Sydney - A beach haven down under

Posted By: Shikha Chugh                

It is the world’s largest island and so its beaches are bound to be an important part of its culture and the identity of its people. As someone very wisely said, "Australians make or break romances at the beach, they marry and take honeymoons at the beach, they go on holidays with their children to the beach, and in vast numbers retire by the beach." Well I surely wouldn’t mind living this Australian reality one bit!

For now I was happy that I was in Sydney, basking in the summer heat and showing off my sultry tan. From sightseeing to adventure sports to pleasing those taste buds, I’d done it all! Now it may be argued whether it is the first country to witness sunrise or not, but it most certainly cannot be argued what the rays of the rising and setting sun do to the clear blue Pacific waters. Each sunset that I witnessed etched a memory so deep and so vivid that no matter what, I would probably think of it every time I witnessed another spectacular sunset!

The piercing hot summer down under forced me to spend a major chunk of my holiday lazing around on the beautiful beaches in Sydney. Now I can’t truly say that I’m a water enthusiast, because not knowing how to swim doesn’t really qualify you as one but I would also be lying if I said that the first sight of the ocean didn’t send me into a different sphere of excitement and peace(quite oxymoronic I would say). So didn’t matter which category of water enthusiast you fell into, the beaches and bays simply lured you to them.

Bondi Beach: The city’s most famous beach was just 15 minutes away from downtown Sydney and on a hot day, the entire one kilometre stretch was enveloped by sun-seekers who gathered to bask in the sunshine, cool off in the crystal-clear surf and enjoy a colourful selection of beach- side cafes. I sat at one of these quaint cafes trying to enjoy my fish and chips but completely distracted by the sheer mass of humanity in front of me. For once I forgot to admire the pristine blue colours of the ocean and stared awestruck at the crowds. I guess one could probably compare it to the crowds during Ganpati Visarjan at Chowpatty in Mumbai! One of the busiest beaches of the country, Bondi beach provided activities all year round to keep you busy – from surfing competitions and kite flying to festivals, markets and galleries. Of course shark scares and warnings were a normal phenomenon here and didn’t stop people from thronging to the beach. Another interesting fact that I came across here was that Australia and the world’s first official Surf life saving clubs were founded at Bondi and Bronte. No wonder then that most of the warnings were taken rather seriously!

Manly Beach: A half hour ferry ride from Circular Quay (the hub of the Sydney Harbour), Manly beach is another one of the ‘don’t misses’ in the city. On a particularly hot day the beach was a sea of people lazing around, playing volleyball or just taking a walk along the beach in the shade of the towering Norfolk Pine trees. It is a commercial thriving beach side location with multimillion dollar mansions and apartments located around it. The Corso, one of the main commercial streets running from the harbour side of the Manly Wharf to the ocean side of the Manly beach is your perfect destination for all those souvenirs and sarongs that you want to pick up and to enjoy that perfect seafood meal after watching the mesmerizing sunset through the pine trees on the beach! Needless to say quite a few unnecessary dollars were spent here!

Watsons Bay: Hop on to a ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay, a harbour side, eastern suburb of Sydney, though pray that it is a calm sunny day and the waters aren’t too choppy for the rain may make a wonderful sight but the sea breeze and the waters may just turn that calm scenic ride into a nightmarish one, particularly if you are one for sea sickness! Laze around at the park, soak in the greenery, enjoy reading a book in the shades of the trees and feeding those friendly sea gulls, step into the tepid sea green waters and enjoy the spectacular view of the yachts and boats anchored in them.

If you haven’t carried your picnic spread along then you must join in the long queues at Doyles On The Wharf and enjoy your fresh dose of seafood!

After a sumptuous meal, I decided to walk south of the wharf towards The Gap. It was an hour long coastal walk through the gently inclined steps to the Gap; a great way to digest the afternoon indulgence at Doyles. The Gap was an ocean cliff offering stunning views of the deep blue Tasman Sea to the east and glorious views of the Harbour and the city of Sydney to the west. Despite its popularity with tourists, it was also notorious and a well known place for suicides in Sydney.

Watsons Bay is also home to one of the few legal nude beaches in Australia – Lady Bay beach, so if you are in the mood to bare it all, there is no stopping you! All in all, a day at Watsons Bay is another great way to spend a lazy summer day in Sydney.

Umina Beach: A road trip to this beach made for another day trip 90 kilometres north of Sydney. It was a lovely drive, the beach relatively quieter than the ones in the heart of Sydney. The Pacific waters seemed to have the ability to keep changing their colour, from deep blue to emerald green with streaks of purple in between, I wondered if my eyes were playing games with me! The sight of the yachts stationary in the ocean at sunset had the power to hold my gaze for more than just a moment. For me it was a lovely way to spend a quiet day with the family.

Palm Beach: On of my favourite days out was at the Palm Beach. The jewel of the northern beaches in Sydney, Palm Beach was less than an hour’s drive from the harbour bridge and Sydney’s CBD. One can also hop on to a bus from Manly and enjoy the scenic beach views through the trip. Nestled on a landmark peninsula, it was blessed with a unique contrast of lush evergreen bush land and beaches of golden sand, enveloped by the pristine blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The beach was a surfer’s delight. On a day when the sun played hide and seek with the clouds, the beach looked absolutely stunning and the parks before the beach provided with the best picnic spots. As with all the beaches here, the lifeguards seldom took their eyes off you and it didn’t matter how appealing the clear water was, one had to step out the minute they called out to you! Such was the spectacular untouched beauty of this beach that it was also used for the exterior filming of the popular Australian daily soap opera – Home And Away!

These were just a few of the many beaches adorning the south eastern coastline of this Island Continent. The only regret I had was that I did not know how to swim. It would have been something else to beat the heat wading through the waves of the pacific and floating in those waters looking at the deep blue skies! An important tip, carry that hat and those sunglasses always but also remember that no amount of sun block can prepare you for the tan or that nasty sunburn after an Australian holiday!

As a tourist there is never enough time to completely discover a city as cosmopolitan as Sydney and I am still not done writing about it. So track this space for more on weekend getaways from Sydney before I move on to discover the zeal of another Australian cosmopolitan city and the wonders of The Great Ocean Road!
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