Motorists park anywhere they can find a spot on the narrow streets. Photo: Supplied.It’s a tagline that’s tormentinga community. The promise of “the world’s whitest sand”has drawn in tourists from around the globe butcreateda nightmare for those living there.
Having shot to fame for its crystal clear waters and white sand, furious residents of Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay say it has become more synonymous with traffic jams, crowds, overflowing rubbish bins and lines for portaloos.
“It’s gone from coastal calm to coastal chaos,” said resident LoisSparkes. “It’s been over-promoted and loved to death.”
Holidaymakers have been flocking to Hyams Beach over the summer holidays. While there’s plenty of space on the sand, the village is struggling to cope with the influx of cars. Photo: supplied
During the Christmas holidays the quiet village–about 180 kilometres south of Sydney –transformsinto one giant car park.
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Itsfulltime population of about 110 people, according to the latest census figures, surges over the Christmas break as weekender and holiday homes fill up.
“At least two-thirds of the village is made up of weekenders orprivate rentals now,” said Craig McIntosh, managing director of real estatebusiness The Holidays Collection.
Residents are fed-up of the overcrowding and say Hyams Beach has turned from a place of coastal calm, coastal chaos. Photo: Louise Kennerley
“Five years ago it was busy for December and January, [they’re still peak] but now we’re busy for a good seven or eight months, from the October long weekend through to Anzac Day.”
Just 20 per cent of 255 dwellings in the area were occupied on census night. While Mr McIntosh estimatedthe population could swell to up to 2000 people when homes were full, he said the town could still manage.
Ms Sparkes agreed the village – which has one road in and out – could handle the influx of holidaymakers, but said it wasbeing stretched to its limit by growing hordes of day-trippers.
Traffic controllers, parking rangers and council workers are stationed throughout the village to help manage congestion. Photo: Louise Kennerley
“It’s only got room for about 300 cars to park,” she said. “We’re having day visitor numbers well in excess of that.”
The result;people parking anywhere they can, across driveways, on corners, no stopping zones and fire trails. Cars being sideswipedand hit as drivers navigate the busy streets.
Local MiaCampionisaid the village didn’t have the infrastructure, services or room to take on so many people.
In recent years she traded her home on the heavily congested beachfront strip, for an apartment further away from the crowds.
“It gets worse every year,” she said. “I know some [residents] have given up on the place and just left.”
This monthpolice took to social media to warnthe area had reached capacityand parking rangers and police would be turning cars away. The next dayShoalhaven CityCouncil warnedthere was no parking left at Hyams, and asked people to visit other beaches.
Road blocks have been put in place to prevent people parking where they shouldn’t. Photo: Louise Kennerley
In addition to deploying traffic controllers, parking rangers and tourism information staff for the month between Boxing Day and the Day long weekend, council avoids specifically advertising Hyams Beach.
While council hadn’tclosed the beach or village to tourists, it has launched a “challenge”to encourage locals and visitorsto look to the region’s other white-sand beaches.
“[At this time of year] don’t go to Hyams, go somewhere else,” saidcouncil’s acting tourism managerShannanPerry-Hall. “There are so many other beautiful beaches in thearea, a lot of which are even quiet this time of year.”
Campervans and cars are seen parked along the main street. Photo: Supplied.
The hype around Hyams Beach first started several years ago, according to Hyams Beach Villagers Association president Morgan Sant,when tourism advertisements ran with disputed claimsit had the whitest sandin the world.
“It’s on all these international lists and people see it on social media and just have to tick it off their bucket list,” Ms Sparkes said.
“[Tourism boards and organisations] need to better assess whether an area has got the capacity to receivea big increase in the number of tourists … this is not sustainable.”
Mr Sant said the resulting overcrowding wasn’t just frustrating for residents, but day trippers too.
Residents say more facilities and amenities are needed to cope with the influx of people. Photo: Supplied.
“People drivetwo-and-a-half hours from Sydney on a hot day only to have ranger say there’s no parking you should turn away … they’re not going to be happy.”
He said frustrated drivers had taken angerout on residents and rangers, and said there was also concern congestion could make it difficult foremergency services to respond to incidents.
While he commended the steps council had already taken, he said the association would be calling for further action.
Having visitors leave their vehicles in a carpark outside the village, that is connected by a shuttle service and boardwalk to the beach, was one suggested solution.