Eastern Suburbs Bucket List – 2015

A threshold of tolerance has been crossed…..Mould, damp, torrential storms and an endless Eastern suburb chill has sealed the deal…..I am on the move.

I am packing up my Easterns suburbs pad and moving back to my old stomping ground….Sydney’s beloved inner west. But I do so with a heavy heart.

Sunrise Clovelly...Oh, how I love the East

Sunrise Clovelly…Oh, how I love the East

But It is time.

It is time to have a kitchen, a bedroom door, time to do away with the bar fridge, time to own lounge room furniture and time to stand in a bathroom bigger that the size of a small cupboard.

Yes, it is time.

But it has been time well spent …..5 years to be precise and I leave the East with a treasure chests of memories…priceless and precious.

5 years of Centennial Park Birthday picnics, 5 years of early morning swims at Bondi, Bronte, Clovelly and Mahon Pool, 5 years of eastern suburbs café hopping, 5 years of living in a tree-lined street where houses frequently sell for $2 million dollars plus, 5 years lying in my garden hammock, book in hand, Flora the cat always in tow.

I have lived the Eastern Suburbs princess lifestyle on a shoestring budget….Flora has too….and I will be forever thankful for this opportunity. It has been life changing.

But it is time…time to leave.

And so, for my last 2 weeks in the East I am embarking on my own Eastern Suburbs bucket list….Doing everything I want to do, everything that represents the East to me, everything I have grown to love, and if I am honest, started to take for granted.

The taking for granted part signifies that yes it is time…but not before I live the Princess lifestyle for one more super indulgent time!!

12 Beaches of Christmas 2012

Disclosure: I wrote this post yesterday..when it was 12 days till Christmas…and then forgot to post it…Alas…only 11 days till the man in red visits…but my words below remain unchanged!!

Ready for Summer

Ready for Summer

It is fitting to post this entry today as it is in twelve days time St Nick will squeeze himself down chimneys across the globe, delivering presents to those who have behaved themselves during 2012.

Twelve days time….and while one might think my focus would have a self reflective theme – Have  I have been naughty or nice, good or bad…Ho, Ho, Ho…No, No, No…..My thought processes are consumed by a higher calling…the ocean and the myriad of beaches that line the NSW coastline…….For whilst it might be 12 days till Christmas, for me that means the annual 12 Beaches of Christmas Campaign must begin….Who will make the cut in 2012?? Which beach will kick start proceedings…which beach will take out top billings? Will it be the infamous Bondi Beach or little know Honeymoon Bay on the NSW South Coast?

Oh the suspense

Oh the elation as I stare down the barrel of the 12 day campaign ( which in truth will be stretched out till the 1st of January 2013…as seriously, in the peak of the Australian summer, there is no better place to be on New Years Day that beach side)

View from a beach towl at Callala Beach

View from a beach towel

If you have been reading my blog for the past 18 months…perhaps you joined me this time last year, as I explored the 12 Beaches of Christmas 2011. For those new to the idea, you can check out last years entries under the category ‘ Beaches’

Dear Readers, I know this campaign has the potential to divide the audience…Some face a Christmas in sub zero conditions, a Christmas were eating a turkey, complete with all the trimmings and sipping mulled wine makes sense….Not in Australia…whilst no doubt we will cook the traditional hot lunch, outside it will be as hot as the oven that prepares our food ( perhaps hotter)…the beach is our only hope of survival during the silly season.

So whether the Christmas period sees you wearing ear muffs, fur coat or bikini….join me in the celebration of all things summer, all things Australian as I document, one beach at a time, the truly joyous occasion that is a dip in the ocean. May these entries inspire those who reside in warmer climates to take to the ocean, and provide an escape for those who are snowed in, huddled around the fire places, that there are warmer days to come.

CUWAM- The first beach of Christmas: Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, Sydney

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And so it is that I come to write about the first beach of Christmas…which is actually an inner city pool, set only minutes from the Sydney Botanic Gardens, with its stunning views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Without further ado, I introduce the Andrew ( Boy) Charlton Pool, located in the Domain, Sydney.

Click HERE to visit Andrew ( Boy) Charlton Pool

Wow wee..I could not end this series of posts on a better note….

