Category Archives: Harbour Beach

The Last Beach Before My Travel Began, No 43: Lady Martin’s – 17 May 2015

Is this a bit of a cheat?

I visited Lady Martin’s on 17 May 2015 – one week before I departed for my midlife gap year – but never posted about it.

I don’t want to visit it again so I’m going back to my diary from the day to write it up now.

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Lady Martin’s is a wee crescent of beach at the bottom of Point Piper. I suspect in any other country it would be privately held and divvied up among the millionaires whose mansions hover nearby. These include the current Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull. Of course, when I visited back in 2015 he was fuming on the back benches as Tony Abbott went about his business of losing popularity.

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Sneaky access: the pathway next to the Prince Edward Yacht Club.

Here’s what I wrote then:

There’s real and lovely warmth in the sun – which burns bright when not obscured by clouds. The light shimmers blindingly on the weak harbour waves as they flush ashore with a rhythmic, sleep-encouraging hush.

A flotilla or racing yachts rush past out on the harbour.

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There is a party – a birthday party  perhaps – at the Prince Edward Yacht Club. A one-man-band plays groovy guitar jazz.

Among the party guests are many multicultural, multilingual families – a wee girl speaks French, English, and Russian. But mostly people seem to be speaking French. Which seems appropriate as I realised earlier today that I really will need to learn some of that language.

Had I come at high tide I expect there’d have been little beach to visit as the sand is wet right up to the retaining wall. As it is, there’s maybe five meters of beach running 100 meters or fewer and bisected by the yacht club’s pier.

The beach is Sydney-sandstone golden and surrounded by about a billion dollars’ worth of residential property. It’s a place to really celebrate the decision, early in Australia’s story, to keep beaches, all of them, even little ones like this – public.

It’s lovely. I’m so glad I came.

Next Sunday … will I have time for a beach before my flight?

The following … a river ride and the Giro d’Italia?

Close enough to a swim for May.
Close enough to a swim for May.

Lady Martin’s Beach is in the Municipality of Woollhara, the State Electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and Federal Division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

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Naked Liberation at No 42 Lady Bay Beach – 22 February 2015

Until recently I was dreading Lady Bay. It is the second of, I think, three  ‘clothing optional’ beaches in Sydney (this one granted that status in 1976). The first in this project was beach No 13: Cobblers.

I am not generally inclined to get my kit off in public. Prior to Cobblers I never had and I found the experience fairly nerve-wracking. Back then (20 February 2011 – so almost four years exactly) I was not as well equipped, mentally, to look at things that made me uncomfortable, step back, and question why. But several weeks ago, thinking about Lady Bay, I asked myself what was the worst thing that could happen? My answers were: someone I don’t want to talk to might talk to me and I might get sunburnt is places I’d really rather not. I realised the former was nothing to fear as I’m perfectly capable of walking away from pesky people and the latter I could take precautions against.

So it was that my friends were more worried about Lady Bay than I was.

I rode my bicycle the 22 or so kilometres to Camp Cove in Watsons Bay from which I walked to Lady Bay. Sydney is an undulating city and this was an undulating ride – up down, up down – Google says ascended 265 metres and descended 276.

Camp Cove looks like a beach and is treated as a beach but is not listed by Gregory’s as a beach so I have not visited it as part of this project. But many, many people are visiting it today. There’s an adorable kiosk dispensing ice creams, lollies and coffee to a steady stream of customers. I have a coconut sorbet and a short black – neither is fantastic but both are perfect after the ride.

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The Camp Cove Kiosk.

 

With my courage enforced by cold creamy coconutiness I walk the 300 or so metres to the top of the stairs leading to Lady Bay. The beach is about 100 metres below the walking path but not far enough for me to miss a quite fit very naked man emerging from the harbour on the beach below.

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I’m here, no time like the present. Down the stairs I go. And along the beach looking for a spot to call my own which is near enough the cliff as to not be too visible to the strolling masses of clothed onlookers above and not too close to other visitors.

I am a little intimidated as nearly everyone on the beach is male – maybe 15 or 20 men and three or four women including myself. The men come in all ages, shapes and sizes. Including two quite heavy, quite furry and, if it’s not too much to say, rather, um, tiny, men who – not together mind you – stand about on the beach occasionally smoking cigarettes. But, you know, whatever. Lady Bay is, I understand, a mostly gay beach so it’s likely none of these men will look at me with even a passing glance of interest.

