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Friday, 16 January 2009

Aussie Beach Culture

Most Australians live on the edge of their sprawling nation, as close to beaches as they can get. If they live in the outback or in country areas they overwhelmingly aspire to beach holidays.

I thought I'd chat about Aussie beaches as part of a series of posts leading up to Australia's National Day on January 26.

I'm lucky enough to live not far from the Queensland/New South Wales border where we have many many kilometres of stunning sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

South East Queensland's famous Gold Coast with its high rises is a holiday tourist destination for people worldwide, and the Northern Rivers of NSW on the southern side of the border is magic for its sprawling green hinterland. Both feature a long magic peripheral ribbon of sand and surf.

Today we visit two beaches on the Queensland side.

The Gold Coast strip kicks off with a dear little cove that is probably my favourite - Rainbow Bay (above). This is well known for the famous Schnapper Rocks surf break, the home of international surfing competitions where board riders vie for big prizes.

Familes and oldies love Rainbow Bay because it provides safe swimming in sheltered water.

Just around a headland is the famous Coolangatta Beach framed by ugly/beautiful pandanus palms.

This view of Cooly shows the wide sand stretching northwards, commencing more than twenty kilometres of almost uninterrupted beaches all the way north to Surfers Paradise and beyond. The Surfers high rises are just visible in this next shot.

Depending on the whim of the tides, Cooly also often has a safe haven for families. I took these pix last week on an idyllic summer day when holiday crowds and locals were making the most of their leisure ...

The flag you see in the distance is an indication of the safest body surfing area on the beach. These flags bound an area patrolled by professional beach inspectors who do a great job.

Overseas tourists are often rescued because they do not realise the power of the rips and currents in some parts of the beaches. If they don't swim between the flags they can be in trouble. It is quite possible to be swept out to sea in a few seconds - in the wrong spot.

To me it's amazing that so many Aussies swim at the beach without too many tragedies. The famous Australian sharks also do not claim many victims when you think of the number of bodies around!

This is the Coolangatta surf break.

You can see that most Australians are sun wise these days and use beach shirts and smear themselves liberally with sun screen. Half an hour in the midday sun can mean a week in agony for someone without such protection.

Sun burn can also set you up for skin cancer - a big danger for Australians if they're not careful.

People without shirts don't stay that way for long.

Families love a lazy day on the sand ...

This group found some rocks in the shade.

These youngsters are transfixed because they have found a couple of dozen tiny catfish swarming and trapped in the shallows. The boy in red is taking a closer look.

The people on the right have found another group of catfish.

Aussie kids love to dig in the sand.

I asked permission of the Mums of these children if I might take their photographs. Of course, that was a signal for both of the little girls below to put on very serious curious faces.

While kids build sand castles ...

Oldies dream ...

Do you have a beach culture where you live?
Or do you have 'snow culture' or something else?

My Aussie mate Lilly of Lilly's Life is also doing a series of posts for Australia Day. Right now she's scaring the pants off all of us (as we say) with stories of dangerous Aussie animals. (Mind you few Australians ever lose a night's sleep because of hairy scarey creatures!)
Have a peek ... Lilly is always good value.



  1. Thanks June for the link. Ah.... beaches. You live in a wonderful place!

    When I lived overseas in Kate's homeland I used to dream about beaches, Aussie beaches. It was the first thing I wanted to do when I came back. Go to the beach. You have taken great shots of the way Aussies 'do' the beach. Wonderful post. I remember the days before sun cancer prevention when I used to lie on the beach all day and slather coconut oil on myself. You should be working for tourism Australia. They paid Baz a lot. I haven't gone to see Australia yet but hope to soon. My sister really enjoyed it! Have a great weekend. Thanks again.

  2. Hi LILLY
    Thanks for the nice words.
    I went to see Australia this week, not expecting a real lot, but I came away loving it. And wait until you see Hugh Jackman's performance my dear. You'll be besotted I'm sure.
    I also loved Baz's magical realism involving the Aboriginal culture cross fertilised with a bit of American film fairy floss of the Wizard of Oz. Unlikely!
    And then there was the Aussie scenery and ... and ...
    I don't usually enjoy epics but ...

