(above main image courtesy of Kramer Photography)

Do you need a little saltwater therapy without the sand or the shories? Our Wollongong and Illawarra region has dozens of tidal rock and swimming pools just waiting to be discovered. These delicious ocean refreshed pools range from rock pool to Olympic in size and design, so you’re sure to find your perfect fit. Read on for a What’s on In Wollongong local guide to the best rock pools in Wollongong and Illawarra.

Want to make a day of it? Check out our local’s guide to beachside dining in Wollongong and Illawarra with ocean views for lunch or dinner here or plan the ultimate picnic day out with our guide to the top spots in Wollongong and Illawarra here

Author’s Note: The rock pools on the list are refreshed by high tides. They do not have pumps or filtration. They are routinely cleaned by Wollongong City Council, so please check the council webpage for scheduled cleaning closures. Note: these natural pools can still become excessively full of algae or sand on occasion. You may meet the odd sea creature too!

Austinmer Rock Pool

Big waves make their way into Austinmer Pool at high tide

A beloved local hang-out spot and a real winner with kids of all ages. These twin pools sit side by side perpendicular to the ocean, overlooked by an historic pavilion. Both (usually) have sandy bottoms and stay pretty much free of algae, even in the summer. 

On the rock platform to the south there is a third natural rock pool that is wonderful for paddling.
When the tide is high the waves wash into both pools and make for some wild swimming (which bigger kids will absolutely love.)

Austinmer Rock Pool has near-by cafes, a fenced playground and a patrolled beach as well. The area gets very popular on sunny weekends, so parking can become tricky.

Open year round, free of cost

Facilities: toilets, change rooms, cold showers, cafes, playground.

Location: Lawrence Hargrave Dr, Austinmer. There is a medium sized parking area that fills up fast. This pool is accessible by public transport.

Bellambi Rock Pool

Still waters of Bellambi Rock Pool in the early morning…

Bellambi Rock Pool has lovely calm vibes and is popular with families. The 50m pool runs parallel to the ocean and has wide, sun warmed steps to sit on. A little toddler’s pool sits at the southern end, which is actually quite deep for a ‘wading’ pool, so keep an eye on non-swimmer littlies.

A wide ramp runs down from the footpath to the pool, no stairs here, though it can sometimes get slippery! At high tide the waves wash into the pool, so the water can get super choppy.

There is also a decent surf break just beside the pool, so good fun to watch the surfers too.

Near the pool is a cute little playground and some picnic shelters. My kids love to ride bikes on the path around to the boat ramp and watch the fisherfolk coming in and cleaning their catch. Big fish and rays hang out there waiting for scraps.

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: outdoor cold shower, picnic shelter

Location: Off Robert Cram Dr, Bellambi. There is a small sized parking area. This pool is not easily accessible by public transport.

Bulli Rock Pool

Beautiful Bulli Pool, with it’s unpredictable toddler pool full of sand this day!

My Mum’s all-time favourite – the deep blue Bulli Rock Pool. It runs perpendicular to the ocean, just underneath Bulli headland. This gorgeous pool is usually very clean and sandy bottomed and is very popular with lap swimmers (Bulli High School uses this pool for swimming sports too!)

There is a little toddler’s pool attached which is often full of sand, but lots of space in the shallows on the rock platform beside the pool for little ones to splash and explore. Waves do wash into this pool at high tide.

The very popular Bulli Beach Cafe overlooks the pool and there is also a playground on the other side of the surf club, which makes this spot very family friendly for a day out, with everything you need at arm’s reach. 

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: changing rooms, toilets, cold showers, picnic benches on the headland, playground, cafe

Location: Farrell Rd, Bulli. There is a medium sized parking area that fills up fast on the weekends. This pool is accessible by public transport.

Coalcliff Rock Pool

Escarpment views from local favourite, Coalcliff Rock Pool

Ah, Coal-y. Cherished by all locals, who absolutely live here in the summer. The 25m Coalcliff Rock Pool is set into the rock platform and has the most incredible views of the escarpment and the Sea Cliff Bridge (psst – if you are keen to explore the Sea Cliff Bridge and its stunning surrounds, plan your adventure here). A toddler pool and lots of rock pools in the surrounding rock platform make this a wonderland for sea-life lovers and little explorers. This spot is very popular with spear fishers and divers too. Dolphin pods often cruise by rather close and the whole vibe is just excellent.  Waves wash into the pool at high tide.

There’s a raised shower area and viewing platform, but a steep path and stairs to get down to the pool from the road. Up on the hill there are toilets and a little playground.

The big draw of Coalcliff is the famous “washing machine” natural swimming hole in the rock — jump in on a big wave and get tossed around! Great (dangerous?) fun. Ask a local to show you next time you visit!

Note: for some reason this pool fills up with algae faster and more completely than any other on this list, and is less often pumped out and cleaned by council.

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: changing rooms, toilets, cold showers, sheltered viewing platform, playground

Location: Paterson Rd, Coalcliff. Very limited street parking only. There is a larger carpark at Coalcliff beach if you don’t mind the walk. This pool is accessible by public transport.

