Dawn Fraser Baths

This is the heritage listed Dawn Fraser Baths located on the harbour near Elkington Park on the western side of the Balmain Peninsula.

Constructed in 1882, these baths are said to be the oldest in Australia. It boasts to be home to Balmain Swimming Club, the country’s first Swimming Association and is also believed to be the location of Australia’s Water Polo match. In the early days it was only open to men during the daylight with women having access at limited times.

The baths are enclosed within a large timber structure which includes a tiered stand for spectators to watch events within the complex. The pool itself is not an even square with the southern side forming a curve which follows the shoreline. At low tide this also forms a small sandy beach where kids (big or small) are able to build sandcastles. There’s not many inner west suburbs that can boast their own beach!

Over the years the baths have seen several alterations or developments including the addition of a manager’s cottage just up the hill (1904), enlargements of the original pool and the seating gallery being installed in the 60s.

In 1964 the pool was named in honour of Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser. Dawn Fraser was a champion at three consecutive Olympic games and learned to swim at these baths in her childhood as a part of the Leichhardt-Balmain League of Swimmers. She also spent two seasons with Balmain Ladies Club.

An iconic Sydney location named after an iconic Australian. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area and feel like a fresh salt water dip.

Note: I try to be as accurate as possible but make no guarantees. Please use this information at your own risk.


Dawn Fraser Baths Balmain


  1. Noelene Ryden said:

    I am wondering if you could help me. My Grandfather John William Sterland won quite a few swimming races in the old Balmain Swimming Baths in the early 1880’s. I have in my possession a large silver cup the inscription reads…Presented to J.W. Sterland by his friends on winning 720 yards swimming race May 15th 1886 Time 13 minutes 5 & 1/8 seconds. I also have other items he won for winning races. Would you be able to advise me if any photos are held at the old baths in the archives? Or who I should contact for information? I am a young 84 years old but my daughter is very interested in the family history and we would love to see any photos if they
    are available . My Grandfather lived in Balmain for some years & married in the Wesleyan Church there.

    October 3, 2016
    • Admin said:

      Hi there Noelene, I would love to help but I don’t have an awful lot to offer specifically on Dawn Fraser baths. I’ve checked my usual sources for old photos (the best is the state library digital archives). Have you tried contacting the club? Also there is the Balmain Association which would have much more specific knowledge on Balmain history and can be contacted through the details on this page: http://www.balmainassociation.org.au/contact/
      I did find this on Leichhardt council’s website, so perhaps they’re worth touching base with as well. They have a lot of old photos of the area.
      I really hope you find what you’re looking for. Your grandfather sounds like he was quite the swimmer! I’m keen to hear how you go with this!
      Matt (@historyofsydney)

      October 5, 2016
  2. Jann Fergusson said:

    Hi Noelene
    It was my great great uncle Ronald Fergusson who your grandfather raced against for the cup!
    Unfortunately I do not have nay photos either but there are lots of articles on Trove http://www.trove.nla.gov.au about the club and the races your grandfather participated in. My great great grandfather James Alllan Fergusson was the caretaker of the pool at the time and presented your grandfather with the cup. My greatgrandfather John Fergusson was the caretaker in the 1920’s. Also have some relatives who were born in Elizabeth Cottage! Hope this helps.

    December 11, 2017
    • Noelene Ryden said:

      Thank you for your email Jann. It is such a shame we don’t have any photos from that time. I made a visit to the Baths last Sunday. Carolyn had warned me that there was probably nothing there to help me but I was interested just to see the Baths where my Grandfather had swum it is such a lovely peaceful spot. It is interesting to know that we have a connection there in your great great uncle and your great great grandfather. I intend to have photos developed and send down to Carolyn Allen or Helen ? of the Cup and also two other items I have on hand for the records there at the Baths. It won’t be until after Christmas though as I am very busy at the moment with a Grand daughter’s wedding next weekend and then of course Christmas. Thank you once again for making contact. I would be happy to send copies of the photos to you as well
      My phone No is 0468 408 455 if you would like to send me your address.

      December 12, 2017

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