  3. Water! Ah, June, what a lovely photo-essay. I get very excited when you post photos, as they give me an extra window into your world, so far away from mine.

    I was born a block away from the beaches in coastal Maine, and I grew up one block from the foggy beaches in San Francisco. Even in New Hampshire, where I later lived, we had a coastline of something like 18 miles (only). Now, in New Mexico, we are far from water of any significance. The rivers in this part of the state (maybe only 2) are quite small for most of the year.

    In New Mexico, you get so you can smell water, even if it is from a rainstorm miles away in the desert. We brake for large puddles, I can tell you, just to enjoy the sight of a little water gathered in one spot.

  4. Such a contrast to our -18 degree temps. in Upper Michigan this morning...the wind chill was actually -35 to-40F. They cancelled schools all over yesterday and today. Hopefully I can post some photos on my blog when we have our summer of the log home we live on, which sits on a gorgeous inland lake in Upper Michigan and some of Lake Superior, which I also live close to. Enjoy the looks lovely!

  5. Hi June, Just love all the pictures of the beaches. One of my favorite places in this world. I can sit and stare at the ocean for hours. I love the pictures of the children with their curious faces. Can't wait to see Australia. Isn't Hugh Jackman a cutie! Like Lily I used to slather myself with baby oil and lie in the sun all day when I was younger.
    I think your Oz must be one of the more beautiful places in this world.

    I want to come over there and give you a hug. Then gather you up in my magic flying machine to transport you over the Pacific Ocean and pamper you in our surf, rivers, lakes and yes, road puddles.

    Where I live on the NSW side of the border on the lovely Ozzie Tweed there are all of these in abundance. Life is so unfair.

    (Mind you Australia is still among the driest continents on earth and we face great climatic problems. It's just that this corner is a little Eden.)

    I'm sure your New Mexico has its very good side?

    There you are - always a bright side. Log cabins and summer lakes are dream like. Looking forward to your pix!

    Probably the children think days when schools are shut down because of bad weather are a plus?

    Cold is dream like to us in some ways - although we have our 'heat' and our 'cold' the temperatures here are rarely extreme.

    I think real weather fluctuations ('though not extreme) are natural stimuli to get going and to create. We just don't have them at both ends of the spectrum.

    Mid summer temperatures of 33C and 90 per cent plus humidity are not catalysts for action. We never but NEVER have snow in my neck of the woods.

    Are there good things about a wind chill factor of -35 to -40F? Tell me ...

    Mind you, I don't think I'll swap right now.

  8. G'day JUDY
    Yes, the land of Oz is beautiful - but not always in the traditional sense of our beaches. Just like the pandanus, it is often naturally ugly/beautiful and that's fine by me.

    The bits I abhor are those where man has raped and pillaged, destroying the enviroment, including so many of our precious animal species. And that's happened far too often. Even the high rises of Surfers Paradise make my hackles quiver.

    Then there are the corners of the cities and the country areas where the homeless lie in the open, or where housing and services are sub-standard and human beings aren't equal. We have those too.

    Of course, perhaps the greatest condemnation of all has been the treatment of Aborigines who are only now beginning to receive the attention they deserve. Yes, Oz is a many sided place.

    When I'm feeling down I make for a spot high above surf pounding on rocks, and feel better.

    Judy, don't you dare come here without visiting. D'ya hear?

    Hugh Jackman - maybe I would use a more emotion charged word than 'cutie'? Come on!

  9. What a fabulous post, June! Oh, and those beaches do look so fabulous! particularly when it's so cold and grim here. Would give anything to be able to visit Australia, always wanted to, now I have so many more reasons with so many wonderful friends there!

  10. Hi SYLVIA
    It's probably mean to post about beaches during your winter.
    A visit? You can come with Claire and Judy and wouldn't we have a ball.
    If only ...

  11. CLAIR
    I have done a tiny bit of research on New Mexico - to catch up a little on your environment. Arid, mountainous and sparsely populated. With a great history involving many different cultures.
    Can you let us know something of what it means to be a librarian who has settled there?
    If you wish of course ...

