When you are a mother of under-five’s learning to swim, you might find yourself on the lookout for the best local pool facilities.
For old-fashioned outdoor pool charm, you can't go past council amenities like the Epping Aquatic and Leisure Centre but if it's an indoor, year-round centre you are after, there is exciting news for residents and visitors to the Northern Beaches.
The towering façade of Manly Andrew 'Boy' Charlton Aquatic Centre
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Word has spread that renovation of the Andrew 'Boy' Charlton outdoor pool complex in Manly is complete and doors have opened on the giant new indoor/outdoor pool facilities and leisure centre. The upgraded Manly Andrew 'Boy' Charlton Aquatic Centre is the resource the neighbourhood has been waiting for, with its exploding population and demand for family recreational services.
Andrew 'Boy' Charlton - Sydney Morning Herald photo
And who was Andrew 'Boy' Charlton, you might ask? After all, two pool centres in Sydney have been named after him, including the iconic outdoor baths at Woolloomooloo.
'Boy' Charlton was in fact born and bred on the 'insular peninsular'. He was an Australian freestyle swimmer in the 1920s and 30s, who won a gold medal in the 1500m freestyle at the 1924 Olympics in Paris and set five world records.Think the Ian Thorpe of his day and it's no surprise aquatic facilities have been named in his honour.
So, apart from its namesake, what else is so great about this pool in suburban Manly?
All of the pools at the centre are heated to a comfortable temperature, making it a pleasure to take your kids swimming, even on a cold or wet day.
It is wonderful that the original outdoor area remains at the centre. An outdoor pool for casual laps and swim squad is an Aussie fixture, especially in the summer months and here you are spoilt for choice with a 50m and a 25m pool.
In winter, however, the outdoor shaded toddlers pool is closed from June - September and the outdoor lap pools will close for July for scheduled maintenance.
The new indoor pool extensions at Manly 'Boy' Charlton are impressive and diverse.
My son and I start with swimming practice in the Indoor Program Heated Pool with ramp entry, then move across to play in the children's Water Play and Leisure Pool with fun water fountains and sprinklers galore.
If laps for fitness or swim squad, is more your thing, there is also an 8-lane 25m indoor pool (also with ramp entry).
The impressive new indoor 8-lane 25m pool - photo by Annika Enderborg from Manly Daily online
Especially for the mums (and dads too)
All-purpose swim and leisure centres are great drawcards for the local community and this aquatic centre is no exception, with a Wellness Centre boasting state of the art fitness equipment (accessible to members).
After your workout, treat your tired muscles to a soak in the spa, followed by a toxin-busting visit to the sauna and steam room.
A Treat at the Café
When I was a kid, the local pool was never complete without a trip to the canteen for a treat after training. Thankfully, pool cafes have moved on from lolly meccas, to include a range of options, from classic chips, to salads, barista coffee and sandwiches.
I always treat my son to chips at the pool and the new Café at Boy Charlton serves hot chips that are fresh and delicious. I was also drawn to the range of more health-conscious offerings too.
The new Café is clean and inviting with a modern menu of traditional and healthy options
Services and Programmes
So, whether you are a casual visitor, or a member of the leisure centre, there is plenty to do, as you are no doubt starting to see.
Here is a list of some further attractions that make the centre a boon for the local community and a credit the council.
Learn to Swim programmes (6 months to adulthood)
Retail outlet for swim gear
School Vacation Care
If I've convinced you that Manly Boy Charlton Aquatic Centre is worth a visit this winter, check out its opening hours and prices, so that you can plan your family's trip in advance. Weekdays during school hours are a particularly great time to visit with little tadpoles (if you have that luxury).