After two years of solitude, I revel in a crowded beach

As a solitude lover, my favourite holiday places are tiny and off-season. Few things fill me with more sheer joy than an empty beach in winter. Or even an empty beach in summer – it’s surprising how you can find these, even during the January holidays.

Walk 100 metres from the hordes on any main beach in Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay or Portsea, scramble over a rocky outcrop or two, and you can have the place almost to yourself.

However, maybe it’s COVID-19 and close to two years of not experiencing the congregating of human beings, but I find myself enjoying a popular seaside resort at the busiest time of year.

I’ve even swum at the main beach from time to time and am struck by how contented people there are. You seldom hear yelling or whingeing by the sea, and I reckon there are clear reasons for this.

More than usual, parents are not doing it alone. Two-parent families have both adults on duty, halving the workload.

Lots of groups seem to have even more of the traditional “village” in attendance – grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends doing shifts with the babies, trundling pushers in the morning to give mums and dads a rare lie-in, bouncing little ones in the wavelets, hoisting toddlers high on their shoulders, pointing out mewling gulls and rainbow-coloured kites, playing cricket on the hard sand at low tide. Kids were meant to be brought up by a clan.

On summer holidays Australians tend to be immersed in the natural world.Credit:Jessica Hromas

In this country, where the vast majority of the population dwells in cities, on summer holidays we tend to be immersed in the natural world.

Swimming in wild bodies of water is good for us, so is having nothing between our bare feet and the sand, taking a break from sitting at a desk eight hours a day, enduring artificial light and squinting at devices all day long.

Maybe, too, after so much time in lockdown, the inhabitants of this state are giddy with delight at being able to escape the metropolis and do what many love to do in the summer – have a week or three with no alarms, no deadlines, no Zoom meetings.

I can’t quite believe we are here, allowed to swim and walk mask-free, not a concrete apartment or office block in sight, little noise after dark except the sigh of the surf.

In the depths of 2021, I wondered if we would ever get this kind of holiday again. And here we are. And here a lot of other Victorians are, and seem to be as incredulously happy about it as I am.

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