When Lt. James Cook explored the shores of Botany Bay in April 1770, he and botanists Joseph Banks and Carl Solander made an excursion into the country "which we found deversified with woods, lawns and marshes; the woods are free from under wood of every kind and the trees are at such a distance from one a nother that the whole Country or at least great part of it might be cultivated without being oblig'd to cut down a single tree ..." (Cook's journal).
This first landing site was later to be promoted (particularly by Joseph Banks) as a suitable candidate for situating a settlement and British colonial outpost. However, almost 18 years later, when Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet arrived in early 1788 to establish an outpost and penal colony, they found that the bay and surrounds did not live up to the promising picture that had been painted. Instead, Phillip gave orders to relocate to a harbour a few kilometres to the north, which Cook had named Port Jackson but had not further explored. It was in this harbour, at a place Phillip named Sydney Cove, that the settlement of Sydney was established. The settlement was for some time afterwards still referred to generally as Botany Bay.
No doubt Cook would feel feel vindicated about saying what he did, were he to return today and see the development that has taken place during the 240 or so years since he last saw Lady Robinsons Beach. He'd observe the the mixture of low density houses, medium density flats, high rise apartments, retail, and perhaps drop in for a bite to eat and a coffee in one of the many cafes and restaurants on Brighton-Le-Sands' popular dining strip.
It wasn't until the railway opened to Hurstville, via Rockdale in 1884, that the potential of the area fronting Lady Robinson s Beach, named in 1874 to honour Governor Sir Hercules Robinson s wife, began to be realised. In 1885 Thomas Saywell constructed a tramway from Rockdale to Lady Robinson Beach, along Bay Street. He was given a 30-year lease on the line. He also financed and built the public swimming baths, a substantial picnic area, a race course and the Brighton Hotel, on the current Novotel site. It was a huge success and to avoid confusion with the English Brighton upon which it was modelled, it became known as Brighton-Le-Sands.
By 1900 there were pleasure grounds south of Bay Street, as well as a pony racetrack. Moorefields Racecourse was located at the current site of Moorefield Girls High School, at the intersection of Presidents Ave and Princes Highway, but ceased operation in 1915. For the first 20 years of the 20th century, a small boat ran a ferry service around Botany Bay, with an important stop at Brighton-Le-Sands. Extensive development of the northern area of the suburb occurred in the late 1920s and again in the 1950s, and by the 1980s Brighton-Le-Sands and its surrounding beachside suburbs have developed into what we see today.
Shops, restaurants and Entertainment: Many cafes and restaurants are located along The Grand Parade and Bay Street, covering many types of cuisine: Australian, French, European, Italian, Thai and Japanese, though Greek is predominant due to the number of Greek and Macedonian residents in the area. Take-away food shops are also abundant, particularly for seafood, chicken, cakes, gelato and Greek food. The Novotel Hotel has a bar and buffet restaurant. The area has been dubbed 'Little Greece by the Bay for its many Greek cafes, restaurants and businesses. The Kiosk, Le Sands Pavilion and the Signatures Brasserie are on the beach side of the Grand Parade overlooking the sand and the boardwalk.
Transport: Brighton-Le-Sands and the neighbouring suburbs are served by a number of buses services which connect to Rockdale railway station. Rockdale station is on the Illawarra rail line.
Lady Robinsons Beach: This name applies to the whole strip of beach on the western shore of Botany Bay beyond Sydney Airport. Originally known as Seven Mile Beach, its name recalls the wife of a Governor of NSW during the 1870s who used to ride her horse up and down the beach every day. It is one of the cleanest non-surf beaches in the Sydney metro area thanks to tidal activity which keeps bacteria levels low. The sand is clean, the water shallow enough for small children to wade in, particularly at the southern end. A cycleway connects Kyeemagh at the northern end with Sandringham in the south. Toilets, ample parking and picnic areas are located throughout the length of Cook Park, which separates the beach from General Holmes Drive and The Grand Parade.
Kyeemagh Beach: Its close proximity to the airport makes this, the most northerly section of the beach, by far the most noisy. Stormwater from drains near the beach and nearby Cooks River lifts pollution levels higher than other sections of the beach, particularly after rain. All in all, it is not the best place for a swim, but wind conditions here are perfect for windsurfing, and a boat ramp on Cooks River (off General Holmes Drive at Tancred Street) is ideal for launching boards.
Facilities: boat ramp (Cooks River), ample parking.
Brighton-Le-Sands Beach: The most popular section of the beach, due to its close proximity to the popular beachside cafe and restaurant strip. This puts strain on parking, which barely copes with demand, particularly at weekends. Features a shark-proof swimming enclosure.
Monterey and Ramsgate Beaches: Quieter than Brighton but just as good, the middle section features a somewhat ineffective shark proof swimming enclosure and a kiosk at Ramsgate, nearby cafes, a ramp for launching sailboards at the end of Scarborough Street and a full size boat ramp off Carruthers Drive.
Dolls Point: Backed by the Peter Depena Reserve, the beach is very popular with families. It has the highest bacteria levels of any section of Lady Robinson Beach, but these are still very low in comparison with most Sydney beaches. A swimming enclosure is located near the sailing club.
Sandringham Bay: a small bay to the south of Dolls point, facing where the Georges River enters Botany Bay. Cook Park runs along the eastern and southern border. Sandringham was originally known as Strippers Point in the 1830s, from the local occupation of tree-felling and bark-stripping. Developer Thomas Holt (1811 88) moved there, renamed it Sandringham and built the Prince of Wales Hotel. As an ardent royalist, it is thought he chose the name to honour Edward VII, the Prince of Wales who in 1872 was also building a royal residence at Sandringham, in Norfolk, England. In the 1920s a picnic area was developed and the Sandringham sea Baths were built. Steams took visitors from Sandringham and Brighton-Le-Sands to Kurnell on Sundays and holidays.