I had attempted to visit the Andrew ( Boy) Charlton Pool on New Years Eve…intent on ending 2011 on a high, with a swim in an inner city pool I had never before ventured too….I had packed my swimming bag and headed by bus into the city….Arriving to the Domain at 1pm, it became very clear that this swim was not going to happen…..The road to the pool was closed, hundreds upon hundreds of keen beans had begun queuing early for the entry into the 2011  fire work show…..

With the pool located near the prime vantage points for firework viewing, I was forced to do a u-turn, this swim was not to be….thank goodness for the NYE roof top pool party!!

Fast forward to 2012, and a day of extreme heat was felt across the city yesterday…perfect for a bit of after work poolside action.

The joy of the Andrew ( Boy) Charlton pool adventure started for me when I alighted the bus at Circular Quay…forcing  me to walk on route through the Botanic Gardens….Passing canoddling couples, picnickers and revellers still heralding in 2012,and enabling me to  leave memories of office life behind, and lose myself in the gardens beautiful flora, fauna and people.

Arriving pool side in under 10 minutes, the $5.80 entry free was worth it. The salt water oasis is nestled along side Wolloomooloo Wharf, allowing the swimmer to view navy ships and ocean liners through the glass walls that encase the pool.

And whilst the place seemed to be an after work haven for serious lap swimmers, I cooled of in 1 metre deep kiddies pool….which I had all to myself. I then took a hot shower in the change rooms, dressed and re-entered society..feeling like a new woman….

On my journey home, I again strolled through the Botanic Gardens, soaking up views of the harbour and that bridge and that house with sails on the roof….Heavenly….

So do yourself a favour, next time you are in Sydney, visit this inner city pool…one that probably only locals know about…but now you do too….This information is my Christmas / New Years gift to my valued readers…I highly recommend this place, and all the other beaches / pools I have reviewed during this series.

Happy Summer Swimming to each and every one of you

CUWAM: The Second Beach of Christmas…the one,the only,BONDI Beach

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My luck seemed to extend from the moment I caught up with Jo and Yo in Sydney on the evening of the 30th of December. They provided me with the perfect canvas for a NYE to remember….and this continued onto NY Day….the sun shone, the sky was blue, summer was here to celebrate with us on the first day of 2012.

A few quick calls, text messages and a simple plan was devised….Bondi Beach, 12 noon.

Feeling the effects of two days of solid partying, I gathered by beach bag at snail pace. I drove to Bondi Beach Road, parked my car in an all day parking spot, and then jumped on a city bus bound for the beach. Picking up two coffee’s on arrival, I hit the sand, keeping an eager eye out for my friend Steph, who had set up camp hours earlier

On finding Steph, we settled in for a day of perfect beach action….Lounging around, under umbrellas and sun shades, reading magazines, munching on snacks of fruit, chips and salted mixed nuts, going for numerous dips in the ocean, celebrating the first day of 2012 with thousands upon thousands of other sun worshippers….

There was a gentle hum of conversation and laughter in the air, a mixture of languages, the smell of suncream and coconut oil, and a sense of community, of a shared experience, on Sydney’s day of days at its most infamous summer playground…Bondi Beach. As far as the eye could see, there were people enjoying themselves, the sun, their friends and family….

People came and went from the beach all day. My friends Jenny and Fiona, joined Steph and I for a swim and a chat. But it was Steph and I who were in it for the long haul…eventaully calling it a day at 5.30pm, and heading to Bondi Icebergs for a New Years Day celebratory beverage…we had earnt it…beach action is very, very tiring.

So to Bondi Beach, thank you for providing me with the most wonderful New Years day, an oasis for me and my friends to gather, and talk about our shared hopes and dreams for the coming year….And altough we had to share this experience with thousands and thousands of others, that was preciously what made the day extra special…,,

CUWAM- The Third Beach of Christmas : Roof Top Pool Party, Sydney City, NYE

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Wow I am a lucky, lucky girl. I have such wonderful friends and family….and this New Years Eve, two of them were in town to herald in 2012.

Jo and Yo, my friends from London had jetted into town for a quick visit. When both of these boys are in town you are in for a good time. Both of them don’t use the word ‘ No’ in there vocabuary….they are ‘ Yes’ people and the only option to go along for the ride…and what a ride it will be. Jo and Yo just go…and go and go and go…collecting like minded people along the way, be it in London, Buenos Ares, New York, Wollongong or Sydney, a process which makes the world feel like a smaller, friendlier place

I would describe them both as global pied pipers of friendship and fun, and if you are lucky enough to get swept up in thel party….be open to it as you never know what type of adventures will follow.

