Almost at the beach end of Blockhouse Bay Road, just on the edge of the beach Reserve, is the pathway to Sandy Bay. There is no car access which adds to the charm of this beautiful little bay. The path cuts back and down on an angle from the main road, bounded on the road side by a stone wall, ending in a stone seat. This was once keenly sought after by courting couples. Then the pathway plunges steeply down towards the shore.
The path is called Joan Stumbles Avenue after the late Joan Stumbles whose land, now owned by her daughter, is on the righthand side of the path. Joan Stumbles was a very keen advocate for the betterment of Blockhouse Bay, working tirelessly on the Bay’s behalf. One of her major campaigns was to try to prevent the placing of pylons across the Bay. Unfortunately, in spite of all her efforts, the pylons went ahead but did not extend as far as originally planned.
At the foot of the paved pathway is a grassy area shaded by very old, tall pine trees. The stone wall at the edge of these was erected in 1937/38 to stop erosion. Cross this grassy area and there is the sandy stretch that gives the little bay its name.
In the early 1900s families discovered the area and camping became popular, with the Council allowing camping in the Reserve around the little bay for a fee of one pound per year. Many families returned year after year to the same site, building fireplaces and keeping their camp site clear. However in 1938 camping at the Avondale Reserve was ended by the Council on health grounds.
In the 1940s and 50s the little bay was very popular with families. There was a women’s dressing shed on the grassy area near the path and a men’s dressing shed down near the sand at the other side of the bay. A toilet block was also built and a cold water tap provided.
An enormous old puriri tree gave shade and shelter to the area immediately behind the sand. Here the locals would haul up their dinghies to leave until needed. During the winter, this made a good place to haul boats ashore for maintenance.
There was sand for the children to play on, shade for their parents, rock pools at the foot of the cliffs to explore, and even a little waterfall trickled down the cliff to a pool below. For swimming the mud/sand mix made a firm footing and was almost level for about a hundred yards with no holes or swirling currents to cause problems. During this time children from Blockhouse Bay Primary School came down to Sandy Bay for swimming lessons, the older children going round to the main beach. There was a track cut by community workers down to the Bay from the end of Gill Crescent which made access easier for families living in that area.
More recently, under the Coastal protection plan, the dressing sheds and toilet blocks have been removed and the bush allowed to grow down towards the sea. Another path now makes its way from Gill Crescent beside the school down through the bush, over bridges and up and down steps to Sandy Bay. Part way down another path leads off to Lewis Street.
Sandy Bay is not so popular now as there are no facilities other than a picnic table, but it is still a beautiful little spot, well worth visiting.