Where a legend first swam
Tucked away on the harbour near Elkington Park on the western side of the Balmain Peninsula is the heritage listed Dawn Fraser Baths.
Originally constructed in 1882, these swimming baths are said to be the oldest in Australia. It is the home to Balmain Swimming Club, the country’s first Swimming Association and location of Australia’s Water Polo match. As was the practice at that age, the baths were only open to men during the daylight hours while women had access limited access.
The Balmain baths are enclosed within a large timber structure. They designers included a large tiered stand for spectators to watch events. It is remarkable that the pool itself is not an even square with the southern side forming a curve that follows the shoreline. At low tide this forms a small sandy beach where children, watched keenly by parents, can enjoy the sand. This was common throughout Sydney Harbour as there are many other public baths that have their own beach.
Throughout the decades the baths have under gone several alterations or developments including the addition of a manager’s cottage, enlargements of the original pool and the seating gallery being installed in the 1960s.
In 1964 the pool was renamed in honour of Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser. Dawn Fraser was a local girl who became the 100m freestyle champion at three consecutive Olympic games. As a young girl, Dawn learned to swim at these baths as a part of the Leichhardt-Balmain League of Swimmers. She also spent two seasons swimming with Balmain Ladies Club. #yougottalovesydney
One of the best Sydney recommendations I could make on your 24 Hours Sydney itinerary is to get your toes wet there one day soon.
IMAGE CREDIT: Jordan Shields