I am hot and sweaty from the ride and the harbour is calling. Off comes the kit, all of it – and especially the glasses leaving the world a soft blur. So in nothing but my tattoos I stride the 10 or so metres to the water and plunge in … knowing I’m visible to those above and, presumably, those in boats not too far off. And … so what? If they are judging me, what do I care? Not a whisper do I care.

 

It’s fantastic. The late summer water temperature is perfect – just cool enough to be refreshing yet warm enough to be inviting. Even out of focus I know the city is all around me and yet here I am naked and floating in Sydney Harbour. It is liberating and genuinely fabulous

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I wrap a towel about my waist and sit topless feeling the late afternoon sun on my wet skin and watching the light jewel off the water. A young bloke notices my “No 42 Lady Bay” sign and asks about it. He is not, I realise, someone I did not want to talk to – I am happy to chat and tell him about the blog. His name is David and he has a website devoted to Sydney’s nudist scene (www.sydneynudists.com).

It is strange but good – I’ve never met someone in the nude before. In fact I don’t think I’ve conversed in the nude with anyone ever who was not, at some point, a sexual partner. If you see what I mean. None of the gyms I’ve belonged to have been the sort where women wander about the change rooms naked, for instance. Ah, well … I have been to baths in Japan where I did exchange greetings while naked with other naked women but we didn’t converse for lack of a shared language. But David and I chat for a good 10 minutes or so, introduce ourselves and shake hands. All very civil. All very liberating … I can’t come up with an equally good word for it.

I swim again then sit and write for a while then swim again. I would stay longer but I hadn’t arrived until nearly 5 pm and it was now coming up on 6 pm. I was taking the ferry home but it would still take the better part of two hours to get there.

Waiting on the wharf I got some fish and chips and rang my best mate who was awaiting a report on Lady Bay and all I could say was that it was fantastic. Really fantastic. For days after it left me feeling fabulous and strong and like someone who had finally learned the value of asking of myself, of anything I’m feeling worried about, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Lady Bay is in the Municipality of Woollahra, the state electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and Federal Division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

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You May Have Your Mansion But the Beach is There for All – No 41, Kutti (1 February 2015)

Kutti Beach is in Vaucluse, long the most affluent of Sydney suburbs and still in the top five. Prior to European colonisation the area was home to the Birrabirragal clan of the Dharug language group. They named the whole area, now called Watsons Bay, Kutti.

That the usual Sunday crowds are waiting at Watsons Bay is evident on the wharf at Circular Quay.

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I am set to meet Tom Allen, his wife Tenny and her sister Narineh under the big Morton Bay Fig in Robertson Park at 1 pm.  Tom is a bicyclist and all-around adventurer, blogger, filmmaker and bicycle advocate. I’d been following his blog for a while when he wrote a post saying he’d just arrived in Sydney and would be staying a while. I got in touch and invited him along to a beach outing and he, to my delight, accepted.

It’s not a perfect beach day – the sun comes and goes and its a bit breezy, but its summer, in Sydney, and two of our foursome have just arrived from the UK. (Narineh has been living in Sydney for a couple of years.)

Here’s the thing about the most touristic waterside places in Sydney – if you walk just that little bit further the crowds will drop away.

We walk south past the baths, past the crowded café at the adorable library, and past the Vaucluse Yacht Club. Gibbons Beach has maybe 15 visitors. As we pass through the reserve there I point out the house at the end of the beach of which I’d wondered, when I visited Gibbons, “what sort of life would I have had to live to live there?”

Up to the street, a right turn then another into Wharf Road, and we come to a dead end facing the Vaucluse Amateur Sailing Club.

Having Googled Kutti before coming I knew there would be a narrow stairwell down to the beach and so it was, there it is.

The secret to Kutti is finding the stairs.
The secret to Kutti is finding the stairs.

And so we arrive on an exclusive, obscure, quiet little beach in the heart of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

Kutti is about 100 metres long, maybe less, and some 20 metres deep. A couple of very small sailing boats are pulled up on the sand and a dozen or so boats are moored in the bay. Just as we arrive man and his dog, on a paddleboard, return to the beach – both a bit wet and salty looking.

