From the place of thunder to the water breaking over rocks

Bondi beach is one of the most famous places in Sydney. Before even learning about Opera House and Harbor Bridge, everyone already knows about Bondi beach. However, do you know why it is called B-O-N-D-I and why? To be honest I’ve never thought about before the other day… “Bondi” or “Boondi” is an Aboriginal word meaning water breaking over rocks or noise of water breaking over rocks.

Bondi beach 1890

Bondi beach 1890

I remember my good friend visiting me in Sydney couple of years ago. We went to see the famous Bondi beach where she got so nervous and scared of the constant noise of waves breaking on the rocks than we had to leave the suburb for the day 🙂 So I guess it is notoriously (for its noise) popular place got it name right.

They say now Bondi is very Russian or Irish or Jewish. Well, Bondi Beach was a working class suburb throughout most of the twentieth century. Following World War II, Bondi Beach and the Eastern Suburbs became home for Jewish migrants from Poland, Russia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany. Many more immigrants are arriving from those countries now, often staying in Bondi area. As for Irish, backpackers from UK loooooove staying on the beach while also being surrounded by fun pubs. Bondi has it all.

Long time before the existence The Bra Boys who are known to be terrorizing the society since 1990s (as a gang who has gained notoriety through violent clashes with members of the public and police), Maroubra was another aboriginals land named place of thunder (or Maroubra as we say now). In around 1890s a fully rigged iron ship weighing 1,513 tons, was caught by the gale force winds and shipwrecked at the northern end of Maroubra Beach while heading north toward Newcastle…. hence Maroubra – or place of thunder.

The Hereward wrecked on Maroubra Beach, May 1898

The Hereward wrecked on Maroubra Beach, May 1898

Since my curiosity started to grow with learning the meaning of two beach’s names in Sydney, I decided not to stop here. I was reading about Bondi and Maroubra while enjoying the view of Coogee beach.

Coogee beach, around 1900

Coogee beach, around 1900

Coogee beach 1900-1910

Coogee beach 1900-1910

The actual name Coogee is believed to be borrowed from a local Aboriginal word koojah which means “smelly place”. Another version is koo-chai or koo-jah which mean the smell of the seaweed drying or “stinking seaweed”, a reference to the smell of decaying kelp washed up on the beach. And in fact, Coogee beach does often have seaweed washed on its sand which now of course gets removed before it starts producing the smell. A cool fact for all the beer lovers, Coogee was gazetted as a village in 1838, in 1863 the first school was built which was later converted to become the Coogee Bay Hotel in 1873.

Sorry to disappoint but Bronte beach, the one located between Coogee and Bondi (and several other smaller bays), was named Bronte after a land owner. 42 acres (170,000 m2) of land were bought from Mortimer Lewis (1796–1879), the Colonial Architect who owned most of the frontage in the area in the 1830s. His home was completed in 1845 and was named Bronte House, for Lord Nelson, who was the Duke of Bronte, a place in Sicily, Italy.

Annablogia - Bronte beach 1900

State Library of New South Wales – Bronte beach 1900

I absolutely love history and especially old images therefore I will carry one with the story 🙂 Tamarama beach …

When researching about Tamarama beach, I found the image of the 1887 Sydney’s first coastal amusement park, and one of the earliest in Australia, opened named The Bondi Aquarium.

1887 Sydney's first coastal amusement park,  Bondi Aquarium on Tamarama beach.

1887 Sydney’s first coastal amusement park, Bondi Aquarium on Tamarama beach.

Later on destroyed by fire, rebuilt multiple times it was still there. In 1901 it was called Wonderland City where they also introduced circus performances which were not fully accepted by the residents in the area. They also had to constantly fight for their access to the beach. As a result, Wonderland City closed in 1911. In 1920, the NSW Government bought the area and proclaimed it Tamarama Park. There is still a Wonderland Avenue at Tamarama.

Look at the picture above. I cannot find this high cliff which is there now. It is pretty flat piece of land which it definitely not the case now. Tamarama is very narrow and small beach with some nasty currents. I love Tamarama but got taken away by the rips too many times now and rarely get into the water. Tamarama was initially known as  Dixon Bay by early European settlers. However the name was changed to Tamarama in the 1800s which is borrowed from the Aboriginal name ‘Gamma Gamma’.

There are very many bays and beaches along the coast all over Australia. Each of them has its own story starting from the days of aboriginals to the very modern days. I have been very curious about some of them which is only a couple of famous beaches around the area where I live. However Australian coastline stretches all the way  the North where Central coast is, where hundreds and hundred of larger and tiny secret bays in Queensland and many dangerous waters in Northern Territory. It is a Wonderland for the little curious Alice inside me 🙂

Annablogia - eastern suburbs beaches


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