The Pool Blog

Daily Dip Updates

Newcastle Ocean Baths – a vision of art deco grandeur

by Jan 6, 2022

The best thing about the Newcastle Ocean Baths is the art deco entrance. It speaks to a real grandeur of vision. At some point in the last century or even prior, someone looked at this bit of land and thought – we could have a really great pool here. And then in Newcastle’s case, some ten years after the pool was built, someone thought ‘let’s put a beautiful art deco façade up so that when you walk through the entrance it feels magnificent’.

The world has many amazing pools. If you ever get a chance to walk around the pool William Randolph Hearst build in San Simeon to host parties with Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart at the weekend, then do. It’s a real tribute to the vision – and funds – that Hearst had. I think that the façade at the Newcastle Baths is right up there in terms of vision. This is a world-class entrance to a pool. I found some images of the original construction work here.

With that in mind, I am grateful to read that the Newcastle Council will be upgrading the pool – because it needs it. There’s nothing wrong per se, it’s just a bit tired. It is a concrete pool with sand on the floor. The water feels a bit muddy, and I know that upgrade will include a new pump station. It had good access points, reasonable changing rooms, and hot showers which are a treat, but none of that makes up for the peeled paintwork and the sad state of the concrete.

There’s a 50-meter lap pool which is great – I do like it when lappers and funsters don’t have the share the same space. There’s a huge pool in the middle for swimmers of all shapes and sizes and then there’s the Canoe Pool for youngsters. The layout, with the three pools situated between Nobby’s Beach and Newcastle Beach, is great and the pools are south facing so get the best of the sun. However, it doesn’t compare well to the facilities we experienced at Forster yesterday. The planned upgrade looks great – details are here – and builds on both the art deco history and the enviable location. I look forward to re-visiting in a few years when the impact of the entrance is held up by the pool experience.

The state of NSW ocean pools is one of the things that I wanted to bring to attention through this blog series. These pools are an incredible resource – NSW has the largest collection of ocean pools in the world. I totally understand they are expensive to maintain and salute Newcastle Council for making this investment. Newcastle is a big city, however, and the council has the funds to do this. Some of these pools are in less affluent areas and there are many pools we are not visiting because they are no longer functional. There is no definitive list of these coastal pools. There’s a list in Wikipedia that refers to 100 pools, but many of these are no longer in use. Personally, I think these pools should be considered a heritage swimming trail that we market as a tourist experience – ‘come to NSW and see how many pools you can swim’ kind of thing. Then perhaps they would get the funds they need to ensure they are still here in 100 years’ time and the vision that brought them into existence lives on.