  12. Well, June, my blog, The Zees Go West, started out being all about "settling" (for a while at least) in eastern New Mexico out on the High Plains. To get a feel for how a newly retired librarian felt about landing here, you would really need to come over to the blog and read, especially the beginning parts.

    I can tell you that the first time we came to New Mexico, back in 1997 for a year, I felt as though I had landed on another planet--maybe even another universe. Such a blend of cultures (Indian, Hispanic, and white) in such an amazing landscape (mountains, desert, cowboy-lands) and such a dry climate--none of the trees and grass and abundant **water** that I was so used to back in New England. I got too homesick that time and we went back to New Hampshire.

    However, now that I am retired and my husband will be, too, in a couple of years, we love the weather (dry, warm), the pace (very, very relaxed), and the cost of living. I think I will just go back to New Hampshire in my imagination now, since I am too arthritic to enjoy the damp climate any more. Ah, but what a beautiful place New England is!

    Do you get a sense of why I'm such a gypsy?

  13. Hi June, looking at your pics reminds me of being a little girl and taking Christmas breaks at Queenscliff and St. Kilda, of all places. But my memories of the sea, sun and sand and playing in the shallows, stick with me vividly to this day. Lovely post. Eaton. :)

  14. I LOVE looking at the beach but I hate going there. I can't swim and I have pale, pale skin (okay, pasty) thanks to my red-headed father so going to the beach to me means 45 minutes applying sunscreen to everywhere but my eyeballs, getting sand in places where sand was never meant to go, not being able to cool off in the water because I'm afraid to go out past my ankles in case I get sucked out to sea by a rip.... yeah, not my idea of a good day! :) But I love to walk along the beach on cooler days, or sit in shady cafes that overlook the ocean. Oh, and walking along the boardwalk on St Kilda beach - fabulous.

  15. Hi CLAIRE
    I have been reading your blog for a fair while now - but obviously not the very beginning. I'll wander back there ...Yours is a fascinating story.
    I do glimpse the gypsy ...

  16. G'day EATON
    Early childhood memories sure stick don't they? Pleased you liked the pix.

  17. Hi FEMINA
    I think the beach culture I described is a bit different to Victoria's, although the coffee shops et al are much the same.
    A fair complexion doesn't help in the sun that's for sure.

  18. Oh yeah, I was talking about Sydney beach culture. I've only been in Melbourne for 5 years; I grew up in Sydney. I love Melbourne and I'm happy to stay here but I must admit I still miss Sydney Harbour.

  19. Nice pics June. The only time I spent at beaches were the time my family went on vacation to Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico. We spent weeks body surfing, suffering jelly fish bites, and generally having a blast. It was the complete opposite of what we kids were used to.

  20. What a dreamy post! How I long to be there as I sit here shivering in -15 C!

  21. LADYFI - it will be your turn for summer soon.

  22. ERIC
    It's hard for me to picture our different lives. I have always lived not far from the NSW coast, and mountains were the stuff of occasional holidays - and mountain hides are completely foreign to me.
    It's important that everyone's experience is not the same however.

  23. Hi June,

    Aussie beaches are well-known even here in India, as anyone who makes a visit down under makes beaches a must-visit. Here in Mumbai, the beaches are diappontingly dirty but interestingly crowded, but India's true beach place is Goa. Have you heard of Goa??? It has some of the loveliest beaches in the world.

  24. Yes SUCHARITA I have heard of Goa.
    Many of our young people travel through Asia, including India, as a sort of coming-of-age thing, wandering around for a year or two sometimes. (Australians are great travellers I suppose because we are so far away from everything.)
    Goa is definitely on many Aussie travellers' routes. I think you will hear many Oz accents there, if you listen! It's very popular.

  25. O June, what paradise ! The clear blue water and such white sand, I sigh looking out at my own cold, white landscape. Cheryl

  26. CHERYL
    Summer is around the corner for you.
    The sand of such popular beaches as Coolangatta are swept most mornings with a tractor-like machine that sieves for rubbish.
    However, generally these days Aussies are fairly clean creatures with a culture of picking up after themselves.
    The water is beautiful still, although I do fear for it when decisions have been made to put in a desalination plant a bit up the coast. We wonder what that will do ...

