Saturday, December 24, 2011

Altona Coastal Scenic Drive

Whenever the weather is good and we have the time, we will drive along the Esplanade in Altona just purely for the sake of enjoying the coastal scenery. We can afford to do this because the sea is just 2 minutes drive away from our house. I would not imagine anyone living further away to be doing this on a frequent basis.

We will usually drive along Maidstone Street to its southern end, then east towards Pier Street. The coast is hugged with the majestic Norfolk Island Pines and you can see the curve of the Altona Bay as your vehicle traces its contours. On a clear, windy day, you can see the sky above the sea dotted with dozens of colourful kites as Altona is a favorite haunt with kite skiing lovers. Depending on the weather conditions and air quality, the sky can be crispy blue forming a picture-perfect composition with an azure body of seawater. The sea can be calm or torrential, with waves lashing at the coast. Or it can recede far out, leaving behind an expanse of exposed seabed during low tides. You can often see seagulls swirling above the sea or black swans frolicking in the water. If you are not that fascinated by nature, you can focus your attention on the other side of the road - at the multi-million dollars mansions sprouting up along the Esplanade. I had once told my wife that the facades of these mansions are predominantly glass, many without curtains. When night falls, you can clearly see the furniture inside some of these homes, apparently a design flaw in the selection of the glass material.



The speed limit on the Esplanade is only 50 km/h, which I greatly appreciate because I can drive leisurely enjoying the coastal scenery without feeling pressured to drive fast. I have tried driving along the coastal roads in the eastern bayside suburbs and this is not a wonderful experience. My adrenalin levels are always kept high. If my car is a bit slow (e.g. trying to look for street names, parking or landmarks), I will get honked from behind. People always seem to be in a hurry to get to somewhere else. I can understand why this is so. Altona is unique in that it has no throughput traffic. This is not so in the eastern bayside suburbs where these coastal roads serve as major thoroughfares and traffic conduits and not intended for leisurely driving.

When my wife was learning how to drive, she is not confident enough to drive on Civic Parade, the main arterial street through Altona as its speed limit is 60 km/h. Instead, she chose to drive from Maidstone Street to the sea, then through the Esplanade all the way east to Altona Sports Club and to return on the same route.

I hope the speed limit on the Esplanade will always be kept at 50 km/h as I really enjoy this scenic driving route. There are bumps near Pier Street which will further slow down cars to 40 km/h. Just like the Yarra Scenic Route (through Newport and Williamstown) and other scenic driving routes in Melbourne, I think it may be a good idea to promote this coastal drive in Altona as a tourism attraction so that more people will be aware of such a superb drive.

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