April 03, 2011No 16: Congwong Bay Beach – 3 April 2011
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 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.
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.
Gibson’s Beach is a five minute walk southwest of the ferry wharf.
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.
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.
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.
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).