Lonely Planet Writer

Shark-proof swimming may come to Adelaide with a campaign to build an ocean pool

‘Wait…did I just see a shark?!’ Not an uncommon thought on Adelaide’s beaches. And indeed, the city has a bad reputation for shark attacks. But moves are afoot to build a shark-proof ocean pool at Hallett Cove, 25 km south of the city centre.

Hallett Cove, South Australia. Image by James Photography/Getty Images

Ocean pools aren’t a new thing in Australia – Sydney has dozens of them, including the super-scenic Bondi Icebergs Pool. They’re usually built out into the ocean at the foot of cliffs at the ends of beaches, providing calm, kid-friendly, safe-swimming alternatives to swimming in the surf.

Overlooking the popular Bondi Icebergs swimming pool. Image by Shutterstock

But is the threat of shark attack real or imagined? Since South Australia was colonised in 1836, with Adelaide as its capital, there have been 82 recorded attacks here, 20 of them fatal. Most attacks have occurred off the Eyre Peninsula in the state’s west, but Adelaide and the Fleurieu Peninsula immediately to the south have had their fair share, with eight recorded deaths. No doubt boosting the statistics is the fact that Adelaide gets seriously hot during summer, daily maximums frequently topping 42°C (107°F). The lure of a swim in cool blue ocean is irresistible.

Hallett Cove Conservation Park. Image by Dale Allman Photography/Getty Images

So why not build an ocean pool at Hallett Cove? Local resident Joshua Harkness is petitioning the state government and local Marion Council to back the idea, but there are some hurdles to clear. Hallett Cove itself is an important geological and archaeological site, protected by the Hallett Cove Conservation Park. There are impressive ‘glacial pavements’ here, dating back to an ice age 280-million years ago, while 1700 Aboriginal sites and artefacts have been found in the area. These features would require protection from pool construction, increased foot and vehicle traffic and ongoing tidal and sand-movement impacts.

There’s also the small issue of money. Most of Sydney’s ocean pools were built 80 to 100 years ago, and the only South Australian equivalent – at Edithburgh on the Yorke Peninsula – dates back to the 1930s. There are simply no funding models that might apply today. But Joshua Harkness’s petition is gathering momentum – watch this space.

Words: Charles Rawlings-Way