If you have ever explored the squillions of squiggly shorelines of Sydney, you will know by now that ‘enough’ is never enough. A few more steps and there comes another hidden beach or a lost lagoon or even a cascade in the city. Sydney is all that, and to a poetic mind, maybe even beyond.
And all this is definitely worth exploring – if not for the delectable cafes and kodak moment vantage points, then at least for the millions of years that went into the formation of this spectacular shoreline. About 250 million years ago in the Triassic Period, a massive river with its origins in what is now Antarctica, had its delta in the present day Sydney Basin. Said to be 5 times bigger than the Amazon, its fast flowing waters ground down a now vanished mountain range in Antarctica and laid down the resultant coarse sands and conglomerates to a depth of over 6 km to form a large part of the Sydney basin region. Over time, the landmass buckled to form hills and valleys, sand coalesced to form wondrous beached and sea waters rose to form the present day version of this beautiful city. But enough of geology, the fact of the matter is, a lot has gone into the formation of the shoreline and it is worth meandering to discover something new every day. And stumbling into one of those hidden gems of the city.
As we did – at Collin’s flat beach – just a few kilometers from the hullabaloo of Manly and yet a hidden oasis of its own. Nestled in one corner of the Sydney Harbour National Park, the waters here form a placid pool, nearly wave-less, and just perfect for wading in the turquoise and teal waters on a sunny day. With a lot of shade in the periphery, I spent a balmy afternoon reading my Lonely Planets and lazing on the beach.
And when there was too much ennui, all that I had to do was grab my mask and snorkel and dunk into the warm waters. For surprise, surprise Collins beach is also an excellent snorkeling spot, with a pulsating marine life. Once again, nearby Shelly Beach takes away all the laurels for snorkeling, but our concealed Collins offers no less a show. Go on a sunny day that improves underwater visibility and you will be greeted with stingrays, baby sharks, sea urchins and a host of fishes – mostly colorless but hang on, and you will get your share of iridescent parrotfish, camouflaged cuttlefish, leatherjackets, flutefish and even something called the goatfish (it has a beard like a goat!) To be honest, I never knew of these piscine beauties until I saw them at Collin’s today and came home to do a bit of research.
My highlight were two pretty light red cuttlefish (my snorkeling first, yayyy!) and I spent some time in tracking those two until a large yellowish fan bellied leatherjacket distracted me.
Snorkeling aside, the high cliffs that straddle Collins flat also provide good walks and vantage points to take a slightly aerial view of the sandy sanctum (and good spots for cliff-jumping for the intrepid ones). The views are peaceful and laced with nirvana – search a bit and you will get your spot, over the waters on shell struck rocks or high on the cliffs under the banksia trees.
The beach is closed after the rains, given the impact it takes from all the dirt and mud from the surrounding woods, but it also forms a beautiful waterfall right on the beach. It also apparently houses endangered bandicoots and sometimes fairy penguins (as the NSW park boards here claims)
Nonetheless, a hidden gem of a beach, Collins flat won’t disappoint, so long as you choose the right day for your visit.
And yes, do look out for those cuttlefish – they will surely make your day!