We Come From the Land Down Under– Sydney Beach Guide

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Copyright: Elle Druskin 2011

Aussies (pronounced Ozzies) love the beach. They love swimming and water sports in general. Whether you get to the beach or not, Sydney is a beautiful city. There is nothing like a beautiful sunny day on the harbor (spelled harbour there), kicking back with a latte at a café at Circular Quay which is right between the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and watching the ferries come in with that beautiful blue sky in the background.

Sydney is blessed with numerous beaches, both Harbourside and Oceanside so depending on what you want, you choose. Many of the beaches are inner city and easy to get to with public transport; others require a car. Parking is not easy at the beaches for the most part, but if you get outside the city, you will find beautiful ocean beaches where parking might be easier. I have never failed to find parking immediately at Newport Beach.

Why Harbourside or Oceanside? Depends on whether or not you want real waves or calm water. Some of the Harbourside beaches also have shark nets which is a big criteria for some folks. Yes, the Pacific is home to sharks and we invade their territory. There are shark sightings in Sydney and on many beaches an alarm will sound if one is in the vicinity. Watch how fast people move getting out of the water!

Like Tel Aviv, Sydney beaches tend to attract different sorts of people to different beaches. There are surfer beaches, family beaches, dog beaches and nude beaches. You take your pick. Some of the inner city beaches will have cafes and restaurants across the street from the beach, Bondi and Manly in particular. Other places might only have one or two fast food outlets or you might have to walk down to the main street of the town if you are technically out of Sydney, and find a few places with food.

Beaches are patrolled by surf-lifesavers which is a big organization in Australia. You will know them by their distinctive red and yellow swim caps or shirts. What you won’t find is shade unless you happen to choose a spot that has trees at the back of the beach; you won’t find chairs or umbrellas for rent so you need to bring your own which is a problem if you are a tourist. There are so many beaches in Sydney, it’s hard to choose which ones to talk about but here are a few.

Manly Beach
I love Manly Beach for a lot of reasons. You can drive there and park in municipal parking—yes, you pay, but you can also get there by ferry if you are coming from the other side of the harbour. Just head down to Circular Quay and take the Manly Ferry which is a nice ride. Why do I like Manly? Its beach fronts the Oceanside, but you are still in the city. The Corso is a promenade which is always packed with people. Watch out for the rollerbladers! Lots of cafes and restaurants and shops along the Corso so you won’t starve and you will find a variety of cuisine. The beach is lovely, nice waves, well patrolled and more beach volleyball nets than you can count. It’s a fun atmosphere at Manly, almost feels like a carnival without the rides. Just plain happy vibe. There are lots of little beaches like Fairy Beach in the Manly area but you do need a car to get there. I personally prefer Manly to Bondi which I find very crowded and just a personal opinion, but I think the beach is nicer at Manly but that’s up to you. Bondi is also a city beach and easy to get to—good luck parking! And, it is also along a strip of other beaches and beach walks. It does have a real fame, has a salt water pool and you might see the Bondi Icebergs—the folks who swim in the winter as well as summer. Remember, summer in Sydney is December to February. Weather can be hot and humid but usually cools off in the evening. This also means that an Aussie Christmas is likely to be spent at the beach because it is hot. Yes, you will still see Santa, roasting in that hot suit in the summer. It might seem strange to Northern Hemisphere people but that’s how it is Down Under.

Pay attention to weather reports in Sydney—the direction of the wind will tell you what the weather might be. For example, a “southerly buster” is wind coming from the south—ie the South Pole so it tends to cool things off. A “northwesterly” means it is going to be hot air coming from the desert so it’s going to be hot and dryer. Really hot sometimes and since summer is bush fire season, people pay attention to wind direction since the wind can carry fires. This should not concern you at the beach—lucky you.

Going To The Dogs

There are several dog beaches in Sydney, specifically set aside for our canine friends. I know Sandy Beach at Clontarf is one of them, but haven’t been there personally. I have been to Pittwater which is north of the city. You will need a car to get there which you probably want anyway with a dog.

This is lovely for the dogs. Plenty of parking and you just walk onto the lawn which is set aside for the dogs. It’s fun to let them off leash and run around in a safe area and the dogs who love the water run down the small slope to the water and in they plunge. I have often seen owners in there with them tossing Frisbees for the dogs to chase. My dog isn’t a water canine, he just sat and watched that spectacle and looked at me like, “You’re kidding me, right?” But, he had a great time running around the lawn with the other dogs. YES you are expected to clean up after your pooch which is fair enough.

There are some benches on the lawn so you can sit back if you want, chat with the other dog owners and watch your doggy pal run around and make friends and remember he or she is a dog, not another person in the family. There are dog parks in Sydney, but this is specifically a beach for dogs and fun.

Back to Nature

Nudity is not illegal in Australia but if you want to go back to nature at the beach, you have to choose one that permits it. There are several in Sydney, the one I know about, not from experience but from hearing about from other people, is Lady Jane Beach. I remember meeting a couple of lady tourists who were heading to the beach and the bus driver kept asking if they were sure they were looking for Lady Jane Beach. Apparently, they didn’t know about the nudity and got a big shocker when they arrived. They made tracks fast and found another beach and laughed it off. If this is what you are looking for, well, head on down. You might also hear it referred to as Lady Bay Beach.

Surfing

Aussies love surfing so if that’s your thing, your best bet is to head north of the city to Curl Curl and Dee Why Beach. You might catch some waves at Narrabeen which is also along the same road leading north out of the city. If you can’t get there, you can try Tamarama which is along the cliff walk from Bondi. The water can get rough so be careful if you head there. Finally, you can try Cronulla on the South Shore which attracts surfers too.

