For most people, coming to Sydney isn’t complete without a trip to Bondi. Yes, made famous by good waves, white sand, and lifesavers with the speedo’s pulled up their . . . . let’s just leave the image at that; it is the post card image of Australian life. But there is a bit more to Bondi than just the beach, and more to the Eastern Suburbs than just Bondi; venture a little further afield and you will find that you might need more than a day to explore all that it has to offer.
So, if you’re going to do the Eastern Suburbs in a day it’s best to consider what you want to do and see, because you will certainly be spoilt for choice. The area is made up of a host of Suburbs with the beaches being the most known; Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra.
While areas such as Double Bay and Paddington, are part of the Eastern Suburbs we’ve intentionally left them off this list as there is already too much to do, so we recommend leaving those areas for another day. So lets get started at the Southern end and following the coast walk, start heading north.
Home of the infamous surf gang ‘Bra Boys’, Maroubra is a long stretch of sand that is the southernmost Beach of the Eastern Suburbs. Less crowded than some of the more popular beaches, it is a great location to watch the sunrise over the horizon, take an early morning swim or catch a wave – just make sure you don’t drop in on a Bra Boy beforehand.
To the right of the Beach you’ll notice one of the last untouched Headlands of the coastline. This area, known as Malabar Headland is owned by the Commonwealth and harbours the oldest active rifle range in Australia, and during World War II served as a Defence Battery and outpost. What many people don’t know is how the area received it’s name, which was from a shipwreck (the MV Malabar) which grounded off Long Bay in 1931. Since then up to 7 other ships have come to an end off the sandstone coast of Malabar in treacherous conditions.
The area has some of the most spectacular coastline in Sydney with the dramatic sandstone cliffs providing an epic platform from which to view both north and south of the coast. While not an official area for hiking (definitely pay attention to the signs and if red flags are flying this means the rifle range is firing live ammunition and the area is off limits) you can make your way through some of the rare Port Jackson scrub (it’s not that difficult) and walk around the entire coastline stopping in at the Battery on the way. This is a walk that isn’t often on the tourist trail and the battery itself is interesting as much for the eerie reminder of when Sydney was prepared for attack, as much as it is for the examples of graffiti that adorn it. Oh, and don’t forget the view.
Coogee really doesn’t get the wrap it deserves, and sits in the shadow of it’s sister Bondi, but that’s not a bad thing as you’ll find more locals here than tourists and it’s just as much if not more pretty than Bondi – just a little (only a little) less crowded.
Historically a seaside resort linked by Tram from the city, the word Coogee is a local Aboriginal word for “Smelly Place” or in the Bidigal language “the smell of seaweed drying”. While not the most appealing name, it is certainly a beautiful beach.
At the southern end of the beach, you find tidal pool Wylie’s Baths; built in 1907 by Henry Wylie, the raised boardwalk above the pool is an excellent place to admire the Bathers, or get down for a quick dip if you didn’t take the plunge at Maroubra.
As you travel north, you’ll pass the kids playground and come to the top of the beach where you’ll have expansive views across to the bay to Dolphin Point and the Old Giles Baths, and be able to see Wedding Cake Island in the centre of the beach.
If you’re here in the afternoon or evening, the Coogee Bay Hotel is a well known watering hole with spectacular views and the beer garden outside is the perfect place to quench a thirst or grab a bite at the Brasserie. Weekends see the place packed out as the beachgoers shun bikinis and speedo’s for designer threads, and stay well in to the twilight hours.
However, while there are streets of cafes and food options along opposite the beach, one of the best ways to enjoy Coogee is to grab a take away fish and chips (highly recommend is A Fish Called Coogee located at 229 Coogee Bay Road) and sit on the beach watching the passing parade of sun-kissed bodies.
And while we’re on the topic of food, we’d be amiss not to mention the recently opened Coogee Pavilionlocated at the northern end of the beach on the site of the Coogee Palace and Aquarium. Sighted by it’s domed Roof, the Coogee Pavilion is the latest instalment in Justin Hemmes / Merivale’s vast Hospitality empire. Whether you’ve wandered in off the beach dripping wet and sandy for an organic juice, hunkering for aphrodiasatic oysters, needing your beard trimmed, picking up a bunch of flowers, carb-loading on Pizza, or entertaining the kids with a gigantic scrabble game – the Pavilion has it all. And newly opened is it’s rooftop featuring Executive Chef Jordan Taft’s Mediterranean fare complimented by epic views. Yep, more than one reason to stop by.
Gordon’s Bay and Clovelly
On the way to Bronte from Coogee you’ll come across one of the most picturesque snorkelling spots; the pocket-sized Gordon’s Bay. A hidden oasis of clear water sheltered from the surf, here you’ll find million dollar homes atop the cliffs whilst families and groups picnic on the rocks below.
As you wander further north you’ll come across what seems like a large ocean pool but is actually Clovellybeach. Flanked by concrete promenades, popular for sunbaking, the area is also popular for snorkelling with an abundance of marine life inhabiting the area – especially the large Blue Grouper. And if all the sun, sand and snorkelling has gotten you thirsty, just up the road is the Clovelly Hotel which has a superb beer garden to unwind in.
