MERCURY SERIES - Saltwater Sanctuaries
Situated on a rock shelf at the south end of Werri Beach, the Werri Pool doesn't appear to be that different to others found on the South Coast.
However, the Gerringong Gropers give the pool some notoriety.
The Gropers, Gerringong's hardy group of winter swimmers, lay claim to being the closest winter swimming club to the Antarctic.
They are often blamed for leading their mild-mannered counterparts, the Kiama Kubes astray.
According to the NSW Heritage Office, it was 1936 when a Sydney man, who had camped at Ourie Beach (an early spelling of Werri Beach) for a number of years, complained to Gerringong Council about the lack of baths for campers.
Concerned about the need to retain campers and provide an incentive for tourists to get off the new Princes Highway and visit Gerringong, the Gerringong Council included the proposed pool in the works program for the Emergency Relief Scheme for the unemployed.
The pool opened soon after, but the 22-metre pool never became the Olympic-sized pool initially planned for Werri Beach.
In 1942 two openings were cut into the side of the pool to ensure it filled properly.
The Gerringong Gropers winter swimming club formed in 1985.
They swim at the pool between May and September at 10am on Sundays, finishing with a swim from the point to the surf club.
Bruce Mackie has been swimming with the Gropers for 20 years.
"The pool is in a great location," Mr Mackie said.
"The water gets really cold - yes that is a good thing."
Located out on the rock shelf, the pool is more exposed to big seas than most sea pools.
"It is right on the edge, it can't get much closer, so it always gets a good flush out," Mr Mackie said.
"In the summer peak season it gets a clean-out every now and again, but not a lot of maintenance is required - out of season the pool looks after itself.
"It does offer something different all the time, whether it is temperature, or if it is flat or rough, but it is a little bit on the short side. In the big seas, ocean water flows in and people enjoy the waves.
"Lots of locals use it for a bit of exercise or therapeutics, or a casual swim during summer ... but the Gropers have given the pool its notoriety and public profile."
Werri Pool Wollongong
• The Werri Pool is also known as the Ourie Park Baths (the early spelling of Werri) and South Werri Ocean Pool
• It is an irregular-shaped pool constructed in the rock shelf at the south end of Werri Beach with access via Pacific Avenue or Geering Street.
• There is ample parking and there are change rooms and amenities on site.
• The pool has a smooth, sloping concrete floor and nearby is a separate concrete-formed children’s wading pool. The pool and surrounding shelf are subject to natural wave action during high tides.
This is the last in the Mercury's Saltwater Sanctuaries series. Click here for earlier stories and a gallery of Illawarra rock pools.