Beach Bars in Australia Revisited; or Not…

My last blog entry here, when I added the video about Our Ninth Full Year Living in Australia, was just before Christmas. So, I’ve had a pretty lengthy festive break.

Bear in mind though that it is, or rather was, also the long six week school holiday break here for summer. So what with Christmas, New Year, summer holidays and Australia Day to enjoy, it’s easy to see how difficult it’s been to get things done around here. For example, here’s a glimpse of my surroundings on Australia Day…

Australia Day 2018

Australia Day 2018And here’s a snippet from Christmas Day…

Christmas DayWe also went away for a 3 day beachside break between Christmas and New Year…

Christmas breakWe weren’t the only ones, as you can see, the barbecues on the beach were very busy…

Beachside barbecuesThen, in the third week of January, we went away on holiday. See if you can guess where we went from this singular, rather boring holiday snap.

The townThe clue is in the names of the shops and the ads. If you can’t quite read it, examples are ‘Laboratoire Central‘, ‘La Maison de la Perle‘ and an advert for ‘Cosmétiques – Compléments alimentaire‘.

This is too easy, isn’t it? The answer is obvious. Except our destination was only a two hour flight east from Brisbane, so you can forget France.

Nouméa, New Caledonia

France, non, but French territory, oui. We went to Nouméa in New Caledonia.

Last time we left Australia for an international holiday was 2016 when we went to Japan which, like New Caledonia, does not appear in The top 10 international holiday destinations for Australians. 7/10 of those destinations on the list are much closer to Australia than anywhere in Europe, which is surely part of their appeal. So I’m not sure why either Japan or New Caledonia didn’t make that list.

What we loved so much about New Caledonia was the painless journey which transported us with such speed to a totally different culture. As a bonus, Mrs Bob loves the French language and speaks it well; she very much enjoyed this holiday and we will certainly be doing it again.

Australia doesn’t do beach bars

Of course, this website is about Australia, so let’s forget New Caledonia, for now anyway.

Towards the end of 2015 I wrote a post called What’s Really Different about the Beaches in Australia? One of the differences I listed was the lack of bars on the beach. When I say lack, at the time I mean’t I’d never seen one.

In many countries elsewhere, you would be spoilt for choice. You could feel the sand under your feet, sit at a bar or round a small table with some kind of thatched roof over your head, enjoying the sea breeze, listening to the waves, and sipping a coldie.

Spain

Sunset Ashram beach Bar, Cala Conta Tuesday 29 May 2012

Mexico

Adelita Beach Bar, Tulum - panoramio

Malaysia

Beach Bar Aseania

Turkey

Beach bar (1084206301)

That, unfortunately, is not happening here in Australia.

More than two years have passed since I wrote that post about the lack of beach bars in Australia, and you would have thought I would have moved on from it. But no. I’m made of stronger stuff than that. I would not let it lie. My search has never stopped and my dedication to finding a decent beach bar has continued.

I have come close.

First, I had a tipoff, in the comments of the very post I’ve linked to above that started it all. Shane John Backx suggested looking at the bar in Alexandra Headland Surf Club. He said “Walk straight in off the beach underneath the building in what was the old boat storage area. Also have an outdoor beer garden directly on the beach. You will have to make a research trip!!

So, of course, I did. Here’s what I found. First, a small confined drinking area with a few people enjoying a tipple…

Alexandra Headland Surf ClubBeyond that, you can see the ‘Beach Kiosk’, which I assume was the old storage area mentioned by Shane John Backx. I can also see some tables and chairs where people might have been able to sit to have a drink, but no one was doing that today…

Alexandra Headland Surf ClubThis area did have good views of the sea though and the sand…

Alexandra Headland Surf Club

Alexandra Headland Surf ClubSo, going back to that drinking area, you will see there is a sign quite clearly stating that no alcohol should be taken past this point…

Alexandra Headland Surf ClubShane John Backx visited in October 2015, we were there two years after that. Maybe the rules have changed in that time, maybe the surf club didn’t have the staff on the day we were there to open the kiosk properly, but either way, for me this bar is not a beach bar.

