Friday, July 9, 2010

Suburb No 41: Collaroy

Staying north this week I headed to Collaroy on the Northern Beaches, 22 clicks from the big smoke. 
Even though I lived in Avalon on the Northern Beaches for a number of years, I would rarely drive 
through Collaroy, choosing the Wakehurst Parkway instead. In fact, the only time I've ever actually
visited Collaroy was a zillion years ago to visit my nan who lived in the Salvation Army home there.

I adored my nan and I remember every detail of her tiny room at the home, packed full of her life's
treasures. Hence the flood of nostalgia as I pulled into Collaroy on a grey, rainy day with fantastic
stormy skies brewing over the ocean.

Collaroy also strikes me as old worldly for other reasons aside from my nan. Because it's on a main road,
it's been saved from too much trendification and cafe-ifying. Aside from one new beach themed
cafe, there's an old art deco cinema with peeling paint, a tiny Indian restaurant and a few other shops.
(Anyone who lives in Collaroy may at this point be thinking, lady, are you blind? Didn't you see all
the new apartment blocks? My answer would be, yes, took one look and decided to completely
ignore - this project is after all a search for the beauty in a suburb and I shamelessly cherry-pick
all the good bits.)

OK, so, Collaroy - named after SS Collaroy which ran aground on the beach in 1881. Er, that's about all the
history I can give you. If anyone can elaborate, please do.

Got your raincoat (and your sunnies)? Let's go.

Part 1: The main strip

Cinema, Indian, new cafe. Sound of the ocean free of charge at all of them.

the cinema across from the beach

front row seats

enjoy surround sea sound at the cinema


a little Bollywood 

colourful Collaroy



Part 2: Flight Deck

On the rare occasions I would drive through Collaroy, I'd always admire one of its older apartment
blocks sitting right on the beach - Flight Deck. Built by the air force, for the air force, after the war.
Like all the older homes built along the beach, it's somewhat of an endangered species - if storm
surge doesn't get it, climate change could well do. I discovered that much is done to combat
the threat of erosion but still, eek.

sand castle


spiky things



As luck would have it, I ran into two guys who have been working on the building for a year, ridding it
of concrete cancer. It was their very last day and they invited me to have a squiz of the view from
the roof. With no railings I edged as close as I could without freaking out to take a few shots.


a head for heights

view from the top

here today, gone when?

please god, don't let the surf erode the beach

ocean & earth

Part 3: Beach girls

Have I ever told you I'm not a huge summer beach fan? Crowds, gloop, sand. Not my thing. But in the
winter when hardly a soul is around? Love them. In fact, the more wintry the better - big moody 
heavens, wind in your face, taste of salt when you lick your lips. My kind of beach experience.

So I was delighted that on the two visits I made to Collaroy this week, both were kind of rainy. 
But on the second day, the rain clouds parted just long enough to let the sun have a go. Which is
when I met the girls - and we had a bit of a photo shoot.

Zoe, Alyssa, Mia and Ella

who needs a hall?

storm drains are fun

love watching the ocean

the fabulous four



Part 4: Madge

The other gorgeous 'girl' I met was Madge, almost 90. I noticed Madge from the other side of the
street, walking very slowly along in her powder pink hat and teal blue coat - I had to meet her.
I told her she reminded me of my nan and could I please take a photo of her on the beach. She smiled,
took my arm and we crossed the street to take the shot. When I left I told her I'd never forget her.
"And I'll never forget you Louise". Gulp.



serious for a moment

Part 5: Cherry Blossom

I left Madge and wandered down to another building that used to always catch my eye - but I never
once stopped to explore. Well, it wasn't so much the building as what the building housed - a sweet
colourful little shop called Cherry Blossom. 

Cherry Blossom and spiky plant

neutral tones

I pray that maybe one day...

I pray that you don't park in front of my garage


Part 6: A natural world

Collaroy is so much about the beach really, all 3.4 km of it (when you include Narabeen Beach too).
I liked the southern end most, with its rusty rocky patterned platforms.

surfers :: 1

surfers :: 2



rust :: 1

rust :: 2

rust :: 3


where plants grown on sand and walls

Norfolk Pines, to honour the brave

Part 7: Up the hill

Collaroy Plateau is as you'd imagine, the bit above Collaroy Beach. Nice views from up there but
what really caught my eye was a house covered with mad sculpture in its garden.

hill top

bedroom in the sky


the life aquatic :: 1

the life aquatic :: 2

the life aquatic :: 3

Did I find beauty in Collaroy? The skies, the nostalgia, the mad sculpture, those gorgeous girls - 
and Madge. Beautiful Madge.

