Some of us have childhood memories of dipping into the cool water of The Entrance Ocean Baths, now renamed, while others recall cooling off in pools at the end of forest trails. This autumn, rediscover your favourites or try somewhere new with our guide to the Central Coast’s best rock pools, ocean baths and swimming holes.
WOY WOY WATERFALL POOL
One of the region’s best-kept secrets, Woy Woy Waterfall Pool is out of the bag. Influencers have revealed this spectacular pool clinging to a wall partway down a waterfall. They’ve nicknamed it Infinity Pool because it’s like a hotel pool, but this one’s harder to reach. The walk there is around 6km (return), with the final leg not for the fainthearted.
‘The first three-quarters of the track is really easy,’ says photographer Mark Fitzsummons, ‘but the last bit is a goat track and can be quite dangerous.’
According to local author Peter Fisher (Tales from the Rainforest, 2021), the pool was a reservoir that supplied freshwater to Woy Woy railway tunnel workers in the 1880s. In the mid-1920s, the water was used to service steam trains to the Basalt Quarries, while it was also briefly a source for F C Nichols Abattoirs. Now, people seek the pool out to bathe in, but Fitzsummons says it’s narrow and there is a sharp drop-off to boulders. It’s best to leave this one to the adventurers.
You’ll find it… on Google Maps at the end of a fire trail in Brisbane Water National Park.
Local’s tip: Avoid visiting after rain as the rocks are slippery.
EMERALD POOL, POPRAN NATIONAL PARK
If you love a forest swim, it’s also worth checking out Emerald Pool in Popran National Park. Named for its colour, this swimming spot is reached via Hominy Creek walking track (5 km return; about 3 hours). It’s a Grade 4 bushwalk because it’s rough, with steps and steep hills but you’ll be rewarded.
You’ll find it… at Mangrove Mountain. Leave your car at Ironbark picnic area.
Local’s tip: Keep an eye out for the green and golden bell frog.
MACMASTERS BEACH OCEAN POOL
Central Coast Drones’ owner Reed Plummer says this Macmasters pool is his favourite.
‘It’s an awesome place to visit when the surf is a bit bigger and you can watch the waves safely from the rock pool. On the calmer days, the surrounding rocks at low tide make a great opportunity to find interesting sea creatures such as starfish and octopus …’
This humble pool blends into the surrounding rocks and national park backdrop.
You’ll find it… near Macs surf club.
Local’s tip: Go mid-week so you have it to yourself.
SPOON BAY ROCK POOLS
Professional photographer Kevin Morgan has captured countless images of the Coast’s top waterholes but one stands out.
‘Spoon Bay would be my favourite for a swim and it is also a favourite photographic subject,’ Morgan says.
Locals are fans of the bay not only for swimming and spearfishing, but also for the several rock pools you can swim in.
You’ll find it… between Wamberal and Forresters beaches.
Local’s tip: Go mid tide, so there is plenty of water in the pools.
COPACABANA ROCK POOL
Copa’s reputation for a serious ocean swell can see it overlooked by non-surfers, but the rock pool at the northern end of the beach makes for a fun, family swim. The waves can get in there at high tide, so time your visit for mid or low tide when you can snorkel around the rocky edge. You’ll also often find driftwood on the shore for teepee building.
You’ll find it… near the northern headland.
Local’s tip: ‘Take a snorkel or goggles; the underwater world is something that continues to amaze me,’ says Reed Plummer, of Central Coast Drones.
AVOCA ROCK POOL
One of the best natural rock pools is the large one at Avoca Beach. The water is always sparkling, and not only do kids love climbing the boulders leading to the walkway, but it’s a fab spot from which to watch the surf.
You’ll find it… in front of the surf club.
Local’s tip: Pack a picnic and make a morning of it.
TERRIGAL OCEAN BATHS
This has to be one of the smallest ocean baths in the state, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in location. It’s a stroll from Terrigal Surf Club, next to the new boardwalk and opposite Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific, making it an ideal spot to cool down on a warm autumn day. The swell can jump the ledge, so keep a close eye on young kids.
You’ll find it… at the Terrigal end of the boardwalk.
Local’s tip: There is no space to sprawl, so take minimal gear.
GRANT MCBRIDE BATHS, THE ENTRANCE
Still often called The Entrance Ocean Baths, this is a busy spot with tourists over summer. However, in autumn there is more room for a leisurely dip. There are three pools – one for toddlers, another for free swimmers and a larger one for laps. There is also seating, toilets and showers, shade, and a lifeguard. If you’re keen to photograph the baths or other swimming spots, Reed Plummer recommends going at sunrise.
‘This gives you the best chance of capturing the natural colours and textures of the pools from above, whereas at sunset most pools on the Coast are shaded by cliffs…’
You’ll find it… down a cul-de-sac at the southern end of The Entrance Beach. Don’t drive all the way to the baths, though. Instead, park along Ocean Parade and follow the signposted lane.
Local’s tip: The water is often chilly so wear a light wetsuit.
CABBAGE TREE BAY ROCK POOL
Sandwiched between a boat ramp and Norah Head Lighthouse, the rock pool at Cabbage Tree Bay manages to fly under the radar. You’ll still find families there, but it’s not as crowded as other tourist spots. There are toilets and showers, and, if you have time, a lovely beach walk to Norah Head Lighthouse.
You’ll find it… around the corner from Norah Head Boat Ramp.
Local’s tip: If you have a keen snorkeller in the family, visit mid tide.
WORDS JENNIFER ENNION