The Forster Ocean Baths opened on 20 December 1935 with an official ceremony conducted on 18 January 1936. The baths and buildings were designed by Stroud Shire Council’s architect and engineer F G D Stone and built by ‘relief of unemployment’ workers. The project was part of an early tourism development scheme for Forster.1
Built in the sheltered cove between Forster Main Beach and the headland, the popular precinct included a café, change rooms and by the end of 1936 a Dance Casino.2 The entrance buildings and dressing sheds were built in “a modern adoption of the Spanish Mission style”.3 The bath was self-filling at high tide and was built to meet Olympic requirements. It boasted flood lights which enabled swimmers to use it at night. During summer the opening hours were 6am till midnight and the cost for adults was 3d and children under 14 was 1d.4
The bath had two nicknames. One was “Haden’s Baths” named after Henry Haden who was an early dredger in Forster and whose property was directly across the road on the southern corner of West and North Streets.5 The other, “The Bullring”, may have originated from the open, unroofed space of the Spanish Mission style buildings. In the 1970s a café called The Bullring operated a do-it-yourself BBQ service there.6 The origin of this nickname is still debated.
After WWII the bath complex was leased to caretakers on a five year basis, but by the mid-1950s the buildings were showing signs of disrepair and the pool had accumulated sand.7 The buildings were removed in the late 1970s with the casino demolished in 1991.8 Now the pool has a regular cleaning regime and while it no longer has the charm of the 1930s buildings, it is a popular space for locals and visitors.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Manning River Times and Advocate for the North Coast Districts of NSW, 18 July 1936, 11.
2 Northern Champion, 30 September 1936, 1.
3 Maitland Daily Mercury, 24 December 1935, 8.
4 Northern Champion, 25 December 1937, 5.
5 NSW Government Gazette, Department of Lands, 26 September 1896, 6791; NSW Land Registry Services, Vol-Fol: 1219-76; Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 27 February 1946, 2.
6 Information and photo of The Bullring Café from Great Lakes Museum.
7 Manning River Times and Advocate for the North Coast Districts of NSW, 25 March 1944, 6 and 4 December 1953, 9.
8 MidCoast Council, Forster Main Beach: Master Plan, 10.