Woonona ocean pool shines in the limelight

The Woonona rock pool on a sunny summer morning, from the viewing platform above the pool. Pictures: KIRK GILMOUR

The Woonona rock pool on a sunny summer morning, from the viewing platform above the pool. Pictures: KIRK GILMOUR

MERCURY SERIES - Saltwater Sanctuaries

The ocean pool at Woonona has links to both Captain Cook and the Countdown television show.

The Captain Cook link is explained in an often overlooked monument that sits on the grass at the edge of the pool car park.

Even though swimmers have to walk past it on the way to the water, it's easy to miss as it looks more like a stone bench than a monument.

Especially when people choose to sit on it and admire the view.

The car park side of the monument bears a plaque, which reads: "Near this spot Captain James Cook first attempted landing in Australia 28th April 1770".

The story some tell is that Cook was looking to land to replenish his water supplies from a nearby creek (Collins Creek) but his journal entry makes no mention of this.

Vanessa Denison-Pender watches a swimmer cut through the pool’s salty sea water.

Vanessa Denison-Pender watches a swimmer cut through the pool’s salty sea water.

The journal does say he took a small boat and tried to make it to shore but "we found that we no where [sic] could effect a landing by reason of the great surf which beat everywhere upon the shore."

So he headed north and cast anchor in Botany Bay.

Perhaps if he'd gotten through that surf, the monument might be a bit bigger. And easier to spot.

The Countdown connection came in November 1985. That was when the Sunday night music show aired a video from a Melbourne muso named Mark Edwards.

The song was called Worlds Away, and the location for the video was the Woonona ocean pool.

With sweeping shots across the sunlit-dappled water to the rocky point and blue sky beyond, the video shows up the pool quite well.

The pool seems largely unchanged since 1985 - some seating is closer to the water, and railings have been added around the edges.

Curiously, for what seems like a wonderful sunny day, the Woonona pool was quite empty with just three people - Edwards, his guitarist and bassist.

It was a very different story last week, with the water full of swimmers, socialisers and those just looking to cool down in the heat. And not one of them had a musical instrument.

One of those swimmers was Adam Justice, who reckons he swims there five times a week - summer and winter.

"I do about 10 or 20 laps," he says. "It just depends on my mood or if I go for a surf later."

"It doesn't get too crowded here, you can usually do your laps."

"It doesn't get too crowded here, you can usually do your laps."

He's been going to the pool for about a year, since he moved to Woonona from Shellharbour.

Part of what he likes about the pool is a sense of community. Regulars recognise each other and might exchange a friendly wave as they walk past each other or a small nod of the head as they surface and catch their breath at the end of a lap.

"It doesn't get too crowded here, you can usually do your laps," he says.

"You don't get the full-on Sydney crowd that go to Bulli or Austinmer. It's a local crowd here."

He'd hate to see the pool closed down, in part because he sees himself as a saltwater swimmer and not a chlorine swimmer.

"Everyone loves their local pool," he says.

"It's totally different - you get people here who just wouldn't swim in a chlorine pool."

Read more stories from this series