We start the third leg of our Summer Ocean Pool Challenge in soft drizzle, a welcome relief from the hot summer days. While the rain is cool, the water in the pools is warm, and we are used to walking in wet swimming togs. After only four pools last week from Bilgola to Narrabeen, today is a big day with seven pools to swim and 14km of bush and beach.
#8 Collaroy rock pool
Collaroy Rockpool is heaving with the high tide and waves crash through. It is a fun, rolling swim to start the day, and no one gets washed away beyond the chains.
With six more pools to swim ahead of us, once our lap is done we quickly put our shoes back on. From Long Reef headland, we follow the bush path around the lagoon to Dee Why rock pool.
#9 Dee Why
There’s a great coffee shop as you approach Dee Why rock pool, and a collection of outdoor billboards displaying local student art. One of the artworks catches me eye – in the style of Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series, it depicts Long Reef, the curve of the bay, and the rock pool in the foreground in shades of blue.
The Dee Why pool is as lovely as the artwork. We have a glorious swim, and laze around admiring the weathered rocks and birds, while chatting to a local regular morning swimmer.
#10 North Curl Curl and #11 South Curl Curl rock pool
Most of Sydney’s ocean pools are on the southern headland, for protection from the wind. Curl Curl is unique on the northern beaches in having two pools, one to the north and another in the south.
North Curl Curl Rockpool is accessed from the headland via stairs that descend the cliff face, or from the beach with some rock hopping. Besides it’s dramatic headland setting below the cliff, North Curl Curl pool also boasts a rock island. We have a joyous, refreshing paddle in the empty pool.
Barefoot, we follow the arc of the beach sand, watching surfers bob in the water like seals as they wait for the perfect wave. South Curl Curl pool is more family friendly and busier than North Curl Curl, and has a ramp entry and shallow children’s section. We follow the painted lane lines (in a rock pool?) as we swim our lap, then track around the point to Freshwater.
The masters squad swimmer descending the stairs to Freshwater pool in front of me has “Manly” emblazoned across his speedos, the first hint we get that this rock pool means serious swimming business. Freshwater pool is regular shaped, with numbered lanes and painted lines, and concrete steps for spectators to watch the action. I half expect to see signs saying “slow”, “medium” or “fast”. A bird is chilling on the rocks, warming up it’s wings, while kids are tipping each other off a surfboard in the pool. The oldest rock pool on the northern beaches remains a popular spot.
From Freshies, it’s a quick hop over the headland to Queenscliff.
Queenscliff pool immediately disappoints. It’s an uninviting, listless shade of green with ominous signs warning us not to fall in. Despite our better judgement, we dutifully swim a lap between the lane markers and leave as fast as we can.
#14 Fairy Bower Sea Pool
It’s midday now: the drizzle has given way to brilliant sunshine and the early morning high tide has long retreated.
The Fairy Bower sea pool is tiny compared to spacious Dee Why pool, and crowded with people. The bottom of the pool appears almost white, with clear fresh water. We swim a circuit past Helen Leete’s iconic Oceanides sculpture.
We buy a refreshing iced coffee from the kiosk at Manly SLSC, and walk to the bus stop. We’ve now swum all 14 rock pools on the northern beaches.
Next week we go south of the bridge to the eastern surburb beaches, starting with North Bondi pool and the famous Icebergs!
Leg 3 in a nutshell
Transport: free parking at Brookvale commuter parking, then catch the B-Line bus to Collaroy, bus back from Manly at the finish
Start of walk: Collaroy
No of pools: 7
Thank you, Christine for leading the large group on this stretch.
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