Tamarama Beach: Careful mate, it’s Australia

By Tee1

Tamarama Beach: Just minutes from Sydney

Tiny Tamarama beach is in an eastern suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South WalesAustralia. It is less than 5 miles from the business district. The beach is found between two narrow strips of land that project out from the coastline into the ocean. This small beach is just a couple hundred meters north of Bronte Beach and less than a kilometer south of the world famous Bondi Beach. For more than a hundred years, this beachside suburb and its park area have been popular for picnics, swimming, roasting in the sun, surfing and other fun beach stuff. It is a top beach in Australia.

[pullquote]the most dangerous patrolled beach in New South Wales; it’s often closed to swimmers[/pullquote]

Tamarama beach is not wide at all, but it has nice sand and is in a scenic valley. It is surrounded by beautiful parkland that offers some outstanding picnic spots. This beach destination is most certainly on the narrow end of the spectrum. That aside, it has been nicknamed Glamarama. The name was given in the 80’s, when the Tamarama beach was “probably Sydney’s gayest beach”.

Where is Tamarama Beach? 33°90′S 151°27′E

Massive Surf, Riptides and Tamarama Beach

Typically, this spot is known to have a lot of people that want to be seen, aka the beautiful people. It is the place to be for wannabe trend setters to work on their tans, swim, or try to get your picture taken. More than a few topless beauties have also been sighted on this little strip.  As the area has become more tolerant over the years, the LGBT crowd has moved to North Bondi.

The famous Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club was founded in 1906. It was one of the first surf lifesaving clubs in the world. In over 100 years of active patrols, the club has never lost a single life to the waves. Knock wood! This is borderline unbelievable considering the undertow is possibly the worst on the Australian continent’s east coast.

[pullquote]The Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club has never lost a person in over 100 years. [/pullquote]

The waves here are frequently massive and it is good surf spot, when not prohibited. Situated overlooking the beach from the north headland is the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club. Each year, 150 people are saved by the club. There are more rescues per 1000 swimmers (5.5) than other spot in Sydney. This is 10 times the rate of the North Bondi beach. In NS Wales, the Tamarama beach is the most dangerous patrolled beach.

Tamarama Water Temperatures

The high point for water temperatures here is at the end of January when they peak between 72 to 77°F (22 to 25°C). The coldest time of the year to get in the water is late August with a chilly 61 to 66°F (16 to 19°C).

Even in a small to moderate swell, Tamarama is incredibly dangerous for most swimmers, due to the deep water and small size of this east facing beach. Stay between the flags and do not ignore the lifeguards at here if you are going to swim. Stay calm, raise your hand, and just wait for help if you get caught in a rip. Expect rip currents up to 2 meters/ second even during a small swell. Unless you are Michael Phelps, this might be problematic. It is approximately the speed of the current mens world record in the 50 freestyle.

[pullquote]A rip tide usually is a potentially dangerous water current moving away from shore and out to sea. After a wave breaks, the water recedes and creates a channel that can potentially pull swimmers out into deep water.[/pullquote]

The entire surf zone of Tamarama beach is all rip. There will always be at least one or 2 rip currents. “When the swell really rolls in, an offshore rock shelf shapes a stunning 12 to 15 foot wave.” It’s a good time for really good surfers and for everybody else to sit back and watch from the cliffs above. This beach is closed to surfers during normal patrol hours.

The first settlers from Europe knew this beach spot on the Pacific as Dixon Bay. Sometime in the 1800s, it was rebranded as Tamarama. The Military and Naval Authority maps of the 1860s had the Aboriginal name ‘Gamma Gamma’. While uncertain, it is thought that Gamma Gamma could mean storm. Tamarama is probably a derivation of that. Again, this is just a guess.

Swimming was banned in Australia during the daytime!

The coastline of the Australian continent is more than 16,000 miles! The Aboriginal people had used the beaches for swimming and fishing. The initial settlers from the UK were uneasy with the ocean and preferred calm water in the bays and rivers. It is thought that the ocean was a painful reminder of the voyage from home, long and dangerous.

Swimming had been outlawed during daytime hours in 19th century Australia under the guise of decency and morality. To open up the Sydney beaches for swimming a campaign of civil disobedience began in the late 1890s. To protest the swimming ban in 1902, William Gocher promoted that he would swim at Manly in Sydney. Other public protests occurred around the same time. As long as the swimmers were attired decently, the police turned a blind eye.

Eventually the fresh sea air and salt water were prescribed by doctors for good health, especially after the cities became polluted. At the start of the 20th century, beach resorts began to open around Australia. The beach soon became a part of the collective soul of the nation and a way of life.

The most popular walking path on the beaches of Australia is the “Bondi to Bronte Ocean Walk”. The beach in Tamarama is in the middle of this well travelled route. It is also a part of the exhibit area for the Sculpture by the Sea. Sculpture by the Sea is an annual outdoor sculpture exhibition, started in 1997 at Bondi Beach and features sculptures by both Australian and overseas artists in late spring.

Tamarama beach is a great option if you want to avoid the hustle of Bondi Beach. The water is on the dangerous side here, but they have top notch guards and the people watching is good. 

A big thanks here to my old friend Zman from Georgetown University. We were neighbors once upon a time. John’s life has led him to Australia. Lucky for him, his day to day isn’t far from this lovely beach spot. Thank you for the pictures!