(Image taken in December 2001. Author’s own collection.)
Though sited on the relatively sheltered waters of Broken Bay, Pearl Beach is nevertheless considered to be an ocean beach, so the Pearl Beach Pool must be considered an ocean pool.
Gem Road, Pearl Beach, NSW, 2256, Australia
(Latitude South 33 degrees 32 minutes 45 seconds, Longitude East 151 degrees 18 minutes 33 seconds)
Pearl Beach may be named after the pearl-sized quartz pebbles common on the beach until removed by miners and fossickers.
Real estate developer C. R. Staples and Co. bought land at Pearl Beach for subdivision. To help the sale of the residential blocks, Staples turned the ocean-front track around Mt Ettalong into a road and built the rock baths.
There was a new direct Sydney-Newcastle main road. All trains north from Sydney stopped at Gosford and coastal steamers continued to land passengers and cargo at Gosford.
Pearl Beach pool was complete and being promoted by C. R. Staples and Co. to help sell land. Advertisements claimed ‘the ocean beach, the 100 foot swimming pool cut into solid natural rock and the magnificent foreshore make Pearl Beach one of Australia’s most attractive resorts’. It was only 15 minutes by motor bus from Woy Woy on ‘broad new roads that make Pearl Beach as convenient as a suburb’.
By 1930, there were fewer than ten houses at the southern end of the beach. As Staples and Co. advertised ‘the concrete swimming basin at Pearl Beach where it’s always high tide’ was ‘a delightful place for a swim’ and the pool ‘was always a popular place for residents’. In these early days, the pool had men’s and women’s change-rooms and toilets. A Pearl Beach Progress Association formed in the late 1930s.
As the pool had a severe pollution problem due to its own amenities block, the Pearl Beach Progress Association insisted Woy Woy Council remove the pan lavatories from the dressing sheds. Any heavy swell swirled through the toilet, upset the ‘dunny tin’ and washed its contents into the pool, while a high tide washed the overflow from the pipe draining the urinals straight over the wall and into the pool. As well as organising a deputation to Council, the Association later sent a letter to the Health Inspector in Sydney.
1947 to 1949
The NSW Health Department had condemned the existing structure, but in 1948, the Association again complained to the Minister for Health of the ‘deplorable condition of the ladies and gentlemen’s dressing sheds at the swimming pool where open uncovered sanitary pans are in use’. The Pearl Beach Progress Association lobbied for improvements to the baths (lighting, springboard, signage), undertook minor repair work, reminded Council to maintain the baths (removing oyster shells, repairing leaks) and the dressing sheds and organised swimming carnivals from 1947 to
1949 to 1950
The Pearl Beach Progress Association helped fund Council’s demolition and rebuilding of the dressing sheds.
1951 to 1953
The Pearl Beach Progress Association was pointing out Council’s responsibility for injuries sustained due to the state of the baths. One of the Association’s members, ‘though well acquainted with the oyster shell menace’, gashed his foot in the baths and feared that ‘people who are not aware of the condition of the baths may fare worse’. The Association arranged for the Shire Engineer to inspect the baths and discuss a grant of 100 pounds towards repairs. The Water Board offered to donate waterproof cement to the Association for the repairs and the Association’s younger set offered to do the repair work. The perceived dangers of bathing in the open due to deep holes and the ‘shark menace’ prompted calls for a sharkproof enclosure or an enlarged baths. The Pearl Beach Progress Association suggested Council investigate floating a local loan to erect new baths deeper and twice the size of the existing baths and with the addition of a valve. Due to the poor condition of the baths, the Pearl Beach Progress Association cancelled its swimming carnival for two years.
The Pearl Beach Progress Association sought Council permission to build a shark tower to offer some protection to the ‘dozens of people’ who were swimming ‘in open water’ rather than in the baths.
The Pearl Beach Progress Association held a carnival at the baths.
The Association sent plans for extending the pool to Council. 1961 The Pearl Beach Progress Association offered to replace the pool’s wooden plug with a gate valve free of cost to the Council. By ensuring that the water would be changed more frequently, this would improve the state of the pool in the holiday season. The newly formed surf club proposed a working bee to clean the baths. As the pool was leaking, the Progress Association asked Council to repair and enlarge the baths.
The baths continued to leak even after a new valve was fitted.
A learn-to-swim campaign was conducted at Pearl Beach. The Pearl Beach Progress Association threatened that unless Council took satisfactory action to remedy the unsafe condition of the pool due to ‘heavy growth of moss on the wall’, it would refer the matter to the Progress Assembly and take immediate action to rid the pool of the unwanted ‘green moss slime’. The Association was also still seeking Council’s response to the Association’s 1959 plan for the pool’s extension.
The Association was still asking Council to investigate suitable solutions to eradicate ‘moss’ from the pool and plan for the extension and floodlighting of the pool.
The Umina Blue Swimmers Club was using and helping to maintain the pool, which was renovated in 1982. A Council inspection of the Mt Ettalong sewage outfall found no pollution caused by the discharge of effluent, according to the conditions of the licence from the State Pollution Control Commission.
Following a submission by the Blue Swimmers, Council installed a new pump at the pool.
Gosford Council rated the usage of the Pearl Beach rock pool as high and considered it ideal for younger and older children. It recommended retaining and upgrading the pool as well as adding signs about depth and erecting a post-and-chain fence on the top of the wall.
The Pearl Beach pool was heritage listed by the National Trust and provided with a heritage plaque stating that it is ‘a place of continuing recreational and social significance’.