And what is the price of perfection?
Australia is the land of beaches and you’ve always wondered which was the best haven’t you. Oh I’m not talking waves here either, I’m talking beaches. Strips of sand fronted by the ocean and backed by surf life saving clubs. Beaches. And finally there is a definitive list from a trusted source. PEN nominated writer Chas Smith. And let’s get right to the meat.
Bondi: Bondi, from its northern stink stack to its southern Iceberg swimming pool, Bondi is the best beach in all of Australia and maybe the best beach in the entire world. Where else can you surf, kick a tourist practicing Capoeira, practice yoga, eat a cold gelato and quietly ogle the sexiest men and women on earth from behind tortoise shell Tommy Ford sunglasses? Bondi!
Mackenzies (Tamarama): I could, likely, continue south from Bondi listing each and every nuggety little cove all the way down to south Coogee because they are each magnificent. The way the small ancient cliffs bend, the way the trees and brush grow, the way the sand glistens and the way bodyboarders end their small lives on glistening stone slabs… it is like Lord Byron himself dreamed it all up. Mackenzies is the prototypical of these just a walk and a world away from Bondi.
Bells: I grew up on the brutal Oregon coast. People said it was beautiful but all I saw was oppression, mint Skoal and waves that neither felt nor broke like they did in Southern California. Still. I pretended they did and would surf every day and this made me a tough weird nut. I think Bells Beach is basically the same thing. I think tough weird Victorians look up to Sydney while shrugging and convincing themselves cold fog is good medicine. Maybe they are right.
Snapper: Do you love skin cancer? Surf fights? Bogan accents? Schoolies? Well then Snapper would be your number one but it is my number three because I only like all those things. All of Coolangatta is worth the price of admission ($23.90) but Snapper is the crown jewel because it is fun to watch the tourists fall on the rocks and it is fun to catch a wave and end up in Papua New Guinea.
Gas Bay: Western Australia is magnificent and I defy you to find someone who says otherwise. It has mining, kangaroos, wine and Gas Bay. This little gem of a beach lives just south of Margaret River and you won’t be sad here because a famous surfer’s father told me that the magnetic qualities of the rocks make his son surf very well. I’d imagine he is right and that you could become a famous surfer too or at least squire one. And what could be happier than that?
Ballina: Sometimes a beautiful pastoral scene, quiet pubs, white sand and blue waves are not enough. Sometimes almost certain death is required in order to get the heart pumping and Ballina couldn’t be better because there is a one in three chance you will get eaten by a shark if you wade in past your kneecaps. Ballina falls on the great road between the Gold Coast and Sydney and this is worth driving but best in an automatic in case you lose a leg.
Forster: They say Forster has the bluest water in all of the world or at least in all of Australia and I can attest to this. It is very blue and the waves are also fun and the sand is the perfect temperature but if you can pull yourself away from all the beauty you should get a meat pie from a mini mart in town. Very delicious.
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island: I think this is considered the most beautiful of Australian beaches by most boring tour operators who don’t think getting eaten by a shark constitutes a thrill and while I’d like to leave it off the list it must be here. Because it really might be one of the most beautiful. It is worth sailing there, if possible, because the water sparkles and the winds gift the best hair you’ll ever have had.
Byron Bay (pre-2005): Time machines are certainly coming soon and the day they do you should cut to the front of the queue and punch Byron Bay 2005 into the computer before someone tries to visit Marie Antoinette or Michael Hutchence. In case the Michael Hutchence visitor beats you, though, hop in and then hang around for 10 years then go to Byron Bay because it might have been the best beach town ever, even better than Bondi, before the gypsies moved in.
Noosa: There’s something about a palm lined, white sand, warm watered, small waved beach, at the very end, that is just perfect. Noosa has everything just as it should and normal beachgoers will enjoy their time and some might think, “Let’s move to Noosa!” and they will but their children will develop low-grade drug habits and not amount to much. The price of perfection.