Who knew there was a secret "Ladies Only" baths in Sydney?
An excerpt from the Randwick City Council History on McIvers states, "According to a National Trust report on the baths, they have been used as a spot for bathing for women since before 1876. The baths themselves were built in 1886 and the lease expired in 1901. The McIver family ran the baths until 1922 when the Randwick Ladies Amateur Swimming Club was formed. The club took over the lease and has held it since that time." An article from the Sydney Morning Herald illustrates the support for McIvers Ladies Baths.
There are stories that prior to 1876 this was an Aboriginal woman's bathing site. It certainly has a 'feeling' about it. It's very private and you feel embraced by the cliff walls. Even during high tide and rough seas it is still possible to swim at McIvers. The protection offered here is greater than at Wylie's Baths.
The sea life in between the rocks is astounding, the floor is covered by huge rocks and beware there are lots of sea urchins for those with tender feet. I haven't taken photos from the actual baths showing up the rock face nor showing the underwater glories – must get underwater camera. And even then I'm not sure such a private place shouldn't be without its mysteries.
As you go into McIvers Baths you'll come to a gate manned, or should that be wo-manned by characters out of a CWA (Country Women's Association) dream. The charge is a 20 cent piece and you cannot pass unless you have it – or at least promise to bring it next time. The change room is modest but with an outlook of the pools and coastline to die for. You wind your way down a concrete path with grassy verges and wily, hardy plants forming a natural garden. It's a little like winding down a secret garden path to…the magic pool. One imagines sprites and nymphs cavorting when the humans leave.
Rating system 1-5 (lowest to highest)
Rating 3 – It's not a well kitted out ocean bath but it has everything a true ocean bath can aspire to be. Hewn from the rocks with a real rock floor. Private, oh-so-private and discreet – there are liberties to be taken if you're bold. It's the true get away from everyone kind of place. Even when the day is overcast and the surf is rough and tide is high – the pool protects you. And there's that little-something-extra feeling of being somewhere truly special, truly unique and dare-I-say truly spirit moving.
Cost – .20 cent donation
Women and children under 5 – no men allowed
Open from Sunrise to Sunset with cleaning by council on Tuesdays
No dogs, no smoking and no alcohol or glass.
A post-McIvers baths experience.