Wylie's Baths are one of the oldest ocean baths in Sydney. People have been coming "for the waters" at Wylie's since 1907 when the baths were constructed by Henry Alexander Wylie. His daughter Wilhelmina (Mina) Wylie competed with Fanny Durack in the first woman's swimming competitions. There is a captivating statue of Mina done by Eileen Slarke which greets you upon entry to the baths.
My friend Julie re-introduced me to the forgotten pleasure that is swimming in the ocean but minus the dangers of rips, bitey critters and rogue, dumping waves.
I used to live in Coogee when I first came to Australia from Canada 20+ years ago. It was quite different then, not as developed as it is now. No boardwalk existed back then and certainly not the plentitude of glass-fronted monstrosities along the foreshore walk from Coogee to Maroubra. We used to come home from work, shuck the clothes and don the cossies, as the Aussies say, and head down to the beach. I used to swim in the ocean then as I had a partner who knew how to swim. But if he wasn't around I'd head to the baths – much safer and a different but welcome ocean experience.
In Coogee you're spoilt for choice. There are four (4) baths to choose from – only three (3) if you're a gent. Sorry rarely does diversity work in the ladies favour but this time is one of them. McIvors Baths are "ladies only" and rumour has it that they were originally an Aboriginal bathing spot, formed as it is from the rock itself, no concrete required. And it's quite secluded for those ladies who prefer to go "au naturel". More on that in another blog.
Back to Wylie's. Why does it hold such appeal? Well for starters it's not just about swimming here although it does meet the requirements of being made from the natural rock surrounds with limited use of concrete. Having been around since 1907 and well-patronised ever since it has longevity. And it has a kiosk that serves a great coffee and toasted sandwich or two. Then there are the people. Such a wide, diverse range of people. On any day you can show up here and there are sprinklings from all age ranges. During the week you get the regulars who greet you with a knowing nod or a wink from the gents. The upper decks afford a view of Coogee Beach and the surrounding headlands that are a photographer's dream. The natural rock faces look like they've been hewn by some of the Pyramid's finest carvers. All waves and natural rounded formations – not a square in sight. Perhaps that should be the Mughal's finest carvers fond as they were fondest of all things rounded.
Wylie's can be all things to all people. Offering lap swimming for those inclined. Or for those armed with goggles and a snorkel a view to another world of sea urchins, fish of all sizes, seahorses, oysters and clams and interesting rock formations that all sorts of things may hide in. I'll leave your imagination to fill in the rest. But it can occupy young and old, male and female, whatever cultural background you're from – it's a welcoming environment. And, get this, you can rent out the whole place for parties. Can you imagine having a wedding, birthday, or whatever celebration overlooking the ocean with the baths lit up?
My kind of place. The ambience just makes you feel good. Being in nature, hearing the waves, smelling the salty air and being in the water all the while feeling safe – what's not to love?
This one is my favourite places to be – swimming, reading, writing or just relaxing with friends. It's a gem.
My friend Julie and I during our first Wylie's experience.
Rating system for baths is 1-5 (low to high)
Wylie's gets a rating of 4.5 - great baths and kept clean, showers and change rooms with hot water. Clean toilets and plenty of space to sit and have a coffee/cake/ice cream. Lots of shade if you want it on the upper decks and below decks too. Sun for those that want that too.
Open from 7am-7pm (except when there are functions)
30 SWIM PASS $130.00
Showers, toilets and change area for Gents and Ladies.
Yoga, Tai Chi and Massage available.
They have a great webpage which lists all the low and high tides for the coming days. And tells you if there are bluebottle jellyfish about www.wylies.com.au