Late yesterday evening I really came home. We arrived at Dolphin Sands to a temperature edging onto 20 degrees. The sun was shining and my mountains, The Hazards, were standing sentry as they have done forever. My mountains protect Coles Bay, they provide a narrow but strong barrier between Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay; in my childhood memories that barrier is between Coles Bay and the rest of the world. The Hazards wrap their arms around the residents and visitors alike and cast them under a spell, ‘the magic of Coles Bay’.
Now Dolphin Sands is a new destination for me. I came here, nearly five years ago for the first time to celebrate my 50th with our Tasmanian friends. The beach here is pristine, always virtually deserted and long, spanning the space between Swansea and Swanwick, just near Coles Bay. The view of The Hazards brings memories of Coles Bay flooding back. Coles Bay has changed a lot since my childhood. The arrival of sealed road (and a pub) some years between my childhood and my middle-age changed the feel, the accessibility, the demographic and the lifestyle.
I summered at Coles Bay for probably 20 years. It is the place on earth that holds my memories and keeps my secrets safe.
Coles Bay of my childhood was safe. It wrapped its arms around my family and was for the most-part idyllic. It did not matter whether we came to Coles Bay at the height of summer or in the depth of winter; I love the beaches and the sea no matter what face they present. Let me share some memories and some firsts from Coles Bay.
We had a mini bike as kids and rode that bike around Coles Bay as though it was our own backyard. There was an elderly man who lived next door to us and would appear each time we rode with his shotgun. Now I am not sure in retrospect at the safety of our folly. Mum and Dad used to just say that he was nuts and to ignore him. My adult self would probably not have ridden near his house but my child self was selfish and unafraid. Perhaps our parents did not enjoy parenting and thought our neighbour would solve their problem. 🙂
I learned to drive at Coles Bay. We had a property with a turning circle and I drove round and round from probably about age 11. I learned to reverse park between trees and had not actually parked between cars until my driving test. I parked perfectly in the much busier Launceston with the arrogance of youth and got my licence on my 17th birthday thanks to that summer in the trees at Coles Bay.
I had my first kiss at Coles Bay; I was terrified and about 14. I experienced my first crush and had my heart broken for the first time all in the space of one summer at Coles Bay.
As we grew up we owned a heavy old dinghy with an old inboard motor, lovingly called the putt-putt. I would launch the putt-putt into the sea, my 12 year old self proud of my driving prowess. (The long arm of the law did not provide a presence until my very late teens.) Dad would take us out to the centre of the bay (not the centre exactly, rather dad’s secret location) and we would fish for flathead. We fished well. There was an abundance and a morning would produce a harvest that would feed us and our friends for many meals. At $40+ per kilo now, I wish we had appreciated them more! Dad would tinker with the putt-putt while the rest of us fished. We always imagined that the putt-putt would one day not start when it was time to make our journey home. This added to the adventure as we told stories of where we might end up. It feels so safe now to this adult me but those stories elicit a smile and the excitement of childhood wonder.
We used to help out the local fisherman and it was an adventure to go on his boat beyond the safety of the bay. We would harvest crayfish, scallops and trawl for barracuda, being ‘paid’ at the end of the day in scallops and crayfish. Again, what a treat these are today but then it was more a matter of what we could do with them to have them taste a little different. Sometimes you just look back and smile at how wrong things were back then. Our lack of appreciation of our spoils is clearly one such example.
Each summer, we would walk several times over the saddle between Mt Amos and Mt Mayson and make our way to the then unknown but now famous Wineglass Bay. It was a time when we as teenagers would leave our parents and the world behind and embark on our own adventure. Our world was a safe place back then and there was no thought that there could be any danger. When we were a little older, we would also climb Mt Amos and conquer the world!
I skinny dipped in the sea with my best friend one June long weekend. Now in Tasmania June is cool, no cold. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And with that friend, I still reminisce about that particular folly.
I always imagined that we would be holidaying at Coles Bay forever but following the death of my father, life got in the way and our ‘shack’ became a burden to my mother as both my brother and I forged busy lives of our own. Sold! At a tidy price that made mum’s life comfortable; that phase of our lives was over. I have driven past our old place and reminisced but of course, it is now more a matter of looking into the lives of the new owners.