History of Ice Rinks and Ice Skating in Australia

The history of ice rinks and ice skating in Australia is not that long due to Australia’s climate and weather. The first official dates for the start of ice skating in Australia is 1904. In September 1904, the first artificial ice skating rink “the Glaciarium” opened in Adelaide, South Australia. There have been un-supported reports of a Sydney rink on Pitt Street in the late 1870s-early 1880s, which research has not been able to corroborate. The Glaciarium in Adelaide was only open for about a year and today is the home of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
Newman Reid was said to be a pioneer of national ice sports and the founder of ice hockey in Australia. Reid was born in 1862 in Rochester, Kent. He was apart of the entrepreneurial syndicate that established the first ice rink in Australia, the Adelaide Glaciarium in 1904. Reid’s syndicates then went on to build the first ice rinks in Melbourne 1906 and Sydney 1907. “His world-class facilities for figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey were built with venture capital over a century ago and produced the first two generations of National ice champions, and many others who represented Australia at Olympic and World Championships”.
Mr. Dunbar Poole, a Scot, arrived in Adelaide around 1903 to find a group of like minded people interested in ice skating. This included future manager Newman Reid. They opened the rink in Adelaide in a building formerly used as cyclorama with the refrigeration being piped many metres from an ice works down the street.
The Sunday times newspaper article from July, 1907 introduces the first Sydney Glaciarium. The article states that ice skating is now not limited to those in “chilly districts”. A Sydney Morning Herald article from later that month also speaks of the Sydney Glacirarium opening. This article describes the rink below;
“Skating on the frozen lake to an Englishman is a pleasant and healthful exercise, but it is a pastime that is not easily obtainable in sunny Now South Wales, especially in the busy thoroughfares of a city like Sydney. Consequently in introducing ice skating to this city the management of the Glaclarium hopes to awaken pleasant memories in the minds of those who have previously skated in the fens of the motherland, and at the same time to raise a keen interest in this pastime in the minds of the people of Sydney who up to the present have known no other method than that of roller skating.”
Sydney Glaciarium
The timeline below shows some of the ice rinks operating in Australia prior to the 1970s. All Ice Rinks opened prior to the 1970s are closed, leaving Canterbury Olympic Ice Rink, the longest running ice rink in Australia. It opened it 1971, and will soon be celebrating its 50 year anniversary.
1904-1908 Adelaide Glaciarium
1906-1923 Melbourne Glaciarium
1907-1955 Sydney Glaciarium
1938-1951 Ice Palais – Sydney Showground
1939-1981 St Moritz Ice Rink – Melbourne
1949-1955 Perth Ice Palais
1959-1996/7 Prince Alfred Park ice skating rink – Sydney
1960-1963 Bondi Junction Ice Rink
1963-late 1970s Hindley Street Ice Skating Rink – Adelaide
1963-1982 Premier Ice Rink – Perth
1964-1969 Burwood Glaciarium

Canterbury Ice Rink – The Ice Skating Club of NSW Co-Operative Ltd – A HISTORY
Carpenter, Ross (2007). Henry Newman Reid MSE (London) AMIE (Aust.) – 1862-1947. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://icelegendsaustralia.com/FAI.html
Carpenter, Ross (2007). History of ice skating rinks Ice & refrigeration systems. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://iceskatingresources.org/Ice&RefrigerationSystems.pdf
Carpenter, Ross (2007). The Glaciarium (1906-1957), Southgate, Melbourne: Cradle of Australian Ice Hockey. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://icelegendsaustralia.com/glaci.html
Carpenter, Ross (2013). Dunbar Poole 1877-1954. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://icelegendsaustralia.com/poole.html
Celebrating 100 years of Figure Skating in Australia 1904-2004 – Skating Centenary: Australian Figure Skating Championships Sydney 2004
Hood, Sam (1940). Interior of the Glaciarium Ice Rink, Sydney, May 1940. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from https://www.flickr.com/photos/statelibraryofnsw/5802788800/in/photostream/
Ice Skating Melbourne (2016). The history of ice skating in Australia. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from https://www.tellmeabout.com.au/the-history-of-ice-skating-in-australia/
Langton, Wendy (2016) Personal conversations.
Morgan, David. Speed Skating – a background. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://www.iceracingnsw.org.au/pdfs/History_of_Speed_Skating_DM.pdf
O’Connor, Reina, (2004). Ice Skating in SA. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/AUS-SAGEN/2004-02/1077494906
Punch Newspaper (1906). The Glaciarium. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/175375977
Sticks and Stones (2016). Ice Hockey in Adelaide.. Hindley Street where it all began in earnest. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://www.freewebs.com/fkutsche/hindleyst196070s.htm
Sunday Times Newspaper (1907). The Glaciarium. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/126260442
Sydney Figure Skating Club (2016). About Us. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://sydneyfigureskatingclub.com/about-us/
The Official Site of New South Wales Ice Hockey, (2011). History. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://www.nswicehockey.com.au/history.aspx
The Sydney Morning Herald Newspaper (1907). The Glaciarium. Accessed on: 20 November 2016 from http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/14878833

33 thoughts on “History of Ice Rinks and Ice Skating in Australia”

  1. I wonder if there are any photos of the glacerium in Burwood now please.

  2. Hi my dad was the owner of the Burwood glacierium and we are still in the ice rink business. There are photos of the glacierium on the ice zoo website.

