While the tourists flock to the beaches at Manly and Bondi, I am on the bus to Maroubra in Sydney’s East. Known for its surfing culture, Maroubra Beach is the home of the Bra Boys which has meant occasional negative publicity for the area. This is perhaps one reason why I have never been to Maroubra Beach.
Maroubra Junction and Surrounds
The bus stops and starts along ANZAC Parade passing through Kensington and Kingsford before finally entering Maroubra. We drive past the French International School and alight at the last stop: Maroubra Junction.
Here the buildings are a mixture of old and new. Grey paint disguises the words “Junction House” on the façade of a building now home to a fast food outlet. Diagonally across the intersection, a high-rise development dominates the original Dudley’s Emporium, the first shopping centre in Maroubra Junction built in 1912.
Greek Cakes and the Rabbitohs
Further along ANZAC Parade, a cake shop sells Greek cakes. This would be the famous cake shop a friend described as “the best Greek Cake shop”. If it weren’t so early, I’d certainly stop for coffee and cake.
A Rabbitoh’s supporter decked out in the green, red and white of his team passes me as we cross at the lights. Rabbitoh’s flags hung from flagpoles flap in the breeze. It’s obvious where local allegiances lie.
Walking along Maroubra Road, the median strip planted with palm trees, there’s a feeling of openness and a hint of beachside suburb. Maroubra means “good thunder” in the local aboriginal language, referring to the waves crashing on the shore at the end of this road.
Across the road, a shoe repair shop jam packed with shoes and related goods reminds me of a time before chain stores, when shop keepers knew your name. I pass other older small businesses: a locksmith who also repairs shoes, a local laundromat where the workers speak a language I can’t place, and Manor Mount Service Station. Hopefully they survive.
Parents drop their children off at the local Catholic Primary School. A mother calls to another parent and they continue their conversation in Italian. Maroubra is a suburb of diverse languages.
The Indonesian Consulate
White metal pickets surround the simple red brick Indonesian Consulate. The Indonesian Coat of Arms – a large bird (the mythical Garuda) with a shield on its chest, hangs above the building entrance.
Getting to Maroubra Beach
The beachy feel to this suburb gets stronger as I walk towards the coast. People smile in greeting. On my left a series of sandstone walls support garages with steps leading up to semis with wide views across to the sea. A lighthouse looking spire turns out to be the St Johns Anglican church. And then, through a gap between houses, I see the sea.
Rob Walker Rock Pool
Walking down the road to Rob Walker Rock Pool, a postman passes in the other direction, pushing his heavy trolley up the hill. The views north stretch along the rough and rocky shoreline past Waverly Cemetery and beyond.
Waves flow back and forth over the rocks providing a soothing background as I carefully descend the wet and slippery steps to the rock platform below. The path looks inaccessible but I persevere and am rewarded by finding a walking path along the foreshore.
Walking the Coastal Path to Maroubra Beach
Off the path, a man bends over to pick up something small. He brushes it off and places it in a bag, his dog lying patiently nearby. I ask what it is that he’s picking up. “Lego” he says “Someone dumped a whole heap” pointing to two full bags propped up against a post. “Unbelievable” he adds.
Further on, near the lookout, a man in a straw hat concentrates as he steers his remote-controlled plane in circles above him. Well-toned and bare-chested young men walk past, but none display the distinctive Bra Boys tattoos. Would I have the temerity to ask for a photo should I see any? Probably not.
Continuing along the coastal walk I soak up the scenery, the sound and scent of the sea. Swimmers glide back and forth in Mahon Pool, while a pied cormorant suns itself on a rock, wings outstretched. I sit for a while watching the swimmers and the waves crashing over the pool wall.
A Randwick Councilsign outlines the building work on a nearby amenities block. The last point in the list of works makes me chuckle. It states that “a cafe is not part of the works”. A point of controversy perhaps?
The Hereward Shipwreck
An iron ship, the Hereward, shipwrecked here on the northern end of Maroubra Beach in 1898. What’s left of the wreck sits below the waterline, but I can at least walk along Hereward Street. I get there via Maroubra Road, where the peeling paint and rusted iron features of older unit blocks cry out for TLC. Sheets instead of curtains dress the windows.
After passing a row of three unit-blocks with identical art deco features in Hereward Street, I turn back towards the beach. Here the beach culture is in full swing. A row of coffee shops and cafés line the street, there are surf schools and surf boards for sale.
People relax on the beach and some play in the water, most swimming between the red and yellow flags of the Maroubra Surf Life Saving Club. Surfers lie on their boards waiting patiently in the swell for a wave.
At the end of the beach is a skate park. A young boy falls off his scooter and inspects his knee. The only damage is to his pride but he gets up and swears as he throws his scooter down.
Instead of walking along the beach, I take the boardwalk to the South Maroubra SLSC. There are no flags here and no life savers on duty, but people enjoy the surf nevertheless.
Maroubra away from the Beach
Arthur Byrne Reserve is a large stretch of greenery and trees behind the beach, great for a picnic. From there, I follow the footpath to South Maroubra Village. A loud radio blares from an open garage. Inside, a man stands at a tool bench counting out $50 notes. There’s a story here, and I let my imagination run wild.
South Maroubra Village
South Maroubra village is a neat group of shops including supermarket, fruit and vegetable store, bottle shop and fast food outlets. Biting into a crisp green apple from the fruit shop, I cross the road into a less pleasant and uncared for part of Maroubra. Rubbish is strewn on the footpath and the buildings unkempt.
Somehow, I end up missing some of what I planned to do. Maroubra covers a big area, and I can’t face retracing my steps. Instead I cross ANZAC Parade to a reserve where plaques fixed to a low stone wall commemorate different events which happened from 1917 to 1924.
Apparently, I have stepped out of Maroubra and into Matraville and this is Memorial Reserve. The large grassed area serves as the entrance to a soldier’s settlement established between 1918 and 1925. I look forward to returning with more information when I explore Matraville one day.
Back on track now, I discover Heffron Park, a large park with plenty of open space. Its Pedal Park is a wonderful set up where children can learn road rules in a safe environment. Unlike the similar set up in Sydney Park which was busy with a school group when I walked past, here, only one child rides his scooter around the track.
The dual pedestrian cycle path through Heffron Park passes a Leisure Centre and playing fields, all quiet now but surely very busy on weekends. Not much further on, Nagle Park is yet another green space, quite near to Maroubra Junction. Then, I am back to where I started this morning.
How I feel about Maroubra
I’ve been pleasantly surprised walking through Maroubra. The coastal walk and beach are definitely worth a visit, people are friendly and the Pedal Park at Heffron Park is high up on my list to return to with my grandson.