Swimming pool review: North Melbourne Recreation Centre

This is a new feature that we’ll be running over summer, assuming that we actually get a summer, seeing as how Melbourne’s Climate Change Dystopia currently allows us one warm, sunny day per week.

(Seriously, it’s late October, and I’m still using my electric blanket. Come on, Melbourne, what are you doing?)

Swimming pool reviews: not just an elaborate excuse to visit the Harold Holt Swim Centre.

Growing up in South-East Queensland, there were certain things I took for granted: wearing t-shirts fifty weeks a year; freshly picked avocados sold for 50c each from stands by the side of the road; the Brisbane City Council Library Service; and Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pools.

When I lived in Ipswich, we had a choice between two public swimming pools — and also a private pool situated in an old soft drink factory, which actually still haunts my nightmares, because we swam in giant galvanised iron tanks, and they were really deep and hard to get in and out of. Oh, primary school swimming lessons, how I hated you.

(I just checked, and the Swimming Factory was trashed in the 2011 floods and rebuilt with actual, proper pools. “Ledges have been built into both pools to ensure users can move safely in the pool…” WELL GOOD. It was a cool setting, though, if you were water-confident.)

It was quite a shock to move to Victoria and find that, not only were most municipal pools indoors, but they weren’t even fifty metres. Oh, and instead of the entire pool being free for water play most of the time, those of us who don’t enjoy swimming laps are confined to a handful of lanes at most!

This is to say that a lot of my Swimming Pool Impressions boil down to Nice Pool, Where’s The Other 25 Metres?

North Melbourne, at least, has an excuse: it’s plonked down in the middle of a built-up inner suburb. (Okay, that’s probably the excuse for all of these tiny pools, maybe it’s a bit much to expect people to demolish their houses just so I can have a proper splash.)

The North Melbourne Recreation Centre shares space with the local football club, so it seems bigger than it is. Having a football field will do that. But in terms of non-football related facilities, it’s rather dainty — it has a small gym, tiiiiiny spin room, and a 25m outdoor pool attached to a decent-sized splash pool for kids.

HAVING SAID THAT, it works well. The splash pool is connected to the main one via a little channel, so if you’re averse to climbing ladders or crouching to get in and out of the big pool, you can just take a quick stroll. The downside is that, if you want to start your swim with a nice plunge into the deep end, you either have to go the long way around, or cut through the splash pool. It’s a nice splash pool, so the shortcut’s not terrible, I just feel a bit weird going through the kiddie pool.

The pool itself is a perfectly acceptable 25m lap pool. It’s not as deep as I like, but then, you don’t really go much further than 1.8m in a pool of this size. It’s in a pleasant setting, with the football field on one side and main roads on two others — I enjoy the contrast as I work on my handstand.

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It also has plenty of grassy space around it, and while personally I feel like that could all be used to extend the pool to its ideal size, it’s not at all unpleasant. Some of it even has shade.

North Melbourne isn’t my ideal pool, but it’s the closest I’ve got. Literally — the inner west isn’t a great side of town for swimming pools, and North Melbs is a lot easier to get to than Maribyrnong. (Do I want to spend 40 minutes on a bus just for an indoor pool? I do not.)

North Melbs is handy for a nice after-work-swim, and it’s a nice area for it. And I shouldn’t complain just because tiny pools make me homesick.

North Melbourne Recreation Centre – Aquatic Facility

Three single-use sunscreen sachets out of five

  • Where: 1 Macauley Road, North Melbourne
  • Getting there: 300m walk from Stop 15 on the 57 tram, or 800-ish metres from North Melbourne Station. Or it’s close to Macaulay, but I feel like, if you’re on the Upfield line, you’re better off going to Brunswick
  • Casual entry: $5.60
  • Hours: October – Mon-Fri: 6 am to 9 am, then 4 pm to 7 pm (but the pool closes at 6:45). Weekends: 6 am to 7 pm (but the pool still closes early). Come November, it will move to more civilised 6 am to 8 pm hours.
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