First there was a night out on the town on the 30th of December, in which Jo, Yo, their friend Richard and I celebrated a little to hard…partying  like it was 1999, except it was 2011 and there was still another 24 hours of the year to enjoy. With all four of us peaking to early…the fact that we all had to back it up on the 31st of December proved somewhat challenging.

Nursing hangovers, there was only one way to approach the task at hand….drink up and enjoy. The mojito’s flowed, the guacamole was devoured and laughter and conversation filled the boys hotel room. The group slowly grew and by  8.30pm, we were a party of 10 and headed to the hotel roof top. We watched the 9pm fireworks, with somewhat restricted views, but a special treat just the same. We were a lucky group, celebrating the New Year amongst the city skyscrapers, complete with wine, sparklers, party poppers and good company.

But the real treat was the roof top pool, swimming in the late evening, with a panoramic view of the city lights…a dip in the pool, like one big cleansing bath, the perfect way to wash away 2011 in preparation for coming year….

The laughter, joy, tears, sadness of 2011 were to be left behind….as soon the New Year was to be upon us….Night swimming, with good friends, a celebratory mood in the air.

New Years Eve 2011….spent sky high on the roof top of a Sydney hotel, with pool, spa, sauna access, a fireworks show that was world class….but if I was to pin point the real highlight of the evening….it would be the company, the good friends I celebrated with….You were the true gems of the evening, and have instilled me with a sense of joy and wonder about the coming year….

CUWAM: The fourth Beach of Christmas: Little Austi and a child’s first swim

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The fourth beach of Christmas is a beach in my childhood home, Austinmer. Little Austi Beach, a unpatrolled strip of sand and surf nestled in between two headlands.

A beach which is perfect place for a summer dip, to float and frolic in the clear blue ocean. My Father refers to Little Austi beach as ‘ Tea Bag Beach’, for on hot summer days, as far as the eye can see are people, young and old, bobbing up and down in the water. I rather like this name and think that Dad should put this suggestion to local council.

Ah Little Austi / Tea Bag beach….you are a friend to all. Dogs roam off leash, children collect shells and swim in the rock pools, surfers catch waves that form out past the rock shelves, teenage girls soak up the sun, and in the good old days, when Headlands Hotel served ice-cold beer all summer long, locals and tourists alike sat on the hill, looking out at the sublime view that encompassed both Tea Bag and the Illawarra coastline….

Today my cousin from Victoria, his wife and baby treated us to a post-Christmas visit on their homeward journey. Tea Bag beach had been mentioned as the perfect place for their daughters first ever swim.

With most of the Illawarra beaches still closed due to dangerous surfing conditions, an alternate swimming hole was required. As luck would have it my family have been entrusted to look after a backyard swimming pool till January 2nd. And whilst it seems indulgent to bathe in a home pool with the ocean minutes away,with the beach off-limits today, it was perfect for our 8 month old visitors first ever swim.

My family felt very privileged to watch in wonder and amazement at the joy the water brought to our little guest…The backyard swimming pool was perfect, the water temperature was mild, the swimming conditions mostly calm ( except for the occasional water splash….mandatory pool behaviour!!)

And whilst it had been hoped that Little Austi/ Tea Bag Beach would provide the essential ingredients for an important milestone to be reached today, that of a child’s first swim, the beach was trumped by the humble backyard swimming pool.

Pool or beach, salt water or clorine….a swim is often just a swim, but it is the people who you share it with that add the magic and create lasting memories.

CUWAM- The Fifth beach of Christmas: Port Kembla Beach and seaside pool

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Todays beach venture taught be a valuable lesson….It is best to avoid making assumptions in life.

As a child, growing up in the Northern suburbs of the Illawarra, there was little need to venture past my local beach, Austinmer,  for a swim. Why get in the car and drive miles when you can walk to the ocean in a matter of minutes?

While that philosophy has been in operation almost every time I have returned home to the South Coast,  my 12 Beaches fo Christmas ode, has forced me to travel further afield.This Austinmer local has travelled to beaches South of Wollongong, to destinations better known for it steel works plant, soot and smog.

Christmas catch ups with my London friends Jo and Yo, it town for the silly season, meant that I did not venture South till almost 2pm. Abandoning plans to explore the seaside town of Kiama, I took a left hand turn on the freeway at the  Port Kembla exit and never looked back.

