|Large (35-metre by 45-metre) baths just south of McIvers Baths.
Located on the rock platform below the Grant Reserve. The huge timber
deck at Wylies offers great views to the north and provides shade below.
It also has a statue of swimmer Mina Wylie who won a silver medal in swimming
at the1912 Olympic Games. Entry charges apply.
As noted in
Eileen Slarke's book A Century of Wylie's Baths, these baths and their
distinct buildings and deck and diverse set of patrons have attracted
many photographers and artists. Recent memorable images include works by
Ian Lever, Anthony Roach and Martine Emdur, Ian Swift, Mark Spencer and
(Image taken on 8 November 2002.)
click for larger view
|Location: Neptune Street, Coogee, NSW,
(Latitude South 33d 55m 33s, Longitude East 151d 15m 34s)
Sydney - Eastern Suburbs
Australia champion underwater swimmer, Henry Alexander Wylie, who had previously
operated the Bronte Baths, obtained a special lease for the area below the high-water mark, with the area above high-water mark being under Crown reserve.
A Crown reserve was created for Wylies Baths.
The ocean baths, leased and constructed by Henry Alexander Wylie, opened as
Wylies Baths on 12 December 1907. These baths offered a 55-foot by 35-foot pool with a natural
rock base surrounded by concrete walls. It appears Wylie and his two sons cut
the pool out of the rock at the southern end of Coogee Bay.
Wylies Baths offered 'family bathing' , making it one of Sydney's first baths to offer mixed
Wylie erected the characteristic high timber boardwalk that encloses two sides
of the pool, creating a spectacular cliff-side complex and a well known local
landmark. That deck had horizontal railings. A
diving tower was added. Entrance fees were collected and swimming costumes
were issued at the caretaker's cottage. In the men's change room, an opening in
the roof encouraged nude or 'natural' sunbathing.
'Wylie's Continental Baths Coogee's Premier Pool' was open for mixed bathing
daily between 6am and 10pm. People journeyed to the baths to enjoy the
protected conditions and queued for hours for to get a game of a volleyball-style version of quoits, the only out-of-water sport at the baths. There
was a diving board and a water slide.
The pool was closed to the public after high seas badly damaged the pool and its
buildings. Its popularity declined.
Wylie ceased to operate the baths.
The special lease was transferred from Walter and Wylie to Desmond Selby. The baths were refurbished and given a new identity as the
Sunstrip Pool with its distinctive chequerboard railing around the timber deck.
Hot showers were added along with a kiosk and shop on the boardwalk.
Unfortunately, the new structures were difficult to inspect and maintain without
erecting scaffolding. Construction materials included tram windows and tram
runner boards used as benches.
The Sunstrip Pool became the home pool for the South Maroubra Dolphins, founded as an
off-season activity for the South Maroubra surf club.
The closing of the off-beach Coogee Aquarium Baths, led the Randwick & Coogee
ASC to use the Sunstrip pool as its new headquarters, for its Thursday-night
events for seniors and for its Saturday events, but its annual championship
carnival was held at the inland Heffron pool at Maroubra. The club attributed the drop in its membership
from 180 to 118 to the tidal conditions at the Sunstrip Pool, which also hampered
learn-to-swim classes. The club's Christmas party at the Sunstrip Pool, involved
Santa being towed around the pool on a rubber raft.
Randwick & Coogee Amateur Swimming Club versus surf club carnivals were held
Difficulties with the pool management led the Randwick & Coogee Amateur Swimming
Club to transfer to the Ross Jones Pool at Coogee.
The baths were closed due to sea damage in May 1974.
Closure of the baths due to sea damage led to forfeiture of the special lease
and to Randwick Council taking control of the baths.
The Randwick & Coogee ASC asked Randwick Council to re-open Wylies Baths, which
had remained closed after storm damage. Council was granted a permissive
occupancy by the Crown over the area pending completion of a special lease
arranged with Council as a Trustee. In October after $20,000 of repairs, the
baths re-opened under the control of Randwick City Council and were formally renamed
Under section 530 of the Local Government Act, Randwick Council established the Wylies
Baths committee of management comprising representatives from the South Maroubra
Dolphins Winter Swimming Club, Randwick & Coogee Amateur Swimming Club, the
Coogee-Randwick RSL Diggers Swimming Club and the Coogee surf club.
