The image above is a glimpse into a pastime which, for many today, is something of a bizarre idea – promenading. Today, when we visit the beach we tend to enjoy lying about on the sand or playing in the water, but in the past beach goers often looked for a different pastime.
Manly has long been a popular beach for visitors to and residents of Sydney alike and many visitors today will recognise the wide pathway featured in this postcard image, though few use it for the once popular seaside pursuit, promenading. Promenading may sound very grand, but essentially it is a grandiose term for a stroll, usually in public, which is undertaken for a combination of pleasure and display. The Promenade, as the pathway between Fairy Bower and Manly is known, was built in 1898 atop the sewer line to Manly Beach, or as it was then known, Cabbage Tree Bay. As time went by, the Promenade was upgraded, being asphalted, having lighting installed and being lushly planted with pines. Women with hats, long dresses and parasols and men in suits, hats and waistcoats used the promenade not only to ‘take the air’, but also as a venue to see and be seen. There were strict rules to promenading, including a prohibition against promenading in swimming costume, but so popular was the pastime that visitors to the beach often found the promenade, not the beach, thronging with crowds!