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Orient Beach

The beach on the eastern side of the Buffalo River was formerly known as the Sandy Beach until 1907 when a Russian vessel, the S.S. Orient, ran aground there.

Before the construction of the harbour, the beach extended into the river mouth itself and would originally have been much bigger than it is today.

During the early years of the municipality, the Sandy Beach was regarded as the recreation place for men, while women were strictly banned from going there. This was because men tended to swim in the nude.

Women, on the other hand, were banished to the rock pools along the esplanade, or were expected to swim at the Eastern Beach.

Because they refused to be confined in this way but insisted on invading the Sandy Beach, the municipality eventually attempted to divide the beach between the sexes. The men were allowed to swim at the river end, while the women could use the eastern section, near the rocks.

The women, however, still refused to obey and so, in about 1904, the municipality allowed mixed bathing there. Men were now expected to don bathing costumes.

When changing cubicles were built at about that time, they were placed right at the water's edge so as to limit the amount of time in which the men might glimpse the women before the latter were safely in the water.

Keith Tankard
14 October 2009

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