An annual competition for Junior Randwick & Coogee Amateur Swimming Club
(ASC) members against the
Coogee Minnows began in the 1978 season along with inauguration of the Coogee Surf Club
trophy for the most outstanding 12-year-old swimming club member eligible for
surf club membership.
Amid fears that Wylies Baths would fall down, Council allocated $142,000 for
pool reconstruction. Plans were prepared by an architect, but no further action
was taken due to concerns regarding minor public objections and possible
detrimental environmental impact. Coogee surf club was forced to go outside the
Randwick municipality to train, but around 2,000 school children continued to
used the pool in summer. Wylies Baths remained one of the municipality's main
The Randwick & Coogee ASC held its annual mile swim and swimathon at Wylies
About 50 people attended the Randwick & Coogee ASC events on Saturday mornings
in summer, about 120 attended South Maroubra Dolphins events on Sunday mornings
in winter and about 70 attended the Diggers Club (that club also had access to
its own indoor pool) events at Wylies on summer mornings.
The Coogee surf club used the pool for rescue and resuscitation training.
The pool's committee of management claimed that 350 children from eight local
schools visited the pool weekly over the previous summer. The well-known open
water swimmer, Des Renford, lobbied for the improvements to
Wylies Baths, where tens of thousands had learned to swim.
1982 & 1983
Randwick City Council was still considering upgrading Wylies Baths to the standard of
the Mahon pool at Maroubra and removing the fence to give open access. In
the 1982 season, Randwick Council stopped its annual donation to the Randwick & Coogee
ASC, but allowed clubs represented on the Wylies Baths management committee to
receive a share of the kiosk profits.
In the 1982 season, Randwick & Coogee ASC membership increased to 107, and 54
children took part in its learn-to-swim classes.
The change-room, kiosk and decking at Wylies required extensive repair work at
an estimated cost of $150,000. Due to objections from a local residents' group
and problems with the lease of the site from the NSW Lands Department, only
essential repairs were carried out to keep the pool fit to open.
Randwick Council's 1984 Plan of Management for the South Coogee Beach Reserve
anticipated continued operation of Wylies Baths. On some weeks, up to 11 schools
and 6,000 school children used the pool.
1986 & 1987
Randwick & Coogee ASC membership rose to 175, with an average of 100 people
attending each of the Saturday morning events, 42 learn-to-swim certificates
were awarded, and a paid swim coach offered free stroke correction classes to
the younger members.
By 1987, Randwick Council had spent 20 years discussing repairs to Wylies Baths.
English Channel swimmer Des Renford and former test cricketer Frank Missen were
among those who swam at Wylies Baths all year round.
Randwick & Coogee ASC celebrated Australia's bicentenary by sponsoring a
carnival at which all the other swimming clubs based at tidal pools in Sydney's
Eastern Suburbs were
invited to compete. During the carnival, the NSW Minister for Sport, Michael
Cleary MP, unveiled a plaque commemorating Olympic swimmer Mina Wylie. As the
State member, Cleary had obtained a $70,000 grant from the Department of
Sport and Recreation for long-overdue repairs to alleviate leaks and dangerous
conditions at the pool. Randwick Council was still seeking a special lease on the pool
and had condemned the pool's wooden structures on the basis of structural
engineering reports regarding the need for major maintenance and reconstruction
of the timber desk. Alderman Des Renford and others argued for keeping the baths
open during repairs.
When Wylies closed for the season, it was desperately in need of repairs and
there were doubts that it would ever re-open. Gate takings for the season
amounted to less than $25,000. Over the previous 12 months Randwick City Council
had spent $42,000 stopping leaks at the pool and was reluctant to spent money on
the baths without a long-term lease. Local businessmen had suggested a $2
million restoration to include a public restaurant. Locals suspected the Council
had no intention of repairing the pool and expected that a big sea would
knock it over.
Only two schools were using the pool. Swimmers were getting splinters in their
feet, tripping over boards, getting scratches from split seats and using
primitive toilet facilities.
A thousand people signed a petition about Randwick Council's failure to carry out repairs
at the Baths. At a protest meeting at the Baths about Council's failure to
restore the Baths, a hundred Wylies supporters claimed the baths were a special
part of Coogee's life and heritage and that just about every local kid had
learnt to swim there, seeding development of the surf club. They demanded public
ownership and control of the baths. Sydney people were said to travel from as far
away as Mt
Druitt to swim at Wylies, which has the 'magic only age brings'.