Gentlemen’s Pool (or Men’s Baths)

Inviting waters of the ‘Men’s Baths’ at North Wollongong

One of the region’s earliest rock pools, the small Gentlemen’s Pool is set in the rock platform just north of the popular Continental Pool at North Wollongong. Very natural setting, with rock walls and bottom covered in shells and plant life. This spot becomes very popular with all sorts of swimmers in the warmer weather. A long ramp takes you down to the pebbly strip that meets the rock shelf, not the easiest access for people with limited mobility or prams. Lots of space on the bumpy rocks to spread a towel.

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: nothing at this rock pool. At the next door to the Continental Pools: changing rooms, toilets, cold showers

Location: Cliff Rd, North Wollongong. Street parking is limited. This pool is accessible by public transport.

Wombarra Rock Pool

Tranquil waters and stunning views at Wombarra Rock Pool

This lovely wide pool is overlooked by a row of Norfolk Pines, and has a toddlers pool next to the main pool. Usually sandy bottomed, the Wombarra Rock Pool is a popular spot for locals to cool off on a hot day. Often home to many cute sea slugs, the deep pool has a slippery ramp entrance at the south end and becomes very wavy at high tide. Very popular year round with local lap swimmers of all ages. Note there are stairs from the carpark to the pool.

Kids love to explore the rock platforms and around the bottom of the cliffs for treasures, and there is an awesome playground and wide grassy area above the beach.

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: changing rooms, toilets, cold showers, a few picnic tables, playground.

Location: Reef Rd, Wombarra. The is a small car park which does fill up fast. People usually squeeze their cars in anywhere they can, but watch out for parking fines in the summer. 

Woonona Rock Pool

The historic pavilion and diving blocks at Woonona Rock Pool

Set on Collins Point, Woonona Rock Pool has a 50m olympic pool with diving blocks and lane markings! (unusual for a rock pool.) It’s set on the rocky headland and boasts a pretty pavilion and viewing platform up top. Often mistaken for a saltwater-pumped swimming pool, this pool is actually refreshed by tides. Yet even at high tide, this rock pool is usually a calm and wave free, great for lap swimming and wading exercises. 

Very popular for cold water swimming in the winter months, and a solid community-based vibe. Lots of regulars here in the mornings.

The wide paved area around the pavilion is warmed by the sun and at low tide the rock platform that surrounds the pool makes for some good sea-life exploration. There is no toddler pool here, but oddly enough my kids always loved this wide deep pool anyway, even when they were small!

Council seems to clean this pool frequently, so check the website for scheduled cleaning closures.

Note, there is no ramp access into the pool and there are stairs to get down to the pool from the carpark.

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: toilets, change rooms, showers

Location: Kurraba Rd, Woonona. Plenty of parking available, though this spot is not well sign posted. This pool is not easily accessible via public transport.

Towradgi Rock Pool

Lovely setting for a picnic and a dip, Towradgi Rock Pool

Very similar to Bellambi in my opinion. Towradgi Rock Pool is a 50m Olympic pool that runs parallel to the ocean. Terrific views of the coast to the north and south, and lots of history here. This pool was built by local volunteer labour in the 60’s and has been a local favourite ever since. It has a ramp entrance (which gets slippery) and tiered concrete seating platforms that get nicely warmed. There is also a toddler’s pool here.

As with many of the pools on this list, there doesn’t really seem to be much of a difference between the ‘shallow’ and ‘deep’ end. But Towradgi Rock Pool is definitely popular for lap swimming, though the waves hit hard at high tide and make everything wild. There are stairs to get down to the pool area.

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: toilets, change rooms, cold showers

Location: Towradgi Rd, Towradgi. Plenty of parking available, though this spot is not well sign posted. This pool is not easily accessible via public transport.

Nun’s Baths (Also known as Chain Baths)

Local secret, the historic ‘Nun’s Baths’ under Flagstaff Hill

These hidden pools are thought to be one of the first ever in NSW. They are tricky to find, but worth the adventure!

These half natural, half man-made pools are located just south of Flagstaff Hill, under the lighthouse amongst rocks in a small, sheltered cove. To get down to the pool you start from the top of the hill near the lookout and head under the fence down a steep, narrow path chiselled into the sandstone rock — there is no handrail and the old chains the used to be here are gone so climb at your own risk! Once a women’s only swimming area, they are now open to all. The Nun’s Baths are very secluded, not usually very populated and very very special.

Open year round, free of cost.

Facilities: none.

Location: Flagstaff Point, Wollongong. There is a large carpark off Endeavour Drive. This pool is accessible via public transport.

We are so lucky to live in an area with so much choice for natural swimming spots. How nourishing it is to float in calm salt-waters or watch little ones build their confidence! I hope you join us for a swim this season and get refreshed – mind, body and soul!

If you’re still keen to explore more of the waters of Wollongong, why not check out our list of the best fresh and salt water swimming pools here

Or if your family is in need of some serious sand-play and wave action, check out our guide to the best family friendly beaches in Wollongong here

CLICK HERE to visit our sister-site, Parents Guide Illawarra, for even more family-friendly What’s On and local events!

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