A bit of beach history - the Tamarama Story

I love that Tamarama Beach has this wonderful history, a past that has helped define a stunning little stretch of sand as the go-to spot for happy days. More than a century ago, long before it was known as “Glamarama”, the beach was home to Sydney’s first coastal amusement park.  Built in 1887, The Bondi Aquarium was a show-stopper, with (what was considered then) a heart-stopping roller-coaster ride across the beach, vaudeville acts, seals and a tiger shark.  With a two-level merry-go-round, an airship, Alice the Elephant and an outdoor roller skating rink, it claimed to be as good as New York’s Coney Island and attracted around 2,000 visitors every Summer.  There was also a miniature railway that took a 2-mile track across the clifftops. 


After fire destroyed the pavilion and aquarium, it was rebuilt as Wonderland City. The photos from this period are fabulous, transportive. In it’s day, Wonderland City was the largest open air amusement park in the Southern Hemisphere.  Eventually, numbers declined amid resident battles over beach access, claims of animal cruelty and issues with the airship, and the amusement park closed in 1911. The state government then bought the area and called it Tamarama Park. Tamarama is believed to derive from the Aboriginal name Gamma Gamma (meaning storm). 

Today, Tamarama still draws crowds looking for recreation and relaxation .. it’s always been the swimmers, surfers, and sunbathers, but now the beach is used in so many more inventive ways. There are the yoga devotees (who practise yoga by the sea at the surf club (see yogabythesea.com.au for schedule), zumba classes (also at the surf club - Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9.30am) and volley ball  (no booking required; players just bring your nets and set up in the rear left corner of the beach).  For the less energetic, or those in need of a post-swim pick-me-up, there’s the Tamarama Kiosk, nestled in the architecturally-designed pavillion at the back of the beach.  And every year, around October, there is Sydney’s public art pilgrimage, Sculpture by the Sea.  It’s the world’s largest annual free-to-public outdoor sculpture exhibition along the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk, and Tamarama is awash with incredible pieces of art.  Wonderland lives on. 
Historical photos courtesy of Waverley Library 







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