Years ago when I lived in Ireland, I used to spend a week or so in the warmth of places like Crete, Turkey and Spain to get some relief from the wet and damp of Irish winters. But since coming to Canada, I can only recall two ‘beach’ vacations in 20 years – Mazatlan in Mexico with James and Kauai, an island that makes up part of Hawaii with Deb .
Beaches on Bowen are filled with stones and the water is freezing so for my idea of a beach, it’s not quite what I have in my mind’s eye. Instead, Bowen beaches to me are more about hanging out on a warm evening, watching the sun set.
Rita who visited me recently, is not much of a beach holidayer either, so we were both surprised to really enjoy Mirissa at the latter part of her trip to Sri Lanka. We spent a few days chillin’ at the beach, walking the tideline, sitting in the shade, enjoying the warm breeze blowing in from the Indian Ocean and oh yeah, sipping on cool beverages.
Mirissa is 150km south of Colombo and real easy to get to by train or bus (or both). The hotels and guesthouses are set back from the beach so you really feel like you are away from the madding crowd. But just a quick walk through a trail and you are smack dab in the middle of the town which has everything you would need.
It’s one of the largest fishing ports on the south coast, fresh tuna and snapper abound at the local restaurants. Surfing is popular in the area too, as is whale watching, but mostly people lie on the beach all day.
Mirissa, at 4m elevation, suffered much damage after the 2004 tsunami with 14 deaths reported. I can see why, even high tide takes out the seating of some of the beach-side restaurants. Eight years later, much of the coastline has been rebuilt and we saw a few protective dykes in place, more to slow than stop any future tsunamis.
It’s stunningly beautiful there, it feels like a real tropical paradise and although there are many restaurants right on the beach, most are not permanent structures and get a bit beaten up from the winds blowing in from the Indian Ocean a few feet away.
The few days we were there, it was a tad windy and the Indian Ocean very choppy. As in any beach around the world, it was recommended you swim in between two flags so the lifeguards can keep a close eye in case anyone gets in trouble. But there are always some who flaunt that rule.
One afternoon, we witnessed the Coastguard save three guys who were struggling to extract themselves from a very strong undertow dragging them out to sea. It all happened in a jiffy.
Not being strong swimmers ourselves, we paddled rather than swam that day.
In the evenings, many of the beach-side restaurants extended their seating area and spilled out onto the beach, making night-time dining at Mirissa, nicely cool with the Indian Ocean lapping at your feet. So lovely!
We lucked out with our hotel too which was a short 10 mins walk from the beach, a trail that followed alongside a small river. On this trail, we bumped into monitor lizards and snakes regularly, the only ‘treacherous’ part of our time at the beach! But it was worth it all when I had my idea of bliss come true …. making a quick coffee of an early morning, sitting on the balcony of our hotel, welcoming in the new day.
We also hopped on a local bus to Galle on one the days, and enjoyed making our way around the Fort area – a UNESCO site that has changed hands over the years from the Portuguese to the Dutch to the British and finally returned to the Sri Lankans.
It’s a lovely day trip, sauntering around the tiny streets and exploring the little stores and restaurants.
It was also nice to catch the sea breeze from atop the fort ramparts and get yet another view of the Indian Ocean.
And finally, many of you complain about not seeing enough photos, so here is one of Rita and I at Galle.
Photo credits shared between Rita and I.