A few tips - and requests - for Canberra tourists invading the coast
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A few tips - and requests - for Canberra tourists invading the coast

Summer for me has long meant an influx of tourists, crowded beaches and carefully planned times of travel - even for the small trip into town for supplies.

You know the tourists have hit the coast when beaches at Bawley Point have more than five people on them, the lollipop ladies are on the Princes Highway at Milton, and the traffic turns a 20-minute trip to Ulladulla into an hour-long expedition.

A typical summers day at Bawley Point Beach.

A typical summers day at Bawley Point Beach. Credit:Emily Barton

Seeing the 'Y' number plates is also a sure sign school is out, annual leave has been approved and Canberrans have settled in for their annual south coast break.

That's also when the "why" questions start. Why are you here? Why didn't you pack your manners? Why do you sit as close as possible to the people next to you at the beach?

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For locals, summer also means resorting to "secret" beaches to avoid the hot spots, like Gannet Beach or the corner of North Mollymook Beach.

Don’t get me wrong, tourists are great for coastal hamlets - they pump money into businesses to get them through quiet winters - but, it would be nice if they packed their manners and common sense with them.

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Not only do some choose to make the road dangerous for others by taking risks they shouldn’t, a lot (not all) of them litter the beaches, blame the long queues in shops on the cashiers and forget they are indeed the ones in someone else’s home town.

For 10 summers I spent my mornings packing shelves and serving customers at the IGA where I saw the worst of visitors. Ironically, tourists would complain about the line they were creating by their desire to escape to the coast for summer.

Relax. You're on holidays, where else do you have to be besides at the beach? Enjoy those queues and let them be a moment for you to stop and think.

However, it doesn’t stop there. One of my biggest frustrations is tourists swimming in the boat ramp at Bawley Point Beach, refusing to move for boats trying to launch or return from a fishing trip.

Although it looks nice, it is a boat ramp. For boats. Not people.

I know it’s a just few that ruin it for all, but if everyone could stop and think about the risks they are taking, the places they are swimming and the people they are talking to, the coast would be a much better place for all throughout summer.

I understand the appeal for tourists - the pristine water, clean white sand, endless bushwalks and a host of trendy cafes. However, let's leave these places enjoyable for the next generation.

We don't want to see south coast hot spots ruined by a two-metre fence like that at Wedding Cake Rock because people can't be trusted to do the right thing.

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It’s my first summer living in the nation’s capital and I’m having to get used to the opposite of what I've become accustomed to on the coast. The ease of parking at this time of year is nice, as is the lack of cars on the road.

Not being near a beach on the other hand is quite a challenge for someone who has for 24 years lived just a few hundred metres from the ocean.

On my days off this summer you’ll find me travelling the Kings Highway to enjoy the salt water and sandy beaches. But even those trips are carefully planned to avoid as many cars as possible on the treacherous route.

Although I am now technically one of those "tourists" driving two and a half hours to paradise, I urge everyone to keep the south coast safe and enjoyable for all, from now until after the Easter long weekend.

And lastly, don't forget to swim between the red and yellow flags.

Although there are no patrolled beaches in Bawley Point, I know the lifesavers in Ulladulla spend summer shaking their heads at the spots they find tourists swimming - often when they are pulling them to safety.

This time last year, five Canberrans, most of them children following the lead of adults, were swept out to sea and had to be rescued. Thankfully, they all survived, but they put the lives of those who dove in to save them, and themselves, at risk.

Emily Barton is a Canberra Times producer who grew up at Bawley Point.

Emily Barton is a producer at The Canberra Times.

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