Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Finished! (Well, except for maybe....)

Two weeks short of two years ago, I set out on a daft quest to swim at least one length of every ocean rock pool and tidal swimming enclosures along the coastline of Sydney. There have been several legs of this silly journey over the two years, and today was the final leg. I have now swum the long coastline of Sydney via its ocean and estuarine baths (with the exception of Freshwater pool which was closed for cleaning on the day I went there, and to where I must one day return).


Taylors Point Baths

Taylors Point Baths at Clareville Beach

The shark nets are suspended from rows of buoys

I actually missed these tidal baths back in December when I swam the enclosures in Pittwater. I backtracked today, and swam in the warm, salty water. Dark clouds were racing overhead as I swam, and I was worried my final swimming day would be dark and drizzly.

Scotland Island

On the ferry to Scotland Island

Swimming enclosure by the ferry wharf

Scotland Island's tidal baths

A warm, salty swim

Scotland Island is an inhabited island in Pittwater. It's about a kilometre in length. The only access is by boat. While many residents own and operate their own boats, there is also a regular ferry that calls at several public wharves. On the north shore of the island, at a public reserve, there is a swimming enclosure.  

The day was getting sunnier and warmer when I caught the ferry. I was enjoying the ride across the waters in the autumn sunlight. The ferry pulled up at the Tennis Courts public wharf and I jumped off. The swimming enclosure was right there next to the wharf. The baths consisted of stone walls and an extension of nets suspended from buoys. It was low tide and the water was very shallow. I needed to wade out quite some distance before it was deep enough to swim. 

Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park

Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park is a large expanse of high sandstone ridges and cliffs that fall away to winding creeks and rivers all flowing to the Hawkesbury River, Broken Bay and Pittwater. The slopes of the ranges are heavily forested, while the creek banks are lined with mangroves. There are also many small beaches on creeks and bays. There are many heritage sites of Aboriginal rock-engravings and paintings within the park. I have done a bit of bushwalking in this national park in the past. Although it's at the northern limit of Sydney, it's easy to access by public transport, as there are walks into the park from several railway stations.

Illawong Bay

Illawong Bay on Coal And Candle Creek

Steps to the swimming enclosure

I can remember passing the Illawong Bay swimming enclosure many times over the years I've been in Sydney. Usually I was on my way to a bushwalk, so never got around to having a swim there.

Although the enclosure is still indicated on all the maps, it has been gone for some time (as I found out, to my surprise, today). It's pretty easy to see where it used to be, and there are still sets of steps leading into the water. In the end, I swam around the area of the old baths and just ignored the lack of a shark net.

Hawkesbury River

The Hawkesbury River is one of the largest river systems in New South Wales. Together with its major tributary, the Nepean River, it practically encloses the entire area of the Sydney Basin. It forms the northern limit to Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park, and, effectively, the northern limit to metropolitan Sydney.


Brooklyn is a town on the river close to the mouth at Broken Bay. There is a swimming enclosure on the Hawkesbury here.

Brooklyn Baths on the Hawkesbury River

The last swim

The day was glorious and sunny as I entered the last tidal baths on my swim along Sydney's coast. I've been bushwalking up around Brooklyn before, and have swum from small beaches in the area, but this was my first swim in this enclosure. 

It's a long way from Gunnamatta Bay and the Hacking River where I started this Deakinesque swim trek. It's taken a couple of years, and there have been times when I have wished that I hadn't started it, but I'm pretty pleased to be writing this now, having finally finished. 

But wait....there is still at least one ocean rock pool (Freshwater) to be revisited. Then there's Kyeemagh and Dolls Point tidal baths (both on Botany Bay) should they ever re-open, plus Tambourine Bay baths on the Lane Cove River should they ever reopen.......but I think it unlikely.  Councils with harbour and river shorelines are moving away from the simple tidal baths to chlorinated or saline swimming pool complexes. Within the one complex they can provide lap pools, children's and non-swimmers shallow pools and water play features. They can run many recreation programmes, and, increasingly, operate a gym from the same complex. While I think the ocean baths and the larger harbour pools will endure, I also think it likely that the smaller enclosures will gradually disappear. I think that's a pity. I wouldn't begrudge anybody the modern swimming complex, but I don't know why we couldn't have both.

Well, I'm off now. However, I may well post on this blog again.... after all, I heard a rumour today that there's a shark net at The Basin beach in Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park. The Basin, on Pittwater, is only accessible by boat or by bushwalking along the track from West Head. Now I really should investigate that rumour.

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