In the eastern suburbs, beaches were close to capacity about midday. Beach ambassadors, rangers and lifeguards patrolled Bondi throughout the day, reminding people to stay one towel apart from other groups to maintain social distancing on the sand.
Waverley Council advised that Bondi Beach was nearly full before 2pm, and asked people to delay their visits or the beach would be shut to newcomers.
Waverley mayor Paula Masselos said she was thankful that beachgoers responded to the council’s message and came back at another time. “At no point did we need to restrict access to the sand,” she said.
“This long weekend has really been a tester for this summer, as we adjust to our new normal of managing numbers, watching social distancing and group sizes … I’m really pleased that, despite how busy our spaces were, everyone was enjoying the sunshine while being COVID-safe.”
“The atmosphere on the sand has been wonderful, with people enjoying themselves and spreading out … Overall, it’s been a great start to the summer period,” she said.
Randwick Council had issued similar advice from 1pm and people were asked to make alternative plans or visit nearby parks and reserves instead of the sand.
Sutherland Shire Council was also on alert as the Cronulla Beach car parks filled up by 2pm, prompting the council to ask beachgoers to visit other parts of the Bate Bay coastline or delay their visits until crowds subsided.
A spokesman said public safety personnel and lifeguards worked with NSW Police to manage crowd numbers and social distancing. Roads in the Royal National Park were also closed to prevent visitors to Wattamolla and Garie beaches, which had reached their limits.
On the northern beaches, Dee Why was filled with families on Monday morning, as groups looked to secure their spots for the day.
Heavy traffic marked the end of the long weekend, with motorists heading back to Sydney warned to expect extra travel time.
Afternoon delays greeted northbound travellers on the Hume Motorway around Bargo and Wilton, and on the Princes Highway between Waterfall and Heathcoate. Southbound traffic was also very heavy on the Pacific Motorway.
Returning east from the Blue Mountains, vehicles were held up at Victoria Pass from about midday to allow heavy traffic between Mount Victoria and Blackheath to ease.
Mary Ward is a reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Natassia is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.