Supersize your beach holiday

Beach etiquette: dos and don’ts

The cabana is here to stay, so try to be considerate towards other beachgoers when staking your claim to a patch of sand. Choice makes these recommendations:


  • Try to avoid setting up directly in front of other people.

  • Secure your beach shelter properly so it’s safe.

  • Be careful when packing your things away, as lots of sand can blow off and go in people’s eyes.

  • Watch out for extra-long tent ropes being a trip hazard.

  • Use a shelter that’s the right size for your group.


  • Don’t set up too close to somebody else’s area – you want to distance yourself from others as much as possible. 

  • Don’t block people’s view of the water – or their kids – with your shelter. 

  • Don’t be too noisy, either with your music or your conversation (and try to keep the chat PG-rated!).

  • Don’t leave your rubbish behind – take your litter home with you or use the nearest bins. And always recycle whatever you can.

Pack the bag with your togs (or swimmers, or cossie, or whatever you call them), a book, a towel, and that wonder of holiday technology – the tassel-fringed beach umbrella – and you’re set for a day on the beach.

It used to be pretty simple. With a radio blaring live coverage of the Test cricket or the Australian Open, a family of five had it made.

However, this summer holiday has been an eye-opener. No radios but lots of mobile phones, and those rows of orderly beach umbrellas have been replaced by a suburb in the sand of tent-like constructions.

Where once you could fit two or three umbrella sheltered families, there’s room for just one of these things. They’re called beach cabanas, apparently.

And they’re getting some beachgoers upset. The humble beach umbrella is being squeezed out as the cabana takes over – wiping out space on the sand, views, and the sea breeze.

One wag compared them to the Martian invaders made popular in the Tom Cruise movie version of War of the Worlds: monsters with long, stilt-like legs.

Unlike Tom’s fight against those creatures, it seems we’ve surrendered. So much for Winston Churchill’s heroic call to “fight them on the beaches”!

While the umbrella may cost about $25-$50, the cabana is triple that. They’re not the cheapest option, but there are good reasons for their popularity.

Supporters say they give better sun protection and fellow beachgoers are less at risk of being skewered on the pointy end of a rogue umbrella pole powered by a sudden gust of wind that sends it cartwheeling along the beach.

Having said that, as a young boy it was always fun chasing and catching our umbrella before it either did too much damage or sank in the water.

How do they work?

It’s easy to understand why some seniors love cabanas – especially those with grandkids to keep happy. With just one centre pole, and anchored by sand in four columns, cabanas are easy to set up, provide plenty of shade for everyone, and are strong in the wind.

One cabana brand adds to its publicity that the shade provided by cabanas also counters ageing and skin cancer.

How do you carry them?

The arrival of the cabana has forged another “must have” piece of beach equipment. Cabanas as not the lightest and can be awkward to carry.

The solution? The super-sized kids’ wagon! Yes, what used to be a plaything for little boys to transport their pets, mud pies, and Tonka toys are now a common sight on beaches with people trudging across the sand dragging a wagon-load of cabanas and other beach paraphernalia.

Of course, the latest generation wagon has been adapted, a bit. The wheels are supersized too, supposedly to help pull it over the sand.

I’m waiting for the next generation of beach wagon – solar powered, or even automated like those golf buggies that do the player’s bidding with the click of a switch.

In the meantime, I’ll think about lying back for a snooze under my new cabana.

Related reading: New York Magazine, Choice


John Austin

John Austin

National Seniors Policy and Communications Officer

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