A man and his dog.
A man and his dog.

There are maybe four or five houses that front Kutti Beach. One is for sale if you are in the market of a multi-million dollar home. In many countries this little stretch of beach would have been divvied up amongst these few properties. But in Australia all beaches are public. Tom is impressed.

There are families using the “boathouses” (now more loungerooms/guesthouses with kitchens) of two of the houses – kids are running around, in and out of the houses, into the water and back again. I am sort of amused to see Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags strung on this house  which was recently on the market with an expected price tag of $25 million.

Revisiting the question of what it would take to live here Tom says “good fortune” and I suggest that even if the fortune has been in the family for a century I expect the wealth would have been gained in a way that offends my sensibilities at least a little. He laughs.

The clouds remain mostly at bay; its warm and lovely and very very Sydney. We all swim then sit on the beach and chat about the lives we’ve led, are leading, hope to lead. We swim some more. I take my obligatory photograph and then its time for cold beer back at the Watsons Bay Hotel.

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Before we went our separate ways I even remembered to get a group photograph.

Me, Tom, Tenny and Narineh
Me, Tom, Tenny and Narineh

Then the dark clouds begin to gather making for dramatic light through spray-splashed windows on the ferry ride back to Circular Quay.

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Kutti Beach is 19 kilometres (12 miles) from home. It’s in the Municipality of Woollahra, the state electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and Federal Division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

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No 32: Gibson’s Beach – 2 February 2014

Living in Sydney brings joy to my life.  Even when all else is shit, when plans fail, promises are broken and my mood is sour to see Sydney Harbour, the Bridge, the Opera House brings me joy.  Perhaps especially when all else is shit the magic of my own joyful response to the sheer beauty of Sydney Harbour and my endless wonderment at making my life here lifts my spirit and brightens my day.

I love, love this city.
I love, love this city.

I was in a fine mood on Sunday to begin with – slightly disappointed no friends were free to join me at Gibson’s Beach but excited for my first solo visit of this project.  It was late afternoon when I boarded the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay.  The steel blue water glistened, reflecting the nearly flawless bowl of blue sky above.  The Louise Savage skimmed eastward through a harbour busy with Sunday afternoon sailors and cruisers.  Standing on the open deck smelling the saltiness in the stiff wind we buzzed past Fort Denison and Garden Island.  Sightseeing sea-planes circled overhead preparing to land at Rose Bay.  I felt a rushing visceral happiness which made my heart beat just a little bit faster.  I love, love this city.  I love that opportunity and choice have led me here.

Seaplane preparing to land at Rose Bay.
Seaplane preparing to land at Rose Bay.

From the water, Watson’s Bay looks very much the fishing village it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It has maintained some of that charm while now being a very well-to-do suburb.  Disembarking I am met by a crowd of day-trippers awaiting the return journey.  Doyle’s Fish and Chippery is doing its usual roaring trade.  Chilled out Sunday session music is pumping from Watson’s Bay Hotel.  Families, backpackers, teenagers and tourists are lingering under the giant Morton Bay fig tree in Robertson Park enjoying ice creams and cold drinks in the still hot afternoon.  It feels very much that we are all ‘away’ from the city but looking west, there, on the horizon is the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Watson's Bay still kind of looks like a fishing village.
Watson’s Bay still kind of looks like a fishing village.

Gibson’s Beach is a five minute walk southwest of the ferry wharf.

Turn right and walk five minutes for Gibson's Beach.
Turn right and walk five minutes for Gibson’s Beach.

I pass the shark-netted Watson’s Bay Baths, a small municipal library (surely one of the most prettily situated libraries in the world) and the charmingly simple Vaucluse Yacht Club.

Charmingly old-school Vaucluse Yacht Club.
Charmingly old-school Vaucluse Yacht Club.
Yachts at anchor near the club.
Yachts at anchor near the club.

Gibson’s is pleasantly busy with families and teenaged couples.  I expect most visitors are locals but there’s a large Spanish-speaking family and a trio of Russian-speaking swimmers – all of whom may now be locals, of course.

Lazy Sunday arvo - Gibson's Beach style.
Lazy Sunday arvo – Gibson’s Beach style.

The flat quiet water is just the sort I find imminently inviting.  I waded in and then dove under to wash the summer city heat from my body.  The water is crystalline in a way that always amazes me.  There are schools of little minnows dashing about.

