Tag Archives: Watsons Bay

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.