Around the beginning of the 20th century, families began making the arduous journey over unformed roads, to camp at Blockhouse Bay beach reserve. They camped at both Blockhouse Bay and Sandy Bay and many came back year after year to the same site, where they had built a fireplace and dug ditches for drainage. There was a real community spirit among the campers, and when fishermen returned with large catches, the extra was shared so that all the families had some. The children all played together while the women shared chores and sat and chatted while the men fished or relaxed. After all, it was a holiday.
In the evenings a bonfire was often lit on the beach and families gathered round and sang or told stories. Mrs King (later Mrs Sanders) would come down from her home above Sandy Bay and play her accordion to accompany the singing. She would also often dance to entertain and was known for her ability to high kick.
After the Christmas break, the husbands and fathers returned to the city to work during the week, leaving their families to continue their holiday, secure in the knowledge that local residents would keep an eye on everyone and were available in case of an emergency.
A shop to serve the early campers was built over the creek next to the bridge at the foot of Endeavour Street. It was said to contain everything necessary for camping. Unfortunately, however, it was subject to flooding on high tides, and eventually the floor rotted and the piles gave way and the building collapsed. Later a kiosk serving mainly drinks and icecream was built next to the path down to the beach from the end of Blockhouse Bay Road, and in 1923 a grocery and tearooms was opened opposite the path down to Sandy Bay.
There was of course no flat grassy area upon which to play games but when the tide was out, an area of the foreshore covered in sand as well as mud, provided a place to mark out a cricket pitch, or a basketball court. Rounders was another popular game. There were cricket matches and basketball matches between the locals and the campers, and the basketball teams also played against the girls holidaying at the YWCA hostel on the corner of Taunton Terrace. On Anniversary weekend a sports day was held with many events for young and old – egg and spoon races, sack races, three-legged races and wheelbarrow races amused both young and old. The day ended with a dance at the local tearooms and a bonfire on the beach for the children.
One of the disadvantages of using the foreshore for games was a large area of mangroves nearby where cricket balls were often lost. The game would be halted while members of both teams searched among the mangrove roots, often knee deep in mud. Finally the locals got sick and tired of losing cricket balls and so, in 1922, a group decided to chop out the annoying plants.
It was a long, messy and tiring task but once completed, proved well worthwhile. No-one then knew anything about the ecology of the area and were just concerned with not having to spend time hunting for a lost ball, or worse still, having to abandon a game when they ran out of replacements. They did a very good job, because the mangroves never grew back.
Camping continued for many years, but in the end was stopped by the council who were concerned about health issues with regard to sewage disposal.