  27. What a gorgeous place, and I'm here in sunny California! It truly is beautiful there.

    I agree - never get tired of soaking up the scenery. Fair puts you back in the land of the living.

  29. I lived in Byron Bay for a while, June, and loved it...though I'm really not a good "sun" person. In India, although the sun rules 9 months of the year, it's a different kind, and I haven't been burnt once since I lived here. Funny I hit your page today, and I'm heading to the beach tomorrow. But it made me think of the smell of the beach, and how I miss that so much. I remember getting out the car in LA once, down at Santa Monica beach...I'd been in India for 2 yrs and hadn't seen a beach that whole time. When I got out the car I took one smell and burst into tears....:)

  30. Braja I posted a comment on your beach post a little while ago - at almost the same time you posted the above. Beaches do get in your blood, although I take mine at either end of the day, during the cooler times.
    I can understand your tears. Enjoy the break, you Aussie girl you.

  31. awesome pics...and though I have a trip to the mountains to catch some snow ....u almost make me want to plan a beach holiday real soon.

  32. Pinku - the beach will wait for you - the snow may not!

  33. It feels so good to look at those pictures right now while I'm so cold! It's great to see people being warm! Beautiful, too!

  34. You guys are really feeling winter this year - I hope it passes quickly for you. Save your pennies and come and visit ...

  35. Someone told me there isnt an ugly place in Australia.. i guess i must say it's true now!


  36. Wow,
    what pics, thanks June,
    I live in a part of the world which has neither beaches nor snow, only extreme winters and extreme summers.

  37. Hi SILVER
    There are ugly parts of Australia of course and I find them generally where man has interfered with nature. Such as mining sites and cheek-by-jowl high rises.
    Leave nature to herself and there is always at least what I call 'ugly/beauty' which to me is perhaps not the traditional beauty of say, a clean beach, but may be found in some of our native trees which can take on strange shapes, or in rocky outcrops.
    Even in our deserts there is beauty and fascination if one looks closely.
    Australian is rarely soft and gentle, but often has an edge which is great by me. Acquired taste?

  38. MAMPI
    Thanks for visiting again.
    Your home nation is fascinating, even if not always classically beautiful. At least extreme weather can shake you out of yourself!

  39. At 62 I'm glad to think of still kicking past 70. Now all I really need to know is, if my wife and I ever get to Australia, where do we find the stone sheep?

  40. Butler - or it it Bagman? Ego or id?
    The stone sheep - on the next post not this one - are in the grounds of a wonderful little community art gallery in Murwillumbah on the Northern Rivers of New South Wales in eastern Australia. Very near the Queensland border.
    Email me when you're about to visit the area and we'll do coffee - I live not far away.

  41. Hi June,
    What a gorgeous part of the world you live in mind you I don't envy you heat - just toooo hot for me, I would end up spending a lot of my time hiding from the sun when it's sooo hot. Maybe I'm meant to live in this cold driech place where the climate that we see most often is rainy days ! The beahes look really outstanding though... (in pictures)
    Enjoy your gorgeous scenery and just have a wee word with that yellow ball in the sky every now and again to call and see us too!
    Cheers, Kate x.

    BTW missus I did say in my post that 'the cheeky words concerning my posts atm were mine' - I knew that my heart wasn't in it as much as it should have been and normally was. D starts her radium course tomorrow - hopefully it will give her some extra 'quality' time - the painkilling drugs (morphine) certainly have kicked in and means that she can move about more freely - so at least that's a blessing. Thanks for your kind thoughts June. x.

  42. I have grown up on the Goldy and moved to be with my partner a year ago in the UK. It's so lovely to see the beautiful photos of the beach again. Am coming back in October for a holiday and your photos have made me homesick for my spoilt lifestyle I will hopefully have one day again soon. Great blog :-)

    Good luck with your career and your blog.
    Writing is a hard road but well worth the effort!


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