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No doubt anyone who has read Alex Garland’s The Beach or watched the film adaptation will have had the fantasy of finding a real-life utopian equivalent. For the past month I have been searching for such a paradise, exploring the east coast of Australia for an untouched and idyllic wonderland.
The island that Garland’s character, Richard, finds off the coast of Thailand is an assortment of tranquil lagoons and rock pools concealed in lush tropical greenery, and sweeping white sand beaches that are home to vibrant aquatic life. In the foreground of this backdrop is a self-sufficient society that follows a living off the land mantra by working as a democratic group of equals. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Unfortunately the paradise collapses in the end and Richard learns that his idea of utopia is a short-lived concept.
In my case, the paradise must meet several essential criteria that reflect Garland’s ideas: Deserted or inhabited by very few people; colourful fish life and tropical flora; luxuriously sandy shoreline with a dramatic rocky cliff line; good waves for surfing; vibrant atmosphere; and it must not be in any of the Australian guidebooks.
Of the numerous beaches I explored, a handful is worth mentioning to show how diverse and contrasting beach life is on the Australian coastline.
One of the first beaches that many tourists come across when they enter Australia via Sydney is Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach is a sweeping embayment that has been labelled as one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. However, its fame and reputation often attracts masses of sunseekers, snap-happy tourists and surfing posers. In my opinion, it is overrated, crowded and a far cry from Garland’s idea of paradise and my criteria.
Up the coast from Sydney is Brisbane and Byron Bay, which is the furthest I travelled north. Byron Bay is a tranquil small town situated on a long sand beach. It is a very relaxed atmosphere with a carefree, mellow attitude. On the night of the full moon each month, surfers can be found partying on the beach with flame jugglers, bongos and beer.
Further south from Sydney is one of the most picturesque bays in Australia. Jervis Bay is a large enclosed bay with stunning white sand beaches more often inhabited by kangaroos than people. Within the sheltered waters there is also bountiful sea life – notably, whales come and breed within the bay during the winter season. The bay is so large that although there are many popular tourist beaches, there are also secluded private beaches that have very limited access.
Its adjacent neighbour Seven Mile Beach is a national surfing Mecca, renowned for consistent, beginner-friendly waves. Set in the lush forest backdrop of the Seven Mile Beach National Park, the beach lies between two striking rocky headlands with sand stretching a breathtaking distance as the name illustrates. On weekdays it is practically deserted. Although it may not be quite as heavenly as Garland’s creation, I believe it is the closest I can get to it. The hunt will still continue, but for now I will happily settle for Seven Mile Beach.