    1. Where can I upload some of my photos from skating days at Burwood Glacierium?
      I skated and competed there for many years under the guidance of Nita Solomon. Gretchen Black was also a teacher at that time. Other skaters were Margaret Doolan, Debbie Donaldson, Belinda Couthart and my list goes on . . . I would love to see any of the old Christmas pantomimes that we performed.

    2. Hi Charmaine, Nita Solomon was my mum. Nice of you to remember her. Your name is familiar to me.

  3. I used to go to school with Shirley Spencer in prahran and she was a prefect
    in our senior grade.
    I always wondered where her ice skating career went for her and what that career led to.
    I have thought about Shirley and her sister Fay over the years and hoped that they had fulfilling lives.
    I just turned 70 years and my thoughts turned towards them.
    If you know of any footage that would be helpful to me I would be very grateful. My mum skated at the Glaciarium and I skated at St Moritz
    Thank you

  4. Wow! That’s so interesting. I used to go to that icerick back in the day, when I was both young and limber ha! Had a girl on the local figure team we used to call Tanya Harding. Great memories.

  5. Hindley Street ice rink was great. Small but we enjoyed going therefor years. Became very efficient ice skaters. Wonder how much people remember it now

    1. I skated here also, followed Hockey and joined the ice race union. 1971 to 1979 before it closed. The good old days.

  6. There was a ice skating rink at Hurlstone Park in New Canterbury Road in the 1960s. It was in the old Hurlstone Park cinema. The ice rink opened around 1960 after the closure of the cinema and was open for around six or seven years. Canterbury ice rink was built adjacent to Canterbury swimming pool. Records indicate that the ice rink was built in 1971, however this is incorrect as I remember skating at the Canterbury ice rink in the 1960s, probably late 1960s. For interest the Canterbury and Hurlstone Park ice rinks we’re both operating at the same time in the mid 1960s.

    1. There was also a rink at Maroubra Junction in the 60’s and also there was one at Homebush. I also recall one on the upper north shore, don’t recall the suburb, it was run by Ronny Mann. Also they had one over the Olympic Pool at Auburn.

    2. Thank you G Davis. I trained at Homebush Ice Rink and was the first person in Australia to pass the
      Preliminary Figure Skating exam there. The judges were Frank and Carla White and Sydney Croll. Not long after passing my Silver Figure Skating exam I turned professional and coached at Homebush for a few years before leaving and joining an ice show. My coach at Homebush was Bobby Watson.
      I also skated at Canterbury and Burwood Glaciarium.

    3. I remember skating at Hurlstone Park ice rink, it was a popular rink where ice hockey, barrel jumping, figure skating also we played The Roller derby ( American ) ON ICE . They were all popular & maybe some of these names you might remember, Jimmy Lynch, Bobby Ball, Murray Amor, Larry Green, Norbert Muller. Memory stops about there but other Ice Rinks not mentioned around then we’re …………Prince Alfred Park ( Central ), Homebush , Auburn , Ryde ( those last two were over the top of the swimming pool ) and Blade Game which it was called then ( American roller derby only on ice ) was played there and televised at 6:00 pm Sunday nights. They had good crowds watching and we had a lot of fun and lots of injuries. GREAT TIMES and lots of good Mates and Memories. Murray Amor (1947)

    4. Yes, I also skated at the Canterbury Ice Rink in the mid 1960’s as part of my high school’s sports program. I think it was at Hurlstone Park close to Canterbury Road.

    5. Thank you Peter, I agree with you. I remember our high school winter sport option was at Canterbury open air ice rink in the mid 1960’s then they built a shed around it before bricks. There was also an ice rink at the old Dulwich Hill theatre as that was where I first started skating in the early 1960’s. Roselands also had an ice rink during winter. It was located in their underground carpark.

    6. Hi Peter

      I’m glad to read your comment about Canterbury Ice Rink opening before 1971. I used to live 10 minutes away and also a student at Canterbury Girls High until 1969. We did ice skating for school sport there in 1968 and 1969 and before the roof was constructed, it was an open air rink and we used to skate under the stars at night sessions. Magical. Every website I’ve read incorrectly stated it opened on 1971 and this is the first correct reference I’ve been able to find. It was open the same time as the Prince Alfred rink in the park on the corner of City and Parramatta Roads. I wish I had photos – I do still have my treasured figure skates last used in 1974.

