April 22nd, 2006:
The subway/train-system in Sydney, as with most cities, is the most efficient way of getting around. The city has easily accessible subway stations within walking distance of each other and the train also services the nearby suburbs enabling easy access to today's destination, Cronulla Beach.
The trains in use on the system are a mixture of old and new. The older carriages lack electronic displays telling you what the upcoming stations are and some of them should earn a well deserved place in a modern art museum with the quantity of graffiti on the floors and walls(!). Thankfully, it was a modern train which was used to get to Cronulla, and the modern trains are clean, quiet, comfortable and have informative electronic displays. Its also positive to see that (Dr. Evil's (Austin Powers) little-finger-to-side-of-mouth time) 1 Billion dollars is being invested in the system in the coming years.
Incidentally, the Sydney rail system isn't as idiot proof as other systems I've been on: the ticket machines were easy to understand but the ticket that gets printed does not tell you which platform(s) you can go-to which causes confusion in some stations which have over a dozen possibilities... In this scenario, you'll have to hunt for your destination on big wall-mounted posters which can be time consuming or try to find a railway worker to ask. Nevertheless, the rail system here rules, when compared to buses, and the frequent (every couple of minutes in the city loop) trains have so far always been on time.
The trains are also great value here, compared with back home. The only train I'd used at home was the Cork-Dublin train which cost about 60 Euro return for the three hour trip, or 20 Euro return for each hour. The trip to Cronulla from Sydney took nearly an hour but cost the equivalent of a mere 3.29 Euro return! Based on that comparison, trains are about 6 times cheaper here(!)
So, onto Cronulla itself. This seaside town/suburb-of-Sydney became world famous/infamous last year due to a rioting problem. There was, however, no sign of a problem today and indeed the area looked quite picturesque. The countryside approaching Cronulla is all low-density housing situated amongst woods/forests composed of dense, tall trees. You'd wonder how things grow there given the dearth of rain we've had but the trees were all lush green. Cronulla itself was mostly modern low-height unit/apartment blocks, with each building finished to a different style (as opposed to the mono-style white blocks you'd find in parts of, for example, Spain). The area was clean and had a well developed, well maintained appearance to it. Its shopping district resembled Manly's variety of mini shops and was situated in a pedestrianised zone.
The beach itself was clean and was being well used by one or more surf schools. Lifeguard teams were in operation and to keep themselves amused, the lifeguards drove their motorized dinghies into the waves to see who could jump the highest(!) (or maybe they were just doing life-saving practicing, but it looked like great fun!).
Tidal pools were also available and these walled off areas in the sea enabled you to swim in the sea without getting bashed by the waves (though, isn't getting bashed by the waves half the point?!).
The beach didn't strike me as very substantial in depth between the shore line and the back of the beach, but maybe the tide was in. Lengthwise, however, it was clearly the longest beach when compared with the other beaches I've been to around Sydney.
So, overall, I found Cronulla easy to get to, had good facilities and provided a clean, sandy beach. I can easily see myself going back again (though, I might wait until after "winter").