Houses open onto the end of the beach and border the associated reserve.  It’s hard to imagine the lives led here.  Well, no, it’s hard to imagine the life I would have had to have led to now find myself being able to afford a house that opens onto Gibson’s Beach.  It is nice to visit.

It's seems a charmed life to have one's front gate open onto Gibson's Beach
It seems a charmed life to have one’s front gate open onto Gibson’s Beach
Number Thirty-Two: Gibson's Beach
Number Thirty-Two: Gibson’s Beach

The beach was named after Henry Gibson, a shipping pilot who worked and lived in the area for 50 years from the late 1830s onward.

Gibson’s Beach is 23 kilometres (14 miles) from home.  It’s in the Woollahra Local Government Area, the state electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and federal division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

Twenty-three kilometres from home.
Twenty-three kilometres from home.
Sunday Arvo Session at Watsons Bay
Sunday Arvo Session at Watsons Bay Hotel
From the City of Sydney Archives - it says 1904 but more likely nearer 1894.
From the City of Sydney Archives – it says 1904 but more likely nearer 1894.

No 30: Forty Baskets Beach – 28 December 2013

I’ve been to the beaches but not blogged about them.  It’s been quite a year for me.  Sundays the Beach was our project and now it is my project.  Change is hard and change is good.

I’ve decided that counting the beaches with fingers is fun and worth doing when I can but failing to have sufficient numbers is no excuse for not going to the beach on a good beach day.

So I’ll tell you about the latest beach, Forty Baskets, today, and fill in the missing beaches over time.  This season I will post the beaches as I go and make this a more active blog.  Bear with me.

I’ve been trying to get to Forty Baskets for a week or so.  Some friends and I were going to do the Spit to Manly Walk, stopping at Forty Baskets, and finish with a Manly Ferry ride home.  But one friend’s plans changed and another was sick.  I thought I’d go on my own on Christmas Day but it was not a beach day – overcast and cool.

But Saturday dawned a gem of a beach day – sunny, warm, not too hot, breezy but not too blowy.  Laura and I drive to Manly and walk the two kilometers to Forty Baskets – passing Delwood and Fairlight Beaches and through North Harbour Reserve.

We are greeted by an informational sign which tells us that the original inhabitants of this area were the Boregal and Gorualgal groups of the Gatlay family group of the Gai-marigal clan who made their homes in what is now northern Sydney.

The first land-grants were issued to settlers in 1834 but the first homes weren’t built until 1887.  Being remote from Sydney it remained lightly populated until the 1940s when modern development began.

The name derives from the forty baskets of fish caught by local fisherman to deliver to soldiers from the War in Sudan who were being held at the Quarantine Station upon their return to Sydney in 1885.

I was intrigued by the name even before I learned the source but … the War in Sudan??

Yes.  In brief, the British Empire got involved in a bit of a fuss in Sudan involving a Muslim sheikh separatist.  The British thought they’d ride in and sort it out but were out-manoeuvred, defeated and got bogged down (sounding familiar?).  They sent a famous general in to get them out of the quagmire.  He decided the British might yet win but he too was outsmarted by the locals.  He was quite famous and the Empire was impassioned about his predicament.  New South Wales was keen to help out and offered to raise a contingent to come to his aid and so they did.  These were the first Australian troops to depart for a foreign war and they are sort of a big deal in Australian history.  Many New South Welshman and women supported the raising and sending of these troops – thousands turned out to see them off.  But many others thought it a lark and a tugging-of-the-locks towards the Empire and opposed the raising of funds to support the effort.

The NSW contingent went to Africa, did a lot of marching and practicing, didn’t see much action and came home.  When they arrived they were quarantined for a few days to make sure they weren’t disease-ridden.  It was then that the fisherman caught and delivered the Forty Baskets of fish.

Soldiers returned from Sudan … having had the Forty Baskets of fish.

A 1966 movie, Khartoum, staring Charlton Heston and Lawrence Olivier is set in this 1885 Sudan War – I haven’t seen it but when I do I will add a review here.

The river runs red … they say.

Forty Baskets is the perfect sort of beach for this project.  I’ve walked past every time I’ve done the Spit to Manly Walk and never stopped.  It’s just a pleasant little spot: a caged harbour beach, family friendly, boat-y.  Not a place you’d make a point to visit if you weren’t a local – and most of the visitors seem to be just that.