Not certain of the direction I was heading I entered what must have once been the bustling Port Kembla high street. It was all but a ghost town. Shop fronts were boarded up, tumble weeds blew down the streets, business for sale.  I counted 3 pubs on the main drag, on a street deserted of people. I took this as a sign that Port Kembla has once been a  thriving commercial area….The steel works providing hundreds of jobs, pouring money into the local economy, enabling the beer taps to flow…

Times have changed, and with it the town has suffered, it looks sad and tired….but the sea is its saving grace.

Port Kembla Beach and Pool is simply stunning….an oasis in a town that is in need of a bit of cheering up. The Olympic sized pool is newly renovated, and also contains two wading pools for little children. The well manicured lawns are tiered and provide great ledges from which sunbathers can take in views of both the pool and ocean.

I ate well priced fish and chips for the pool’s kiosk and then took a walk to the beach.

Getting back in my car, I continued on to another prime swimming and fishing spot in Port Kembla, Hill 60. The view from the Hill was divine, had the council had not chosen to instil a waste management site nearby, I would give the place a bigger write-up!!

I learnt a valuable lesson today, that making assumptions about places,  means that you miss out on the joy of discovering things for yourself, coming to your own opinion. Port Kembla is not only part of the steel city that is Wollongong, but a breathtakingly beautiful seaside town….I would encourage everyone with a bit of time to discover the suburbs charm for yourself.

CUWAM: The Sixth Beach of Christmas: Coledale Beach and Camp Ground

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Coledale Beach and Camping Reserve

King tides have closed the majority of beaches along the South Coast…For those who have packed up everything from the kitchen sink to the Christmas tree, and unpacked it at Coledale Beach and =Camp Reserve, things are looking pretty bleak.

There must be around 200 people in around 50 tents camping over the Christmas/ New Year period. A picturesque beach side camp ground, it is one of the few spots in the Illawarra that allows you to set up camp a stones throw from the ocean.

At this time of year it is a site to behold….Grumbling about the weather and lack of excitement at the Wollongong Boxing Day sales that I ventured to this morning, my father told me to go ‘cruising’??!! By that he meant, cruising for some beach front inspiration. I had asked my father for guidance as the lack of sunshine and heat was hindering my spirits and ability to tackle the task at hand: the half way mark in my beach odes.

‘Head up to Coledale’, suggested my Dad ‘ It will be packed’

And that is was….. On arrival I entered a temporary village, a make shift town of tents, caravans and campervans. Clothes lines were erected between pine trees, surf boards were being used as card tables, people were walking about, eating left over fruit cake from Christmas lunch,  merrily drinking beer whilst kids sat beach side eating soft serve ice-cream cones.

The place even seemed to have it own code of conduct. It soon became clear that you had to say hello to everyone you walked passed…a genuine hello, you had to say it like you meant it….I kind of liked that!

Despite the jovial mood of the camping reserve, the ocean was not in a good mood. Large waves broke on the shore line, the sea was grey and angry….Life savers sat on the sand watching the fury of the sea, their presence a gentle reminder that the water was a no go zone.

With the water the focal point of any beach outing there was an amazing amount of activity at Coledale this afternoon…but then I guess if you have set up camp and you are in it for the long haul ( ie NYE) you have to make the most of a beach side holiday…regardless of the lack of sun and angry surf.

So I witnessed other seaside pass times this afternoon: photography, sand castle making, ice cream eating, picnicking, gossiping, pondering, beer drinking and general all round relaxing.

And yes, despite my initial hesitation to abandon ship and stay indoors today, I am glad I ventured to Coledale Beach and Camping Reserve…a hive of activity on an otherwise average summer day.

CUWAM: The Seventh Beach of Christmas: McCauleys Beach

This post is dedicated to my beautiful Uncle who passed away yesterday. A  man who had life’s priorities in the right order: family and friends always come first. My Uncle was also a passionate writer, so the written word seems a fitting way to pay tribute to a life well lived.

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Christmas day, you arrived and brought summer with you!! That in itself if the best present one could ask for. A beach Christmas, thank you Santa!!

It is 5pm in the evening and I have had two oceans swims. Whilst I sit a recall my first seaside dip I am contemplating a third in a backyard swimming pool….

