Caroline Clements (writer) and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon (photographer) have been exploring Australia by way of its best swimming spots. Their latest book, Places We Swim: Sydney, is a guide to swimming, walking and eating your way through one of the world’s best cities for splashing around.
We generally search for three types of water experiences around the city – ocean pools for laps (ideally 50 metres); cruisy, uncrowded waves to surf (impossible); and adventurous hikes to hidden fresh waterholes (abundant). Little Bay is none of these, and yet it’s so much more.
Tucked into the coastline between Malabar and the La Perouse headland, this tiny suburb feels like it was secretly inserted into rolling green pastures and built overnight. Its two unpatrolled micro beaches (within one bay) are protected from the large coastal swells and most wind directions, making it a perfect place to swim in nearly any conditions.
Access to the secluded bay is via a timber staircase, past the Prince Henry Centre and a chapel. The toilet, change rooms and beach showers about halfway down score extra points from us. It’s also at this point that the big reveal happens. Shimmering blue water punches through hanging tree branches, exposing the beach vista below. On a sunny day, this place is perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Soft, golden sands present ample spots for sunbathers to unfurl for the day, while nooks in the rocks offer protection and some degree of privacy. Families splash in the shallows, while spear fishers launch off the rocks and others float around on the surface of the water, observing the reef below. Couples (us) cut short laps across the bay, debating the distance (about 100 metres at the closest point and 200 metres across the furthest part of the bay).
A stormwater culvert at the south end of the southern beach is a good source to pick up weathered beach glass on a dry day and something less savoury on a wet one. Like most harbour swimming places and the old days at Bondi, we suggest that you avoid this beach after heavy rain. Stormwater run-off from surrounding streets flows to the beach and is then flushed into the open ocean. After a couple of dry days it’s as good as new, restored to its aquamarine best with perfect underwater visibility.
Still an unknown spot to many Sydneysiders, it is with some reluctance we unveil this magical spot, but we believe in sharing our spoils. No matter how many times you visit, Little Bay feels like a real discovery. It’s these unexpected gems that keep us searching and we hope it inspires our readers to do the same.
Like many beaches in this area, Little Bay is bound on all sides by a golf course. While it’s tempting to cut across the plush grass while coming and going from the beach, the best etiquette is to stick to the designated path. Walking across the fairway introduces a high danger of rogue balls, golf carts and verbal abuse.
Type of swim: Beach
Distance from CBD: 17 kilometres, 30-minute drive.
Address: 4R Coast Hospital Road, Little Bay
Ideal tide: High tide – when the shallow reef is covered enough to broaden your underwater viewing options.
Facilities: Toilets, change rooms and showers are located along the timber platform about halfway down to the beach.
2036 Little Bay Cafe
Convenience is key at the beach, so we’re sure this cafe picks up more than a few hungry beachgoers on their way past. It’s at the entry to the beach, near the chapel, in the Prince Henry Centre, and is a laid-back beachside spot with sea views from outdoor tables. The small menu is made up of eggy breakfasts: omelettes, French toast and an egg-and-bacon roll, or grab a coffee on your way down to the sand (BYO cup).
2 Coast Hospital Road, Little Bay
The Heritage Kitchen Garden
On your way into or out of La Perouse, is this quaint cafe in a two-storey heritage building. Built in 1910, the site has been home to many businesses, including a post office, a general store, a florist, a doctor and now a cafe with kitchen garden. A hub for locals, it’s open for breakfast and lunch every day, serving homemade cakes, artisan bread and dishes made with produce picked from the garden, such as sun-ripened cherry tomatoes, plump pumpkins and crunchy salad greens.
1212 Anzac Parade, Malabar
Malabar Ocean Pool
Malabar Bay is the fjord-like bay just south of Maroubra (north of Little Bay). On the southern side of the inlet, an odd-shaped tidal ocean pool creates a relaxed community meeting point. Restored in 1997 by Randwick Council, this pool is in great nick. On weekends people read newspapers in the sun and catch up with friends. An idyllic setting.
Bay Parade, Malabar
Please note the beach is not patrolled. Proceed with caution and check Beachsafe before visiting. It’s important to follow all signs.
This is an edited extract from Places We Swim: Sydney by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, published by Hardie Grant Travel ($39.95).