There are loads of picnicking family groups, little kids splashing in the shallows or building sand castles, bigger kids bombing off the jetty.  We’ve just missed the ice cream man in his tinnie and melting treats are clutched in sticky little hands.

Forty Baskets of inviting beachy goodness.

Laura enters the water boldly – I mean, it is quite warm, but I’m still tip-toeing in while she’s splashing about like an otter.  It’s so clear – the water, it’s striking because we’re in a busy harbour surrounded by one of the world’s great cities and yet the water is clear as glass.  It shimmers and sparkles, the boats at their moorings bob, an expanse of dark sapphire sea stretches toward Manly proper.

Offering the Sydney summer soundtrack, cicadas screech and pulsate hidden in the Norfolk Island pines.  When they quiet: the laughter and cries of children, the rumble of loads of different conversations near at hand but not near enough to hear clearly and the light jingling of boat rigging in the wind.

We’d stay longer – it invites lingering, but we’ve forgotten our snacks and its well past lunch time already.  We retrace our steps back to Manly and into Four Pines for a late lunch and cold refreshing beverages.

Forty Baskets is 26 kilometres (16 miles) from home.  It is in Balgowlah, a suburb within the Manly LGA, the state electorate of Manly (Mike Baird, Liberal) and the federal division of Warringah (Tony Abbott, Liberal).

Twenty-six kilometers from home.

A Bush Walk and Apple Strudel (No 28: Flat Rock Beach – 12 May 2013)

At the Austrian Club.
At the Austrian Club.

Here’s an interesting and unexpected story from Killarney Heights, the suburb where you’ll find Flat Rock Beach:

In February 1979, a Lithuanian couple who believed they were being chased by Soviet agents were discovered in bushland adjacent to the suburb. Stepan Petrosys (81) and his 68-year old wife were discovered after having lived in a cave for 28 years.

That small discover was too good to bury deep in my post. Now that is out of the way, let me tell you about Flat Rock Beach.  This is the last of the beaches I visited with Mitch and I have contemporaneous notes to work from – which is good because it’s just been so long and really feels like a lifetime ago. Just to make it feel a little closer I’ve put this in present-tense.

The day dawns cool and very foggy.  I wish the fog will remain to give our bushwalk and beach visit an atmospheric air but know it won’t.

Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge
Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge

We leave home around noon to collect Sabra – fighting Mother’s Day traffic en route.  Flat Rock Beach is in Garigal National Park and on the upper reaches of the Middle Harbour. We park and join the Flat Rock Track climbing from the waterside to a ridge-line overlooking the harbour. We have views of the water all along the walk and it is glorious. The sun in warm in heat and light; it sparkles. Sail boats, motor boats, kayaks and canoes crowd the calm green water.

Middle Harbour
Middle Harbour

The track is busy with families and groups of friends. Strangely, for a track that seems pretty obscure, most walkers we encounter do not have Australian accents but hail from Europe and North America.

On Flat Rock Track.
On Flat Rock Track.

We negotiate the stairs down to the beach and find there are three or four boats at anchor in the bay of the beach. Across the water is a rising green landscape peppered with suburban houses.  A waterfall of a sort sounds in the bush behind us, trickles onto the beach, and into to the harbour.

We sit and snack and look.  It is a glorious autumn day.  We wade into the still-warm water and it is lovely.

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On the drive over I’d spotted a nearby little black square marked ‘Austrian Club’ on the map.  I think ‘Let’s see what that is.’

We find a typical Australian club building but with Tyrolean touches and a big Austrian flag dancing in the breeze. Emerging from the car we hear Austrian music playing and we think this is promising. Entering, we find a large hall with a stage, dance floor and a bistro on a platform looking out on the park. There are hand-painted plaques in German, a mounted deer head and a big display devoted to the World Cup. The far wall is decorated with the club shield flanked by the Australian and Austrian flags. An old tv in the corner is showing Austrian music videos.

