I find wild, empty beaches are great places to explore. Walking barefoot along the sand with no one about, by a cool breeze and the briny scent of the sea is, at least to me, a feeling of freedom like no other. Wild beaches are also a great place to recharge, to think and to discover, as they often harbour old stories hidden beneath ripples and dunes. Here’s three such places in Australia I’ve had the good fortune to visit.
Ocean Beach, Tasmania – phallic symbols and whale bones
Located close to the town of Strahan on Tasmania’s west coast, Ocean Beach is a wonderfully raw part of the world that’s 33 kilometres long. Running from Trial Harbour in the north to Hell’s Gates in the south, Ocean Beach is Tasmania’s longest stretch, and as it lies unprotected (the nearest landmass is Argentina), the winds can get wild and mist often rolls in over the dunes. It’s also a bit of a whale cemetery, as these whopping beasts frequently get stranded here.
Of course all this makes for a tip-top atmosphere. Walking south along the ample, deserted beach strewn with debris, I came across a rather large whale bone. I then climbed up steep dunes and confronted what appeared to be giant phallic symbols, before gazing across the coastline, far to the north and south. In the dunes beyond, my friend spotted a huge python. You could walk along this seemingly infinite stretch of sand, quite alone, for a long time.
Mandalay Beach, Western Australia – an island and a shipwreck
Located in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park at the bottom of Western Australia, not far from Walpole, Mandalay Beach is a splendid part of the world that you should certainly pay a visit. I camped nearby with three of my brothers (one missed out) and visited the place late afternoon, when the sky went from peach to scarlet and a teal-coloured sea frothed beneath mottled clouds.
The beach was named after the Norwegian barque Mandalay, wrecked only a few hundred metres offshore in 1911, which you can allegedly spot during low tide. Roughly three kilometres further offshore lies the nature reserve of Chatham Island, which makes for pleasant viewing from Mandalay Beach. Exploring the beach at sunset, I wandered across soft sand, rocks and rivulets trickling into the sea. I saw no one, apart from my brothers and it’s likely you’ll have this place to yourself too.
Cheviot Beach, Victoria – the disappearance of Harold Holt
I investigated this beach with a couple of friends when I was living in Melbourne, as I was interested in finding the spot where Australia’s 17th prime minister, Harold Holt, vanished without a trace in 1967. Heading down the Mornington Peninsula, a few hours south of Melbourne, I arrived at a hauntingly beautiful beach where our day turned into quite an adventure. Unfortunately I was in one of my moods where I took no photos.
The beach is notorious for dangerous rips, and nearby lies an army barracks dating to WWI. We escaped an incoming tide, traipsed along some of the most atmospheric stretches of coastline I’ve seen and missed the plaque commemorating Harold Holt entirely. It was a wonderful afternoon though, which also involved ducking through several fences, scaling hills and returning under the moonlight. You can read more about our Hardy Boys-esque adventure here.
What about you? Have you visited any wild and beautiful beaches in Australia. Do they have a story to tell?