Swimming in calm waters

Some of the city beaches have shark nets which can be very reassuring. You have the sense of feeling safe because there are shark sighting in Sydney and there have been a few terrible attacks. Not common but I guess that doesn’t matter if it happens to you. Balmoral Beach has a net so the water is calm and it’s a nice family sort of beach. You see all sorts of people at Balmoral,–families, older people and teens who also walk along a promenade on the beach which is a nice walk. Parking is not easy; you will have to drive around forever until you get lucky and catch a spot You will catch one but you do have to be patient. Balmoral is in the Mosman area so you are really in the city, or more correctly the North Shore city suburbs, but it’s a nice relaxing place. Not a lot of places to eat so if you are planning a whole day, bear that in mind.

I want to be on television

If you are a fan of the Aussie soap, Home and Away, then you should head up to the most northern beaches, a good hour if not more, away from Sydney, until you get to Palm Beach. It’s a nice ride and a nice beach but the soap is filmed there so you might happen to catch them filming some episodes. Don’t count on being enlisted as an extra but you never know, you might get lucky. Rather, go with the idea that you will have a lovely ride, enjoy a beach that is not too crowded and have a nice day out.

I could talk about a lot more Sydney beaches—there are heaps of them, but this should get you started.

And finally, what do you wear on a Sydney beach, (other than Lady Jane where that is not a problem!)? Anything goes but you will see many women wearing sarongs over their “cossies”—Aussie lingo for bathing suits, probably from the British term “swimming costume.” You might also hear “swimmer” used too. Grab a sarong and you will fit right in whatever cossie you are wearing.

Where’s our next destination? It’s Cartagena, Colombia—the jewel of the Spanish Main.

Here’s your quiz:
The pirate who succeeded in raiding the city was:

Jean-Fancois Robeval
Francis Drake
John Hawkins
Henry Morgan

The dance most closely associated with Colombia is:
The cumbia
The samba
The rumba
The merengue

A common snack in Cartagena is:
French fries
Coconut fries
Yucca fries
Fried green tomatoes

The opening of Romancing The Stone with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas is supposed to be Cartagena but was actually filmed in:

Mexico
Belize
Brazil
Colombia

5 comments

  1. What a great tour of our wonderful beaches! I feel nostalgic reading this post. It’s like going back through my childhood memories. Only one beach I think noteworthy that you didn’t mention is good old Maroubra Beach. Back in my day parking was no problem and food venues were scarce but I suppose all that could have changed by now. A lovely beach… in my memory!
    Thanks for a wonderful trip around a great part of our Oz coastline!!

  2. elledruskin says:

    So glad you enjoyed the tour! There are so many Sydney beaches it was hard to pick which ones to talk about. Each one is special in some way.

  3. Wendy L says:

    You put so much work into this, Elle, and got it right!! Beautifully written. Have you thought of sending this to The Sydney Morning Herald or the Weekender section of the Herald’s Sunday paper. They must have a submissions page on the web.
    My favourite beach growing up was Coogee with the saltwater Wiley’s Baths and the blue bottles. My grandparents lived in Coogee on the cliffs, and Nanna had Reckett’s Blue on hand to dab on the blue bottle stings. Reckett’s was the blue agent they used to put in the coppers to whiten the sheets on wash days. I’ve since heard that the pigface plant that grows on the edge of the sand also relieves the pain of the jelly blubber (blue bottle) stings. In those days we has a thick layer of zinc cream on our noses and covered ourselves in oil to bake ourselves brown like cooked chooks. Many are paying for that ‘clever’ activity with their lives now.

    We grew up believing we ‘had to look good on the beach’ so when someone suggested I was a ‘winter person’ boy oh boy, was I offended. Oh to be young again.

    Thank you Elle, I’m glad you love the Sydney beaches, It’s obvious you are no stranger tothem.

  4. Wendy L says:

    You put so much work into this, Elle, and got it right!! Beautifully written. Have you thought of sending this to The Sydney Morning Herald or the Weekender section of the Herald’s Sunday paper. They must have a submissions page on the web.
    My favourite beach growing up was Coogee with the saltwater Wiley’s Baths and the blue bottles. My grandparents lived in Coogee on the cliffs, and Nanna had Reckett’s Blue on hand to dab on the blue bottle stings. Reckett’s was the blue agent they used to put in the coppers to whiten the sheets on wash days. I’ve since heard that the pigface plant that grows on the edge of the sand also relieves the pain of the jelly blubber (blue bottle) stings. In those days we has a thick layer of zinc cream on our noses and covered ourselves in oil to bake ourselves brown like cooked chooks. Many are paying for that ‘clever’ activity with their lives now.

    We grew up believing we ‘had to look good on the beach’ so when someone suggested I was a ‘winter person’ boy oh boy, was I offended. Oh to be young again.

    Thank you Elle, I’m glad you love the Sydney beaches, It’s obvious you are no stranger to them.

  5. elledruskin says:

    Its’ been my pleasure even if a bit of work to write this up. The only hard part was figuring what beaches to write about because there are so many and everyone has their memories of their favorite beach. You still see some people with the zinc on their noses but today I think more likely to see sunscreen in use. I can remember one time on Manly Beach where the surf lifesavers were handing out free little bottles to everyone.
    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the local plants were used to relieve the sting of blue bottles or other “beasties” or that the Aboriginal people might have known about them. Years ago, there was a TV series Bush Tucker Man. I was fascinated by the way this guy went off into the bush and knew exactly what could be edible, what could be used for first aid, etc. Ahhh, Sydney beaches–nothing like them!

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