The Reading Power Station on Tel Aviv’s Yarkon River is iconic in its 1930s styling. (Daniel Robinson)
The best way to explore the cosmopolitan Israeli city of Tel Aviv is by bicycle. Not only is the inner metropolis flat and compact, but it also gets very little snow (none, in fact, since 1950), and the city celebrated its 2009 centennial by building 100km of dedicated bike paths.
The cycling scene became even more tourist-friendly in the spring of 2011, when Tel Aviv launched Tel-O-Fun, a public bike hire system that lets residents and visitors pick up and drop off sleek green bicycles at 150 stations citywide, including several along the beach. The cost is just 14 to 20 shekels a day, or 60 shekels a week; the first 30 minutes of each rental are free.
One of Tel Aviv's loveliest cycle-friendly promenades runs right along the Mediterranean coast, from the coastal cliffs north of the city to the ancient port of Jaffa in the south. In some spots, the path affords elevated panoramas of the sparkling turquoise sea; in others, you get a froth-level perspective on the (usually) gentle surf and the bronze bodies tanning on the sand.
This path's northernmost four kilometres intersect the Yarkon River estuary and offer a mash-up of everything from sand dunes to Bauhaus-inspired architecture, with hints of ancient history thrown in for good measure.
Tel Baruch Beach
Reading Power Station
If you hang around long enough, a propeller-driven aircraft -- probably bringing holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Eilat -- will swoop in low for a landing, passing so close you may feel the urge to reach out and touch it.
The power station’s cooling water empties into the estuary of the Yarkon River, churning up froth after cascading down a cement ramp. Nearby, across a broad wooden deck that surrounds the cooling water ramp, stands a British Mandate-era lighthouse, erected in 1936, its cement chipped away by the salt air to reveal a crosshatch of bare rebar. Doing rather better against the ravages of time is a marble Roman column brought here from the ruins of Apollonia, 10km to the north. “Seconded” by the British army in 1918, the column is inscribed in English and Hebrew with the story of the dark night in December 1917, when Scottish troops crossed the Yarkon River and attacked Turkish positions right on this spot.
Yarkon River estuary
From both ends of the bridge, bike paths lead inland along the Yarkon River, passing sand flats frequented by seagulls, egrets and sooty black cormorants. Further upstream lies Park HaYarkon, Tel Aviv's largest park, with vast expanses of soft green grass, football pitches, a eucalyptus forest, a small zoo and two ponds.