Dawn Fraser Baths (open Oct – April), Balmain
Not sure I’ve ever seen so many signs around a swimming area. No bombing, splashing, pushing, littering, ball games, diving, smoking, or drinking chardonnay. And watch out for stingers. That was just the entrance.
At first approach of the pool I did think the real life swimming Legend Dawn Fraser might have been the on-duty lifeguard. At second glance I realized she was her Balmain doppelganger, but just like real Dawn, she didn’t suffer fools when it came to disciplining local children. “No throwing sand, no jumping in the shallows,” she told a group of 10-year-olds. She was extremely efficient.
Officially Australia’s oldest public pool and swimming club, the Dawn Fraser Baths is a harbour pool. A sandy shore is surrounded by an extensive 360 degree wooden decking that offers ample space for sunbathing. The position is pretty, Cockatoo Island lies directly behind while the baths offers views of the city, Balmain and some tidy looking yachts. Due to this being authentic harbour water the clarity levels are not great, but hey, this is the inner-west. It’s hotter here and it does not have the advantage of coastline like the East. But on the plus side the vibe is much more real. Local families chat about heading to the Sydney fish market for a Saturday night barbeque, next to a heavily tattooed solo mum who splashes about with her kids. ‘Dawn’ watches from the shade.
High Points: The size of the pool is great and allows for proper swimming (lanes are in place) plus room for the teens to go nuts
Low points: The water is a little murky and you do need to avoid jellyfish although most seemed harmless.
Attire: Tattoos, Goa beach bags, body boards and large sticks for poking jellyfish
Entry fee: $4.90
Best for: Children who need discipline and cooling off in Sydney’s inner west
Overall Score: 6.8