‘World’s whitest sand’ tagline torments residents

It’s a tagline that’s tormenting a community. The promise of “the world’s whitest sand” has drawn in tourists from around the globe but created a 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 Lois Sparkes. “It’s been over-promoted and loved to death.”

During the Christmas holidays the quiet village – about 180 kilometres south of Sydney – transforms into one giant car park.

Its fulltime 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 or private rentals now,” said Craig McIntosh, managing director of real estate business The Holidays Collection.

“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 estimated the 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 was being stretched to its limit by growing hordes of day-trippers.

“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 sideswiped and hit as drivers navigate the busy streets.

Local Mia Campioni said 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 month police took to social media to warn the area had reached capacity and parking rangers and police would be turning cars away. The next day Shoalhaven City Council warned there was no parking left at Hyams, and asked people to visit other beaches.

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’t closed the beach or village to tourists, it has launched a “challenge” to encourage locals and visitors to look to the region’s other white-sand beaches.

“[At this time of year] don’t go to Hyams, go somewhere else,” said council’s acting tourism manager Shannan Perry-Hall. “There are so many other beautiful beaches in the area, a lot of which are even quiet this time of year.”

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 claims it had the whitest sand in 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 receive a 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.

“People drive two-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 anger out on residents and rangers, and said there was also concern congestion could make it difficult for emergency 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.