Words by Jess Kate Glass & Photographs by Matt Ben Stone.
With around 35,876 kilometres of coast, Australia is the land of Speedos and Vegemite, mates and mozzies, sandy toes and sticky fingers. A country whose winters put English summers to shame, where balmy evenings play host to a choir of cicadas, spontaneous late night barbecues and that romantic ‘just because’ fling. There’s the smell of sea-salt mixed with sunscreen, falling asleep in a sun-drunk daze and discovering grains of sand days, or even weeks after you’ve left the sunny shores, which linger in the furthermost corners of your home. Traces of sun-kissed days that were.
This is what growing up on the Australian coast is all about. Yet with only so many sunny days in a week, and with so much sand to cover, choosing a swimming spot can be like trying to divide your time between your loved ones and eclectic social circles. Thus I feel duty bound to harness my years of coastal living and guide you through our blissful selection of sandy shores. So pack a beach bag, ‘slip, slop, slap’ and prepare to swim between the flags.
Let us begin with a personal favourite, the glorious stretch of beaches where I have spent countless sunny days and nursed numerous sunburns as a result.
From the postcard-perfect Bondi Beach and her magnificent neighbours Bronte, Tamarama and Clovelly, to the bustling shores of Coogee, Manly and Balmoral, Sydney is spoilt for choice when it comes to coastal dwellings. Whether you’re a born and bred local intimately acquainted with the beach, its baristas and fellow sun-dwellers, or a wide-eyed tourist stumbling upon one of these striking beauties, their magic is never lost. At once energetic and slow, chaotic and serene, these Sydney beaches are recognisable the world over. And rightly so.
A word to the wise, sport luxe is ‘so hot right now’ so be sure to dress a la I’ve just been to pilates/yoga/cross fit, even if you have absolutely no intention of doing so, and say on-trend things like almond milk, pressed juices, organic and hipster. If this sounds a touch daunting, know that beyond Sydney’s CBD lie a mix of semi-hidden gems and waterfront towns, sun-catching hideaways like Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay and Crescent Head where milkshakes rather than cold-pressed juice are the treat of choice. Extended beach holiday meets road trip anyone? Yes please!
While NSW may be a tough act to follow, the serene Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is turning up the heat. Home to a delightful range of posh and fabulous seaside towns like Flinders, Sorrento, Portsea and Mount Martha, ‘The Peninsula’, as it is endearingly referred to by locals, is top notch and well worth visiting.
Located southeast of Melbourne, it is surrounded by Port Phillip (west), Western Port (east) and Bass Strait (south) and certainly fits our theme of townships girt by sea. Whether you consider yourself an adventurer and sports lover, wine connoisseur and foodie, culture vulture or history enthusiast, The Peninsula is sure to delight. There are more than 30 coastal and hinterland villages to explore and it only takes half an hour to drive from top to bottom. Yet traveller take heed, this area takes wind swept and ocean breeze to the extreme, so be sure to hold onto your hats while taking in the stunning scenery.
A Beautiful Adventure
Moving further south, nestled into the rugged Tasmanian coastline is the secluded Wineglass Bay. With water that is 50 shades of blue and miles of white sand it’s not difficult to see why it is said to be one of the world’s top beaches. Found in Freycinet, a national park 125 kilometres northeast of Hobart, you can sample world class oysters while sipping on cider, sea kayak or quad bike amongst the eucalyptus trees, get lost in wineries or camp out and watch the sunset.
Sunshine and Gold
It would be remiss to overlook the Sunshine Coast, where some of Australia’s best-known beaches reside. From Noosa and Coolum to Maroochydore and Mooloolaba, the never-ending shorelines and luscious green parks of the Sunshine Coast read like a beach-goers’ fairytale - a lush summery paradise. I still remember being piggybacked along a beach here as a child while hundreds of crabs scurried and scrambled, dodging the pounding footsteps of ‘oohing and aahing’ families like mine. To this day I don’t know who was more fascinated - those tiny little crabs or six year old me!
I have always found living by the coast sublime; a geological lottery I was fortunate to win. A site of such contrast, beaches can be vibrant and bustling hubs filled with snippets of conversation and squeals of delight or a place of silent refuge, an oasis used for peaceful contemplation. The sprawling blue of the ocean, pulsing rhythm of the waves and infinite grains of sand lining the shores are nothing short of remarkable. These are humbling reminders that we are a small part of an ever-changing landscape beyond our control yet eternally beguiling.
The beach is my childhood, my social habitat, my mental escape, my alone time. This is my ode to the coast.
Text taken from our sold out Australia magazine - more of Matt’s wanderlust-inducing work can be found by clicking here.