    7. Yes it was in 1963 as I skated there and was in an Ice Capade that was televised.

  7. Hi, I believe you have an error regarding the starting year for Canterbury ice rink. You show it as opening in 1971. I believe it opened in 1967. Both my wife and I lived just a couple of streets from the location. At the time it was constructed I was walking past it every day on the way to Canterbury High School. My recollection is that I was in 1st year. Which makes it 1967. Possibly I could have been in 2nd year, but certainly no later. I recall the day it opened ( a Sunday I think) and my friends and I went to the opening and were sliding around in the pools of water in front of the TV crew thinking we would get on the nightly news,which we didn’t). My wife remembers walking home from primary school with her friend talking about going ice skating and she was in either 5th class or 6th class which would make it 1967 or 1968. In 1971 (the year she became my girlfriend) she was in 3rd year at high school school and had not been friends with that girl for years. Originally it didn’t have a roof and only operated in winter. Later it got a roof and later still it was enclosed as it is now. Perhaps 1971 was when it was enclosed. Regards, Stephen

    1. Hi Stephen

      I agree with your comments. I lived around the corner and used to walk on the path near the railway line past the rink and pool to Canterbury Girls High. In summer we spent our time at the pool and winter skating. We did skating for school sport so definitely 1968 when I was in Third Form and 1969 when I left in 4th Form after the school certificate. Although primarily into figure skating, my friends and I used to participate in the speed skating events on weekends. I used to go with my husband and kids in the 1970s and later with my Grandkids. So many happy memories there – I hope they set the record straight.

  8. There was also a skating rink in Sydney Road Brunswick (V) until the mid-1960’s.

  9. Trying to trace anyone who knew of George Le Mottee or Ron Charlton skating at the Glacerarium around the 30s or 40s. Ron lived at Hunters Hill … cheers

  10. we often forget the “little” rinks that grew up after the television revolution hit the local cinemas. Hurlstone park has been mentioned which was the first rink at which I taught skating. Five Dock and Homebush were converted cinemas but before them there was a purpose built rink at Bondi Junction and let’s not forget the rink at Central Railway in Prince Alfred Park. The area in the park was a swimming pool in the summer then in winter the sunbaking area became the ice rink. It eventually became a “round the year rink” open air at first then gaining a cover to allow skating in poor weather.

    1. Fond memories of Prince Alfred Park pool and ice skating rink, both learning how to swim and skate in the early 60’s there. My father played Ice Hockey there and represented Australia in speed skating, racing against John Bradbury who represented New Zealand, the father of Stephen Bradbury the Gold medal winner for Australia.

    2. I skated at Five Dock in 1956 when I was 19. Bob Wight was my teacher. He was from the US. One of the Sydney newspapers took photos of a cousin and myself playing Curling. Ahh memories.

  11. My dad bill lang was the mechanic that first kicked off the machine to make ice for the very first time. We all had helped put theater seats in but they had to be removed as a fire hazard . Us kids used to go back and forwards through to the pool while are parents were working

  12. There was Ice Skating in Geelong in the 1950s. Does anyone have any information about this or any photos?

  13. 1956-1957 I lived on a chook farm at Highett and Tuesday nights I got on the train and went speed skating at the Melbourne Glaciarium. There was a demolition party when it closed with window alcoves lit up with brilliant white burning phosphorous. Thursday nights I skated at St Moritz.
    I’m now 80 and remember it well!

  14. i still have old photos from fivedock ice rink i used to skate there in the late 50s and thesixties, we had our own club and went on regular outings together.then when it closed we moved to homebush rink where i played ice hockey with the hotspurs club along side john bradbury,jim lynch amongst others.i also did barrel jumping there. rob tomkins

    1. Good times Rob back in the sixties, pity we can’t bring the fun back we enjoyed then. Hurlstone park, Homebush & Prince Alfred Park .

    2. Hi Rob Tomkins we had great times at Homebush with Hot Spurs Ice Hockey and speed clubs also social activities ect at lake Macquarie travelling back and forth in your i think little ford at the time and later to Adelaide in the FJ Holden fond memories.
      John Bradbury Email ( johnrhondabradbury@bigpond.com )

    3. I was taken to Five Dock by my brother & his girl. Luckily I took to it & within minutes was skating away from the rails. I then started work in the skate room & Ice Rink Attendant. Saturday & Sunday afternoon sessions I played the fool (if the ice was wet) for all to see. Getting soaked & going up to the Skate sharpening room to strip off & put all my clothes out on the iron awning, within 15 minutes I could get dressed again. Also worked at Burwood Glaciarium Ice Rink, Canterbury Ice rink, Ice world Acacia Ridge (Brisbane). Have skated most places in Sydney, Brisbane, Christchurch NZ & frozen Lakes over there.
      I have one photo of me on the ice at Fivedock. Your name seems familiar to me – did you also skate at the Burwood Glaciarium or bring children there.

  15. There was a large modern icerink in Ringwood Victoria, that was closed and demolished when the Eastlink freeway was built. It was very popular with postwar European migrants, and like many skiiing related facilities may have been owned and operated within that community

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