Places in the heart: Kate Langbroek

Western Australia has the best beaches in the world, says Melbourne radio’s Kate Langbroek. And although the waters of Bass Strait may get nippy, you never regret a swim.

I stayed at Cape Paterson, in south Gippsland, with (former radio co-presenter and comedian) Dave O’Neill about 12 years ago. His dad bought the block of land there for $700 in the ‘70s. They all called it Cape Dump. I’ve been obsessed with the area ever since.

In Cape Paterson I was like a supermodel as all the hard bodies flock to the inner-city beaches: St Kilda is wall-to-wall people waiting to be noticed.

My husband, Peter, and I now have a holiday home at south Gippsland’s Walkerville. The north is the dead-end fisherman’s beach. The south has the better beach.

Even though it’s cold, we swim every day. You never regret a swim. And as a woman, I swim because I never want to become one of those mothers that are just sitting on the beach, watching everyone else having fun in the water. In Australia, we’re so cloaked in body shame, swathed in our kaftans: it’s so easy to drift into that when you’ve got kids.

Walkerville beach.
You could do what my mother-in-law and her sister did: with seven children between them, they’d dig a big hole, bury all the children and go for a swim. When they saw the first one climb out, they knew they had to come out of the water. In the ’70s, you had to be resourceful.

We spent two weeks in the Kimberley recently and buried all our kids on the beach in Broome. Individually, not in a giant pit.

Western Australia has the best beaches in the world: the Kimberley’s are the most stunning I’ve ever seen. Every time we stopped, the beach was exquisite. We drove down to Eco Beach, south of Broome, and there was not a footprint on it.

But while the Kimberley has the best beaches, I’ll choose Walkerville for its life and wild rugged beauty, with fishing boats and whales outside your window as they go into Waratah Bay to rest with their babies. Alison Lester wrote the children’s book Magic Beach about Walkerville, but it’s still a secret beach. The local fishermen will hate me for talking about it.

I’m from Queensland and have lived on the Gold Coast, in Brisbane and in Papua New Guinea. Mum and dad would take us to the Spit on the Gold Coast, where we learned to swim, which was really odd as the Spit is that finger of land near where SeaWorld is, with crashing waves and wild surf. Dad couldn’t swim well, and mum didn’t swim at all. I remember me and my brother being out of our depth many, many times.

Mum and Dad would book a flat (calling it an apartment was gilding the lily) on the Gold Coast for two weeks. We swam at Burleigh Heads, Tallebudgera and Kirra Beach.

Inexplicably, Peter and I decided to go on a road trip when our first son, Lewis, was six weeks old. We drove 4000km and on the way back, we stopped at Bondi because even though he’s Australian, Peter had never been to Bondi. We wheeled Lewis onto the sand in his pram and were so dying to get into the water, we left him with another family on the beach and asked them to wave when he woke up: we invoked the community of the beach.

You remember those swims because they’re a stolen, precious moment.

Peter loves Wilson’s Promontory, which is just beside Walkerville. He talks about it all the time, as many Melbournians do. He’s really into nature, so he takes the kids for walks and is teaching them to body surf. I’m hopeless at it.

We do what people have been doing on the beach for 1000 years: scoop sand into meaningless piles, find bits of shells and sharks’ heads and poke them with sticks and talk about the schtunk of it. It’s ageless. 

Kate Langbroek co-hosts the Hughesy & Kate Breakfast Show on Nova 100.

Interview by Belinda Jackson. Published in Good Weekend magazine.

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