I know this seems like an unusual topic for a blog post but when you live in a sub-tropical city, pools and swimming are part of your life. You learn to swim before you start school, and spend endless summers splashing around at the beach and in your friend’s backyard pool. Brisbane has a number of public pools spread across the suburbs. This particular pair of inner city pools of Brisbane are more than just places to swim. They have rich histories, quirky architecture and are full of stories about the city that has grown up around them
Spring Hill Baths – 1886
The Spring Hill Baths are the oldest surviving swimming baths in the Southern Hemisphere. Built in 1886, they originally had water pumped into and drained out of them every day, from the Brisbane River.
These baths have it all. History, quaint signage from the era of segregated bathing and a facade that means the building looks more like an old picture house than a swimming pool. As you walk through the entry, you step back in time. Running the length on either side are the original individual changing cubicles. Up narrow stairs, a second level small wooden gallery surrounds the pool. Once enclosed, the roof now opens to the sky, allowing the sun in and the smell of chlorine out. Everything within is bathed in a shade of pale blue as the water reflects from the pool onto the roof and back.
It’s like a trip to the Victorian seaside, all contained within one small building on a suburban street.
Spring Hill Baths – www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/spring-hill-baths
Centenary Pool – 1959
Centenary Pool is the biggest pool complex in the inner city. Designed by Brisbane City architect James Birrell, it was built in 1959, at a time when public buildings were more than just functional, they were about lifestyle. As you enter the complex, there are swooping bridges and ramps that are part of the original design and are now handy in making the building accessible. The complex has an Olympic 50 metre pool and an infant’s pool. There is also a magnificent and scary looking diving tower and pool that often features in TV commercials.
My enduring memory of Centenary Pool is not swimming related but of the Bengal Curry House. In the 1980’s, it hovered above the pools in a cantilevered space age restaurant. With floor to ceiling windows and curved walls, I can only imagine how exotic and of chi chi it must have been in its heyday. Sadly, these days it’s an uninspiring gym.
This place definitely lends itself to lounging with the your towel on the concrete, soaking up the retro vibe. It’s reminiscent of the pool deck in Kylie Minogue’s video ‘Slow’.
Centenary Pool – www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/centenary-pool-spring-hill
The public pools of Brisbane offer everyone access to recreation, fun and a chance to cool off on a steamy January day. For a modest fee, you can relive your childhood, spending the whole day slashing and diving and laughing without a care in the world. Centenary Pool and Spring Hill Baths also afford you the opportunity to enjoy your swim in a degree of style.