Chillin' at North Beach on New Year's Day

New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

The weather may not have been ideal, but the Illawarra's beaches were still a popular destination on New Year's Day.

At North Wollongong Beach, some wanted a quick dip to cleanse themselves of the past year's sins, while others were content to picnic with their families on the grass, lining up for as long as it took to get their hands on some fish and chips.

Others, like Bob and Christine Rudland, just wanted to relax.

The Rudlands, from Campbelltown, entertained friends the night before at the Wollongong apartment they are renting, having a few "drinkies" before heading to the harbour to watch the fireworks.

New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

They spent the first hours of 2014 walking along the water's edge before stopping for a chat on a park bench overlooking North Beach.

"We've walked from here all the way to the lighthouse and back and had some coffees and ice-creams and now we're just relaxing", said Ms Rudland said.

At Bulli Beach, those enjoying the waves had to make a quick exit when two sharks were spotted off Sandon Point at 2.45pm.

Nick spends New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Nick spends New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Illawarra Surf Life Saving duty officer Lachlan Pritchard said a lifeguard patrolling the water on a jet-ski spotted the sharks about 200 metres from the shore.

The beach was closed for about an hour while an aerial patrol checked the area.

Mr Pritchard said lifeguards performed 17 rescues on beaches between Helensburgh and Windang, with two requiring first aid.

The surf was a little quieter in Kiama.

"We had a busy day on New Year's Eve, more so than [New Year's Day], with a lot of rescues performed at Surf Beach in Kiama and at Gerringong due to an increase in swell size," said Kiama council supervising lifeguard Andy Mole.

But he said it had been a pretty incident-free couple of days.

Back at North Beach, groups of 20-somethings nursed their wounds from the night's activities at North Wollongong Hotel.

Mekayla and Monica enjoy New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Mekayla and Monica enjoy New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

A few industrious lads had dragged two comfy lounge chairs all the way to the beach, only to have their spots on the couches usurped by their mates.

Closer to the water, friends Mekayla Burdfield and Monica Sweeney stretched out in the barely-there sun.

They too had partied at North Gong the night before.

"I'd imagine a lot of people on this beach were there last night," Ms Burdfield said.

New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

New Year's Day at Wollongong's North Beach. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Nearby, Dan MacIsaac and his family were enjoying the first day of the new year surrounded by sand - a welcome change from being surrounded by snow.

Though the breeze and cloudy sky deterred many from getting in the water later in the day, the MacIsaacs revelled in the 23-degree heat after leaving minus 29 degrees back home.

"In Canada we'd be digging in the snow instead of the sand," Mr MacIsaac said.

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