The stretch of coast between Bondi and Coogee is as spectacular as you imagine Australian coastline to be. It’s the part of Sydney that most define the lifestyle: it’s iconic and totally commanding. Sydney’s beaches are a draw card for travellers and locals alike because they are the best nature has to offer, all year long. It isn’t just the swimming, the crash of waves, and glistening tidal pools, it’s also the rocky cliffs and the parks, and the cafés and bars that open out to the ocean to let all the beauty in.
Easily the busiest beach in Sydney, Bondi is a mix of surfers and boarders, lifesavers, families, locals and, understandably, a whole lot of tourists. Most of them will stop by Gelato Messina for the best ice cream in town – don’t worry about the long lines, the white chocolate and salted caramel flavour makes up for any wait.
For something a bit different check out the Stuffed Beaver, an American style sports bar serving up amazing wings.
Heading south is Bronte, a quieter spot with a beautiful park and a nice ocean bath if the waves are too rough for you. Clovelly Beach comes next, more popular with locals than tourists. The inlet here makes for calm waters and good snorkelling if you’re feeling adventurous. On a clear day, you can dive just off the rocks and see blue gropers, octopi and other schools of fish.
If that all sounds a bit much, the Clovelly Hotel is just up the road and has a beautiful beer garden. Renovated just a few years ago, it’s also a glossy nightspot for University of New South Wales (UNSW) students.
Coogee is the next stop and a lot like Bondi with its range of cafés, bars, shops, hostels and fast-food outlets, just a bit more relaxed. The Little Kitchen on Arden St is a relatively new addition to the area, but already well-known for its smooth coffee and hearty menu.
For somewhere with a view, try the Coogee Legion Club. Nothing fancy here, just a traditional club for returned servicemen and women (a bit of an Australian tradition). You don’t need to be a member, but the unpretentious bar serves the cheapest beer in town on a balcony overlooking the beach – as close as you can get to the water without all that sand in your shoes.
The Bondi Markets are open every Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm, and you can easily spend a day exploring the eclectic range of stalls. For an important experience, you should bypass the regular farm produce and food stalls, lovely as they are, and just go for Australia’s favourite breakfast, lunch or dinner: the sausage sizzle! Thick cut white bread, a crispy sausage, juicy onions straight off the grill, a big squirt of tomato sauce and/or some mustard. The sausage sizzle stalls are usually fundraisers for charities like the local school, or the junior lifesavers.
The classic cheap meal for generations and the perfect way to end a day of sun and swimming in this part of town is, of course, fish and chips on the beach, as the sun sets. In Bondi, head to Fishmongers on Hall Street where they hand cut the chips and only ever cook the fish to order – fresh is best, and all priced for less than $15. A Fish Called Coogee is just off the beach in Coogee and a little more expensive, but always a crowd-pleaser. Try their traditional mixed-pack, or Balinese, prawns for something different.
Let’s be honest, if you want to live the Bondi lifestyle, you need to pay the Bondi prices. Expect to pay between $300-$500 for a room in a share house per week. It’s not cheap, but there’s no denying this is one of the most desirable places to live in the city, if not the country!
Coogee is a little cheaper, with rooms in a share-house between $200-$350 per week.
The Bondi Pavilion is the heart of both the suburb and the beach. A beautiful 1920s council building, the Pavilion sits just beyond the sand and hosts a range of cultural activities from theatre, art exhibitions, and music studios to workshops, community classes, and functions.
UNSW at Kensington is just a 10-minute bus ride from Coogee and hosts more than 50,000 local and international students. The grounds are extensive with a mix of old and new buildings, lots of green space, a fitness and aquatic centre, cafés, shops and The Roundhouse – the student bar and club. The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) is located just across the road, so there’s a vibrant mix of research and creativity in this part of town.
It perhaps isn’t surprising that Bondi is one of the more expensive suburbs in Sydney; not just in terms of housing, but also lifestyle. You won’t get much change from $30 for a simple burger at beachside pub Ravesi’s, but you’re in the heart of things on Campbell Parade. Dinner in Coogee comes in a little cheaper, but the beach view will still cost you.
Lawn Bowls in Clovelly
If you want some time to take in the view, one of the best lookouts happens to be situated at the Clovelly Bowling and Recreation Club, and a casual game of barefoot lawn bowls ($15 a person, equipment provided) with a cold beer is a fun way to enjoy the view.
1 Ocean St, Clovelly
Smoothie at Bondi Icebergs
Named after the swimmers who take to the pool every single day of the year, this place was opened in 1926. You could have a fancy lunch at the restaurant, but we recommend a banana smoothie while watching the water.
1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach
Coastal suburbs like Bondi and Bronte have earned their pricey and prestigious reputation in only about the last four decades. Unlike nearby harbour-side Rose Bay and Vaucluse, the area previously was largely working class and very relaxed. Recent renovations aside, the houses were, for the most part, simple three-bedroom family homes or art-deco apartment blocks.
In the post-WWII years, the area became home to many Jewish migrants from across Eastern Europe and is now a melting pot for everyone from British backpackers to international students. The bustling restaurant and bar scene and the stunning coastal views from Coogee all the way along to North Bondi have meant that the area is now more cosmopolitan than ever, though it’s hard to take money too seriously when most people spend their time barefoot and in bathing suits for most of the year.