Around the corner from the mouth of the Derwent River, at Clifton Beach

Yesterday, the temperature at my home was in the high 30 degrees but today the temperature was much more pleasant and only rose to a little over the mid 20s. In the spirit of getting back out into the environment and not worrying about heat exhaustion, this afternoon Je and I headed off to have a look at Clifton Beach. This is not a place easily accessible by public transport unless you have time to take a long walk of many kilometres from a distant bus stop. So this Beach was accessed today by starting with a private car trip.

Neither of us had visited Clifton Beach or the adjacent Clifton Beach Conservation Area nature reserve for many years yet it’s a stunningly beautiful location only 25km from the centre of Hobart. The sky was cloudless, and the onshore breeze kept us comfortably relaxed.

This beachside suburb to the north of the South Arm peninsula and therefore north of the mouth of the Derwent River on the eastern shore, is part of the City of Clarence in which I live, and part of the Greater Hobart Area.

Clifton Beach is a 2.1km long wide sandy beach backed by deep revegetated 20 metre high sandy dunes. The beach is bordered by 54m high Cape Deslacs in the east and 50m high rocky cliffs in the west that run south for 3.5 km rising to 100m high at Cape Contrariety. At the southern end of the beach, a Surf Club is central to the protection of swimmers. However out on the waves, and typically clad in black wet suits, were sun-bleached surfers. Have a look at http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Clifton-Beach which has a changing selection of photographs showcasing this amazing beach – plus you can check out the forecast if you want to go for a surf. One of the photos looks towards the southern end, another looks across Storm Bay to the Tasman Peninsula, and the other is a huge wave the like of which we did not see today.

The photo on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifton_Beach,_Tasmania shows the cliffs at the northern end marking Cape Deslacs. When we followed a track out from a carpark, we found ourselves about half way along the long beach so we turned north and walked to the cliffs in the photo, passing a few happy walkers and joggers.  A multitude of empty shells and dying/dead jellyfish lined the high tide mark. Dominican and Silver Gulls hovered. The crumbly sandstone strata in the cliffs were majestic. The rocks at the water edge were covered in baby black mussels. Under the waves crashing onto the rocks were thick unforgiving ribbons of kelp – the sort that could strangle and drown you if you were foolish enough to swim here without care.

Our view across the white capped waters of Storm Bay included a glimpse of Bruny Island to the south west on our right, and the western side of the Tasman Peninsula on our left.

We paddled in the breaking waves of cold water then trailed wet trousers across the hot sand.  We longed to swim, but this is a very dangerous beach for undertows, powerful currents/rips and back surges, and unexpected changing sand bottom levels. People have died here from time to time after being seduced by the jade coloured waters, the clarity and cleanness of the water, and the seeming safety of it all.  But the message ‘to swim between the flags’ indicating you should not swim unless there are life guards present and when they have put up flags indicating the safest stretch to swim between, needs to be adhered to at Clifton Beach.  Today Je and I could see some of the turmoil beneath the waves, and the contrary action of waters moving in and out seemingly simultaneously.  The clear glassiness of the water was so very enticing and, when licking my lips I tasted salt, I had a difficult time resisting going into the water.  But the sand was soft and warm so a great lingering stroll was the wonderful substitute.

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