Miners Beach in Port Macquarie has always been known as an unofficial but widely used nude beach. In what was once a secluded location for nude bathers to get in touch with nature, Miners Beach has now found itself in the middle of a newly built public walkway.
The new walking track is part of a bigger plan being promoted by local member for Port Macquarie Rob Oakeshott; to link the Port Macquarie CBD to Lighthouse Beach as a drawcard for visitors and locals to experience.
In what will no doubt be an impressive walking path to showcase the majestic beaches of Port Macquarie, visitors will also have to walk through the middle of an unofficial nude beach.
National Parks and Wildlife Services Mid North Coast Regional Manager Greg Croft, said that $100,000 had been spent upgrading the walking track, building timber walkways over two rocky outcrops, a timber staircase down onto the beach and a whale watching vantage point on the headland, as well as providing informative signs.
“Miners Beach is one of the few beaches in Port Macquarie that is only accessible on foot. Visitors now have a safer passage between the Shelly Beach car park and Lighthouse Beach along Miners Beach”, Mr Croft said.
Along the new walking path signs have been erected by National Parks to warn walkers that nude bathers may be encountered. The signage also states that Miners Beach is not a designated nude beach and that any complaints should be made to the Port Macquarie Police.
According to National Parks the signage was erected following a series of complaints made about nude bathers.
So, the question begs to be asked. Should Miners Beach or in fact any other suitable beach on the Mid-North Coast be made an official nude beach?
As it stands nude bathers are in fact breaking the law right across the Mid-North Coast because they have no official alternative. And, considering the delicate issue of nude bathing, local councils are reluctant to encourage debate about the issue. It seems to be a case of let sleeping dogs lie for the most part – but it should be remembered morally that as a nation we have come a long way.
In 1833, to preserve decency the Governor of the day banned sea bathing during daylight hours.
It was not until 1902, after a lot of civil disobedience and many arrests, that this law was finally revoked. Of course bathing was a complete cover up in those days, with some of the ladies’ costumes containing up to ten metres of material!
Also, bathing was segregated with separate hours or different parts of the beach for men and women. Once again civil disobedience won out and mixed bathing eventually became the norm.
In 1907 one lady was arrested for wearing a costume that exposed her arms and feet. The trend towards freedom continued and by the late 1930s it was backless costumes for the ladies and, shock horror, men going topless. After the war the two piece became popular, and then during the 1960s the bikini emerged. But again it was not without trauma, many girls being ordered off the beach or arrested because their costumes did not meet the bare minimum requirements.
It wasn’t until the 70’s that the State Government recognised that individuals in the community have a right to commune with nature in a natural state.
Due to the public demand for nude bathing in the late 1970s the New South Wales Government under Premier Neville Wran announced that certain beaches within National Parks, being beaches that had traditionally been used for nude bathing, would be officially declared as nude beaches. These beaches were Reef Beach and Lady Bay Beach, both in Sydney Harbour National Park, Werrong Beach in the Royal National Park and Samurai Beach in Tomaree National Park.
Several other beaches have also been made official nude beaches over the years but as it stands today no beach has been made official on the Mid-North Coast.
Several websites promote unofficial nude bathing on the Mid-North Coast at Shelly Beach and Pebbly Beach at Forster, Miners Beach in Port Macquarie, North Smoky Cape at South West Rocks and Little Diggers Beach at Coffs Harbour. Although it should be noted, none of these beaches are official.
The nearest legal nude beaches are located at Samurai Beach at Nelson Bay north of Newcastle and North Belongil Beach at Byron Bay.
According to Local Member for Port Macquarie Rob Oakeshott, nude bathing at Miners Beach is illegal and should be discouraged. Although Rob has no problem with anyone wishing to bathe nude he does have issues with Miners Beach being the selected unofficial nude beach for Port Macquarie.
“The Mid-North Coast has a lot of more suitable beaches than Miners Beach that could be utilised,” said Rob.
“Miners Beach is not the secluded beach it once was and is not a suitable area for a nude beach”.
The ultimate power to make Miners Beach itself a nude beach lies with the Port Macquarie- Hastings Council.
“Nothing has been raised before Council to indicate that the community is seeking any change to the current status at Miners Beach. The signs put in place by National Parks and Wildlife aim to help make those enjoying the coastal walk aware that the area is also shared by nudists. To date there hasn’t been any approach to Council to change this shared status,” said Bernard Smith, General Manager.
So is it a case of letting sleeping dogs lie or should nude bathers on the Mid-North Coast be forced to break the law? You decide.