Yes, we do venture out into the dark side/south side occasionally. There are a group of baths around Cronulla Beach that are useful for us folks who live on the dark side – or sunny side as I like to say.
My first foray was to take a look at Shelly Baths with my instigator comrade-in-ocean baths, Julie. It was a dark and stormy day and no Queenslander in their right mind would have gone for a swim.
So we opted for a look-see and a coffee at the nearby Nun's Pool cafe. The coffee was good but the venue/view was even better. A high perch outside overlooking the beach. Magic even on a stormy day.
I went back later to try out Shelly Baths on a warmer, less- stormy kind of day.
It was delightful. It's a true ocean rock bath but has more sand than rock due to tides and such. The flora and fauna are abundant and quite active. The locals are a varied lot – oldies, youngsters and in-betweeners – but are friendly.
I'm learning that in these ocean baths there are some rules, not de-rigeur but there nonetheless. When people are swimming laps get out of their way. Stake your place in the pool and mark your intent; floating on your back practicing your breathing, along the wall doing your kicks or just gazing out at the sea or actively swimming back and forth. Intention is everything.
Shelly Beach and the Baths are located just off Ewos Parade, Cronulla. The baths are wheelchair accessible with a ramp descending from the park footpath all the way into the baths.
It has sold old Art Deco change rooms, showers and toilets. When I went the change rooms were quite serviceable.
Shelly Beach is next to Shelly Park with quite a few trees for shade and lots of locals who take up the opportunity to have a picnic. There is an undercover structure just off the baths which is home to "The Brass Monkeys" a swim club known for swimming in the baths all year round. Giving new meaning to the term "brass monkeys".
Oak Park Baths is a little further south from Shelly Park and like Shelly Park has plenty of picnicking areas and shade options.
It has an Art Deco pavilion similar to the one at Shelly Park. It's quieter and not as protected. If there are high winds or a high tide the baths may be a little wild. Be forewarned.
Particulars: Rating 1-5 (lowest to highest)
Rating 2.5 – for both Shelly and Oak Park Baths because they are so similar I'm writing and ranking them together. It's nice to have a place to escape the heat and be a part of nature – even on the South Side. It's a little less "Rock pool" and a little more "Sand pool" but it makes up for it with the views. Lots of bird life too. More often than not I've been observed by gulls, cormorants and others as either a source of food or amusement. I'm thinking the latter.
Cost – Free No Dogs – although I have seen people bring them to the water's edge on lead.
Change rooms with showers and toilets.
Open all hours – change rooms close at sunset.