Coolest coastal pools for outdoor swimming

the entrance grant mcbride ocean baths from above
the entrance grant mcbride ocean baths from above
Keen to dip your toe into some outdoor swimming? Our coastline is not only lined with some of the best beaches in NSW, it’s dotted with beautiful ocean baths and rock pools too.
With waves of excitement around what some are calling ‘Pool Day’, NSW celebrates a clear step toward freedom with the reopening of all outdoor pools this week. Dive into our natural swimming guide to find your favourite coastal spot to cool off…

Swimming in nature is a great way to reconnect with the world around you and let your worries float away. It’s also a wonderful way to workout – for free. So whether you’re determined to start lap swimming in ocean pools, or keen to paddle at the beach without getting pummelled by several sets of waves, let us guide you from north to south through the Central Coast’s coolest outdoor swimming spots.

In addition to coastal pools, our region’s also offers some quality outdoor swimming facilities away from the beach with modern amenities, such as Gosford Olympic Pool, the Peninsula Leisure Centre, Toukley Aquatic Centre, and Wyong Pool. Make sure you plan your visit and check seasonal opening times for each facility.

Pearl Beach rockpool reflection on water
Pearl Beach Rock Pool
Image: @gallpix via Instagram
Norah Head Rockpool

Built in the 1970s and known today simply as ‘The Rockpool’, even boasting its own sign as you approach the beach, this ring of rocks is one of the star attractions for swimming in the north of the Central Coast. As this pool is mostly sheltered from the oncoming waves, it’s a sensible spot for families with young kids to park up and paddle for a quality beach day with amazing views across Cabbage Tree Harbour (but please note that this beach is unpatrolled).

The rockpool is located down a steep hill – so we recommend parking atop and walking down with your towels. Don’t miss taking a walk to Norah Head Lighthouse via a beachside nature reserve. With the trees lining the sand you can easily set your towel down under some natural shade. Nearby you will find a handful of friendly cafes with outdoor seating, a bakery, fashion boutiques, plus restaurants worth making a day of it for, including Johhny Tapas and Shorethyme.

norah head rockpool from above
Norah Head Rock Pool
Image: @trvisuals via Instagram
the entrance grant mcbride ocean baths
The Grant McBride Baths
Image: From Above
The Grant McBride Baths (The Entrance Ocean Baths)

A short walk from the town centre, these Heritage Listed historic ocean baths located at the southern end of The Entrance Beach, on Ocean Parade, and are open to the public, free of charge, all year round. They have also recently enjoyed a spruce up during the 2021 lockdown! The Entrance Ocean Baths actually started as a basic rock pool, but received a gradual makeover between 1938 and 1965 to become more of a recreation swimming facility, benefitting from some local campaigning to save the pool from potential closure at the time. This battle to save the baths – now considered an iconic attraction of the Central Coast - was led by the late Grant McBride, (State Member for The Entrance from 1992 – 2011), who they are now respectfully named after.

Enjoy the 50-metre Olympic lap pool, 22 metre pool, or paddle safely in the children’s wading pool with views across the channel. You will find amenities and a kiosk for cold drinks are also on site. A lifeguard is on duty at the baths daily between 8am and 1pm, and keep an eye on weekly closures for cleaning to avoid disappointment.

Terrigal Rock Pool aerial shot with boardwalk
Terrigal Rock Pool
Avoca Beach rockpool
Avoca Beach Rock Pool
Image: @davidbensonphotography via Instagram
Terrigal Rock Pool

As part of the exciting new 277-metre long ocean Terrigal Boardwalk between The Promenade and The Haven of this popular seaside hub, there has also been a wonderful upgrade to its adjacent rockpool as part of the NSW Government project completed in April 2021. The restored rockpool is ideal for families and is now easier than ever to access. An access ramp leads you down to the water so it can be enjoyed by those on foot, pram or wheelchair, and new pathways link the rockpool swimming area with the boardwalk and main beach esplanade.  

Avoca Beach Rockpool

Known as a popular surfing beach, the Avoca Beach rockpool is really more of a relaxed, shallow spot for young ones to paddle sheltered from the bigger waves rolling in. Built back in 1948, it’s located right near today’s on-beach café, playground and amenities, so ideal for a simple safe swim with a view for the kids. The floor of this rockpool is stoney, so pay due care to stepping on them when venturing out to the edges.

Macmasters Beach Rockpool
Macmasters Beach Rockpool
Image: @drossphoto
pearl beach pool from above
Pearl Beach Rock Pool
Image: @leximphoto via Instagram
MacMasters Beach Rockpool

A modestly sized 17-metre oceanside rockpool built in the 1960s, suitable for children to paddle and adults to wade in with its soft, sandy floor. However, there is a deeper section around the far edge for those who like lap swimming, and it makes a great scenic spot for watching the surf roll in behind the safety of the manmade wall! MacMasters Beach sits right on the edge of Bouddi National Park, and the start of the popular Bouddi Coastal Walk that stretches all the way to Putty Beach. There’s an on-site café, amenities and views across the the popular surfing cove of Copacabana Beach, separated by a tidal lagoon.

Pearl Beach Rock Pool

Make a plan to swim in this 25-metre pool at sunrise or sunset and the views are absolutely magnificent on its mirror-like surface! Hiding at the southern end of the Central Coast, Pearl Beach is a hidden gem on the crown of 41 beaches belonging to the region. Its dedicated 1920s rockpool sits at the calm, southern end of the beach, and is concreted into the cliffside, like a mini picturesque Iceberg of Bondi! There are railings around the sides and a walking platform, plus ladders to enter the water, and a seat on the side for parents or partners happy to wait with the view.

This rockpool is what you would call a ‘wild swim’, with the ocean’s natural elements (namely seaweed wrapping itself around the ladder) forming part of its secluded appeal. Don’t miss grabbing some local honey from the nearby café, or booking an evening sundowner meal at the charming Pearls on the Beach restaurant.

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