Didn’t stop us having a drink there though…

Alexandra Headland Surf ClubOh come on girls, get off the phones, we are supposed to be having fun on the beach…

Alexandra Headland Surf ClubThat’s better!

Minimum requirement for a beach bar

For me, anyway, a good beach bar should have at least the following:

  1. Actually be on the beach, on the same level as the sand and in full view of the ocean
  2. Be out in the open with no windows or doors, or even a gap through which you must enter to walk past the security guard and/or the ‘No alcohol beyond this point’ sign

That’s it, that’s all I need for a decent beach bar and I’m afraid Alexandra Headland Surf Club didn’t meet that requirement, although I will be checking back regularly to see if that situation changes.

Similarly, whilst Clancy’s in City Beach was good for a seaside drink during our holiday in Perth a few years ago, it also failed to meet my minimum requirements…Clancy's Perth

Clancy's Perth

Clancy's Perth

Clancy's Perth

The closest I’ve come to what I would call a beach bar in Australia was found at Burleigh Beach Pavilion…

Burleigh Beach PavilionThis meets most of what I’m looking for, but it is roped off leaving a ‘gap through which you must enter’, although no sign of security or even a ‘No alcohol beyond this point’ sign. Try walking onto the beach with a beer in your hand, and I’m sure some kind of mechanism would click into place to prevent you from hitting the sand.

Something along the lines of Rover from The Prisoner…

And that brings me back to Nouméa, New Caledonia.

THIS is a beach bar

Here’s the view from the ‘MV Lounge’ bar…

MV LoungeWell, you might say, it’s not on the same level as the beach and the sand, but then…

MV Lounge

MV LoungeToo close to the sea? Not always…

MV Lounge

MV Lounge

MV LoungeMy apologies for not smiling in that last photo, I was eating peanuts.

Anyway, this bar has easy access from the beach, waiter service to your table right there on the sand, and not a ‘No alcohol beyond this point’ sign in sight. And, as you can probably make out from one of those pictures above, a great place to watch the sun go down.

So, at last I have found a beach bar that I really love. Unfortunately, it’s two hours away, by plane. I will drink there again, I hope.

In the meantime though, if anyone knows anywhere closer to Brisbane with a great beach bar, I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers.

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Mike October 20, 2018, 8:50 am |

    I too am dedicated to this same task as you, going as far as wishing to start my own sandy-floored beach bar here in Oz just to see one exist here. I have experienced so much joy at picking and choosing from the amazing selection in SE Asia of wonderful beach bars, and all I can say about Australia is that it is a nanny law thing.

    If I were to have a guess, it’s not as much about people wandering off onto the beach drunk and falling in the water, it’s probably lawsuit-worthy stuff now that we live in a USA-like litigious nation: broken glass or sharp objects in the sand cutting feet, WH and S with people tripping/falling on the sand, the sand getting dirty and unhygienic…that sort of rubbish.

    Another possibility might be the extreme preservation of our beaches to the degree of being anal about it. **However** I can see the possibility that part of it is to protect from rampant development, which I can agree with as there are developers who would go to town on the best beaches if they could do having that buffer has likely stopped the floodgates from opening.

    There must be a way. A loophole. I’m determined to find one!

    • BobinOz October 22, 2018, 8:40 pm |

      Well, a burden shared is a burden halved, as they say.

      I have to agree with you, I also think it’s a nanny law thing. But then another part of me wonders if it is to do with the surf lifesaving clubs, of which we have many. All of them serve alcohol, and they are all in buildings pretty much on the beach. Perhaps they don’t want the competition and because of their sheer numbers, I would suggest they are a quite influential group.

      That said, have a look at Steve’s comment below, and the link he has provided to a Greek style beach bar that has opened in Adelaide. It certainly a start, and if they can open a bar on the beach, maybe you can as well.

      If you do, I’ll be sure to pop in and buy a beer from you. Cheers!

