They are both popular and beautiful, but Australia’s Cottesloe Beach has a winning combination of loveliness and charm without the backdrop of a bustling high-rise city
NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Cottesloe Beach is a suburb of Perth in the state of Western Australia
CITY POPULATION Around 1.6 million
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES Jan: 88°F (31°C); Apr: 77°F (25°C); Jul: 63°F (17°C); Oct: 72°F (22°C)
Both Miami and Cottesloe beaches experienced a renaissance in the 1980s after years of fading from fashion. Miami’s popularity grew from being the setting of the hit TV show Miami Vice; Cottesloe’s from Australia playing host to the America’s Cup international yacht race. However, their respective redevelopments took quite different paths and while Miami Beach is overshadowed by a high-rise city, Cottesloe has never lost its low-rise charm.
In the 1920s Miami Beach became a magnet for millions of Americans heading south for winter. The building boom that resulted has left a legacy in the now-restored Art Deco District. Then, as now, the beautiful and fashionable set flocked to its pastel palaces. With its British Raj-style Indiana Tea House, pine-fringed Cottesloe also has its share of celebrity fans (it was Heath Ledger’s favorite beach and, sadly, the scene of his wake), but it retains a low-key, family feel. And while its popularity is clear from the crowds that flock here to soak up the sun, it is also quietly relaxed and exudes that laid-back atmosphere for which Australia is known.
Professional lifeguards patrol both beaches but Cottesloe has the iconic and much-photographed volunteer Surf Life Savers, founded in 1919, to keep an eye on things, too. Their newest members can be found on the beach on Sunday mornings, when local children participate in the “Nippers’ program.”
Families crowd the beach as the kids, in Cottesloe’s surf-lifesaving colors of black, yellow and white, train in watersports and surf-lifesaving techniques. Cottesloe’s surf is one of its key attractions for many. A never-ending succession of waves roll across the Indian Ocean to rush up onto the long sweep of fine golden sand and entice surfers, who vie for the best position on each break. Quieter waters around the stone-built breakwater are great for snorkeling.
By mid-afternoon the beach and its trendy bars are being colonized by the party crowd, a mixture of locals and tourists, enjoying a cold beer and light snacks at the end of another hot, sunny day.
Later, the gourmet restaurants that fringe the beach begin to fill with appreciative diners savoring the fresh local produce and the spectacular views as the setting sun makes the world glow orange.
Once again, numbers on west-facing Cottesloe Beach begin to swell, as everyone gathers to watch the sunset silhouette the surfers, the late swimmers, and lovely Rottnest Island in the distance – a visual treat that the beachgoers of eastward-facing Miami can only dream about.
THE BUILD-UP Miami Beach, with its vast stretch of white sand, dotted with colorful lifeguard towers and scattered with bronzed bodies, is deemed one of the wealthiest beach resorts in America. The streets that border the beach include the famous and fabulous Art Deco Historic District, its chic boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs filled with the beautiful, rich, and famous.
THE LETDOWN The place is fast-paced and expensive. Hotel prices have skyrocketed in recent years, as have the high-rises that loom over the beach. If you want to venture far from your base you will need to rent a car.
And, because it’s such a popular beach, there are crowds wherever you go; there’s no point searching for a secluded spot of sand here.
GOING ANYWAY? Start at “SoBe” (South Beach) for a swim and, while in that area, take a look inside Art Deco hotels such as The Delano – the lobbies are simply stunning.
Head to Lincoln Road for dinner and people- watching in the evening.
Getting There and Around
Perth International Airport is 7 miles (12 km) northeast of the city and linked by bus or taxi.
Cottesloe Beach is 7 miles (12 km) southwest of Perth, 20 mins by train from Perth Station.
Where to Eat
With so many open-air cafés, bars with spectacular views, and restaurant-lined Marine Parade, it is easy to see why so many people head to ‘“Cott” to dine.
Try the Blue Duck Café for stunning views and great seafood.
Where to Stay
Rooms at the Ocean Beach Hotel range from ocean-view suites to budget dorms.
When to Go
In March, the beach becomes an outdoor gallery for the international art show Sculpture by the Sea.
Budget per Day for Two
US$260 to include accommodations in a 4-star hotel, lunch at the beach, and a gourmet dinner.