Legend has it that you’re not a true Sydney local until you’ve seen sand at Mackenzies Bay, which means if you happened to move to Sydney this year, you might be able to claim the title early. Every seven or so years, a rocky inlet between Tamarama Beach and Bondi transforms into a sandy cove, when the tides deposit sand between the rocks – and this summer we’ve struck gold. Mackenzies Beach (which switches from “bay” to “beach” when the sand appears) has been delivering recently. Here’s what we know about Sydney’s most elusive beach...
According to Waverley Council, Mackenzies Bay was named after a farming family whose dairy cows grazed the cliffs (now Marks Park) above the bay. The beach or bay status can change by the hour, with high tide obscuring the sand from view. Currently, low tide exposes a glorious stretch of sand, but this isn’t Mackenzies Beach at its very finest. The summer of 1997 was thought to be one of the beach’s best, but a cyclone that hit the coast in May took the sand away with it, and Mackenzies Beach was then gone, only reappearing ten years later. In 2007, the sandy stretch is reported to have measured 80 or more metres wide and 20 metres deep, but – again – it didn’t last more than a few months.
While tides can affect the sand levels at most beaches, the shape (a narrow bay surrounded by rocky outcrops) and position (easterly facing) of Mackenzies makes it particularly susceptible to tidal changes; low-pressure swells and offshore winds are the conditions needed to bring sand to the bay. The El Niño phenomenon that has blessed Sydney with our balmy summer is partly to thank for the appearance of Mackenzies Beach this year – with fewer storms making it more likely to see sand in the bay.
By its nature, Mackenzies Beach won’t be around forever, so get down there quickly if you want a day on the sand before it disappears. And although the sand makes for a dreamy spot to sunbathe, Mackenzies isn’t the safest place for ocean lovers. Since it’s not an official beach, there are no lifeguards on duty, and the position makes for unpredictable tides and dangerous rips. If you’re looking for safer spots to swim, you can check out our list of Sydney’s best beaches, here.