It’s against the law to visit Australia without going to the beach at least once. Especially if you’re a Briton who’s never heard the words “sea” and “sunshine” in a sentence unencumbered by sarcasm. Compared to the busier Bondi Beach, Thirroul Beach is a quiet, non-touristy beach near Sydney and is not so much undiscovered as overlooked, hence why we decided to hop on the train and explore it one June afternoon.
This isn’t a big enough deal to count as a bucket list item, but I’ve always wanted to dip my feet in the Pacific Ocean. Why? When I was little I watched an early morning children’s programme where the presenter scooped sea water up in a mug and proclaimed it “warm enough to make a cup of tea.” Somehow I doubt the ocean was boiling, but it grabbed my attention nonetheless, so I can thank Timmy Mallett and his cohorts for further nudging my interests over the English Channel.
Despite its modest position, Thirroul Beach is within easy reach of Sydney. You need to take the train from Platform 2 of the airport station and change at a place named Wolli Creek (pronounced Woll-eye. Bet you can’t say it without an Australian accent), then head along the South Coast Line.
After the best part of two hours, the sandy-coloured brush ambling past the windows gave way to lush greenery and navy waves. At the same time, we were flanked by the dark brows of low mountains that almost seemed to be guarding us from something on the other side. From the station, a short stroll through the quiet town of Thirroul with its flocks of chuckling cockatoos took us on to the sands of the beach.
Thirroul Beach is only patrolled between September and April, so even if the waves hadn’t been twice my height and tossing their manes about, swimming would have been out of the question. This also meant that the area was lovely and quiet, although the ocean giving a standing ovation would have blotted out any noise anyway.
Despite the frown of rain clouds in the photo and the gregarious breeze it was warm by British standards. The Australian sun was dozing, but every so often it opened one eye and reminded you how scornful it could be; more than once I felt some exposed skin blush, and the glare behind us was so bright that the mountain tops were reduced to mere silhouettes.
After plodding along the sands for a short while I finally decided to bathe my feet in the water. And so another childhood illusion was shattered; the ocean was cold. This is coming from someone who has swum in the English Channel in winter. Then again, technically I was dipping my feet in the Tasman Sea, not the Pacific Ocean, so perhaps I can carry a torch for this idea a little while longer.
Aside from the town, a small rivulet where a gaggle of seagulls congregated and stern signs warning against swimming, there wasn’t much else about. Everything was closed, including the kiosks and saltwater pool. I seem to have a knack for this. That being said, the air was clear and crisp, the view was gorgeous, and I had finally dipped my toes in the waters of the southern hemisphere, which was what I had come here to do. We also spotted this sign on the way back:
I would say the person who did that was a “Wolli”, but thanks to a previous paragraph that joke no longer works. Damn.