See you next week.


  1. Thanks Louise, another great Sydney post. I love the textures this week and the winter feel which adds a new perspective to the "Australian Beach" When are you coming to Annandale?

  2. Wonderful post! I love love love it! I'm not much of a beachy person but seeing those gorgeous girls jump off the side of the storm water drain made me want to do that too!

    And of course I adore beautiful Madge. I wish I could meet her too.

  3. As usual your photos are striking, I love them all. But I must admit to a favourite- 'surfers 1' just took my breath away.

    Thanks for helping us see the beauty in the everyday.

  4. Oh, I loved this week's suburb - beach places are my favourite, and I've spent a little time at Mona Vale/Collaroy/Narrabeen. And I would LOVE to have 'view from the top' hanging on my wall. Those gorgeous colours!

  5. Louise,

    Lovely to hear you speak at SheSays last night!

    I found myself with a cuppa and 20 mins to look through your blog (was not enough time!!) LOVED IT!

    Being an earth girl, I don't have a natural affinity with the beach, however the ocean I have always had general awe of. I'm at my most serene when I'm surrounded by big mountain ranges, the only place in Sydney I can get close to this is a beach in winter.

    The ocean is so powerful and I often wonder if people get a chance to take it in when the beaches are so crowded in summer.

    There's not many big cities in the world where you can still goto beautiful beaches and be somewhat alone.

    Keep doing what you do, even when you don't know what or why you are doing - just keep doing it!! :-)

    p.s. Madge made me tear up....I love my Nanna.


  6. I love this week's suburb! Soo many lovely eye-treats to brighten drizzly winter days. I love that you spotted Frida Kahlo too. Much love from a dedicated follower. Saskia

  7. Sevapuri - Yes, beaches are much better in winter!

    Jodie - I had fun shooting those girls, so much so I forgot to watch the surf and now have one very soaked pair of shoes to show for it! But it was worth it.

    Jo - Don't you love those angry skies and stormy seas? Such power in them.

    Jennifer - I had to check I hadn't boosted those colours by mistake - but no, they're naturally that rich. The sand especially seems much more gold than other beaches.

    Ria - Nannas are precious indeed. I so wish mine was still around.

    Marti - SheSays was fun wasn't it? Glad you had the chance to check out the blog.

    Saskia - Many thanks and glad I've brought some brightness to a drizzly day (which is now looking decidedly sunny in bits, a little like the days I spent in Collaroy).

    Louise x

  8. Just love the rust series. That's what beaches do best.

  9. great beach i love it there i acutaly have done surfability for more on what that is you should and have to check out the best thing and fun on earth no thats the kinda corwond i dotn mind a hole lotta people like me in chairs and other disiabilities waiting for a go in the nice cool water on a hot day THAT TO ME IS HEAVEN and jstu so you know i heard about you when u spoke on the abc a few months ago and have been following you since i have charge syndrome and if you havent heard of that dont worry nto many have but anyway thats how coem im in a chair and end up at collaroy with one of my friends from cpp eveyr year enjoying the waves come up around me as thy take you out THE BEST FUN oh and i do sailability to love that to yeah you could guess im a water baby

  10. Its always better to look through your suburbs at home, where there's more time. If you start at work? well, its hopeless you just can't "get into it". Being an inner west person, I'm not familiar with "the beaches", now I feel like I need to visit Collaroy tomorrow. I poured over these shots. Beautiful. Just like Madge.

  11. i kissed my first boyfriend in the car park by the beach @ collaroy!!! ah the memories...the have an amazing knack with the camera - incredible eye...thank you for sharing!

  12. More great shots Lou ... the sky is as heavy as a roof ....

  13. I was secretly hoping for a Northern Beach - and what a surprise it was! I agree with you about the winter beach experience - I'm all for visiting beaches in winter. Favourite photo this time: Surfers:1. Love the storm clouds. Any chance of more Northern Beach visits before you reach no.52?

  14. Bruce - I agree, seems strange that 'damage' (rusting) could be so beautiful - but maybe that's akin to the lines on an older person's face.

    Ellen - Even though I don't love beaches in summer, I do LOVE the water - and swimming - and I can imagine that getting out of your chair and into weightlessness must be incredibly wonderful. I actually read up on Charge Syndrome a little after your first comment a while back so have some idea of it now. Thanks for stopping by again.

    Margaret - Go visit! Especially now I reckon, without the summer crowds. Any of the Northern Beaches are good but I really enjoyed Collaroy - such a long stretch and such rich golden sand.

    Green Been - Gorgeous story, thank you for sharing!

    John - Love the idea of a sky as a heavy roof - exactly what it felt like.

