Saturday, 9 May 2009

Top 5 swimming pools and aquatic centres in Sydney

Before sex, there was swimming. Hey, if you're into the theory of evolution we evolved from fish, so it makes sense that we should all be able to swim!

But that's not my point (I just wanted to get 'sex' into the copy somewhere). Within the confines of the Sydney metroplitan area I have been a peripatetic swimmer this summer.

As a result, I have dipped my tootsies into lots of commercially-operated swimming pools/aquatic centres.

Of course, there are numerous ocean pools dotted around Sydney's beaches. And most of these are sublime. But because I do not live by the sea (you are blessed if you do, lucky buggers), I will stick to the pay-and-swim models.

It's hard to beat the following for ambience and superior swimming conditions:

Top 5 Sydney swimming pools:

1. Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, The Domain: This heated 50 metre outdoor salt-water swimming pool is magic. It's located on the eastern rim of the CBD, next to the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The pool complex, chic and modern, overlooks Woolloomooloo Bay and Garden Island, where a navy diver lost an arm and leg in a shark attack earlier this year - just thought I'd throw in a shark reference to stir up the pot.
But not to worry, those nasty sharks can't get into Boy Charlton as it's long been a popular hang-out for gay boys and glam residents of the inner-city and ritzy Finger Wharf apartments at the 'loo.
The salt water is akin to the Red Sea or is that the Dead Sea? You float and swim and dig the view and buff bodies. Afterwards, a latte at the cafe on the pool deck is compulsory. Pool entry is a $5.70 for adults, but multi-passes are available. Parking is meter only and can get pricey if you shower and do coffee after your laps.
ABC Pool is closed during winter and opens again on September 1.

2. Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, Ultimo: I am not a fan of the work of the late Harry Seidler. But the famous architect has left Sydneysiders an amazing legacy in the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre, the last public building he designed before his death in 2006.
Sadly, Seidler didn't see the centre before its completion and opening in April 2007.
Why is this 50 metre indoor pool so wonderful? It's encased in a sexy curvaceous (got the 's' word in again!) white wave punctuated by ribbons of glass to let in the natural light. And there is light all around as you swim your laps within coo-ee of the not-so-sparkly Harris Street.
But you wouldn't know you were next to a busy arterial road, even when the huge glass windows are open on a hot summer's day. The view from the other side of the pool is over Darling Harbour and the city. You can enjoy it sitting on the cantilevered deck (how do they build these things?) sipping on a skinny soy chai latte.
At $6.20 per swim and $3 for undercover parking, it's not cheap. But multi-passes are available and it's open all-year round.

3. For something less salubrious, why not try Drummoyne Swim Centre, Drummoyne? I like it because I can get a park for nix and entry is $4.80. But wait, there's more.
If you arrive after the pool Nazis have exited the building at 7am, you can enjoy a pleasant swim in an outdoor 50 metre salt-water (river fed) pool on the shores of Sydney Harbour. The pool is in full view of the Iron Cove Bridge and opposite the Callan Park/Rozelle Hospital site.
Like Boy Charlton, this is a salty pool and the swimming is easy. In fact, except for the stingy eyes if your goggles fill up, salt water is the most enjoyable to swim in. Can you have enjoyable water? But you know what I mean. It's soft and silky on your skin and you tend to glide through it, rather than push.
This is an older pool, but it still has all that you need in the way of clean facilities and strong, hot showers. For the after-swim coffee you have to go to the cafe next door. Drummoyne is closed during winter and opens on September 1.

TBC... next week I will include the final two of the top 5 swimming pools, but now I'm tired and feel like a good lie down.

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