Over sparkling Shiraz, Christmas Ham and hot English mustard sandwiches, and the eve of St Nick’s arrival, my childhood friend Steph and I devised a plan to squeeze in an early morning swim the following morning. Steph’s schedule was packed, a brunch, a lunch and then a three course dinner!! Me on the other hand only had a lunch to contend with.

The lucky beach we picked for our Chrissie dip: McCauleys beach Thirroul. My love affair with Mc Cauleys beach has been ongoing since the early 1990’s, when Steph’s parents brought a two bedroom cottage one street away from the beach.

From that point on my summer swims were often at McCauleys, a unpatroled beach just south of the ever popular Thirroul Beach and pool. On hot summer days, Steph, her sister Alison and I would see dense crowds at Thirroul beach from the quiet and calm of McCauleys and feel ever so smug!

At the prearranged time of 8.30am Chirstmas morning, Steph, her Mum and Dad, pooches Carlos and Chelsea and I headed on foot in the direction of the water. On arriving at the beach, we quickly set up camp. Steph and her Dad headed to the water first, whilst Steph’s Mum and I did dog sitting duties. Ten minutes later it was Anna, Steph’s Mum and my turn for some McCauleys action. The water was warm, frothy waves broke over our heads, and we dived and ducked beneath them.

It was a glorious way to start Christmas Day 2011, for that matter, any day….Bathing in the ocean, natures own water park, offering cooling relief, restoring energy, providing clarity.

All too soon the Christmas schedule kicked in, the brunches, lunches and dinners…..But what would Christmas be without them!!

So three cheers for Christmas 2011 and the early morning swim at McCauleys…a swim that took place at a beach rich in family and friendship history. Thank goodness for local knowledge and thank goodness for life long friendships….the perfect ingedients for celebrating.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

CUWAM- The Ninth and Eighth beach of Christmas. The combo edition, Parsley Bay and Milk Beach

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On reflection, today could almost be seen as the first official day of summer in Sydney…for I believe it is the first day that the city has not experienced rain….Yippee!!

And with the sun making an appearance for more than 2 hours in a row, I marked the occasion by getting in my car and driving to one of Sydney’s most exclusive suburbs: Vaucluse.

Vaucluse…what can I say….You are simply stunning….you won my heart back in late 2007 when I first swam at the delightful Neilson Park, on a night when the summer heat enticed swimmers into the water late into the evening. And since that first swim at Neilson, I have returned, numerous times, for picnic with friends, early morning swims and even a Sydney Festival event, a Dawn Choir in the summer of 2008.

But so often I had heard Sydney siders talk off Vaucluse’s hidden seaside gems…of Parsley Bay
Hermitage and Milk Beach….but never on any of my day trips to the area had they revealed themselves to me.

Thank goodness for this summers 12 Beaches of Christmas campaign!! Ever determined, and armed with all the essential tools for this intrepid outing ie street directly, I took to the streets in search of
some Eastern Suburbs paradise.

I discovered Parsley Bay with relative ease…so much ease that it occurred to me I could have made this discovery many moons ago if I had not been so stubborn in insisting on car rides without street guide…But there are no regrets here…Parsley Bay was in all her glory, the sun shone, and a smattering of people were their enjoying both the parkland and ocean playground.

Inspired by the Parsley Bay discovery, after taking a few photos, I hoped back in my car….My plan was to tackle another long admired, ever elusive swimming spot…the fabled Milk Beach.

Milk Beach features on the NSW Tourism website as one of Sydney’s Secret Beaches…And this is no lie, Milk Beach is the holy grail of seaside discoveries in the East!!

A work colleague had told a tale of a magical Sydney beach, a place that allowed you a ocean dip whilst basking in stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and City Skyline…that place was Milk Beach.

And to my delight, and with heaped praise for the street directory, Milk Beach revealed itself to me….…On a stunning Sydney afternoon, I had my first harbour swim of the season…..I had to share the beach with one other couple, and a bride and groom, having an afternoon wedding photo shoot on the sand….A priceless way to spend the first day of Sydney sun.

I think I will stop here…The photos speak for themselves…and reinforce my belief that for a perfect summers day in Sydney, all one needs is a little bit of luck ( or a street directory!!) , a swimming costume, sun cream and hat…the city takes care of the rest…Simply stunning secret beaches and parklands that are there for all the enjoy.

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