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Top 10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Sculpture by the Sea

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by Sydneyfunmum (subscribe)
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How to get the most from your day at Sculpture by the Sea
Sculpture by the Sea 2016
Celestial rings 1, by Inge King AM, part of Sculpture by the Sea 2016

This free, public exhibition of sculpture is currently in its twentieth year (2016) and is well worth a visit. Having said that, there are several things that you as a visitor can do to ensure you maximise your comfort and fun visiting this attraction. Most of these tips are common sense, but you would be amazed at how many people rock up without having spent that few extra minutes preparation time. So here are my top ten tips to make the most of this wonderful day out.

1) Wear appropriate footwear

Sculpture by the Sea 2016 Haviana Thong
Havaianas as an exhibit at Sculpture by the Sea? Tick. Havianas to walk around Sculpture by the Sea? Cross. Taken at Tamarama Beach, Sculpture by the Sea 2016

You are going to be walking for 2km or more to see this exhibition. High heels are not appropriate - and neither are thongs. Leaving aside the whole "thongs are so comfortable" vs "thongs make you claw your toes in a hideously unnatural manner to keep them from falling off your feet" debate, there's another really good reason not to wear thongs. When you have an exhibition that attracts 520,000 visitors, it gets quite crowded. And when you cram that many people on to the pathway, people are literally stepping on each others' toes, and on the backs of your thongs if you're foolish enough to wear them. I saw at least one woman take a face plant in the middle of the path as a result of someone doing this while someone else was jostling past. Just. Don't. Wear. Thongs. Please.

2) Bring a water bottle

Sculpture by the Sea 2016 Memory Lane Fiona Camp
'Memory Lane' by Fiona Kemp, Tamarama Beach, Sculpture by the Sea 2016

It doesn't have to be big - a little one will be fine, because there are water stations at several places along the walk where you can refill. While you can get away with not bringing one because you can just use a bubbler or pick up a cup from the Sydney Water stand, it's far more convenient to take a water bottle. This year they've got some lovely fruit infused Sydney water at Mark's Park in the middle of the walk, where you can pick up delicately laced strawberry and mint, orange and cinnamon, or lemon and lime infused Sydney water. Very refreshing!

Sculpture by the Sea 2016 Sydney Water
Free Sydney fruit-infused water - how refreshing!

3) Buy the catalogue

If you have braved the crowds and waited patiently in queues to get on the bus/ train/ find a parking spot, a $10 investment for the catalogue is not a huge expense. As well as a very handy flip out map in the back showing where all the exhibits are, it contains details like what the exhibits are made of and what the artist thinks their art represents - as well as the all important price of each sculpture.

Sculpture by the Sea 2016 Chronic Series
Without the catalogue, you might walk straight past this - people stuffed in black plastic bags - got it. Until you realised that the catalogue said that this was carved from black marble.

I passed many, many people on the route loudly exclaiming that they wished they'd bought the catalogue so they could work out what the sculptures were made of. And I don't blame them, because some of the materials are quite surprising. If you don't have the catalogue, all you get is the name of the piece. Which isn't always that illuminating. You can get the catalogue at the start of the walk at Bondi Beach, at the end of the walk at Tamarama, and in the middle at Mark's Park. You will want the catalogue from the beginning, as you will want to be able to read the descriptions as you go.

Sculpture by the Sea 2016 Changes Ahead
This sculpture by Johannes Pannekoek looks like it is made of wood. It is actually made of corten steel. Photo taken at Tamarama Beach, 2016

Transition Harrie Fasher Sculpture by the Sea 2016
This piece is called 'Transition'. If you get the brochure, you find out that it was inspired by Icelandic mythology and depicts the energy required for movement between worlds. You also learn you can buy it for $42,000. Or not.

4) Catch public transport

Okay, I'll fess up, I've never tried to drive to Sculpture by the Sea, so I can't comment from experience - all I know is that there are lots of road closures around the area and it looks nightmarish in terms of congestion. I can't imagine anything worse than crawling round and round for hours hoping a car spot becomes available. So public transport I believe is the way to go. Buses from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach are very frequent, just head straight to Stand A or B. There will be queues, which will look very long - but they move fast, so don't be too discouraged by what you see.

queue Bondi Junction Sculpture by the Sea
Queue on a Friday afternoon at Bondi Junction to catch the bus to Sculpture by the Sea. This was at 2pm

5) Be sun-safe. Wear a hat, preferably one that you can tie on or which is snug as it can get windy there, and having your hat blow off all the time is annoying. Wear sunnies and sunblock. You know the drill.

6) Take your time. By far the best thing about this exhibition is the ability to look at these beautiful works of art in a natural setting from all angles, and which look different depending on what the weather is doing and on what time of day you go. Take the time to go up to the top of the cliffs to look at the sculptures from a different angle. A lot of people don't bother to do this (or maybe they can't be bothered with climbing the stairs) and I think they really do miss out.

The Pearly Gates Jane Gillings Sculpture by the Sea
You glimpse this from the Coastal walk below, but you only really see the sculpture for what it is if you walk all the way up to Gaerloch Reserve. Welcome to 'the Pearly Gates' by Jane Gillings - worth the extra effort to get up close and really experience it, just like the real ones.

7) Bring snacks. You can buy food at Tamarama and at numerous places in Bondi, and there's a gelato cart and a cafe in the middle of the walk at Mark's Park, but these will be super busy. Even if you choose to queue up to get something, you'll be grateful for the sustenance while you wait in line.

8) Wear light clothing. It's generally sunny, and walking 2km even at a leisurely pace will work up a bit of a sweat. Light pants or shorts are preferable to jeans in this situation.

9) Go during the week to avoid crowds and go early. This may be disputed, and it's an educated guess on my part from my experience going on a Friday. I had no problems at all going in and arriving before midday - queues for the buses were very civilised, and it took me just under an hour to get from the Lower North Shore to Bondi Beach by public transport. Early afternoon looked much worse at Bondi Junction (see photo above). I'm guessing that most people don't get their acts together till later in the day - so the early bird catches the worm.

10) Go more than once, at a different time of day, in different weather. It will be a whole new experience as you look at the sculpture in a different light.
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Why? It's useful to be reminded what one needs when one embarks on a trip to a very popular exhibition
Where: Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk
Cost: FREE (but spend $10 on the catalogue - it's worth it)
Your Comment
The body bag sculpture is really quite something.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12594) 1390 days ago
Excellent advice, Sydneyfunmum - great article!
by Elaine (score: 3|7440) 1392 days ago
Having seen the sculptures I think buying the catalogue is great advice.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7970) 1391 days ago
Nice article and great pics.
by Irenke Forsyth (score: 3|2162) 1389 days ago
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