  • Steve October 15, 2018, 9:01 pm |

    I recently visited Adelaide and heard about this ‘beach bar’ at Glenelg: https://neoskosmos.com/en/120752/australias-first-greek-style-beach-bar-returns-to-glenelg-this-summer/

    It wasn’t operating when I was there, but it certainly looks closer to the real deal than anything you’ve come across so far. However, the article references ‘ever present security’, there’s a fence around the site, and I read elsewhere that the deckchairs have a minimum spend requirement. Still, getting closer to the holy grail!

    • BobinOz October 16, 2018, 7:04 pm |

      Interesting, I applaud the effort. Shame about the white picket fence, I think a more subtle rope fence might have been better, but maybe it’s just that I’d rather it didn’t look like somebody’s garden. The premium luxurious sun lounges sound like $$$$ to me, and as you say, they have a minimum spend requirement. Do you know if it’s possible just a stroll in and have a drink sitting at the bar without paying that extra expense?

      The article says it is being viewed as a potential blueprint for similar operations around Australia, so I’ll look forward to one coming to somewhere near me soon. Obviously Sydney won’t get one, I think they’ve pretty much banned the concept of enjoyment 🙂

      A step in the right direction though, thanks for the update Steve, there is hope. Cheers, Bob

  • Steve October 2, 2018, 5:30 pm |

    I wonder whether some of it is down to Australian’s dependence on cars. This applies to both the lack of beach bars and the lack of commercialism at beaches.

    In many other countries people might be using public transport or walking to get to the beach. Hence, they can’t carry lots of equipment, food and drinks. People rely on cafes, bars and shops to fulfil their needs.

    In Australia a lot of that stuff can be thrown into the back of people’s cars.

    I find Australia pretty inconvenient in that way (I don’t have a car)… It’s hard to do stuff on a whim and go with the flow, because you’ll be caught out! (There’ll be nowhere to buy drinks, food, etc).

    • BobinOz October 2, 2018, 8:49 pm |

      You could have a point here Steve, maybe it is down to that. Many beaches have barbecue facilities and Aussies do love filling up the esky with beer, meat and food, chucking in some camping chairs and umbrellas and setting up camp on the beach.

      So perhaps that is why we don’t see beach bars.

      My suspicion though is that local government/councils just do not want alcohol being sold on the beach; swimming off of Australia’s beaches is dangerous enough already without being boozed up as well 🙂

  • AirlieSteve March 12, 2018, 10:49 am |

    I love your dedication to finding a decent beach bar in Aus. We have been here for 30 years and take our holidays in Spain for this (and a few other) reasons. But check out Monte’s Beach resort in the Whitsundays. Not quite a Spanish chirungito but close enough. I guess that the saddest thing about beaches in North Queensland is that they are under utilised. Too many nasties in the warm tropical sea I suppose. Keep on searching…

    • BobinOz March 12, 2018, 9:20 pm |

      Thanks AirlieSteve, I do take my work very seriously 🙂

      Funnily enough, I have been to Airlie Beach, but I was probably the only person to do that without visiting the Whitsundays. I was only there for a day and a half, and didn’t want to spend a whole day on the island, and nobody seemed to do half day trips.

      Given this news though, I may well return and if I do, the first place I’ll be going to will be Monte’s Beach resort to grab a beer or two. Cheers…

  • Leanne February 9, 2018, 9:53 pm |

    Hey Bob,
    Sounds like you may be onto a great little business idea…Beach Bars!!! – I know I’m a fan.

    I must say that I am sad to hear that this will be your last blog post and also that you will not be featuring in the ‘Expat Diary’ in the Aus & NZ Mag. The latest edition arrived yesterday and your entry was greatly missed. I hope that you and family are well and that you have just decided to put you feet up and enjoy the great Aussie life. Will somebody be taking over the site or will you just be leaving it as is??

    Anyway I would just like to thank you and this blog as I have spent countless hours reading your articles. We have received out PR and are heading your way later this year.

    Many thanks
    Leanne

    • BobinOz February 12, 2018, 4:19 pm |

      Perhaps it is a good business idea, except I actually want to be drinking the beer at these beach bars, not serving it 🙂

      As for the magazine, yes, it is mostly just a case of putting my feet up a bit more. I ended up writing 100 articles for them over the years, I just felt it was time to move on. It’s only the magazine that I’m no longer going to write for though, I will still be adding blog posts here on this website for some time to come yet, hopefully.