Bronte and Tamarama
Leaving Clovelly behind, you’ll walk along the coast through Burrows Park and reach what has to be one of the most amazing locations to be six feet deep – Waverley Cemetery. A view that is certainly wasted on the departed, the Cemetery boasts ornately carved gravestones and has spectacular views up and down the coast. So as to not disturb those who have shuffled off the mortal coil, a boardwalk was installed several years ago on the edge of the cliff providing a further spectacular experience as you wander pass native fauna on one side over crashing waves below.
Whatever time you reach Bronte Beach, you’ll see it alive with activity. Surfers out for a paddle, the upper echelon of Eastern Suburbs wealth in the cafe’s rubbing shoulders with the hipster cool and 5th generation working class, and families enjoying picnic’s in the park; it is all happening in this little cul-de-sac of Beach.
For the fit and active, if you’re a Bodyboarder the Bronte shorebreak isn’t Waimea, but certainly is fun, while stand-up surfers should head for the right hander of the Reef at the Southern end.
For those who might need a coffee or something more substantial, the Cafes close to the beach and nearby here have become a major drawcard for the area in addition to the Beach itself. Places such as Three Blue Ducks and Bronte Road Bistro are regularly among some of Sydney’s ‘best of’ dining establishments and well worth a pit-stop. If a sit down meal isn’t your fancy, then stop off for the best Sourdough Bread in Sydney from Iggy’s. You’d be forgiven to think that bread was being rationed as the line for this popular bakery is sometimes up the street.
Leaving Bronte behind and continuing north you’ll come across another stretch of sand known as Tamarama. A cute little beach, popular with swimmers and Bodyboarders (no stand-ups here unfortunately), the walk is a peaceful stroll along the clifftops as you keep the ocean to your right through McKenzie’s Beach and on to your final destination – Bondi.
Finally, you have arrived at what is one of Australia’s most stereotypical beaches – Bondi. Coming to Sydney and not making a pilgrimage to this beach some would say is akin to going to Paris and not seeing the Eifel Tower, some would say it’s too full of British Backpackers. But whatever your thoughts on this stretch of sand, as you reach the southern side and look north across its golden sand littered with hot bods in bikini’s, waves crashing on the shore, it’s hard not to appreciate just how beautiful this part of the world really is.
The Beach is what you’re here for so take it all in, get your photo’s, and soak up the sun. You really should get in the water, catch a wave, and spend an hour or two sunbaking if you haven’t already. You might even spot a Bondi Lifeguard.
Beyond the beach there is a lot happening, so don’t spend too much time lazing about. The Bondi Skatepark is home to the Vans Bowl-a-rama taking place from February 17th through to 21st and will include such well known professional skateboarders as Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, and current world champion Pedro Barros. Whether you can kickflip or just want to kick it while watching the best in the business get high above the coping, this is an event that is not to be missed.
While along the promenade, don’t forget to check out the ever changing open-air gallery of Graffiti that legally adorns the walls. Some of the images by Australia’s top Street Artists are the perfect backdrop to compliment that selfie of you down by the water.
If Graffiti isn’t your thing, perhaps the photographs by Aquabumps are. More than 16 years of taking early morning surf photos along the Eastern Beaches and more recently the world, Eugene Tan (aka Uge – pronounced Yooj) has a gallery of his work which is a must see / buy.
And while we’re on the topic of shopping, boutiques such as Carousel, Electric Monkey, Girl & Graaf, Shop U,Jasnaltn, Tuchuzy are some of our favourite places to spend some coin. From vintage flare to homewares, one off jewelry and designer threads, these places have got you covered. And if those options aren’t enough, the Bondi Markets are not to be missed. Saturday’s see the Farmers Market (9am – 1pm) offering fresh produce from the paddock all the way to you (to then get on the plate), plus an array of freshly made items where you can grab breakfast and sit in the grounds of Bondi Beach Public School. Sunday’s (10am – 4pm) however, is a different affair, when the Market stalls change selling artwork, homewares, jewelry, fashion and accessories by local designers. This is less about tourist souvenirs and more about discovering the latest in what’s cool.
If you’ve been out all day then it’s certainly time for a cool refreshing beverage. While stalwart faithfuls such as the Beach Road Hotel, Bondi Hotel, Ravesi’s, North Bondi RSL are popular with crowds of all ages, it’d be hard to go by the Bucket List for its location (right on the beach); tunes (a little bit of boogie and a little bit of chill); atmosphere (relaxed and fun, encompassing the Bondi lifestyle); and the people (cool, very cool); this is somewhere you should definitely stop and watch the sky turn purple as the sun sets.
If you haven’t eaten by now, then you need to stop, take stock and make the hard decisions of where to grab a bite. Is it institutions like Icebergs, Bills or Bondi Trattoria. Or perhaps newer players such as A Tavola, Pompei’s, Shuk or Fishmongers.
And after dinner if you’re still keen for a kick-on Bondi Hardware, Bondi Picnic, Neighbourhood, 34 Degrees South, or Bondi Social are all great options to finish off the night with a cleansing ale. Or just listen for where the tunes are cranking and the people are heading to, because in Bondi, most nights of the week are a party.
Don’t forget to book your 5-star Sydney accommodation at Radisson Blu Hotel Sydney