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Lurline Bay, a magical place in the heart of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs


Lurline Bay Sydney NSW

Lurline Bay on a typically calm day

Where is Lurline Bay?

Lurline Bay is a small, rocky bay nestled between Coogee and Maroubra beaches, and is one of the area’s hidden gems. Despite being located in the heart of Sydney’s busy Eastern Suburbs, Lurline Bay is often uncrowded and you can sometimes sit for hours without seeing another soul. It’s a great place to watch spectacular sunrises (especially during the autumn months), and is home to a diverse range of birdlife that make their homes in the local scrub and cliff-faces. Keep an eye out for large flocks of black cockatoos screeching away in the late afternoons, watch as cormorants dry their wings on the sunny rocky ledges, and see kestrels hovering in frozen motion high above as they line up their prey below.

Spectacular sunrise at Lurline Bay
Spectacular sunrise at Lurline Bay

Percy Bates, a man ahead of his time

An interesting feature of Lurline Bay is a channel that’s been cut into the northern corner. This was unbelievably hand carved by a man called Percy Bates in the 1920’s who was trying to prove that you could make electricity by harnessing wave energy. While some thought he was eccentric at the time, he actually succeeded in producing enough electricity to light his work shed and power several radiators (Sydney Morning Herald, 18/02/1984).

Percy Bates hand carved channel at Lurline Bay

Percy Bates' hand-carved channel

Percy Bates' hand carved channel at Lurline Bay

Took around 5 years to carve

Waves as rare as a blood moon

There's many a hidden cove along our shores that, with the right swell and wind combination, can produce heart-stopping surfing conditions. Lurline Bay is one such novelty, a fickle beast in its own right, only coming into its own when huge swells are trying to reclaim our Eastern coastline. Don't come here looking for consistency - the wave only breaks a handful of times a year, and only when all the planets align.

Large wave goes unridden at Lurline Bay

Suburban tsunami

Large barreling wave at Lurline Bay
A rare, leap year-type swell

Surfing at Lurline Bay

Huge SE-NE swells, accompanied by NW-SW winds and low tides are required to produce a right-hander that breaks over reef at the southern end. The swell needs to be at least 2m to break, although the larger the swell the better as the wave breaks out further and the rides are longer. The takeoff is quite steep and can produce barrels on the odd occasion but it's generally a short, intense drop that quickly flattens out to a crumbly wall ride. It can handle very large swells and has reportedly been ridden at 5m plus. Paddling out is easy enough, just jump off the rocks and you're in, but make sure you time your re-entry or else you could end up a broken mess on the rocks in the northern corner. 

Bodyboarder dropping in on a large wave at Lurline Bay
Bodyboarder perched on the edge

Surfers out at Lurline Bay

Kick back, tune out, drop in

Popular with swimmers, fishermen and families

The calm waters of Lurline Bay make it a popular spot for families and water sport enthusiasts. On any given day (especially in the warmer summer months), Lurline Bay is a hive of activity and you can see people everywhere taking advantage of its relatively safe waters. Whether you're into swimming, fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, spearfishing, paddle boarding, kayaking or anything else - the bay has you covered.

Tidal rock pool ideal for swimming at Lurline Bay

Tidal swimming pool, all yours...

Danger stalks the bay

Despite its calm and subdued appearance, Lurline Bay has a darker side and there's serious consequences for those that underestimate it. Living in a house that overlooked Lurline Bay for around 10 years, I've seen countless rescues, people in serious trouble as well as numerous fatalities. The Westpac chopper is almost a weekly (and sometimes nightly) occurrence during certain times of the year, the main cause being fishermen swept off nearby rocks or swimmers who've gotten into trouble at Maroubra or Coogee beaches and sucked out in the rip.

Hells Angels looking moonrise at Lurline Bay

Outlaw-ish moonrises, 1% of the time

Being a popular walking track (and a natural extension of the famous Bondi to Coogee coastal walk), many people walk around Lurline Bay when the weather's nice. In moderate to large swells and high tides there's a section near Percy Bates' channel at the northern side of the bay that's relatively impassable but many people still try to make a run between waves. The detour may not seem appealing at the time (it would take about 10 minutes to head back and re-route along Mermaid Avenue), but it's a better option than being smashed against the rocks or even drowning.

Lurline Bay, a great place to watch storms roll by

A great place to watch storms roll by

After a heavy rain, the stormwater drains at both ends spill out brown muck into ocean so avoid being in the water at these times. In 2008, two people unfortunately died in this drain after they were swept down it during a heavy rainfall. A third person who was with the group survived and local residents paddled out on their surfboards to rescue him.

