Australia’s Beautiful beaches: Ettalong Beach, a quaint vacation spot, just north of Sydney.
There is no shortage of beaches in this part of the world, and Australia is home to approximately 10,000! Popular beaches to visit in Sydney are Manly and Bondi, both beautiful but very crowded. A little further north and just an hour’s drive from Sydney’s CBD is Ettalong Beach, a relaxed little enclave, and for many Sydney natives, a favorite summer vacation spot growing up.
I had plans to do some house sitting further north in Byron Bay, but I wasn’t expected for another week. A couple of friends confirmed that this was a nice place to visit, so I checked the BroadsAbroad.net site and found Ally.
My trip involved taking the train from Wynyard Station in Sydney to Woy Woy then catching a bus to Ocean Road in Ettalong. Ally wasn’t expecting me until after 4pm, and always early, I had time to kill in Woy Woy.
A byproduct of this nine month adventure has been an exercise in patience– not one of my strong suits. Waiting for flights, trains, buses, hosts, check in times…waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s been a real lesson in acceptance and letting go. I’ve also become quite comfortable dealing with new and novel situations. That feral cat fear is slowly being tamed a little more each day.
When I did arrive, I was greeted by Vic, Ally’s husband, who informed me that she was in bed suffering from a severe migraine. An affable guy, we chatted a while, and then he showed me to my room with its own private bath. Not wanting to be in the way, I decided to take a walk and explore the area.
The town of Ettalong is set right on the waterfront and a short walk from Vic and Ally’s place. The esplanade takes you along one side of a lovely cove where boats lazily cruise about. Enjoying this tranquil scene after the brash, noisy city of Sydney, and hearing the low, murmuring sounds of boat engines off in the distance, made me a little wistful and nostalgic for my long ago, childhood summers spent on Lake Cobbosseeconte in Maine.
When I returned, Ally materialized, and I was met with a tall, willowy blonde draped in brightly printed shorts and tank top–the proverbial surfer girl! My first impression was a good one, as I found out that becoming a surfer is a long term goal of hers. For many years, she and Vic longed to move from the colder climate west of Canberra to the warmer central coast of New South Wales, and they made that happen three years ago taking out a substantial mortgage to realize their dream, yet not compromising their life style which includes working part-time. It’s worked for them. They love it here.
I’m reminded of my brother Jake and sister-in-law Lauryn’s three life rules to live by: 1. always write a thank-you note; 2. always wear a good pair of shoes; and 3. never let money get in the way of what you really want. I’ve embraced these rules myself (except my shoes at this writing are looking a little shoddy). There’s never enough money, there’s never the right time. You have to listen to that voice deep inside and just DO IT! And then prepare yourself to make new friends. They will appear.
True to her ever expanding self, Ally decided she wanted a new name and has chosen the Maori name Tarni, which means salty water. An array of interesting new friends have entered into Tarni’s life, and feeling better the next morning, she invited me to join her and her group, who call themselves Waves of Wisdom or WOW for short, for a swim at Avoca Beach, famous for its great surfing.
This golden, sandy beach is patrolled by members of the Avoca Beach Surf Life Saving Club who put up a set of flags each day indicating where it is safe to swim. On this day the seas were roiling, and we were only allowed to swim between a very narrow section. While Tarni’s friend Chris, a life long surfer, tackled the high waves, a few of us went swimming and were not only dragged outward by the strong undertow but also pummeled by high breaking walls of water, tossed ashore like so much abandoned cargo. I’ve never taken in so much sand or had so much fun! What a workout.
After swimming, others joined us for coffee and conversation, reminding me of my own special group of dear friends back home dubbed The Coffee Girls.
Since Tarni had to take it easy for the rest of the day, her friend Nikki offered to take me to Bouddi National Park nearby for a hike and a picnic. Armed with great snacks and lots of sunscreen, we climbed up to spectacular views of cliffs and more golden beaches below while Nikki educated me about the many different species of trees and the diverse landscape.
I was lucky that during my three day stay, the New South Wales Surf Life Saving Championships were going on in Ettalong on Umina Beach, another short walk away.
Surf Life Saving is one of Australia’s largest volunteer organizations. These volunteer, life guard groups help keep beaches safe. A whole sport has developed as a result, and for nine days every year, up to 7000 members from Australia’s 313 surf clubs, along with over 600 volunteer officials come together to compete. This uniquely Australian organization brings together people of all ages and looks like a great way to make new friends and do important work.
Making new friends has certainly been a hallmark of this trip. I regretted leaving this relaxing paradise and saying goodbye to Tarni and Vic and their wonderful hospitality, but they assured me I was welcome anytime should I make my way back to the Sydney area.
I continue to stay in touch with Tarni on Facebook and was delighted to read recently that she caught her first “green wave,” an unbroken wave and not just white wash. I wish I could have been there to witness her unbridled enthusiasm and excitement. Once again, I end with a quote. This one is dedicated to Tarni:
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”