Beaches and ocean baths in Newcastle are open on Sunday, but officials are monitoring crowds to ensure compliance with a NSW government ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people.
Lake Macquarie City Council, however, has moved to temporarily close its four patrolled beaches on Sunday to plan for future operations. The council closed Redhead, Caves, Blacksmiths and Catherine Hill Bay beaches.
The council's leisure services manager Brad Sutton said the temporary closure of the four beaches would enable the council to plan "how it can comply with the new restrictions and not put the community or lifeguards at risk".
"We know how much our community loves the water and we want to do all that we can to keep everyone safe. However the water safety message of 'swim between the flags' is essentially encouraging people to congregate in close proximity, therefore contravening the NSW government's restrictions," Mr Sutton said.
"Given the current advice from NSW Health, these actions by [Lake] council are vital to help safeguard our community as we all work to limit the spread of COVID-19."
Cafes were busy around the Newcastle beaches on Sunday morning. Bar Beach had the most number of people among the beaches. Merewether baths were also busy, probably because of the big swell.
City of Newcastle is working with Hunter Surf Life Saving to monitor crowds at beaches and ocean baths.
City officials advised residents and visitors to "practice social distancing, including maintaining a 1.5-metre space from others, as we work with our state and federal government partners to limit the spread of COVID-19".
The NSW government moved on Saturday to temporarily close Bondi Beach, given the large crowds.
Alissa Jones, of the City of Newcastle, said local beaches rarely see crowds as large as those at Bondi and Clovelly.
However, the council will be vigilant and "take action in the interests of public safety if required".
"Although Newcastle beaches don't typically experience the dense crowds of Bondi Beach, we will be actively monitoring numbers at our beaches and baths to help enforce the limit on non-essential outdoor gatherings to fewer than 500 people," Ms Jones said.
"We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and City of Newcastle will be implementing social distancing conditions at our beaches and baths in partnership with Hunter Surf Life Saving."
Signs will be installed at beaches and baths with health messages such as advice on social distancing measures and restrictions on non-essential gatherings.
Mr Sutton said Redhead and Caves beaches both reached the 500-people restriction on Saturday.
He said Lake Macquarie council would do all that it could to adapt, so "we can continue providing services to the community and keep our beaches safe".
The long stretches of coast between Redhead and Catherine Hill Bay "still allow for social distancing".
As such, a stroll along the beach or a walk in the shallows is allowed. Walking with dogs is allowed on Nine Mile Beach between Second and Third creeks or Hams Beach.
City of Newcastle usually provides lifeguards at beaches and ocean baths from Monday to Saturday, along with Hunter Surf Life Saving volunteers who patrol beaches on Saturday and Sunday.
The City will now join Hunter Surf Life Saving to patrol on Sundays, working in partnership to monitor the numbers of attendees at our beaches and baths and advise on the need for social distancing.