Say it with me: Austrian-Australian
Say it with me: Austrian-Australian

There are a couple of families in the bistro including one with one bloke in lederhosen and another in an awesome sort-of Tyrolean cap with a feather.  A woman greets us in German to which we reply in English.  A bloke wanders over from another table – a fellow in his 70s, maybe 80s.  He proves to be a bit of a fly who hovers about us chattering away but moves on when our food comes only to return when we finish.  He is an Austrian-Australian – which I like a lot, just to say it: Austrian-Australian.  He’d come to Australia, then went back to Austria, then to New York for a time, back to Austria then moved here permanently 57 years ago.  He goes back to his village between Salzburg and Innsbruck every year.  He was wearing a very Austrian-looking green sort of cardigan.

They have Stiegl and Erdinger Weissbier on tap – wunderbar.  The food comes – Sabra and I both have the goulash with spätzle while Mitch has roast pork with sauerkraut and potatoes. I love my goulash.  The beef just falls apart and the sauce is spicy and gravy-like.  The spätzle is buttery with a few crisp bits which are very nice.We don’t need to have dessert but we do: Sabra and I have the apple strudel, Mitch has the Sacher torte.

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We speak with one of the waitresses – they’d just had some new people take over the kitchen – I see on-line its Erich and Kitty Koenigseder.  It is all good reviews for them and we can only add our own.  I explain how we’ve been at the park and spotted them on the map so came to see what they were about and how glad we did.  It is really like a little quick trip to Austria in a lot of ways.

Flat Rock Beach is in Killarney Heights, part of the Warringah Council Local Government Area. It’s in the Wakehurst State Electorate (Brad Hazzard, Liberal) and Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Liberal). It lies some 32 kilometres (20 miles) from Croydon Park, where I was then living.

Ice Creams at Fairlight Beach (No 26 – 14 April 2013)

Writing about our visit to Fairlight Beach is an exercise of memory. If I wrote something at the time I’ve lost it and it’s now August 2014.

April 2013 feels like a lifetime ago in so many ways but I do remember the day. It was hot. We had Mitch’s parents’ car while they were on holiday. We collected Sabra from her flat in Balmain and drove to Fairlight. We found a car park almost immediately. As we walked down to the beach Sabra’s then-fiancé-now-husband, Pietro, rang from Italy. They spoke in Italian and catching a few words I felt my study of the language wasn’t entirely a lost cause.

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The beach was crowded. The sand was hot. A tap at the back of the beach was broken and gushed fresh water wastefully. Anita, who lives nearby, joined us. The man with the ice-cream tinny arrived and we got cold treats.

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We girls swam. Was Mitch thinking of how to get out of this marriage as he sat on the beach? Or did he merely stare at the glistening blue harbour blankly? If I asked I think he’d say “I don’t know” and maybe that would be true.

Perhaps we shouldn’t meddle too much with our memories by applying later knowledge to rearrange the stories we’ve saved.

We weren’t on the beach long, an hour or so – but I think it was good. I remember it as having been good.

Fairlight is named after Fairlight House which was built by Henry Gilbert Smith on land he bought in 1853. The house was named after a village in Hastings, East Sussex, on the south coast of England. The house is long since gone.

http://www.sydney-australia.biz/photos/sydney-harbour/fairlight-house-sydney.php
http://www.sydney-australia.biz/photos/sydney-harbour/fairlight-house-sydney.php

Fairlight Beach is a harbour beach in the Manly Council LGA, the State Electorate of Manly (Mike Baird, Liberal) and the Federal Division of Warringah (Tony Abbott, Liberal). It is som 25.1 kilometres (15.6 miles) from home.

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A Warm Spring Dip in the Middle Harbour – No 23: Edwards (11 November 2012)

Somehow this beach went missing … even though it was written up and the photos were edited, ah well. Here it is now.

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It’s funny how a project designed to get me to the beach more often has sort of fallen away.  Here it is autumn already and we’ve only been to two beaches this summer and I’ve posted neither of them until now.  In part the weather is to blame – as it hasn’t been inviting.  And travel – not a bad thing at all, of course – but our having travelled to Korea, Japan and China this January and missing the hottest of the summer days means we also missed several weeks of beach-going opportunities.

In any case, Edwards, our 23rd visit and our first of the 2012/13 season is on the Middle Harbour – specifically on Hunters Bay.  It is the neighbouring beach to Balmoral, number two.  The area was once famous, back in the late 19th century, for its artist camps.   Adherents to the movement of painting in the outdoors, especially landscapes of a newer sort, came from the city to live in tent camps on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour while it remained near-enough but distant and still ‘wild’ territory.  Robert Louis Stevenson once spent a night.

