Six days in Bermagui: the Blue Pool; surfers at Camel Rock; white-bellied sea eagles and a border-koolie called Magpie


Bermagui township viewed over ocean and breaking wave

Jewel of the south coast of New South Wales. Photo taken from Camel Rock beach, across 5kms of Pacific Ocean.

Clockwise: Main street and foreshore of the town; Horseshoe Bay just over the foreshore lawns; mouth of the Bermagui River; Horseshoe Bay. The local ocean swimmers, who call themselves the Blue Balls, were a friendly lot and I had a few swims in this bay with them. On the first swim there was a bit of swell about. I measured the ocean temperature at this beach at 23°C. Very nice change from the sea temps at Apollo Bay (18°C in summer and 12°C in winter).

Storm clouds and beach shack in sunshine

Our rented dog-friendly beach shack, with torrential rain about to hit.

The Blue Pool

Our beach shack was only 2 minutes walk from this wonderful pool. It’s a shade over 2m deep at the northern end. The water is replaced every time there is big swell.

Blue Pool Bermagui
Blue Pool Bermagui

The pool has many moods. I liked this one – clear green water, with occasional white water spilling over from waves breaking on the adjacent reef. The pool is entirely adequate for a few laps. But it’s perfect for enjoying sizeable ocean waves at close quarters, in peace.

Blue Pool Bermagui
Big waves washing over the Bermagui Blue Pool

On this day, the white water was crashing rather than spilling over the ocean side of the pool. This photo and the one above it show the significant change in water level at the entry steps as big waves overfilled the pool then drained away.

The Bermagui Blue Pool full of white water

The jagged line of rocks on which waves are breaking is the ocean-side wall of the pool. This rock wall can be seen more clearly in calm conditions as shown in the first photo of the Blue Pool in this post.


This 27 second video shows a couple of waves breaking over the adjacent reef and into the Blue Pool. Towards the end of this video, waves can be seen washing up and over the pathway at the top of the entry steps.These were not the biggest waves I saw on this morning.

I went for a late morning swim in these invigorating-looking conditions, pleased to have the pool to myself for a few laps. I didn’t read too much into the absence of other swimmers. I watched the water for about 15 minutes to see how the biggest set of waves in that period affected the pool as I didn’t want to get flushed out onto the adjacent reef and beyond. The biggest waves I saw in that period were like those in the video above so I started doing a few laps, enjoying the swirling currents and the push and pull of the white water. I was near the northern end of the pool where it narrows considerably, with a sloping cliff face on one side and some raised natural rocks on the ocean side, when I was suddenly pushed sideways and the peaceful green scene underwater was replaced by swirling clouds of white. The water was turbulent and rising as it pushed me towards the sloping cliff edge of the pool. I wasn’t moved violently, but the push was irresistible. I grabbed for inadequate hand grips on the sloping cliff as the water level rose. The wave quickly receded leaving me where the breaking wave had deposited me on the sloping cliff a metre or so above the normal water-level in the pool. I concluded this brief lap session with a swim through the settling white water back to the steps out of the pool. There were some onlookers who told me, quite unnecessarily, that it had been a much bigger wave than the rest. I don’t think I was actually at risk of getting washed out but there were a few moments when that risk seemed real. Who knows, perhaps the locals consider such conditions to be fun. Had I been washed out there were small beaches and shore reefs north and south of the reef where I could have returned to shore (in between sets of waves). I probably would have aimed for Beares Beach, 500m south of the Blue Pool, where we had been walking most days with Magpie. The Blue Pool is not always the soft option for ocean swimming at Bermagui.

Dawn swim at the Blue Pool

Conditions for my dawn swim at the Blue Pool. Laps didn’t seem appropriate. I just cruised around in this glassy water enjoying the light show as the pre-dawn shadows gave way to sunrise over the ocean.

Bermagui Blue Pool at dawn
Bermagui Blue Pool at dawn


Near some rocky outcrops between the Blue Pool and Beares Beach, on each morning of our stay in Bermagui a group of seals would gather to loll in the clear green waves near the shore. They spent most of their time floating on their backs with one or both front flippers pointing up in the air and their tails moving slowly to keep them positioned clear of the rocks as the waves rolled through.

Seals near the Blue Pool
Seals near the Blue Pool

An assortment of raised front flippers, with the seal in the middle appearing to cover his ears or eyes with both flippers. They seemed to enjoy simply being together.

