LADIES LISTEN UP, MC IVER'S BATHS IN SYDNEY IS JUST FOR YOU!
Being part of a community is about building quality connections, understandings and feelings between community members which focuses on the experience of community rather than its structure, formation, and setting. I've felt a sense of community a few times in my life. These moments were spent with friends playing netball in high school, swimming at Icebergs Pool and with the Bold & Beautiful ocean swimming group in Manly, and watching Stevie Wonder perform at Glastonbury Festival. There are some communities which are easily recognisable; friends playing touch football on the beach in Bondi, women practising sun salutations with the sun rise at Clovelly, and elderly men playing outdoor chess in Hyde Park. Some however are not quite as obvious to those passing by. A friend recently recommended I visit McIver's Ladies Baths in Coogee. A quietly hidden ocean pool for 'ladies only', she knew how much I would appreciate the community aspect of McIver's and the women who retreated there on warm days.
How to get there McIver's Baths are perched on a cliff face and rock platform between Coogee Beach and Wylies Baths. With magnificent ocean views and completely private, the baths are easily accessible from Grant Reserve. Grant Reserve from Sydney's CBD is approximately 20 minutes in a car, or there are many buses which depart the CBD and Bondi Junction to Coogee Beach. There is also lots of four hour free parking on Beach Street which wraps around Grant Reserve.
What to do Set up in 1922, McIver's was established by the baths' original leaseholders, Rose and Robert McIver after their young daughter was not permitted into the men's club down the road. Fast forward to today and it still costs only 20 cents to swim in the 33 metre ocean pool, nestled in a protective curve of Coogee's coastline.
Now recognised by the National Trust, it was once known as a traditional bathing place for Aboriginal women and it is still strictly the domain of women and children. In fact McIver's Ladies Baths is the only coastal pool in Australia just for women.
The day I went to McIver's for the first time there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun was searing hot, such a pleasant start to spring. When I parked my car I wasn't quite sure where the baths were but there were three old women who were walking along a footpath with hats and towels in tow so I decided to follow.
The entrance is met without any fanfare, just a bright yellow sign that indicates you have found the baths. Walking down the steps I was assaulted with the most inundating view of the ocean and a tall wooden pole which detailed the cost of swimming at the baths - 20 cents.
As I walked down the steps with the sparkling ocean in front of me, beckoning me to get into the water, I was met by a lovely elderly lady who was wearing a stylish black one piece. I threw a few dollars into the bright blue bucket which was on the floor of the club room and went off to explore this magic place.
I needed to change into my bikini so I stepped into the vast bathroom and was immediately blown away by the panoramic view of the ocean glistening in front of me. There were women from all walks of life with all types of body shapes and sizes comfortably enjoying the sun above them; some were topless, some were wearing bikinis, others were full clothed, some were elderly, some were young, and some were pregnant.
After I had changed into my swimming gear and stepped out onto the footpath which glided along a grassy hill I immediately felt a sense of calm, and community. I said to myself, this is going to be my 'go to' swimming spot in Sydney - forever.
Choosing sanctuary over popularity I walked past the grassy slope, under a railing and traversed the rocks until I found a largely flat rock from which I rolled out my beach towel and cushion which I had brought with me. With no sand to contend with, rolling rocks, the ocean on my door step and complete privacy, I had found my own slice of heaven on earth.