All the Australian State Capitals are situated on or within easy distance of the sea; the climate of the whole continent is conducive to a life in the open air for the greater part of the year; the majority of the population, both in town and country, live within fifty miles of the ocean; its very spaciousness necessitates the frequent use of the car by people who, in cities and countries built on a smaller scale, might consider them an extravagance; and it is these essentials of Australian topography and life which have caused swimming, surfing, yachting and other aquatic sports to become national pastimes. In Sydney I watched hundreds of cars, buses and boats conveying people, many already in bathing costume, to the ocean beaches directly business had ceased for the day and also during the week-ends of complete freedom. Then I went to Manly, Coogee and Bondi and discovered the lure of the sun and surf. Anyone can work in a city on a dull, rainy day, but it is not quite so easy for young men, women and children to content themselves indoors when the blue sea rolls in sparkling foam on to a shore of velvet sand.
Taking the crowded ferry boat from Circular Quay, I crossed the calm waters of the great harbour. On a moonlight summer evening this lagoon forms an unforgettable sight with the city’s lights a blazing semicircle and the ferries streaking the silver sheet with yellow pinpoints of moving flame. ”Come with me to Manly ” is an invitation that one hears shouted in street and office all over Sydney and its many suburbs; and here we all were on a Saturday afternoon in January on the way to this favourite beach. And what a beach it is!
Not like Waikiki, which seems to apologise with the aid of a few coloured sun umbrellas and Hawaiian beach boys with ukuleles for the people who have spread its fame as the beach of beaches. Hundreds of yards of sand in a halfcircle, wide as the sweep of one’s arms ; green pine trees with promenades and cheerful-looking houses and shops for a backcloth; multitudes, joyous as young Australia can be, for its hive-like human interests; sunlight, and a breeze which comes across thousands of miles of ocean; and facing all, that for which Manly exists – tumbling lines of effervescing surf rolling shorewards from the sapphire wastes.
For an hour or so I was content to walk around looking at the colourful and animated scene of Sydney at play. Thousands of people were sitting on the sands, and the sea was black with heads and moving arms. Among the pines fringing the promenade other thousands were reclining in deckchairs listening to the band. Bright-coloured umbrellas added spots of colour to the yellow shore. Behind the sea-front there was the Esplanade, with its hotels, boarding houses, and the fab little street, called the Corso of shops, cinemas and side-shows, leading to Sydney Harbour.
The spirit of carnival was in the air, and sun and sea were gods being worshipped by thousands with an abandon unknown on the more sober beaches of Europe and America. Beyond this Joie de vivre I saw little during my first day in Manly that was different from similar scenes elsewhere round the shores of the seven seas. On the following morning, however, I sought and found the Surf Club, and there learned of the work of the Life-Savers, who are forever on watch from the summit of a lofty tower to detect people who may be in difficulties in the heavy seas rolling in from the Pacific.