Seal in rough white water near rocks

This seal headed away from the group to rougher water for some solo fish hunting. He also took a breather out of the water to sit on this rock surveying the scene.

Beach Walks with Magpie

Portrait of Magpie dog

Magpie doesn’t mind striking a pose.

On our long walks on Beares Beach Magpie would often meet other dogs. This one, Artie, was a favourite. Artie is a kelpie/whippet cross. Together they ran and ran, with many circles and the lead often changing. Feet were only touching the ground occasionally.

Dogs running on beach

It was a joy to watch their exuberance and athleticism.

Magpie and Artie’s race track.

Dogs on beach greeting each other

Border/koolie meets kelpie/koolie. Mutual respect.

Magpie and Lizzie on Moorhead Beach just north of Bermagui. Liz doesn’t need a loud whistle to recall Magpie – outstretched arms are enough to bring him running from a long way away to stand at her feet.

Tathra beach and wharf

Tathra beach and wharf.

Magpie revelling in the sparkling Pacific Ocean shorebreak. The photo top right shows Magpie re-adjusting his grip on a stick he has retrieved in the water. His first grab of a stick being retrieved is often right on the end of the stick, which is quite unwieldy for swimming and running. So he throws the stick up in the air with a flick of his head then catches it right in the middle on its way down, which is perfect for carrying it while swimming and running.

Magpie’s ‘ready for the stick throw’ position.

The respective angles of dog and walker indicate that negotiations were still under way in relation to the direction to be taken at this moment. I see no evidence here of either party giving ground.

Magpie on yet another golden deserted beach.

Magpie found the dog-friendly house entirely to his liking. L: surveying the world generally. R: watching Liz walk off to do some shopping, without him. He could not believe it.

Liz and dog on beach at sunset

Magpie checking in with Liz on a sunset walk on Beares Beach, a couple of minutes away from our rented shack.

Camel Rock Surf Tuesday

The swell was up. Sparkling blue water and green waves with surfers making the most of it. Camel Rock is a well known surf break.

Camel Rock surf-beach dawn patrol Wednesday

After seeing the swell on Tuesday, I returned before dawn on Wednesday anticipating that the morning crew would be waiting for enough light to paddle out. I was not disappointed. The swell was a little lumpier than on the previous day, but it had some size and cleaned up as the morning progressed and a light offshore wind came up.

Dawn at Camel Rock

The moment of the sun first appearing above the visible horizon was delayed a little by a layer of cumulus cloud in the distance. But the light show as the sun climbed behind the cloud was a better show for my money.

Dawn at Camel Rock

Camel Rock beach

Surfers on beach at Camel Rock at dawn

There was a rip to the right of this rocky outcrop used by the surfers for a quick paddle out to the takeoff point to the right of this image.

Surfer in swell before dawn

The magical atmosphere of the pre-dawn light revealing a moody swell. The single light point on the horizon is a fishing boat.

Surfer doing bottom turn on large wave before dawn

A dawn surf conjures up images of translucent waves glowing green as the low angle sunlight filters through them, with white water dazzling in the morning light. But prior to that moment, waves such as this which have marched relentlessly through the night to reach this shore loom simply as large and powerful.

This surfer was cool. The surf could wait for him. No need to run. Then it became too much and he broke into a jog and entered the water on the run and paddled hard and fast to the uncrowded waves awaiting him.

After long ride, long walk back on beach to paddle-out point

The ride at Camel Rock is a long one, and so is the walk back up the beach to the paddle-out spot.

Surfers paddling over breaking wave

The waves lit up as the first rays of the sun shone through them. I have included a few more photos of waves being ridden than would be required to give a non-surfing reader the picture, as there are some surfers amongst the regular readership of this blog who might enjoy the extra shots.

Barrel sequence

Another barrel sequence. In the fourth photo, the surfer was behind the rapidly closing curtain of whitewater. His reappearance was not at high speed ducking down to keep his head under the lip, but rather bobbing to the surface after the wave had passed.

Steep faces allowed for speed.

Surfer on wave illuminated by sunrise

NOTE to the father of this surfer who was chatting with me on Wed 19 April 2023 at Camel Rock while I was taking these photos. This is a photo of your son surfing, posted here as you requested. Please contact me via this blog (there is a link to a contact form at the head of this post or use the comment link at the foot of this post) if you would still like a copy of this photo (and the 32 others photos) I took of him at the time.

