Botany Bay » KathSwinbourne

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Sep 10 2013

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Botany Bay

Crystal clear waterOne of the great things about La Perouse is the beaches. Regardless of which way the wind is blowing, you can find a sheltered beach. And they’re perfect for families, with white sand and no surf. And there’s a barbecue and picnic area at Frenchman’s with a children’s playground.

Even on a Thursday there were people there having a barbecue, and lots of mums and toddlers on Frenchman’s Beach. Kids were running around everywhere while their mothers sat on the sand and watched. It’s only the beginning of spring but that didn’t stop them jumping in the water and having a great time.

One of the amazing things about Botany Bay is that on one side is a working port, a very large, very busy one. Not far from the port is Sydney Airport – again large and busy. And on the other side of the bay, at Kurnell, is an oil refinery. It makes for interesting watching.

Plains and boatsPlanes fly overhead every few seconds, either coming in to land or taking off, depending on wind. They pass directly over ships waiting to come in to port, or being guided out of the bay by tugs. And the cranes at the port look like creatures out of Star Wars moving cargo around the port.

Given the amount of activity it’s surprising that the water is so clear – and the area is so quiet. Sitting on the beach watching it all happen all I could hear was the birds singing, water lapping at the shore, and kids playing.

And there were people fishing off the rocks, standing right in front of the port.

FishingBeing a weekday there weren’t too many people around, but it also meant that all the attractions were closed – Bare Island and the Museum are only open for guided tours on Sundays. Even the Snake Man and Laddie Timberey only turn up on weekends. Along with all the visitors.

But during the week it’s a local’s paradise, with places to sit and contemplate, swim and have great coffee or a meal. And very friendly.

Standing on the bridge from the mainland across to Bare Island I started chatting to a couple of fishermen. One of them told me the story of the ghosts at Bare Island. He’d been out fishing very early one morning, while it was still dark and foggy, and out of the mist appeared 5 figures. His father had told him the story many, many years before, when he was only a child. He said he thought it was just a story until he saw them himself.

I’ve heard this story before, but this was the first time I’d ever met anybody who claimed to have seen the ghosts. Lots of people who knew somebody who’d seen them, yes. But never anybody who had actually witnessed it. I don’t know whether I believe it or not, but of course what’s a historical place without a good ghost story?

The beach where my uncle used to fish Unfortunately, because of the Port, you can no longer walk around the beaches of the bay, so I had to drive to the beach where I remember watching my uncle and his mates bring in their catch. That beach is now right next to the new container terminal, and opposite the third runway. There’s still a boat ramp, but I can’t imagine anybody dragging in a net now. But my strongest memory from back them is of a squid that squirted ink onto the sand as they took it out of the net. “Aussies won’t eat it” I remember being told “But the Greeks and Italians will.” How things have changed!

And all around the Bay, at the small beaches as well as the major tourist attractions, are easily identified public toilets and drinking water.

La Perouse

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