The Eastern Suburbs of Sydney is home to some of, if not the, best beaches in the world within a stone’s throw of a large, bustling city. From the impossibly clear turquoise waters of Gordon’s Bay to the postcard-perfect city backdrop of Milk Beach, we as Sydneysiders are spoilt for choice when it comes to our swimming spots. For many of us, summertime memories are inseparable from the smell of sunscreen and the feel of sand between the toes. Yet the prize for the most unique coastal offering must surely go to Clovelly beach in all its (mostly) sand-free glory.
Clovelly is essentially a concrete beach made up of two giant esplanades flanked by a bright yellow line that enclose the largest swimming pool in New South Wales. The inlet is enclosed by a naturally occurring rock shelf that protects the bay from open sea, creating an ocean pool that’s 60 metres wide and 350 metres long. At the peak of summertime, hundreds of people can be seen sprawled on colourful towels on the concrete, jumping from the concrete into the deep water below or swimming from the ocean end of the inlet to the sandy beach at the other end for a spot of exercise.
But why the strange post-apocalyptic concrete? The answer lies in post-WWI Sydney economic planning. In 1929, the Randwick Council won a 2,500 pound grant from the NSW Government to build a breakwater and the concrete promenades as a ‘measure of relieving unemployment’ amidst the Great Depression. Utilising unemployed labour, tons of concrete was poured on top of the existing rock platforms to create the concrete beach we see today. Around this time, Clovelly was known colloquially as Poverty Point, given it was little more than a working-class fishing village. Today, the setting is somewhat more bourgeois with hundreds of people sprawled on colourful towels or jumping into the bay paints a summertime scene reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast.
A little-known fact is that the Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club was established in 1906 and is one of the oldest Surf Life Saving Clubs in the world. As far as patrolling ‘surf’ goes, the Life Savers job is undemanding and akin to surveying a large urban swimming pool. The waves that do make it past the rock shelf create little more than a gentle ripple, much to the delight of the keen ocean swimmers completing their laps. Nevertheless, the Club has carved out a name for itself, and one past President, Geoff James, successfully lobbied the council in 1962 to create a 25-metre, 4 lane saltwater swimming pool on the southern esplanade that is perfect for a post-exercise cool down.
Clovelly beach is the namesake for our tailored swim shorts because it represents the enduring connection that we as Australian’s have to our watering holes, and the rich heritage underscores these places.
The return run between Clovelly and the Icebergs at the southern end of Bondi Beach is an undulating 7km path that takes in some of the best coastal vistas in New South Wales. Try attacking it at a strong pace (aim between 4:00 and 4:15 minutes per km). Once back at Clovelly, strip off the running kit, put on your Clovelly swim shorts and jump into the water for the ultimate cool down. For those wanting a nice leg recovery, the shallow saltwater pool is perfect for walking resistance laps while taking in the ocean vista.
If this is not a designated cardio day, walk up to the new clifftop outdoor gym at the edge of the Rugby League oval to the north of the beach for a bodyweight session followed by a dip in the ocean.