The southern suburbs of Sydney, arranged around huge Botany Bay, are seen as the heartland of red-tiled-roof suburbia, a terracotta sea spied from above as the planes land at Mascot. Clive James, the area’s most famous son, hails from Kogarah – described as a 1950s suburban wasteland in his tongue-in-cheek Unreliable Memoirs. The popular perception of Botany Bay is coloured by its proximity to an airport, a high-security prison (Long Bay), an oil refinery, a container terminal and a sewerage outlet. Yet the surprisingly clean-looking water is fringed by quiet, sandy beaches and the marshlands shelter a profusion of birdlife. Whole areas of the waterfront, at La Perouse, with its associations with eighteenth-century French exploration, and on the Kurnell Peninsula where Captain Cook first set anchor, are designated as part of Botany Bay National Park, and large stretches on either side of the Georges River form a State Recreation Area. Brighton-Le-Sands, the busy suburban strip on the west of the bay, is a hive of bars and restaurants and is something of a focus for Sydney’s Greek community. Its long beach is also a popular spot for windsurfers and kitesurfers.

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