    Nat - Well I'm glad you got your wish! Don't know if I'll venture up there again - I was actually thinking of visiting Avalon but it's really so so familiar and explored that I don't feel that sense of excitement. With only 11 more suburbs to do, I'd better start planning though!

    Louise x

  15. Awesome beach shots. It makes me want to go there even though you had a rather overcast day. I always love photos of Sydney's waterways and becahes.

  16. Hi Louise
    Getting closer to Bungan Castle, loving it!!
    The light this week was extra nice, with the cloudy backdrop.

    The spiky flowers: Aloe
    Faves: Rust 3 & Speckle, and well......all of it really!!
    Di x

  17. Louise, like you I never could have imagined finding much to do in my home suburb of 3 years, 2097! But on maternity leave I've happily pram pushed round the swimming pool on sunny mornings, picking up the best coffee from Taste 2 cafe and then 'house perving' at the beautiful beach cottages in the basin near long reef headlands. I'm yet to meet Madge though! Thanks for visiting! Luv Tara

  18. J Bar - Thank you. Beaches are best when the skies are doing a four seasons in one day sort of thing. The way the light changes affect the ocean and all that.

    Di - Of course, aloe. And yes, that light. Love it.

    Tara - If you bump into Madge could you please ask her to have a look at this blog. I should have written it down but forgot. She mentioned she likes to explore places too so she might find 52 Suburbs interesting. Those old cottages are pretty special I agree.

    Louise x

  19. You find beauty wherever you go. I wish I could see the world through your eyes all the time, but I really appreciate each of these slight glimpses. I hope you do not stop at 52.

  20. Only 11 suburbs to go?! I hadn't made that calculation until I read it in your comments. That's terrible news. Whatever will we do without your blogs? Thanks so much.

  21. Wow, this is a fantastic concept! I have always thought that I knew so much about the world, but so little about my own backyard. I will definitely be checking your blog weekly to gain some insight. I love it.


  22. Just discovered your blog and am loving it. Such a great idea and you are a very talented photographer. I love everything you capture and i'm so inspired to slow down a bit on my day to day journey's and take a look around properly at my surroundings and appreciate everything. If only i could take as good as photos as you do!
    My fav Sydney suburb, where i lived for many years, is Annandale so hope to see you visit there sometime :)

  23. Hey, this is my neighbourhood! I'm just one suburb away in Narrabeen.

    Best pizza in the area comes from Collaroy.

    And every year, in February, you will see school kids traipse along from school to the pool for their learn to swim lessons. Magic.

  24. I love your photo essays they are beautiful. You have a wonderful eye for bringing images together and its getting more astute as time goes on I cant wait to see suburb no.600 should be pure magic then you might want to move to Melbourne and start all over again

  25. Tim - Thanks so much - funny you should say that about not stopping at 52 - I was just thinking today that as intense and time-intensive this project has been, I'm really dreading it stopping - I need to get all the material ready for the book version but after that, who knows.

    Jenni - See above! Thanks, very sweet for you to be so crestfallen about 52 Suburbs terminating.

    Vanessa - Many thanks, so happy you love it.

    J - Thanks so much. Have had quite a few Annandale requests actually...

    Kim - Pizza huh? Sweet image of the kids snaking past to go swim.

    objectsofwhimsy - Ha! 600, now that would be an achievement. And Melbourne would be fun too! Thanks for your lovely comments - and glad you reckon I'm getting better not worse!! Very heartening.

    Louise x

  26. It's my suburb! Beautiful, beautiful photos :)

  27. I love this one! My Grandma was in the Salvo home in Collaroy too!

  28. I loved reading this post as we just moved to Collaroy about a month ago and it is another gorgeous grey and stormy day here today. You've captured so many suburbs on here that I have either lived or worked in and I don't even move around that often! Your work is fantastic and truly captures the essence of those suburbs that I know really well (Arncliffe, Brighton, Hurstville, Manly, Marrickville, Newtown) so I appreciate the others even moreso by comparison. I look forward to seeing your book in print!

  29. This is all too beautiful. I have added you to my Blog Roll. First heard about you on 7.30 and also Kalinda is in my book club.
    Congratulations on all your work
    Best Carolyn

  30. Thank you for your angles. Collaroy is one place I call home, and you captured everything I love about it. gulp. xxx

  31. hi Louise,

    I just came across your site whilst researching articles / photographs on Collaroy. Just love work work and stories. You have captured the essense of Collaroy. With your permission I would like to pin some of your photographs on my pinterest site. Full acknowledgement and link back goes without saying.
    Regards, Linda Coskerie - Principal, Property Focus in Sydney