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Summer Ocean Pool Challenge – Coogee to Malabar

At 5am, in bucketing rain, I wonder how many of our walkers today will turn up to the fifth leg of the Summer Ocean Pool Challenge. By 6am, the rain seems to have eased and the forecast is for clear skies after 7am. It is however cold, but this is a welcome relief from the scorching temperatures of Bondi to Coogee last weekend. I pack a rain jacket and head out the door.

Everyone turns up on time at our parking near Randwick Golf Club, and we “Uber” to the start at South Coogee. I am grateful for the rain jacket – it is not just cold but seriously windy (a southerly no less) and I find that I need the extra layer for wind protection. Everyone else dons their rain jackets too.

#22 Wylies Baths

Our first pool today is Wylies Baths – fabulous historic baths in Coogee. The building is reminiscent of a bygone era with a magnificent view through the doorway to the distant ocean and a breathtaking platform over the pool below. We remind ourselves again that this is the Eastern Suburbs as we pay $5 entry fee to swim. We wander down the steps, greeted by the resident feline, the waves are crashing over the baths and it looks more than little bit interesting. We have timed our visit to coincide with high tide which is not deliberate but fortunately Wylies Baths has a lifeguard on duty – a precaution we feel is worth it given the rogue waves on display.

A local has already been for his swim and points out the best way into the baths to avoid the swell and rocks. Most of us (but not all) bravely venture forth into water that would look at home in a washing machine. Fortunately, it is pleasantly warm in the water (much warmer than the air temperature) although the swell makes it a rather laborious 2 lap swim. At one stage, I swear that I am going backwards. There is no way that I am going to swim close to the ocean edge – somewhere in the middle feels relatively safe.

After our swim, we warm up with a coffee which is surprisingly good. We then head along the coast following the Coastal Walkway using the Randwick City Council map.  We are all still wearing rain jackets although the skies now look promising – cloudy but less likely to rain.

#23 Ivor Rowe Rock Pool

Our second pool today is the tiny, round Ivor Rowe rock pool. Whilst this is not the easiest to find, there are some obvious steps which lead off the walkway to a rock platform in South Coogee. The natural rock pool below could easily be overlooked as it is probably only 10m wide, but it does have some old wooden pillars marking its formation.

This is not a pool to swim as it is very shallow – more of one to wade in really. A sign near the steps announces that there have been 2 deaths in the area. It is meant to deter rock fishermen, but it also puts off a few of our swimmers who decide to stay safely above the rock platform. We observe the waves around the rockpool and decide it is safe. This is clearly one to avoid at high tide but we are now an hour after that and the waves that make it into the rockpool look more inviting than dangerous. The steps are however slippery but the wade (although some managed to swim it) is worth it. We agree that this one is the cutest pool so far.

#24 Rob Walker Rock Pool

Our third pool of the day is much harder to find. There is no mention of it on the Randwick City Council website and it is also not covered in the Ocean Pools NSW blog. Initially we walk all the way to Mahon Pool in North Maroubra before realising that we have missed it. We ask a local resident but they haven’t heard of it either.

We turn around and head back guided by Google Maps which has marked the Rob Walker rock pool on a track somewhere off Marine Parade. There appears to be an old ocean pool which has been filled in with concrete along the way and we wonder if the Rob Walker pool is permanently shut. However, we persevere along the rocks and find the most secret rock pool in Sydney.

The Rob Walker rock pool is again a natural rock pool, slightly larger than the Ivor Rowe rock pool, but with a spectacular infinity edge and a gentle waterfall effect from the waves. We all immediately like it. The surface is somewhat precarious with marine life and most of us opt to leave our sandals on for our swim/wade. Beside the rock pool there is a spectacular erosion of the sandstone cliffs – we like that too. We depart, very pleased to have found the pool and happy we didn’t miss such a treasure.

#25 Mahon Rock Pool

Heading back to Mahon Pool, we are relieved to see it looks considerably safer than when we first saw it over half an hour ago. The wind is quite fearsome as we round the Coastal Walkway to Maroubra and we are still grateful for those rain jackets. The Mahon Pool is spectacular, but it is not one we want to attempt two hours either side of high tide in a southerly – resembling the wash off the Manly jet cat. We decide however that we have timed it perfectly. Our minor mishap/detour has allowed us extra time to make sure Mahon Pool is safe to swim in.

Some of us elect to swim in our sandals as there is a sign advertising marine life in the pool but others find it safe in bare feet. It is not an easy swim (I again appear to be going backwards) and the wind in my face from the southerly presents an annoying spray so I decide that back- or side-stroke is the best way to tackle the elements. We all agree that the setting among the rocks is stunning.

After a leisurely walk along Maroubra Beach, with the sand between our toes and the wind in our hair, we find a ring of stones on the south end of the beach. This is possibly another unofficial rock pool but appears to us to be more of a wave barrier. We decide it doesn’t officially count as an ocean pool and walk on. The wind has given most of us a gentle skin exfoliation – far cheaper and probably far more effective than anything a salon could provide. We are relieved to walk off the beach and avoid more sand blasting though.

From Maroubra Beach we head into Malabar Headland National Park along a beautiful new coastal path which skirts the eastern headland around the fire range to Boora Point. The views here are splendid and we all greatly appreciate the new path and boardwalk which have made this area so accessible. For the first time today, we start to warm up and the rain jackets come off. Even when we round the corner and feel the brunt of the southerly, it now feels welcoming rather than cold. Whilst there is a slight fruity whiff at times, we are all smiling, admiring the scenery and hardly notice the Malabar sewerage works. The sun is shining but the cooler temperature means this 4km track is very accessible and easy to cover in the middle of a summer’s day.

#26 Malabar Rock Pool

We head into Malabar for our final pool of the day, Malabar Rock Pool, which is located just below Randwick Golf Club. It has spectacular views of Long Bay and is sheltered from the southerly making it the first calm pool of the day. The water is rippling and it looks wonderfully inviting. As we have finally warmed up, the temperature now feels a little colder but we all dive in and swim our two laps with ease.

There is a refreshing shower here but no changing facilities before we head back to our cars.

Next week, our final pools are at Cronulla.

Leg 5 in a nutshell

Transport: park Randwick Golf Course, cnr Bay and Howe Rd, Malabar, and taxi or Uber to Coogee
Start of walk: Wylies Baths, Coogee
Finish: Malabar
Distance: 12km
No of pools: 5

Thank you, Fee for leading the group on this leg.


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