After two sweaty weeks in humid Tanzania – which I loved, don’t get me wrong, most of all because I am now bronze – I was looking forward to getting back to Johannesburg’s milder summer. Yet, I returned to a sweltering heatwave caused by a strong high-pressure system with temperatures of up to 36’c in the city and higher in other parts of the country.
As the heat went to my head, I searched for some of the coolest (if you’ll excuse the pun) swimming pools in Johannesburg. And so, even if you aren’t going away to the coast these summer holidays, you can still enjoy the summer sun with the sand beneath your feet and a drink in hand beneath a beach umbrella, right here in Johannesburg.
Take a reinvigorating swim in the infinity pool at the Southern Sun Hyde Park Hotel and dry off in the sunshine on the loungers. They offer panoramic views of Johannesburg’s green north-western suburbs through the glass balustrades. At sundown, the sun melts into the pool’s water, but is soon replaced by the city lights.
The Island Bar has a selection of unusual cocktails, imported whiskeys, craft beers and ciders. For a unique combination try the elderflower and basil spritz or the signature Hyde Park Momo – it contains raspberry puree, that’s all I’m saying. Snack on something from the sushi and tempura bar or stay for dinner at the adjoining Luce Italian restaurant.
Welcome the weekend each Friday night on the al fresco, wooden deck dance floor as you jive to the tunes of the resident DJ and share a jug of your favourite cocktail with friends.
Opening times: Daily from 07:00–23:00
Cost: Free for restaurant and bar patrons.
Address: 1st Road, Hyde Park, Sandton.
Call: (011) 341-8080
For The Young at Heart
The Beach is just that: a rooftop beach on the third storey in the heart of Johannesburg. The golden sand, beach umbrellas and deck chairs will make you forget that you’re hundreds of kilometres away from the ocean. The venue may only be 15m², but there’s enough space to sun bathe or dance to Funky Jazz, under the gaze of the Nelson Mandela mural by American street artist Shepard Fairey.
You’ll receive a welcome cocktail, but I recommend trying their signature Aqua Marine – orange peel infused Bacardi Rum, Gordon’s Gin, cranberry bitters and soda water, which is served with an edible goldfish made from grapefruit in a ziploc bag – to keep with the beach theme, of course.
While The Beach doesn’t serve food, Neighbourgoods artisanal market is across the road on Juta Street. Go there first to indulge in seafood paella, Balkan Burgers, vegetarian quiches as well as homemade pastries and cakes.
Opening times: Saturdays from 12:00 – 19h00, Monday – Friday for private functions.
Cost: R50 for ladies, R100 for gents.
Address: 6 De Beer Street, Braamfontein.
Call: (011) 403-0413
Peace and Quiet
Despite the lively city bustle outside, calm reigns once you step inside the four-star Mapungubwe Hotel in central Johannesburg. A wooden deck necklaces the swimming pool, which is located on the ground floor in the centre of the hotel grounds and is encircled by the building.
Entrance is free as long as you buy something from the bar or Twist restaurant. I suggest trying the Twist Crush, which is spiced rum churned with muddled lime, peach extracts, fresh pineapple juice and mint. Dig into the daily food specials by the poolside – they make awesome burgers, by the way – as you read under the umbrellas. Most of the hotel’s guests are businesspeople, so the pool doesn’t get too busy, even during peak season or on a weekend, which makes it the perfect place to relax.
Opening times: Daily from 10:00 – 18:00
Cost: Free for restaurant and bar patrons.
Address: 50-54 Marshall Street, Marshalltown, Johannesburg.
Call: (011) 429-2600
With all there is to do at Wild Waters in Boksburg it’s ideal for a summer family outing. The water park has a wave pool, a 500-metre long supertube, three speed slides, and a raging rapids river ride, which is best experienced on the tubes. Younger children can splash around in the baby pool, while teens play volleyball in the sand area. Then after relaxing beneath the shade of a thatched gazebo, challenge our friends to a round of putt putt.
For lunch, pack a picnic basket, braai some meat or buy fast food and snacks from the canteen. Although you can’t bring glassware or alcohol to Wild Waters, the cash bar sells beers and ciders.
Opening times: Saturdays and Sundays 10:00-17:00.
Cost: R70 (2-7 years), R130 (8 years +), R80 (seniors). Body boards and tubes are supplied on entry.
Address: Jan Smuts Avenue, Boksburg.
Call: (011) 826-6736
Why not visit the oldest public swimming pool in Johannesburg? Ellis Park swimming pool was opened in 1904 along with the kiddies’ pool. It’s one of two Olympic-size public swimming pools in the city – the other is Newclare – making it one of the largest as well. It remains popular and welcomes between 2 000 and 4 000 swimmers each month. If you want to join the underwater hockey club or have children who are learning to swim, be sure to buy season tickets for discounts.
After all that exercise you may want to eat burgers and chips from the ‘Take a Break’ tuck shop. It sells cold drinks and hot beverages and just about any type of candy under the sun.
Opening times: Weekdays: 07:00 – 19:00; Saturdays: 07:00 – 17:00; Sundays/Public holidays: 09:00 – 17:00
Cost: R12 for adults, R8 for children, free for senior citizens. Season tickets (Sept–March or March–Aug): R278 (adults) and R135 (children)
Address: Corner North Park Lane and Erin Street, New Doornfontein, Johannesburg.
Call: (011) 402-5565
City of Johannesburg
The City of Johannesburg maintains 53 public swimming pools across seven regions, to find the one nearest you, type ‘swimming pools’ in the search box on their main website.
So, which are your favourite swimming pools in Johannesburg?