Sunday, 10 December 2017, dawned with blue sky and plenty of promise. The conditions were perfect for launching our Summer Ocean Pool Challenge.
#1 Palm Beach Rockpool
The bus dropped us off at Palm Beach. We set forth on a warm-up walk next to the golf course towards the lighthouse, and then back along the beach and Ocean Rd to our first rock pool, Palm Beach Rockpool. Despite the pool being in shade, the water temperature was ideal: cool to start, but soon very pleasant. A nice big pool for lap swimmers.
Not all of us were familiar with the route, so the (600-odd!) stairs leading up from Palm Beach to the top of the headland came as a shock to some (i.e. me!). It was a great way to get the heart pumping!
#2 Whale Beach Rockpool
From there we walked along Whale Beach Rd to … Whale Beach and Dolphin Bay, where the tide was sufficiently low to make for a comfortable stroll on the sand, even for Mary S on her first walk back since fracturing a fibula. Whale Beach rock pool has several easy entry points and was shallow throughout. Again the water was just right for a dip.
We rejoined Whale Beach Road via Malo Reserve and Malo Rd. The tree cover above the sidewalk provided welcome shade as the day was warming up. A bushland path through Careel Headland Reserve, took us off-road and up another set of steps (yay!) to Bangalley Head for an opportunity to savour breathtaking, cliff-top views northward, southward and out to sea.
A couple of walkers took an alternative route from the headland. At the meeting point of the two paths, there were a remarkable number of grass trees, almost all of them with flower spikes.
Shortly afterwards the bush gave way to the grassy area of Bangalley Park. Here we faced a dilemma: whether to ‘swim’ in a pop-up pool set up for a pool party or to give it a miss. There were no takers – it wasn’t an ocean pool, after all!
#3 Avalon Beach Rockpool
Nippers were in full swing when we reached Avalon Beach via the Tasman Rd car park at the northern end. At the southern end, some of the kiddies were paddling around the Avalon rock pool on soft boards under close instructor supervision. They left us enough room for two, narrow, virtual lanes, in the smallest and deepest pool of the day. By now it was a joy to feel the coolness of the water wash away perspiration and relax walking muscles. Some larger waves were crashing on the rocks giving rise to aerial spray, a true ocean pool experience.
We topped things off with a yummy Campos coffee at Nourished, a café on Avalon Parade, conveniently close to available early-morning parking, the rock pool, change rooms at Avalon SLSC and the bus stop.
For non-swimmers out there, the challenge is to get wet, not about swimming prowess. Come join us: most of the pools are shallow enough for wading and if not, you can stay on the steps. Each ocean pool has its own character, which is half the fun of this challenge.
Everyone had a lovely time. Bring on the next leg from Bilgola to Narrabeen!
Leg 1 in a nutshell
Transport: Bus from Barrenjoey Rd at Avalon Parade to Palm Beach Golf Club
Start of walk: Palm Beach
Finish: Avalon Rock Pool
Distance: 8.5 km
No of pools: 3
Participants: 9 (including 2 partners)
Footwear: 7 wearing socks/walking shoes; 2 wearing walking sandals
To change or not to change between pools: most of us walked in our wet bathing suits, without suffering chafe or other dire consequences
Thank you, Fee and Yvonne, for doing all the necessary research and planning, and thank you, Julie, for leading the group from Palm Beach to Avalon.