Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published March 10th 2012
Nudism in Western Australia
Nudism: we all practice it, some just wear clothes on top. Even in situations where clothes are unnecessarily restrictive or inconvenient – really hot days at the beach, lounging around at home, or long days at work – most of us bow to social pressure and button up our shirts.
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Well, sigh no more. Within sixty kilometres of Perth are three excellent (although questionably legal) nude beaches, which you'll be welcome at so long as you follow nudist etiquette: don't litter, take unsolicited photographs, have sex, and if your bum's bare, throw a towel on the chair. Whether you're a first-time naturist or whether you're well acquainted with North Swanbourne Beach, the Western Australian nudist community has a lot to offer you – and nothing to hide.
North Swanbourne Beach
First up is North Swanbourne Beach, one of the most popular nude beaches in the country, despite its technically-illegal status. The nude bathing area is about three hundred metres north of the car park, which itself is north of Fremantle between Cottesloe and City beaches. The car park itself, of course, along with the path to the nude bathing area, is not a nude zone – make sure you're past an official "clothing optional" sign before you strip off.
Here's a non-nude section of the beach.
Nude bathers here join a naturist tradition that's lasted for nearly half a century. Despite the occasional effort from prudes or puritans to disrupt the nude activities, groups like the North Swanbourne Beach Users Association have waged a long, powerful and vigorous campaign to protect the beach. The current legality of nude bathing here is unclear, due to confusion between the Council and the State Government, but suffice to say it's unlikely you'll be in any trouble. If you are, you'll have lots of company.
In 2007, Warnbro Beach scraped a one-vote majority to continue as a nude beach under the auspices of Rockingham City Council. It might not survive the next vote, so head down there sooner rather than later – it's only a 30 minute drive from Perth. The water is relatively waveless, so despite the lack of lifeguards, swimming should be safe for the whole family. The nude section of Warnbro Beach is almost a kilometre long, clearly marked, and shielded by a line of sand dunes. It's worth being a little cautious: sand dunes at nude beaches are like pervert magnets.
Naturism, for many, is non-sexual, and just because somebody is bathing nude doesn't mean you have the right to ogle them.
On a more practical note, sparsely vegetated dunes are ecologically fragile, and any kind of frantic manipulation up there might disturb the carefully-balanced network of flora and fauna. Keep your nudist activities strictly limited to the beach area.
Rottnest Island is 18km to the west of Fremantle and networked with a huge array of secluded beaches. The further you go – by bus or bike – from the main beaches at Thompson Bay or Geordie Bay, the more privacy you'll get. Privacy is necessary here, since none of the beaches at Rottnest Island are legal nude beaches (or 'free beaches', as they're called by the naturist community). Still, it's a very popular, if unofficial, nude area, and so long as you use discretion, the authorities will leave you alone. In general, the park rangers are more likely to crack down on you if you're littering or interfering with the wildlife than if you're naked – Rottnest Island is a Class A Reserve, after all.
Especially when on the wrong side of the law, your right to show your naked body is trumped by other people's right not to see it. Here's a good general rule: make sure that you know a beach is empty (or that the people there are sympathetic to nudism) before you strip off.