This is a close crop of the surfer. If his father doesn’t contact me but any reader knows him (or his father), please tell them about this photo and the note about it. The photos will be provided free of charge. This is not a commercial transaction.

Closeup of surfer

Postscript 28 April 2023: Harry (the surfer in the photos) now has the 33 photos I took of him surfing at Camel Rock!

Unridden green wave

By the time I took this shot there were about a dozen surfers in the water, and they were all charging anything and everything faintly rideable. An unridden wave was a rare sight.

White-bellied Sea Eagles

On the first morning I woke up in Bermagui I walked down the street to check out the ocean conditions and there was a strong northerly blowing in my face. The bay on the town foreshore is a narrow bay with sand dunes of some height. The bay faces due north. So there was abundant lift in the air rising over the sand dunes, and two white-bellied sea eagles were making the most of it. One was an adult and the other a juvenile. They were soaring back and forth in the lift band while hunting for fish in the bay.

White-bellied sea eagle soaring and feeding at dawn in strong northerly at Bermagui beach

The adult bird.

White-bellied sea eagle soaring and feeding at dawn in strong northerly at Bermagui beach
White-bellied sea eagle in shallow dive
White-bellied sea eagle soaring and feeding at dawn in strong northerly at Bermagui beach
White-bellied sea eagle  soaring and feeding at dawn in strong northerly at Bermagui beach
White-bellied sea eagles in flight with legs and talons extended

This photo was taken from a considerable distance, with the telephoto lens fully extended. But the lack of sharpness in the image does not conceal the dramatic manoeuvring of the two birds with legs down and talons extended. This seemed to be a form of play rather than confrontation.

The following photos were taken right on dawn at Camel Rock. I was photographing the dawn surfers when this solitary white-bellied sea eagle flew at low level along the dunes right above me. I quickly aimed the unwieldy extended 150-600mm telephoto lens with monopod attached skywards and took a few hopeful shots. The golden light of dawn reflecting from the wings and body of the bird was what caught my eye.

The following four photos were taken of the two white-bellied sea eagles soaring in formation at Horseshoe Bay in the northerly wind.

Adult and juvenile white-bellied sea eagles soaring in formation at Bermagui at dawn

Juvenile on the left, adult on the right.

The juvenile bird was slowly closing on the adult bird, and they were exactly abeam with overlapping wingtips as they flew over me.

Australasian Gannet & Little Pied Cormorant

Australasian gannet in flight over the ocean

Australasian gannet flying along the shore in search of food. There is an earlier post on this blog dedicated entirely to this wonderful sea-bird:

Australasian Gannets breeding on Southern Ocean clifftop

Closeup photo of little pied cormorant

Drying off after diving just offshore in the Pacific Ocean for fish for breakfast.

We will return to Bermagui.

5 thoughts on “Six days in Bermagui: the Blue Pool; surfers at Camel Rock; white-bellied sea eagles and a border-koolie called Magpie

  1. Hi John, whilst all the shots of the sea eagles were great the final one of parent and junior flying so closely in unison that the curve on their adjacent wings exactly overlap. Neither the birds or you could have rehearsed that one. Publishable! And of all the living things up there hard to see who is more at home, those sea eagles, the gannets, the seals, the dogs or you.
    Enjoyed the blog immensely. Many thanks. Richard

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Richard, Thanks for your comments. The sea eagles flying in tight formation were quite a sight. As for who was most at home, I think the seals would take that prize. It’s a great part of the Australian coast, and the Pacific Ocean is a contrast in many ways to the Southern Ocean, Enjoy your continuing travels. Where is your next destination? Cheers, John


  2. Hi John, love the Bermi pics. That’s my red-headed son Harry you snapped on the camel rock wave, it was Daniel my partner you were talking to. Thank you! Great pics which I’m sure Harry would love. I have a black and white border collie Lunah that may have got along well with Magpie. If you are in the area again let me know I have a lovely little cabin out on a farm I advertise on Hipcamp you could go and stay in at Bunga which is dog friendly. Cheers, Louise

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Louise, Thanks for your comment. I’m delighted that Harry will now get the shots I took of him surfing at Camel Rock recently. I have sent them to Daniel. I hope Harry likes them. It sounds to me as though Lunah and Magpie might indeed get along well. They may well get to meet if we’re back in Bermi.
      Cheers, John


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