April 24, 2024

The Virgin Mary at Coogee Beach

In 2003, a mysterious apparition appeared at an iconic Sydney location: this is, the Virgin Mary at Coogee Beach.

Bernadette Soubiros
Bernadette Soubiros

Visions of the Virgin Mary are known throughout history. Many have been sanctified by the Vatican and are now considered miracles by the church.

Perhaps the best known is the apparition that occurred at Lourdes, in Southern France. On February 11, 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year old peasant girl, was idly wandering in the forest when she heard a strange sound:

'As I raised my head, I saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle, and a yellow rose on each foot. From the niche (where she stood), or rather above it, came a dazzling light.'


- Bernadette Soubirous

Soubirous reported the incident to her family, who thought she had made the story up. She was punished for blasphemy.

The Virgin Mary grotto, Lourdes
The Virgin Mary grotto, Lourdes

Nevertheless, she kept returning to the location, a grotto fed by a small spring, and was rewarded by several more visions. The apparition identified herself as 'The Immaculate Conception', and told Soubirous that a church should be built on the site.

Word of the visions soon spread.

As crowds began to attend the grotto, the French Church convened an investigative committee, to determine the veracity of the event. This took nearly two years, but in January 1860 the Church declared the apparitions confirmed.

A large church was constructed at Lourdes, which many thousands of Christian pilgrims visit each year. The waters at Lourdes are also thought to have healing powers.

Bernadette Soubirous was canonised as a Saint in 1933.

Coogee Beach
Coogee Beach

Located in Sydney's eastern suburbs, Coogee Beach is one of the city's most popular seaside areas.

Backed by a strip of bars, restaurants, and budget hotels, it is particularly favoured by backpackers. In 2003, it also became the location for an appearance by the Virgin Mary.

The Virgin Mary at Coogee Beach
The Virgin Mary at Coogee Beach

The Virgin Mary at Coogee Beach

On January 30, 2003, in a small park overlooking the beach, a local resident reported something strange. Looking out his front window, he suddenly noticed that the Virgin Mary appeared to be standing at the end of a wooden safety fence.

He called his friends and family to have a look. By the next day, word of the apparition had spread; several hundred people came to the park, hoping to see it for themselves:

'Some wept, others sang, most prayed. Scores more hiked up the cliff path to touch and kiss the post, which had been transformed into something of a shrine. Pictures of the virgin, rosary beads and flowers were piled around the white washed fence. Most agreed they could discern the shape of a veiled figure.'


- Sydney Morning Herald, January 31, 2003

The crowds continued to grow. Soon, several thousand were attending each day.

The apparition appeared at the same time, in late afternoon. As the fervour around the incident grew, and the media reported the story, local sceptics set out to debunk it.

The Virgin Mary at Coogee Beach, debunking the claim
Debunking the apparition

The explanation offered was that the vision was an unlikely combination of the fence's design and colour, late afternoon shadow, and a small rise that changed the angle at the end of the railing. The Sydney Archdiocese, who choose not to investigate formally, sat on the fence:

'I'm not putting a great amount of store on the significance of it. However, if people are experiencing a sense of peace by being there, then I see it as a good thing.'


- Father Dennis Holm

Some people who experienced the apparition linked it to the Sari Club bombings, a terrorist attack in Bali that had occurred the year before, where 88 Australians were killed. They saw the it as a sign from God, not to lose hope.

Whatever the explanation, the apparition made global news. But its fame was destined not to last.

The Virgin Mary fence in Coogee Beach, destroyed by vandals.

On the night of February 8-9, only ten days after it was initially spotted, vandals destroyed the fence where the apparition appeared. The throng of people who turned up to see the Virgin Mary the next day, instead reported their sense of loss:

'This is just awful. I think there are some people who just want to destroy what others believe in.'


- Tess Nerona, quoted in the 'Sydney Morning Herald'

No formal vandalism report was ever filed, and so no police investigation was undertaken.

A small shrine at the Virgin Mary site, Coogee Beach, present day
The location, present day.

The site is owned by Randwick City Council, who quietly rebuilt the fence in the following months. The design was altered slightly during the rebuild; the Virgin Mary has not been seen since.

A tiny garden has been planted on the location, to mark the occurrence.



  1. I lived in Coogee at this time and it was madness. It was just a white fence, yet there were wailing black-gowned old ladies throwing themselves upon it. People were bringing sick relatives hoping perversely for a miracle. It quickly went from being an amusing curiosity to a really sickening mass delusion. I feel sorry for anyone whose life was shortened by the efforts to get pointlessly up there.

  2. This sighting appears to confirm that an afterlife actually exists….a comforting conclusion!! My hope is that we each get to see the entire universe and get to know all the answers to our questions.

  3. There has been many sightings of Our Lady
    Since the fence has been repaired
    My father Mike. Valenzisi regularly saw Our Lady
    Carmine Salvino who has been looking after the SHIME for 17 years sees Our Lady of many people I have met have seen Our Lady and keep coming back
    I’ve seen Our Lady she appeared at the same time she appeared bro my Dad
    So I. suggest
    You update your story

    1. Every human being knows there’s a stronger force and spirit that’s among us protecting and guiding us IF WE LET THEM . Of course Mother Mary has appeared and will appear in numerous places around her universe . And I don’t think She’s waiting for approvals of non believers that choose not to see inside their soul .

      1. I agree …. those who are open to the spirit and the presence of God and the holy mother of Christ will experience profound reminders of a parallel world of the spirit . Since my husband died suddenly and unexpectedly of no known causes in July 2022 , I no longer say that I have faith in a God but that I know God and experience His sacred presence in the silence of my heart …. I also know and experience my husband’s quiet and loving guidance as I continue my earthly journey without him physically by my side

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