A brief history of Lurline Bay in the 1940's

A while back, I was contacted by a remarkable gentleman called Max Watts, who used to live in Lurline Bay from his birth in 1940 to around 1950.

We had a great chat on the phone, and he recounted his memories of growing up in the area and what life was like back then, and asked if I’d like to see some photos (I most definitely would!).

In 1938, Max's parents, Bill and Leila Watts, bought a new house and land at 12 Seaside Parade South Coogee for £1200 (appx $130,000 in today's inflation adjusted rate according to the RBA pre-decilmal calculator!).

In one of the photos below, you'll see a party at a house (16 Seaside Parade South Coogee), which was owned by Clive and Leila Bayley. Max's dad Bill worked at Bayley & Sons Ltd. - tanner and leather merchants located at Lord Street-Botany, and also one of the largest tanneries in Australia. His dad Bill started in 1938 as an Accountant/Secretary & eventually became Chairman & Managing Director. Interestingly Max's Ddad wanted to join the Air Force when WW2 started but they would not accept him as he was working in an essential industry—making leather for shoes for the Troops. Bill took over the Managing Director role from W.C. Anderson (William Charles) - whose son in law happened to be iconic TV weatherman Alan Wilkie, who spent decades presenting on Channels 7 and 9.

From my own research, property along the headland where Lurline Bay now sits used to be much cheaper than those further inland during WW2 as the fear of shelling and attack was ever present.

I am very grateful to Max and his family for sharing these photos with me, and also for allowing them to be published on this website. Thank you Max!

I hope you enjoy this rare glimpse into a time gone by as much as I do.

A young Max with his parents

Max's family car - a Ford Pilot, and a house at 21 Seaside Parade behind it

Looking south along Lurline Bay 1940's

A party in 1947 at neighbours Clive and Leila Bailey's house (Max in front centre)

Max with his mum and younger brother Ron in the rockpool at Lurline Bay


Max and his lovely wife Mareea today (2024)

Nightime at Lurline Bay

If you ever get some spare time, grab your camera and head down to your local beach late one night - I almost guarantee you that within a short period of time something amazing will happen.

Slow shutter night time wave Lurline Bay
Slow shutter of a wave about to break

Slow shutter barrel night time wave Lurline Bay
Same wave as above, 0.8 seconds later

Rare algal bloom at Lurline Bay
Bioluminescence lighting up the night

Is Lurline Bay patrolled?

Lurline Bay is sporadically patrolled by Maroubra SLSC during the summer months (the dinghy comes by a couple of times each day on weekends), and the Westpac rescue chopper's a regular visitor looking for fisherman who've been swept off the rocks.

Cruise ship returning to Sydney Harbour as seen from Lurline Bay

Cruise ship passing Lurline Bay at sunset

Getting to Lurline Bay

Lurline Bay is situated between Coogee and Maroubra beaches in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Walking from either beach takes around 20 minutes, just head south from Coogee or north from Maroubra and follow the masses of people doing the coastal walk. If you're driving, head down Lurline Street off Torrington Road as parking's usually easier to find here and there's a couple of staircases that access the bay. 

Map of Lurline Bay

What is the next beach north from Lurline Bay?

Coogee Beach is the next beach north from Lurline Bay

What is the next beach south from Lurline Bay?

Maroubra Beach is the next beach south from Lurline Bay

Current weather at Lurline Bay


Thanks for reading

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Lurline Bay holds a special place in my heart as I lived there for 10 years, and I wrote this article for myself as much as I did for anyone else as a way of remembering the good times I had there with family and friends.

Prints available for purchase

All photos in this article are available for purchase in various sizes as high resolution acrylic glass or canvas prints, and are available for licensing purposes for media and marketing/promotional material. The photos you see here have been compressed for optimal online user experience, which means we've intentionally reduced the file size and quality of each image to ensure the pages you visit load faster.

High res prints without watermarks

Any printed reproduction of the photos you see on OZBEACHES would be done using the original 20+ megabyte RAW files, with the additional layer of having a professional graphic designer personally inspect each image and optimise for print. The OZBEACHES watermark would be removed and would not be visible on your print. If you have any questions about this process, please email me (Adam) and let me know which photo you're interested in by quoting the caption beneath it. Alternatively you can check out our featured images in the print gallery.

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