Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool and Cafe in Sydney: swim, sunbathe and enjoy the smoothies

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If you are going to Sydney, do not even think of leaving without a visit to many of the city’s swimming pools and not just the rock pools at Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach. You must visit the Andrew (Boy) Charlton pool at Mrs. Macquaries Point opposite the Wooloomooloo Wharf. It lies below the Royal Botanical Gardens, at the edge of the water with a stunning view of the wharf and several Australian battleships. The Charlton pool is a salt water pool (no nasty chlorine here) which is 50 meters long and has 8 lanes. There’s a kiddie pool on the side so you can train your future Olympic swimmers. But if you prefer to just sunbathe, you can join the crowd on the right side (see above).

The one thing I must warn you about the Charlton pool is this: there are eight lanes marked slow, medium and fast. Before you jump in, you have to figure out how fast you swim by timing yourself with the huge clock on the wall. To swim in the fast lane, you need to come under a certain time (in seconds). On the day we visited the pool, there were 3 to 4 people swimming in all of the lanes except the fast one, which was dominated by a young guy in perfect shape doing the Butterfly.

In the slow lanes were several older ladies, one of whom seemed to be wearing a bathing cap with flowers, like the ones worn in 1950s Esther Williams synchronized swimming films, pushing through the water at a very leisurely pace. Given that I was too fast for the slow lane and too slow for the fast lane, I sighed and picked one of the “medium” lanes. Unfortunately, I was much slower than all three of my lane companions, one of whom I shall call “Mr. Olympics” who should have been in the fast lane, but was probably too intimidated by Mr. Butterfly.

Feeling the need to keep up with Mr. Olympics and his speedy companions, I pushed myself very hard to swim very fast. Since I am used to swimming in a 25-meter pool in San Francisco, at a fairly leisurely pace, I ran out of breath so often that I was forced to take short breaks after every three laps. Meanwhile, my lane companions continued to chase one another down the pool, barely managing to avoid hitting me as they did their flips at the end. Seeing that my efforts to keep up had not been successful, I decided to try one last thing: I imagined a giant barramundi chasing after me. Although the imaginary barramundi did force me to swim faster, after half an hour, I felt utterly exhausted, demoralized (for failing to keep up with my lane companions), guilty (for not keeping in better shape), and out of energy. I got out of the pool and headed for the cafe on the second level, leaving the barramundi, Mr. Olympics and his competitors to enjoy the rest of the afternoon without me.

Although the Charlton Pool is more crowded than the rock pools at Bondi and Coogee, it is more modern and has cleaner facilities than the one at Bondi. The Charlton Pool is also heated (unlike the rock pools), has dressing rooms, massage facilities, and hot showers.

The cafe on the second level serves delicious food including fruit shakes and smoothies, and it’s open for breakfast and lunch. Sitting up there, sipping a smoothie, enjoying the view after an exhausting swim is a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Sydney.

Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool and Cafe
1C Mrs. Macquaries Road
The Domain
Sydney 2000
Australia
www.abcpool.org

About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.