      Anyway, thank you for your very kind words, I truly do appreciate it. I hope you get to love Australia is much as I do when you move out here later this year. Cheers, Bob

  • Emilylander February 7, 2018, 11:33 pm |

    Looking great Bob but on the drive down the East Coast from Brisbane to Tasmania,there was not one Beach bar! All beaches were either ‘ surf’ beaches.There was not one beach that possibly was vaguely like a European beach,with a taverna,beach bar anywhere near. Mostly,wind swept long rough beaches with some activity and that activity was aggressive people training the nippers to learn to life save/swim. It’s bad as far as the beach Euros are used to. Can’t swim,windy,no shade,no bar,sharks. Get a pool. Welcome to Aussie beaches!

    • Jon February 8, 2018, 4:07 am |

      I like Australia very much but so much that UK residents believe about the place is based on either the situation a generation ago, or simply misconceptions.
      There are some city beaches in both Sydney and Melbourne that match our expectations, but outside, the majority of beaches are as you describe…on both coasts. Beaches are often backed by near bush or in residential areas, by expensive houses across the road with a strip of grass and trees edging the sand (and seaweed) with the odd public BBQ.
      I would love to live beach side in Sydney or Melbourne but since I didn’t buy in 50 years ago, nor am I a Chinese oligarch, that’s out of my reach.
      Beaches are much easier to visit than in UK and are super for a picnic BBQ if you can find some shade ( and wind break in WA!) For a beach holiday matching European expectations I recommend Bali.

      • BobinOz February 9, 2018, 4:41 pm |

        @Emilylander, same thing happens if you drive the other way from Brisbane to Cairns. I did a road trip last year, I saw miles and miles and miles of beaches but not a single bar to be seen. Go far enough north, and it’s not just the sharks, there are crocs as well! Yes, welcome to Aussie beaches 🙂

        @Jon, as I’ve just mentioned to Emilylander above, I saw lots of beaches last year on a road trip and most of them are as you describe; they are backed by bush, residential housing with the occasional barbecue and very little else. They are best described as rugged and many of them completely deserted.

        By and large, I think that’s a good thing, but I do also think that some of the busier areas and popular beaches could just do with a large Bali hut with a bar on the sand. We shouldn’t really have to go all the way to Bali for that. Crikey, it’s not as though we are short of beaches here 🙂

        • Jon February 9, 2018, 8:03 pm |

          If I was permanently in Australia it is one of the aspects of life in Europe I would really miss. However, Australian beaches are what they are. Partly I think because so many Aussies live within an hour’s drive from the beach they are viewed very differently, but I would miss the one or two week bucket and spade beach holidays l have enjoyed all my life in UK and across Europe. Many visitors/immigrants expect to find the same in Australia.
          You also have much discussion around drinking on the beach…or in fact anywhere. This again is a reflection of the restrictive nanny state style of Australian regulations in general. Stopped on various occasions by general pointless mass roadside checks…l always assume these are largely to boost Police overtime earnings….I feel living in Australia sometimes has many of the characteristics of East Germany under the Stasi, although the atmosphere is normally quite friendly.

          My main point though is a general one of incorrect expectations. In the UK certainly, most people’s expectation of Australia and Australian life is totally removed from current reality.
          If you can get permanent residency and a good job, you can still have an excellent quality of life in Australia, but newcomers need have realistic expectations, while Aussies sometimes need to wake up and smell the coffee.

          • BobinOz February 12, 2018, 4:03 pm |

            Yes, I spoke about the drinking laws in some detail in my previous post about this subject, and so many people were shocked to hear that it is actually illegal to consume alcohol, not just on the beach, but in many public places.

            The reason so many people were surprised is because drinking on the beach does happen, and I’ve never seen any police do anything to stop it. I was on the beach on Australia Day this year, people were walking around with cartons of beer on their shoulders and I can’t for the life of me believe that the Stasi would have put up with that 🙂

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