I’ve been to many Australian beaches, each time I have been struck by how ‘untouched’ they are. It’s very noticeable, it’s always been apparent to me. One of the words that would always pop into my head would be ‘unspoilt’.
But in all this time and all those beaches there was one thing that I never really fully realised. The penny never really dropped. Let me show you some pictures of some of the beaches I’ve been to here to see if you can spot it.
You can see people on the beach, obviously, sitting on towels, the occasional small beach tent can be seen and there’s lots of sea and sand. People sometimes play sport on the beach, you can see some volleyball going on in one of those pictures and beach cricket is quite popular.
It’s what you don’t see that makes Australian beaches different.
- No deckchairs for rent; even the beaches of Southend, my home town in the UK, were renting out deckchairs in the 70s
- No beach recliners or sun lounge chairs either, the more expensive and far more comfortable replacement to the deckchair
- Nobody pulling along a great big cool box trolley selling ice creams or cold drinks to the overheated beachgoers
- No food of any kind being sold on Australian beaches, you need to bring your own food
- No beach bars with bar stalls selling booze to those who have had enough sun and need a cold beer
- In fact, no alcohol whatsoever is allowed on Australian beaches, it’s illegal
In a nutshell, no commercialism.
Yes, the word ‘uncommercialised’ had also popped into my head many times, but I hadn’t actually fully appreciated the commercialism had pretty much been banned on the beaches.
As you know, I come from Europe, there are certainly beach bars in some countries over there, Spain in particular. They even have clubs. Deckchairs, wind breakers, umbrellas, pedalos (boats you pedal) and much more are all available to rent. Many countries elsewhere, like Thailand and Vietnam have people walking the beaches selling you food, ice creams, fresh fruit, that sort of thing.
Here, in Australia, nothing.
Will this change?
Maybe, Gold Coast Council are currently looking at changing the rules for the 42 kilometres of beach they control. Apparently they are already renting out deckchairs on a couple of beaches. They are looking at a plan to allow local traders or roadside vending trucks to be able to hand deliver food and drink to those on the beach.
It will be soft drinks only though, still no alcohol.
If Gold Coast do get this plan agreed, then it is likely to spread across other Australian beaches around the country. There are two sides to this though.
At the moment we don’t get people trudging up and down our beaches trying to sell us stuff, which is nice. Aussies go to the beach to chill out, relax, catch a few waves, enjoy the sun. They do not go to the beach to be sold stuff.
So just maybe things would be best left as they are.
That said, the Meter Maids of Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast are working on developing a mobile phone app. They are not keen on roadside vending trucks coming in, they’d rather see support for the already established local businesses who sell food.
In their plan, beachgoers would be able to order food and drink through the app and have it collected from one of those local traders and hand-delivered to the customer on the beach by a Meter Maid.
No beers on the beach, really?
Immediate update 3 November:
The no alcohol on the beach rule has clearly drawn quite a few comments already, and I’m not surprise. First of all, let me explain where I got that information from, it was in a video provided by news.com.au; here is a screen grab from that video…
The message is pretty clear I think, if you want to see the full video you can go to this page on news.com.au.
I live in Queensland, I have consumed alcohol on the beach many times. I’ve seen others drinking alcohol on the beach many times. I’ve never seen anybody even get spoken to about it, let alone arrested.
So, has this video got it wrong?
The answer is not simple, the reason being we have six states and two territories and each one has their own laws. I believe individual councils within those states and territories may also have additional laws.
I did a little research, here’s what I found:
- It is an offence under Western Australian alcohol laws for persons of any age to drink in public, such as on the street, park or beach. (Maximum Fine: AUD$2,000 or on the spot fine of AUD$200 – Section 119(4a) Liquor Control Act 1988)
- In Queensland, it is an offence to drink alcohol or possess an opened alcoholic drink in a public place
- Drinking in public is legal in NSW, unless it is an alcohol free zone, refer to maps and local council information
- In Victoria some local council restrictions apply
- In South Australia there are designated dry areas as part of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997, with extensive maps online
- NT has certain restrictions, you will need to apply for a permit to drink on any of their five main beaches, including The Esplanade and Mindil
- Tasmanian police offer this rather confusing tip; ‘To drink or possess an open container of alcohol in a public street is illegal. This does not stop you enjoying a picnic in a park or on a beach where council by-laws permit.’
- Canberra; it doesn’t matter, they don’t have a beach
One thing is for certain, a beach is a public place. On that basis, alcohol is not allowed on any Queensland beach. That takes out both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. No alcohol is allowed on any beach in Western Australia either. I then looked at the local laws in New South Wales and checked on a couple of very popular beaches, Bondi and Coogee; both are alcohol free zones, so no alcohol there either.
I did the same for South Australia, lots of beaches are ‘Dry Zones’, meaning alcohol is not allowed, including Henley and Glenelg. Information about Saint Kilda and Brighton beaches in Victoria was harder to find, but on the basis I couldn’t find anywhere that specifically mentions a ban on alcohol, it looks like it is allowed there.
But don’t take my word for any of this, check locally before you crack open a beer, laws can change at any time.
So, as you can see, the statement ‘In Australia drinking alcohol on the beach is illegal‘ appears to be correct for the vast majority of the time. As I say, I’m not surprise some people disagree with this, because from the beaches I’ve been to it seems to happen quite openly and freely.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news; cheers, as they say.
Update February 2018
I haven’t been idle doing nothing you know since writing this article, I have been tirelessly searching for decent beach bars in Australia. I now have an update:
It includes my visit to Alexandra Headland Surf Club as in the comments below.