. 

Bellambi Ocean Pool

Please Note: Bellambi Ocean Pool is currently undergoing maintenance until further notice.

One of the few pools positioned just metres from the coastal bike path (and about halfway along), Bellambi Ocean Pool is the perfect spot to jump off the bike and into the water. From its southerly position, it offers a beautiful panorama of the northern escarpment. 

It’s also a great spot for families, with a playground and park area for the kids, plus plenty of entertainment from the local surf break just over the pool wall. Head north up the bike path for a bite to eat and brew from Olive’s Cafe at the Surf Life Saving Club. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, photo courtesy of Wollongong City Council, Bellambi, pool, ocean, escarpment, beach

Photo courtesy of Wollongong City Council

How to get there

If you’re in the car, head to the carpark at the end of Robert Cram Dr, where there’s usually plenty of parking (except when the swell’s pumping). 

Towradgi Ocean Pool

Located at the end of Towradgi Road on the rocky outcrop that separates Corrimal and Towradgi beaches you’ll find Towradgi Ocean Pool. This pool meets the ocean and gets plenty of wave and swell action on windy days and during high tide, so be cautious! The pool has concrete spectator style seating, so there’s plenty of places to lay your towel (and yourself) in the sun. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Towradgi, ocean, pool, sand, beach, waves

How to get there

There’s heaps of parking just up the road, as well as a great kids’ playground and the local bowls club. The bike path also skirts right past, making the pool super accessible on two feet or wheels as well. 

Wollongong Gentlemen’s Pool

As you pass along the newly refurbished Blue Mile Track, you’ll find the Gentlemen’s Pool, just next to the Continental Pool, between North Gong Beach and Belmore Basin. This was once traditionally the Gentlemen’s Baths and now is one of the most popular ocean pools in the region, especially for late-night nudey dips after a night on the town. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Wollongong Gentlemen's Pool, Blue Mile, ocean, rocks, pool

Waves flow over the east end of the pool at high tide and storms can wash out the pool and surrounding rocks altogether, so be aware of the mood swings of the ocean. The pool is also accessible from Cliff Rd if you’re in the car (may the parking fairy be with you). Keep trucking along the Blue Mile for cafes, takeaway shops and more vistas of the gorgeous Gong. 

You might even stumble across this sneaky secret ocean bath!

Wollongong Nun’s Baths

This bath’s a bit of a secret – because it used to be exclusively used by nuns. Hidden within the rock platform below Flagstaff Hill at the northern end of City Beach in Wollongong, you won’t find this pool unless you’re looking for it. To get there, you’re going to have to hitch up your habit and ask for forgiveness as you jump the fence at the end of the headland and trot down the steep descending goat trail. 

Swim In One Of These Illawarra Ocean Pools This Summer, Amy Fairall, Wollongong Nun's Baths, ocean, pool, rocks, headland, waves

This pool isn’t as well maintained as the rest of the pools in the area – it’s mostly a wall damming up a small pebbly bay to form a bath – but the solitude is worth it. Find a bit of space on the rock shelves to lay your towel and paddle around in the holy water.