Author Ada Cambridge described a camp as:

… a cluster of tents, a little garden, a woodstock, a water tub – almost hidden in the trees and bushes until one was close upon it; and the camp looked out upon the great gateway of the heads, and saw all the ships that passed through, voyaging to the distant world and back again.

We visited on a warm and sunny, inviting day, in late November, when the view of the heads remained but the scene was otherwise wholly transformed to one of 21st century Sydney suburbia.  It was the sort of day bound to bring people out but especially in early summer and the beach was bustling.  A wedding had just concluded when we arrived and guests were still milling about as photos were taken and before the party moved on to the reception.  The couple were evidently locals as guests in formal attire were seen chatting with dog walkers and swimmers.

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We had come by bicycle and ferry – pedalling over from the Taronga Zoo Wharf in yet another reminder of just how hilly North Sydney is.  We arrived hot and sweaty; laid our towels beneath a towering Morton Bay fig near the kiosk at the Bathers’ Pavilion and took in the life and liveliness around us.

These middle harbour beaches tend to be full of, one, locals and, two, people more used to the Mediterranean for whom the sea is mostly a calm beast.  People who associate a day at the beach with playing ball games while standing in chest-deep water enjoy Middle Harbour beaches and they were out in numbers.

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When Anita, our third hand, arrived we moved to the beach itself.  She and I took a dip and found the water surprisingly warm for so early in the season.  On our ride back to the Wharf we stopped at the Buena Vista Hotel in Mosman for a bite to eat and a few cold ones. It was a nice way to start the season and little did I know at the time how long it would be before we got on to number 24, Eleanor.

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No 22: Delwood Beach – 11 March 2012

I’ve been a bad blogger.  Our visit to Delwood Beach not only seems ages ago but was, in fact, ages ago.  The couple whose engagement party we attended in Manly on the Saturday night have since wed and are expecting their first child.

It was an unexpected almost-weekend away.

The engagement party was at the rowing club on Manly Cove on a bright, sea-sparkly, Saturday afternoon into evening. We had ridden our bicycles to Manly – no small thing at 27 kilometres (nearly 17 miles) and having forgotten just how hilly North Sydney is.  The feat impressed our friends and we were nonchalant about it – “Oh, yeah, we rode.”

Afterwards we had another round of beers at The Four Pines – a boutique brewery overlooking Manly Wharf.  We then retired to our mate Jim’s place for a late night chat and sleep over.

In the morning the weather proved delightful and the beach a welcome place to recover a bit. Delwood is a funny little beach.  Walking west from Manly Wharf, past the Oceanworld Manly Aquarium and up the hill, it’s the first beach you hit.  It’s reached by stairs and consists of a small rocky shelter with a million-dollar view out to the Sydney Heads and the sea beyond with the Manly Ferry plying its way across the horizon.

We hung about for a while enjoying the salty air and watching the sailors, windsurfers and snorkelers doing their Sunday things.  Jim and I ventured in for a freshening dip.  We took our photos and prepared to depart for the rest of our Sunday’s.

Delwood Beach is in the Manly Council LGA; Manly State Electorate (Mike Baird, Lib) and Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Lib).

Next up: No 23: Edwards

No 15: Collins Beach – 5 March 2011

Collins Beach is in the Sydney Harbour National Park in Manly.  It’s a beach that seems like it should be quieter and more obscure than it is. You have to walk a ways to get to it, it’s not obvious from any roadway but it’s busy.

Heaps of people! There were several big groups and many (seeming) tourists. I guess it’s on the maps handed out by local accommodation — it felt like it’s the “secret beach” for visitors if you know what I mean.

There was an American couple set up near us, speaking loudly on their mobile phones — the guy completely freaked out to see someone wearing a Milwaukee Brewers hat there (as Mitch was).

It’s sheltered and has super clear flat water and backs into bush.

Collins Beach is 24 kilometres (15 miles) from home.  We took the bus to Central Station then got a lift with Erin.

Collins Beach is in Manly LGA, the state district of Manly (Mike Baird, Liberal) and federal division of Warringh (Tony Abbott, Liberal). I think our next beach is actually represented by Labor!  Wait for it …