Things in Australia that made me smile: Beaches

Even though I live a short stroll from the beach, I wouldn’t describe myself as a beach person. No, it’s the water I love, its ever changing moods and colours. However, I’m not adverse to a stroll along a sandy beach, digging my toes into the damp sand and walking along the receding waterline. While I was in Australia, I posted lots of beach photos and many of my friends were astonished at how empty they were. It’s true, there’s so many beaches that most have only a few folks on them. Often the empty ones are the more dangerous ones where swimming is forbidden and there are no lifeguards. I should clarify that, when I say dangerous, I’m referring to rip tides and rocks, not sharks.

Of course, when you use the words “beach” and “Australia” many think of Bondi beach. It might be the most well-known one outside of Australia but it’s surprisingly small. Now, I’m no surfer but the beach is much larger at Manley and the waves look pretty good to me! What do you think?

But my favourite beaches are those where the waves crash against the shoreline and sunbathing is the only permitted activity. Often these are havens for birdlife and are bordered by magnificent dunes with all manner of plants and shrubs.

 

Equally, I love family-style beaches where the sand’s soft, the water’s clear and shallow – ideal for a splash about. Often there’s a pier for strolling along or fishing from or for diving into the sea. Perfect for a spot of lotus eating.

I also enjoy the beaches at sunrise and sunset. I particularly love the play of light on the water.

However, some of the most magnificent seascapes are to be found along the Great Ocean Road.

 

 

The bits in between – Melbourne to Sydney

We drove the longer coastal route heading past the lovely Mornington Peninsula on the Alpine road, then onto the South Gippsland and Princes highways. As a keen MotoGP fan, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Phillip Island, home to the Australian MotoGP. Sadly we couldn’t look around as the circuit was playing host to a classic car rally – acres of gleaming chrome, polished by thousands of loving owners.

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The island reminded me of childhood holidays on the Isle of Wight. Its two largest resorts were even called Ventnor and Cowes. It’s obviously a popular spot for bikers, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Harleys in one place. What’s the collective noun for loads of Harley Davidson bikes?

I enjoyed the most amazing vegan lemon tart in one of the island’s many cafes but sadly couldn’t persuade the owner to part with his recipe though he gave me enough information to be able to replicate it when I get home.

We then sped through the vast wilderness and rugged coastline of Wilson’s Promontory towards Toora and the eminently forgettable motel (the one and only) for our first overnight stop.

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We both had a good chuckle at the breakfast menu that included spaghetti on toast. Remember those overcooked bits of pasta swimming in a sickly sweet, orange viscous sauce? Stuff of childhood nightmares!

The redeeming feature of the first part of our trip was the landscape, particularly the beautiful wetlands with its granite outcrops, eucalyptus forests and Agnes Falls.

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The following day we headed further up the coast stopping in Sale for a coffee and then onto the amazing aquatic wonderland of Gippsland Lakes for lunch.

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The ever-changing landscape was a cause for delight and, to be honest, the highlight of the trip. We stopped overnight in the seaside town of Eden that has this beautiful cemetery overlooking the gorgeous white sandy beach.

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On both days breakfast and dinner were supermarket sourced where I’ve found a pleasing supply of vegan goodies, along with plenty of fresh, seasonal and local produce. Not unnaturally, outside of the larger towns, many cafes and restaurants close up shop at 4 o’clock, though there are always plenty of takeaways – fish and chips anyone?

The landscape north of Eden was much greener and its pretty rolling hills dotted with idling cattle more reminiscent of an English countryside. We’ve spotted plenty of native birds and a large rabbit and kangaroo crossing the road ahead of us. Sadly, most of the wildlife we’ve seen has been road kill though the roads have been excellent and largely empty of daytime traffic.

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We passed through the pretty town of Narooma before stopping for lunch at the quayside in Bateman’s Bay where crowds of gulls intently watched us, channeling the spirit of Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

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The last stretch of our journey was along the Grand Pacific Drive taking in Jervis Bay and Wollongong before retreating inland to the lush green vegetation and rolling hills of the Sydney suburbs.

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During our three-day trip, the scenery changed dramatically yet subtly as the kilometers ticked past. Flat wetlands, transitioned into almost impenetrable rain forests to undulating open spaces offering tantalising glimpses of the ocean fringed by white sandy beaches, sometimes on both sides of the road. Some things were constant – the dairy herds and lush green pastures. It really was an eye opening trip.