Thursday, 5 March 2009

Dawn Fraser Baths, Balmain

Dawn Fraser was one of Australia's greatest competitive swimmers. She was the 100m freestlye at three successive Olympic Games - Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964).

Dawn was born and raised, and still lives in, the harbourside suburb of Balmain. It used to be a rough-and-tumble working class suburb, the home of many waterfront workers. It's full of little cottages from the Victorian and later eras.

Nowadays, Balmain is very upmarket indeed. But one feature which has survived all the changes is the tidal flow salt water harbour pool in Elkington Park, named since 1968 after "Our Dawn", who swam and trained here as a girl.

The pool has existed since the early 1880s, and is a listed Heritage Building on the National Trust and on
the Register of the National Estate.

Its swimming club, Balmain Swimming Club, formed in 1884 is probably the oldest in Australia, and meets for all ages, from juniors to 'Golden Oldies', every Saturday afternoon during the summer season.

There are several harbourside pools in Sydney, but none (?) / not many (?) of this heritage status. It's a great way to swim in the harbour without risking being bitten by a shark!


  1. Ah, Sydney's harbourside pools. A delight. Did you take a swim? I hope you did, I believe you must have !

    I enjoyed seeing the photo of you and Anne. I'm so pleased you and her managed to meet !

  2. Really, you have some of the most interesting and beautiful pools I have ever seen!

  3. Oh dear, that shark remark gave me a start!

  4. I still dream to go there...but, its great place according me...

  5. I'm old enough to remember Dawn Fraser - a great swimmer.Lovely post Sally.

  6. I remember her too.

    A great swimmer. Oh the sharks don't bear thinking about!

  7. My wife and I swam in the Dawn Fraser pool just before Christmas. It is huge - with swimming lanes and room for Water Polo. We were the only ones there apart from the staff. We liked the old fashioned feel to the place.

    Sue and I were on our second visit from England and set out each morning for a different pool as the start to that day's exploration of Sydney. We used ferries and buses - the people we met giving us directions and friendly conversations. “Australians are the best swimmers in the world. They win medals at it; we are brought up with it”. Whether our fellow passenger was boasting or being matter of fact, there is no doubting that Sydneysiders have wonderful facilities.

    Other pools we visited included the Andrew "Boy" Charlton, the underground Olympic size one at Cook and Phillip Park , the North Sydney Olympic pool ,the Ian Thorpe Centre, The Icebergs at Bondi and one at North Curl Curl. We were disappointed that the tiny pool in the park at Cremorne was shut for repairs.

    I noticed that you have photographs of some of the pools on the cliff walk from Bondi to Coogee. We are saving those for our next visit.

    One of the movies shown in the Australian season on the Quantas flight over was the old 1930s "Lovers and Luggers" and we were surprised to learn that while the film was shot on location on Thursday Island, the underwater fight scene was filmed in the North Sydney Pool.

  8. Fabulous boothy! Hope to run in to you next time!

    You might enjoy my Swimming blog:

  9. Sally, do you know where I can find out how the baths work? I am really interested in Baths and Spas and how they work :) Thanks

  10. Chloe: can you leave me an email address? I have a photo of a board outside the baths which shows the water quality improvement project in place.

    Otherwise, it is just a tidal baths - water level rises and falls accordingly.

    For more info I'd suggest you contact Leichhardt Municipal Council or the baths. Home page here: