1. No 21: Dee Why Beach — 5 February 2012 - Kind of crowded and angsty but with good Japanese food and cold beer

    View Post


  2. No 18: Cronulla Beach - 18 December 2011

    We began our visit to Cronulla at Ham Harry & Mario where we had their breakfast plate: kind of a European deli take on the Australian big breakfast: prosciutto, avocado, sliced tomato, ricotta, boiled egg and good sourdough toast with a drizzle of olive oil over the lot. Tasty, filling and just a little bit different.  Coffees were good; service was fine given the busyness of the hour.

    We’ve visited Cronulla once before in this project for beach number five, Blackwoods, back in March 2010.  Today we were visiting the main Cronulla beach and, as with Coogee a few weeks ago, we found it crawling with nippers.

    For a fuller discussion of nippers and surf life saving see my last post.

    Cronulla Beach is 22km/13.6m from home (our new home, so new measurements).

    Like Coogee before it Cronulla is a familiar beach to us as we have been many times over the years.  The name is derived from kurranulla meaning ‘place of the pink seashells’ in the dialect of the Gweagal people (Wikipedia).

    The coast line was explored and mapped by Matthew Flinders and George Bass in 1796 and European habitation began in 1835.

    The train line to Cronulla was first built in 1885 and it is still the only of Sydney’s surf beaches serviced directly by the train which makes it accessible to a broader swathe of Sydneysiders than say Bondi or Manly.

    The area is on a peninsula and is part of the Sutherland Shire. The Shire, as it’s known, has a reputation as a bastion of old mono-cultural (Anglo-Irish) Australia — the reputation seems to mostly be upheld by the people you see on the streets away from the beach: nearly all white, primarily northern European, but some Mediterranean people as well.

    I’m trying to sidle up to the touchy and a bit complex issue of the 2005 Cronulla Riots.  I like this rather straightforward one-sentence definition offered by the Dictionary of Sydney:

    Series of clashes and mob violence which escalated from a verbal confrontation between life savers and a group of young men of Middle Eastern appearance.

    Frankly I don’t want to dwell on it and Wikipedia does a fine job summarising the events.  My two-cents: little in life is as black and white as mainstream media portrays it.  This event was fuelled, I think, by young men, pumping with testosterone, in a space of cultural conflict; add summer heat, lots of alcohol and the intentional fanning of the fires by race-baiters, shock jocks and tabloid journalists.  Oh and police caught off guard and unprepared for the chaos.  Ta da: Race Riots.  

    I’ll admit to feeling a bit bad for the mainstream majority of Cronulla who were tarred as a bunch of red necks because of what happened.  Frankly I think train access means all of Sydney arrives on their doorsteps on hot summer days; our city is amazingly multicultural, which is wonderful, but that means within our population we sometimes have widely divergent standards of behaviour.  I have on good, trustworthy authority that there had long been conflict on Cronulla’s beaches around the way some groups of young Muslim men behaved toward non-Muslim women and girls.  It’s not a condemnation just a realisation that some conflict is natural in a multicultural society; the challenge is how we address and diffuse that conflict.

    Let’s get back to nice pictures from the beach.

    Cronulla Beach is in the Sutherland Shire, the state district of Cronulla (Mark Speakman, Liberal) and the federal division of Cook (Scott Morrison, Liberal).

    I found this cool image on the Dictionary of Sydney website Saturday arvo, Cronulla, 1961 by Jeff Carter:

    There I also found this fascinating story of the Shark Arm Murder … which I’ll leave for you to explore on your own.

    If you’d like to get a closer look at any of my photos in this post please visit the gallery on SmugMug.

    Next up will be beach number 19: Curl Curl.


  3. No 17: Coogee Beach - 20 November 2011

    We have visited the 17th beach, Coogee, to officially get the 2011/12 beach going season underway.

    We’re in the midst of the chaos of moving houses but I thought it important and worthwhile to breathe salty air, feel the sand in our toes, watch waves rolling in from the South Pacific and, as it turned out, bear witness to thousands of nippers participating in a surf carnival.  

    For the non-Australians amongst you, or those not fully literate in Australian culture – nippers are children, specifically children participating in Surf Life Saving.  Surf Life Saving Clubs have been responsible for much of the life saving patrols done on Australian beaches since the early 20th century.  They also do an amazing job teaching kids surf safety while they participate in the sport of Surf Life Saving — which incorporates swimming, paddle-boarding, running on the sand, etc.  The Coogee Beach Surf Lifesaving Club was founded in 1907.

    We began our visit with breakfast at Morning Glory Café.  I had grilled haloumi cheese served with a poached egg on toasted sourdough with wilted spinach and a roasted tomato; Mitch had the big breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, grilled mushrooms and a tomato, baked beans and Turkish toast.  All was good including the coffees.

    After breakfast we got the toes in the sand and wandered amongst the masses to watch the nippers in combat.  What good fun!  Frankly it just doesn’t get much more Australian … well, in the sense that we could have been nowhere else.  Surf Life Saving is essentially peculiar to Australia.   If you are surrounded by little kids wearing swimming costumes with beach names across their bums and colourful cloth caps tied beneath their chins – well, you are in Australia.

    Coogee Beach is 13.8 kilometres (8.6 miles) from home.  It’s a place I’ve been many times in the 11 years I’ve lived in Sydney – including celebrating Thanksgiving with a barbeque there in 2001 (perhaps).  Thanks to Midnight Oil I’d been familiar with a key geographic feature of Coogee Beach, Wedding Cake Island, since, oh, the mid 1980s.  But until I moved to Sydney I had no idea it was here … giving Coogee crappy surf.

    Wikipedia has a lot to say about Coogee but here are a few key items.  The name may come from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘smelly place’ in reference, perhaps, to the kelp which washes up here and, if left uncollected, rots.  European life in the area began in 1838; the first school was built in 1863 but became the Coogee Bay Hotel in 1873 – a place where beach-goers have drunk themselves silly for 138 years now.  Coogee was the end of a tram line back when Sydney had trams (1883-1960).

    On the headland on the northern end of the beach stands a memorial to the victims of the terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia on 12 October 2002.  The memorial is specifically dedicated to the 20 local residents, including six members of the Coogee Dolphins Rugby League Team, who were killed; all together 202 people died, 88 of them Australians.

    Inland, also at the northern end, is Coogee Oval home to the Randwick Rugby Union Club (go the Galloping Greens) and the Randwick-Petersham Cricket Club.

    Coogee Beach is in the City of Randwick, the state district of Coogee (Brice Notley-Smith, Liberal) and the federal division of Kingsford-Smith (Peter Garrett, Labor).