Surf Carnival at Town Beach 1928
Bathing near Town Wharf 1930s
Miss Beach Girl entrants Surf Carnival 1968
Surf Carnival at Flynns Beach 1960s
Beach Bathers

Wet Wet Wet

Port Macquarie’s beaches are perfect for swimming and surfing. Four beaches are within easy reach of town with surf patrols during summer months and school holidays. At the beginning of the 20th century the health benefits of sea bathing were recognised with Port Macquarie Municipal Council forming a sub-committee to further the town’s claims as a tourist resort and sanatorium. Property owners were encouraged to realise that ‘Port Macquarie must become a tourist resort or remain nothing’. In 1909 Council drew up a set of rules to govern surf bathing noting that it had ‘caught on’ here.  

Badge, Shelter Shed Carnival 1928

Beach Amenities

Badge, Port Macquarie Shelter Shed Carnival, 1928

With the popularity of sea and surf bathing in the early 1900s, there was a call for public bathing sheds at Port Macquarie’s Town Beach with separate bathing sheds for women and men constructed in late 1908. A tourist wrote to the Port Macquarie News in 1917 expressing surprise that there were no fresh water showers at the sheds and pointing out that tourists would enjoy a dip in the ocean if a fresh water shower could be indulged in afterwards. A carnival to raise funds to build a shelter shed as a further beach amenity was held on Anniversary Day in 1928.

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Manly of the North

Postcard, Pictorial Souvenir of Port Macquarie, 1930s

In 1912 during a visit by the Hon. J. R. Davey (Colonial Treasurer) the politician predicted a brilliant future for what he referred to as our ‘charming and picturesque town’. Stating that with fine beaches, beautiful drives and the soon to be completed railway, Port Macquarie was destined to become the ‘Manly of the North Coast’.  Betty Patterson from Bondi School thought the same, opening her 1938 essay about Port Macquarie with ‘Famous for its historic foundations, scenic beauty, and surfing beaches is Port Macquarie the Manly of the north’.

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Beach View

Souvenir Ashtray, Flynn’s Beach, 1930s

Souvenirs are keepsakes, usually purchased as a memento of a visit or a reminder of a place. Many Port Macquarie businesses sold souvenirs and postcards to tourists. Some, like this one, featured reproduced black and white photographic views while others featured colourful artist representations of Port Macquarie’s landmarks and landscapes. Not everyone owned a camera to take their own photographs, making the option to purchase a postcard or pictorial souvenir more important.

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Dress Code

Women’s Swimsuit, 1940s

Typical of women’s swimming costumes of the 1940s, this swimsuit is made of floral cotton and fully lined. It has a halter neck, gathered front panels, partly shirred back and gathered pant with elastic legs which no doubt filled with water whilst swimming. In 1923, Port Macquarie Municipal Council placed notices in the local paper and in bathing sheds reminding bathers to wear ‘proper costumes’ on the beach. Several local stores sold bathing caps, costumes and sandshoes so there was no excuse for wearing inappropriate swimming attire.

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Bad Habit

Men’s Swimsuit, 1930s

Swimming costumes as we know them today began to be worn from the 1920s. In 1935, the Mayor of Port Macquarie noted it would be necessary for Council to ‘stop the habit of men rolling down their costumes to the waist and hips and walking about and sun-baking on the beach’. Council passed an amendment to the Ordinance regarding public bathing which included diagrams of suitable costumes. This men’s woollen knitted swimsuit made by Jantzen in the 1930s includes a low-cut singlet top and shorter legs with a modesty panel at the lower front.

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Beach Boys

Postcard, The Boys are so keen here at Port Macquarie, 1950s

Port Macquarie formed its first surf life-saving club in 1910, initially operating at Town Beach. From 1930 surf carnivals were held at Flynn’s Beach as Town Beach had been condemned for surf carnivals due to safety concerns. Beach safety, including surf bathing rescues, was provided by trained volunteer club members and members of the public using the iconic belt and reel. Humorous postcards like this one were common and remain popular. As the sender of this postcard writes ‘Plenty of men around here…’.

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Keen to Discover more?

Visit Port Macquarie Museum or click to view more exciting themes