Like any self-respecting Australian city, Melbourne’s beaches are a major drawcard for any traveller. It’s not easy competing with the sprawling, white sandy beaches and clean, fresh surf found along the coastlines of Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australian beaches, so in Victoria, they have to get a little more creative. Fortunately, creativity is something that Melburnians have in spades.
Enter the Brighton bathing boxes. This rainbow row of 82 brightly-painted beach shacks on Dendy Beach is a Melbourne icon, plastered on postcards, art prints and tour guides all over the city.
Brighton, the affluent bayside suburb where you’ll find Dendy Beach, is about a twenty-minute drive from Melbourne’s CBD or an easy train ride along the Sandringham line. Even on the most miserable days, there will be queues of tourists waiting to get their photo with one particular bathing box, painted like the Australian flag.
The water might not be warm and the sand is coarse with broken shells but the bathing boxes are a sight for sore eyes. Each bathing box is beautifully maintained, each one brighter than the last. They’re privately owned, so while you can’t go inside, you can photograph them and, if you’re lucky, steal a glimpse inside if an owner is using their bathing box on the day. Some bathing boxes are used as storage sheds for surfboards and swimming gear, others are set up as kiosks for summer barbeques with friends and some are fitted out like the perfect summer beach pad, complete with a couch, magazines and a stereo.
Some bathing boxes date back as early as 1862, and most rarely change ownership. Many of the colourful beach shacks have been in the same families for generations and, not surprisingly, most owners are reluctant to sell. An auction makes the news and the competition is fierce.You can’t live in the bathing boxes, but they’ll still set you back around $200,000 AUD. The record sale price is $260,000 from 2008, but when they were first made available at public auctions in the 1990s you could pick one up for as little as $60,000. Still expensive, but a relatively small price to pay for such a treasured slice of Victorian history.
You can see more images of the Brighton Bathing Boxes in the original post on The Wanderbug.