Welcome to the Hydrodome

Welcome to the Hydrodome

article76451299-3-001 - Hydrodome ad 8 Jan 1927 from Mirror p12 cropped
Advertisement from the Mirror, 8 January 1927

The South Beach Hydrodome was THE place to be seen. Tearooms, beach and swimming baths; a dedicated tram service to take you there…even shark netting to keep uninvited guests out.

Opened in 1923, the Hydrodome was definitely a feature of Fremantle life in the 1920s, so setting my historical fiction series there meant I had to include it. How could Maria live in Fremantle and NOT visit South Beach? According to ads at the time, there were no sad sea waves, flies or sharks. Not that she minded sharks…

South Beach

South Beach was a preferred swimming and recreation spot from the beginning of the twentieth century. A tramline was constructed from Fremantle to South Beach, which opened in 1905.

Hydrodome train at south beach low res

South Beach was officially declared “open” for public recreation by the Governor Sir Gerald Strickland on 15 November 1909 and gazetted as a reserve for public recreation in January 1910. Over 35,000 people attended the opening ceremonies – possibly most of Perth and Fremantle's population at the time.


The Fremantle Municipal Council erected a jetty at South Beach in 1916 with assistance from officers of the Public Works Department, but at the end of World War I, more ambitious plans were in progress – for a building with dressing-sheds on the ground floor and a tearoom and halls upstairs. The Council advertised for designs and the winning design was developed by Mr A E Atkinson of Inglewood. The cost for construction? A cool £3000.

Hydrodome under construction low res

When it was opened in 1923, the Hydrodome wasn't yet complete – but it was open in more ways than one.

Hydrodome under construction 2 low res

Place of Pleasure

Once complete, Hydrodome hall played host to big jazz bands and dances.

Hydrodome 1929 slwa_b3473357_1 low res

The swimming baths were constructed to include a jetty…

Hydrodome 1924 with sailing boats low res

…and shark netting, though the first set of shark netting was carried away in a storm.

Hydrodome 1924 with shark netting low res

Jetties and proper swimming baths were constructed by 1929, so by the time Tony and Maria travelled there for their evening's entertainment, it was a far cry from the basic facilities that would have existed when she arrived in 1923.

Hydrodome with boardwalk


Down With the Dome

Nothing lasts forever – not even the Hydrodome. A severe storm in the 1950s damaged the upper level of the Hydrodome so badly that the whole structure was demolished soon after.

Ocean swimming baths gave way to aquatic centres and the only beach in Perth that's likely to see 35,000 people in a day now is Cottesloe Beach to the north.

Busselton swimming baths in winter



Yes, I did go to great lengths to research my Siren of War series – but that's the point of historical fiction and historical romance. Getting the details right so the story flows effortlessly.

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About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? No - Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.

Demelza Carlton

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