Tin City

When I spent two fun days on and around Stockton Beach, I visited a place called “Tin City”. Despite the name there’s barely any tin there and it’s not a city.

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Rather it’s a collection of about 10 shacks right in the middle of Stockton Beach. There are no roads leading there, there’s no power, no water and no sewage.

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The shacks have a bit of vague history, apparently in the late 19th century there were some sheds here to hold belongings of shipwrecked crew (a very common occurrence back then). During the Great Depression, when people had to get very creative, a group of squatters constructed shacks as homes there. Over the decades lots have been torn down and others have been added.

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Today they stand inside a national park, or rather Worimi Aboriginal Conservation land. That has meant that no new shacks can be built and no modifications other than repairs can be made to the existing shacks.

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The long history and the ramshackle construction methods give it all a very special feel. It feels like you’re walking among a movie set or in a videogame environment. Tin City was actually used as a film set for the first Mad Max movie back in 1979.

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The place isn’t abandoned at all, only one or two of the shacks looked disused, at least a third of them had cars parked in front of them. The public is allowed to drive up to and park at Tin City, but not among the shacks.

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Apparently the shacks are in danger due to wind and sand erosion. There were definitely some interesting contraptions around to clear sand, and some shacks had their foundations up to a meter below the sand level.

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Back when it was still allowed to build and modify shacks, people used whatever they could get their hands on as building materials.

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One of the main reasons this spot was chosen is that there’s such good fishing around here, apparently the waters are teeming. Even Great White sharks have been seen in the ocean just off the beach.

You can tell Tin City is still very much a man’s place, where mates hang out, go fishing, drink beer and ride their cars on the beach.

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I had seen a few residents around and just asked if it was okay that I walked around and took photos. When me and Zac looked at one of the biggest shacks, we heard a voice from inside, “Hiya guys, want to come in and have a look?”

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I can’t remember if he said his name, but I imagine it’s “Willy”, he looks like a Willy. “Go ahead and walk around inside, fellas” he said with the most cheerful accent I’d ever heard.

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Willy was from New Zealand and had some kind of metal factory in Sydney. He told us he bought his shack about 25 years ago for 5000 dollars. These days I imagine it’s worth about 100 times that amount due to the curiosity factor. He said he declined lots of offers for selling it so far.

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He explained how the land had only become a park about 5 years ago. He wasn’t too keen on the parks management, they had wanted to tear down the shacks he claimed, but they had banded together, threatening to “blow it all up in little pieces” unless they got to keep it. I don’t know how or why but apparently that threat worked!

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He had lots of fun artifacts in his shack, flags, shark jaws and this old jackpot machine that he then demonstrated (he won some coins with it).

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He was pretty well equipped in there. His mates were coming over to celebrate New Year, I was pretty jealous of that, seemed like an awesome place to get away from the New Years eve craze!

DSC06582When I told Willy I just love old rusty artifacts and things he said I should go take a look in the garage next door…

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There was an old 80ies Toyota Landcruiser in there that he had got together with the shack. It had some kind of homemade plow on the front for clearing sand. It still runs, he claimed, despite the pretty extreme amount of rust on the outside. You can’t get much cooler than this.


I moved on to the other shacks after thanking Willy for letting us into his place. All shacks look different and each of them has a bit of their own personality, reflecting their history and the methods and preferences of their owners over the years.

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By then I’d spent almost an hour wandering around and had to get back to the others to move on. I couldn’t help but think that the idea of living in a scraped-together shack in the middle of nowhere, completely off the grid, sounded very appealing to me.

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