I loved how everything was focussed around the beach. There was such a great vibe. The streets are laid out so nicely and then the harbour and ferries are parallel to the beach, so you’re on this weird little peninsula. The lay of the land is very different from Perth. So much rock. Cliffs and juttings and outcrops and heads. So of course that makes for some pretty cool surf spots. In Perth you can pretty much walk in a straight line along the beach from one end of the metro area to the other. And there aren’t really cliffs… just sand.
There’s a boardwalk from Manly all the way around to Cabbage Tree Park and Shelley Beach. The waves sometimes break across it and you walk past the in-ocean swimming pool, cafes, diving lessons, a calm swimming beach, two surf breaks, and people paddling their surfboards between one spot and the next. There is a natural viewing/amphitheatre where you can watch the surfers in line with where they take off. Then, 90 degrees to your right, there’s another wave, breaking at a totally different angle!
In typical fashion we brought swell with us and the beaches were actually closed for two of the three and half days that we were there. There was a cyclone off the north east coast and the waves got a bit ugly with messy winds.
Christmas day, our first morning there, was perfect, but thinking we had all the time in the world, we had coffees and took in the sights. By lunchtime, when we decided to go hire a board, the wind had come howling in (for the first time in a week) and it was all down hill from there!
Boxing Day we went out on the Harbour and watched the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race from a boat.
I promised myself that I would go out for a surf before we left. Sure enough, the morning that we had to check out was a lot more orderly and smaller. Of course, the board hire places open office hours and we needed to be out by 10am. So I took out my Dad’s kneeboard! He takes his board with him as people don’t rent kneeboards! This was a great experience. It’s 6’2 and has a very spooned (kneeboard, ugh) shape. It goes really nicely as a stand up board – apart from having to stand across knee dibits. Plus it duck dives well – and I sure was doing a lot of that. More than catching waves.
The water was SO clear out there and I got such a kick out of sitting out there (and from being able to see our balcony from the line up). It was also pretty amazing to see the stereotyped Australian summer surfing culture. Perth is so flat in summer with the protection from the outer reef. But Sydney needs hardly any swell to have waves. Imagine that! Surfing decent waves regularly in summer! Warm water, blue skies, holidays… The Perth surfing culture is having your pick of the car parks, putting on a wetsuit, and paddling out at a beach that is empty apart from the surfers. Lucky for us, Perth is generally pretty spectacular in winter; blue skies, offshore winds, no crowds… and the water and air aren’t really that cold…