The Place We're At Now: Whale Beach, Australia
A new feature telling you exactly where we are in the world.
Many readers have asked for more details about wherever we are in the world — how we ended up there and what we really think. This is a new regular feature detailing exactly that.
Brent and I are currently in Australia for three months. We spent our first week here in central Sydney being tourists; then a month at the Sydney beach suburb of Cronulla; and another month in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney. For Christmas, we took a two-week cruise around New Zealand and back.
Now we’re back in Sydney, spending our final three weeks at Whale Beach, which is another beach community — but one in the far northern part of the city.
Here is where we are:
How Did We End up Here?
For our last few weeks in Australia, we had two choices:
Stay in the Sydney area, from which we’ll fly back to America.
Do something “adventurous” like fly north to Kakadu National Park — a four-and-a-half hour flight from Sydney.
I was very gung-ho to go to Kakadu, which I’ve never seen, but Brent didn’t want to fly there and back to Sydney, and then do the twenty-hour flight back to Seattle.
So we compromised on a plan to get off the boat on the last stop on our New Zealand cruise and spend two weeks driving around the South Island. That seemed pretty adventurous too, right?
But for various reasons, getting off in New Zealand didn’t work out, and we ended up coming back to Sydney. Brent was still against all that flying, so we decided to rent an Airbnb in Whale Beach, almost the northernmost point of Sydney.
Spoiler alert: I’m not disappointed we didn’t go to Kakadu National Park. I’m absolutely loving it here!
Where Are We Staying?
Our Airbnb is fantastic. In fact, it looks almost as good in real life as it does in the pictures, which is often not the case.
It’s also very close to headlands and beaches, and only a thirty-minute walk to Avalon, the closest spot with major amenities.
The best part of the unit, by far, is the fact that the front is made up entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows. Since we’re perched on a hill, that means we have partial views of the beach, a craggy headland, and the sparkling Pacific.
It’s only a partial view because we’re surrounded by trees, including gorgeous eucalyptus trees I’m staring out at as I write this. All day long, the trees sigh in a gentle breeze that keeps us wonderfully cool.
It’s the southern hemisphere, so it’s summer here, of course.
We’re also surrounded by birds. They flit from tree to tree, calling out to each other — or screeching at each other, in the case of cockatoos. The other morning I spotted two Australian King Parrots, their green and red bodies shimmering in the sunlight. I got close enough to watch one pluck tiny nuts from a tree and crack them open before flying away.
The trees are also stupid with kookaburras. Their call — which really does sound like maniacal laughter — is charming at dusk, when we’re sitting out on the porch sipping wine.
It’s less delightful at dawn.
Brent’s a deep sleeper and never hears a peep. But I’m a light sleeper and suffer from insomnia, so I’m always jolted awake. I’m annoyed for a moment, but then realize I’m living in Australia in summer, listening to kookaburras laugh. It’s hard to stay too annoyed.
There’s also tons of cicadas this year. Sometimes they’re background players adding to the atmosphere. Other times, their cacophony drowns out everything else, even the kookaburras.
Finally, there’s the smell, which is a combination of the salty tang of the sea and the eucalyptus baking in the sun, their leaves perfuming the air with their sweet, citrus-y scent. The jasmine and frangipani are also blooming, adding more hints of sweetness to the air.
But there’s also something more that’s difficult to describe. The smell of riotous green things growing together — or dirt baking in the sun? More likely, it’s simply the mélange of smells mixing together. It reminds me I’m in a part of the world that is very different from what I’m used to.
It also creates an oasis of tranquility I didn’t know I craved until one night as Brent and I sat looking out at the view and savoring the silence.
Then, of course, the cicadas and kookaburras started up.
What Does It Cost?
$2,130.80 USD for 16 days, or $133/night.
We’ve been surprised by the cost of short-term lodging in Sydney, especially since other costs have struck us as fairly moderate (due, in part, to a good exchange rate). Then again, this is an Airbnb unit, and Airbnb prices seem to be skyrocketing everywhere; it’s quite nice; it’s near the beach in summer; and we’re not staying long enough to get the “monthly” discount. So maybe the price isn’t that high after all.
What Do We Think?
Whale Beach is only an hour north of downtown Sydney — if traffic is good! — but it feels much farther away. Technically, Sydney’s famous Manly Beach is part of the “Northern Beaches” too, but given that it’s only a short ferry ride from central Sydney, it doesn’t feel like the same area at all.
Indeed, a local told me: “It’s not until you cross the Narrabeen Bridge that you’re really in the Northern Beaches. Because there are no trains up here, and with Ku-ring-gai National Park directly to the east, it’s like a world unto itself. I call it a piece of heaven.”
Now that I’m here, I completely agree.
And once you cross that bridge, the road narrows down to only two lanes. The road near our Airbnb is even less traveled, so we almost never hear traffic.
We mostly hear the sound of the surf, the wind in the trees, the cicadas, and those delightful/damn kookaburras.
As for Whale Beach itself, it’s a sweeping crescent of sandy beach with towering headlands on either side.
The houses on these headlands have some of the most amazing views we’ve ever seen — which explains why this area is one of the most expensive in all of Sydney.
The sea is often wild, tossing waves against the sand or rocks. These aren’t gentle rolling waves. These are boisterous, exuberant waves pushing and shoving against each other like a pack of excited wolves.
Australian beaches are famous for their rock pools, which is a section of the sea enclosed by a low wall to keep swimmers safe. At high tide every day, the water in the pool is replaced with fresh seawater.
I go to the Whale Beach rock pool almost every morning, to watch the sunrise and swim.
I especially like it at high tide, when the waves break over the outer wall, then a cascade of foaming, fizzing water crashes down on my head as I swim.
There’s nothing quite so bracing and glorious as getting walloped by a small mountain of water.
We only have seventeen days here at Whale Beach, which is far too short.
I’ve already started counting down the days before we have to leave — and feeling sorry for myself that we aren’t staying longer.
Yes, I know I’m lucky to be here, and I’m lucky in so many other ways. Before long, Brent and I will probably be living in some other great place too.
But I’m really happy here, and I guess I’m greedy. Which means the kookaburras in the trees surrounding our Airbnb?
They’re probably laughing at me — and rightfully so.