Wylies Baths was an issue in the Randwick Council elections.
Eileen Slarke created a sculpture called 'Sea Wall, Wylies Baths Coogee' for the
Macquarie University Sculpture Park.
Council's announcement of the pool's likely closure had lost it that year's
NSW Department of Sport and Recreation learn-to-swim campaign. Even among the
clubs, swimmer numbers were down by half. Only a few diehard swimmers continued
to use the Baths.
Following State member Ernie Page's intervention with the NSW Lands Department,
Randwick Council signed a 25-year lease for Wylies.
The NSW government offered a further $260,000 for Wylies, matching the Randwick
Council contribution for stage one of the pool restoration and Randwick City
Council allocated $600,000. Randwick's new Mayor, Chris Bastic, was also
chairman of the Wylies Baths Management Committee and had campaigned vigorously
for renovation of the baths during his six years on Council. The pool renovation was part
of a wider state government campaign to improve conditions at beaches and pools.
Randwick City Council called tenders for the repair of the wooden structure of
During the renovations, a 50-tonne crane fell 30 metres into the Baths,
narrowly missing swimmers
Restored and re-opened on 29 April after a long public campaign, Wylies Baths
won the 1995 Francis Greenway conservation medal from the Royal Australian
Institute of Architects for the restoration team.
From 1996, Wylies Baths were administered by a Trust comprising the
representatives of four local swimming clubs, three local residents appointed by
Randwick City Council and a representative of Randwick Council. Wylies Baths again
offered free swimming lessons on Saturday mornings and also hosted the Great
Inflatable Film Festival.
The Wylie's Baths Trust installed a replica of the Greenway medal on the rock
face above the pool. Wylies Baths hosted a Historic Pools night to
celebrate the National Trust classification of more than 60 of Sydney's historic
harbour and ocean baths. Wylies again hosted another Great Inflatable Film Festival.
Wylies Baths again hosted the Great Inflatable Film Festival on Australian Beach culture,
which attracted over 1,000 people.
Three of Peter Elliston's portraits of Wylies swimmers were installed at the
International terminal at Sydney Airport in time for the Sydney Olympics.
Randwick City Council reported on water monitoring in the Wylies Baths as part
of its State of the Environment (SOE) report.
Eileen Slarke's book A Century of Wylie's Baths highlighted the painters, writers and artists
(including Jeffrey Smart, Peter
Kingston and photographers Mark Spencer, Peter Elliston and Ian Lever) whose work
celebrated Wylies Baths and their environment and the significance of Wylies
local poets, radio programs and as a location for TV and photo shoots.
The NSW Government recommended Wylie's Baths for listing on the State Heritage
There are suggestions that the Aboriginal tradition had been to set aside the northern end of Coogee beach for men's activities and the
southern end for women's business.
Coogee was gazetted as a village and the Coogee beachfront and
headlands allocated as public reserves.
There were fewer than 20 houses at Coogee.
Opening of the Coogee Aquarium which offered a wide range of amusements,
including an indoor swimming pool in a building with a distinctive large striped
Opening of the Coogee pier, an English-style pier entertainment complex with a
theatre, ballroom, restaurant and shops.
A massive shark net attached to the famed Coogee pier offered safe
swimming day or night. The shark net's 600-foot by 470-foot swimming enclosure
could accommodate some 10,000 bathers at a time. This pay-to-swim facility
with an admission charge of one penny attracted crowds of 30,000 a night for
night surfing under floodlights. Coogee Beach was promoted as the safest surf beach in Australia
and other coastal councils considered creating similar enclosures.
World War II
The Coogee shark net could not be maintained.
See the listing in the State Heritage Register.
Wylies Baths are historically significant because they demonstrate the evolution
of simple pools on rock platforms into formalised ocean baths. The development
of this site coincided with the growth of amateur swimming, the pursuit of
aquatic sports, the move to mixed bathing on beaches and baths and the use of
ocean pools as training facilities for people interested in fitness and health.
Assessed significance: State significance on its own - but could also be
considered as part of the cluster of ocean baths around Coogee Bay.
Current heritage status: Yes
- Already listed in the State Heritage Register.
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