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A shot of the outside pool at North Sydney pool. The Sydney Harb
Photograph: Steven Ward - Destination NSW

Our favourite places to swim

Time Out Sydney editors share where they like to go to wash off the cobwebs

Written by
Time Out editors

Sydney's been blessed with a lot of swimming spots. In fact, the beauty and variety of our dipping options is so great, some would argue it's the best thing about the city. 

Certainly, there's enough by way of pools and beaches that it's possible to find a watery spot to suit any taste. Scared of waves? There's somewhere flat for you. Hate sand? No problem. Can't make it to the beach? An after work dip is still totally do-able. 

Our favourite places to swim in Sydney

Andrew Boy Charlton Pool
  • Sport and fitness
  • Sydney

Lifestyle Editor Emma Joyce

The ABC pool only opens during the warmer months, which is handy because I’m a wimpy seasonal swimmer. When the temperature rises, there’s nowhere better to cool off and get the heart rate pumping than at this harbourside pool. It’s salty, but also treated water, so it has a perfect balance of feeling like you’re in an ocean pool but everyone sticks to their training lanes. Reward your efforts with a watermelon icy pole from the kiosk then catch your breath, and some rays, on the pool deck.
Bondi Beach
  • Things to do
  • Bondi Beach

Editorial Intern Charlotte Vystavel

I’m new to Sydney, so I have to say Bondi. I can already see your eyes rolling, but stick with me – it’s everything I imagined a beach in Australia would be: golden sands, crystal waters, sun-kissed surfers... I soak it up and fall for it every time. I have probably taken 58 photos ofIcebergs, but I’m not ashamed. There’s something captivating about the calmness of the pool water juxtaposed with the calamity of the crashing waves. However, I wasn’t prepared for the number of Budgie Smugglers on display.
Gordon's Bay
  • Things to do
  • Sydney

Music and Nightlife Editor Jordan Kretchmer

Walking down to Gordon’s Bay is almost as good as swimming in it. The stroll down the busy, boardwalk path makes you instantly forget about the hustle and bustle of the city nearby. I love the first reveal of the palms trees and sparkly blue alcove as you walk down – it makes me feel like I’m on holidays! Pass by the fishing club and find a spot on the rocks to relax for the day. BYO picnic as there are no cafés around, and bring your snorkelling gear. I love jumping off the rocks or bringing down an inflatable lilo to bob along in all day.
Lady Jane Beach
  • Things to do
  • Watsons Bay

Sydney Editor Alyx Gorman

If you’ve never felt the salty tang of the open ocean on your unclothed lady (or boy) bits, you’re not really living. In Sydney, Lady Bay Beach is one of the only places you can legally skinny dip. It’s a craggy, rocky bit of beach right at the easternmost end of the Harbour – because where we live, they’re not going plonk the nudie beach in a spot that’s picturesque. Speaking of views, you’ll be surrounded by blokes ranging from somewhat to severely saggy, but the no-tan-lines regulars are all part of the fun. Technically, you’re not meant to drink on any Sydney beach, but Lady Bay is also a winner because there are rarely members of the constabulary around to make you pour out your bubbly. Just remember, one is for courage, two is for joy, and after three you shouldn’t go back in the water.
McIver's Ladies Baths
  • Sport and fitness
  • Coogee

Arts & Culture Editor Dee Jefferson

A couple of summers ago I re-discovered this cliff-side swimming spot, built in 1886, thanks to some ex-Sydney friends who were in town escaping New York winter and who really appreciated the value of an ocean pool. We spent a couple of amazing mid-afternoons there, and I’ve never looked back. The view is stunning, the water is salty fresh and shark-free, and there’s a couple of strips of grass at the top of the cliff where you can set up solar panel-style with a book. It’s girls only, and the mix of people there is wonderful and rare: kids with mums, gal pals, lesbians, women whose religion forbids them bathing in front of men… Some girls go topless, but there’s none of the leary culture you might get on a main beach: it feels like a safe space, a little haven. My lady-friend and I appreciate being able to have those casual moments of carefree beachside intimacy without stares or heckles. We’re also pretty scared of sharks.
Parsley Bay Reserve
  • Things to do
  • Vaucluse

Bars and Pubs Editor Emily Lloyd-Tait

When you're hungover, dunking your whole body in the big blue is a good plan. But you also don't want to have to fight for your life with breakers and rips, or spend too much time next to small children whose screams hit the exact pitch that makes your wave of nausea a tsunami. This is why Parsley Bay is the perfect spot to recover your lost sense of self. The long, deep inlet means that the young’uns stay at the beach end, and you and your flamingo floaty ring can jump in at the deep end up near the shark nets. You don’t have to drift far from the stairs before you’re all alone, floating in a turquoise pool and rapidly feeling 100 per cent better.
Prince Alfred Park Pool
  • Sport and fitness
  • Surry Hills

Sub Editor Daniel Winter

This parkside pool might be slap-bang next to Central Station, but on a sunny Saturday afternoon it feels a world away. With its green lawns sloping gently down to the 50-metre pool, colourful sun umbrellas and coffee shop, it’s an oasis for young inner-city families splashing around in the free-play areas as much as for the young Sydneysiders and backpackers frolicking next to them, and the more serious swimmers negotiating the six speed-graded lap swimming lanes. I come here on weekends for the exercise that somehow eludes me during the week and swim a minimum of 20 laps (1km), but often do 30 or 40, sunbaking in between, sipping a coffee, reading, catching up on fact and fiction. If there’s a better place to exercise and relax, let me know.
North Sydney Olympic Pool
  • Sport and fitness
  • Milsons Point

Restaurants and Cafés Editor Freya Herring

I’m a restaurant critic. Sounds like a dream job, right? True, it’s pretty freaking epic. But think about it: I had to try 20 different hot chocolates in two days. TWENTY. My solution to all of this gluttony? I go to the gym, a lot, and I swim laps. There is nowhere nicer to do so, in my mind, than at the North Sydney Olympic Pool. You know that scene in The Philadelphia Story when Katharine Hepburn dives into the pool? That’s what I think of every time I swim here. From the slightly battered, original 1936 changing rooms, to the tall, elegant arches separating pool from harbour, it’s pure Art Deco elegance. Katie would have loved it.
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