Sydney, Australia is a city that I enjoyed so much that I turned a five day stay into a three week sojourn. I still think it could have been longer, it was that enjoyable an experience. On one side, you find arguably the most picturesque harbor on the planet, with the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House providing a stunning backdrop. I could talk about a number of things to do here, but if you visit Sydney, this isn’t advice you’d need. It’s the first place you go just on principle.
A more active, more fulfilling experience lies on the other side of the city, less than 25 minutes by bus from the harborside landmarks. Bondi (bond-eye) beach is the most popular place to set up shop, and Coogee Beach is not far behind. Both have great open air bars, coffee shops, surfer stores, and anything else you’d expect to find on a cityside beach. Between Bondi and Coogee, there is a 6km long coastal path that follows the ocean along cliff tops, overlooks multiple coves, and energizes those who walk it. Here is an itinerary one could follow to spend an entire day along this epic shoreline.
You can choose to start at either Bondi or Coogee, depending on your preference, but Bondi would be my choice in order to really enjoy the sun and the surf while the sun’s rays are less harsh. The beach will likely be crowded assuming you set up your stay over their summer, which technically starts on December 1 and ends February 28 but can be hot enough for a month before and after on any given day. Personally, I’d want to spend the morning surfing, as it almost seems like a rite of passage on a beach where wave riders dot the ocean. If a newcomer, try to watch the technique of the more seasoned vets to see how they smoothly avoid breaks in order to reach the zone to catch a wave.
Just past the bay lies Tamarama Beach, a more secluded beach experience with many of the same activities as the more crowded Bondi. One day on my way down the path, I noticed their surf lifesaving club practicing their craft in the ocean and heard from a local that this group was one of the oldest in the world having been formed in 1906. Even more impressive, in those 100+ years, they have yet to have a person die in the surf on their watch.
Though you may be tempted to set up shop at Tamarama, there is still plenty of walking to do, and you’ll be stopping near the next area in Bronte.
This quaint little neighborhood is home to a large park, expansive beach, and an array of cafes. This is a perfect spot to grab some lunch just off the path. You can go for a brunch, some traditional Australian food, or sample the local seafood (I loved the barramundi).
Once you’ve devoured some much needed nourishment, your walk continues and will take you past Waverley Cemetery, whose residents, though deceased, stake claim to some of the best real estate in all of Sydney. This 150 year old resting place is a famous burial ground in Australia and many historic Aussies are buried here.
The path continues on to Clovelly, a place close to my heart as I stayed here for more than a month over the holidays. You’ll see a picturesque lawn bowling club as well as some unbelievable views from the tall cliffs that surround the tiny Clovelly Beach.
Once past Clovelly, the trail follows more steep cliffs, slowly moving downhill towards Coogee Beach. During one of my many walks, I saw a pair of humpback whales a few hundred yards offshore. They put on quite a show, following me the entire way to my destination, breaching and shooting water out of their blowholes for the better part of a half hour.
Coogee Beach should now be in sight, and depending on your level of exhaustion from the day’s events, would be a great spot to enjoy a refreshing swim. There are plenty of beachside bars to enjoy a pint of some local beer, something that may be needed after your cliffside trek. The transportation system will make your life easier as well with a bus stop on the main road that’s parallel to the beach. This day will help you live a day in the life of a local from Sydney. A day full of surfing, exercise, great food, and cold beer. If you’re like me, a short trip could turn into an extended stay, and I promise, it would be worth it.
Post by Pete McKeown, Contributor and Globetrotter