Sydney Part 2: From Bondi to Coogee

Someday, geniuses will create eco-friendly air-con backpacks. Until then, we have the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk — Nature’s solution for non-sweaty exercise.

Yup, four of us (including Ying’s friend, Stanley) walked close to 6.2km on carved-out walkways that hug Sydney’s coastline. It’s a must-do, especially on a cool August morning. Sun in your face, the air chilly enough to give you spring in your step, and the views! Rocks, shrubbery and the different shades of blue churning in the Tasman Sea — cerulean, azure, Persian.

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We started out at Bondi Beach, after grabbing lunch at the nearby Bondi Beach Hardware (39 Hall St, Bondi Beach), which has all the trappings of a hipster cafe. This includes handsome waiters in button-up shirts rolled up to the elbows (the top button popped to reveal a hint of man cleavage), and a bar rack to rival a speakeasy’s during the Prohibition era. Food took a while to come but there was eye-candy to snack on (sorry, Alan!).

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Bondi Beach is relied on for its surf and swathe of sandy beach, but these also make it a hotspot for sun-seeking tourists. Some say Bondi (an Aboriginal word for “the sound of water breaking over rocks”) is too commercialised, its selection of cafes and restaurants trite. We didn’t linger in the area long enough to make that assessment.

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At the southern end of Bondi is the Icebergs, so named for the members who plunge themselves into the pool in the dead of the Australian winter (kids are, delightfully enough, called Icecubes). There are two pools here, including an Olympic-sized one that has been around for more than century.

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To be a full-fledged member of the club  — though why anyone wants to join a swimming club when there’s the sea right next to it is beyond me — you need to swim three Sundays a month, from chilly May to freezing September, for five years straight. Miss too many swims and you’re banned from the premises for 12 months. There’s a great video about the people and the club here.

We gave the club and its cafe a miss, so it was en route to Tamarama Beach, but not before we rounded a rocky cove (of weathered sandstone, dating back to the Triassic Age) and skirted the edge of a cliff.

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We didn’t hang around Tamarama — apparently nicknamed “Glamarama” for the people who come here to be seen, often topless — for long, either. Instead, we marched onto the much more family-friendly Bronte Beach, with its playground and BBQ facilities. There’s also two rock pools here, one manmade and another natural, for those who aren’t so confident about the waves.

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In between Bronte and Clovelly Beach is the Waverly Cemetery. With its Edwardian and Victorian monuments overlooking the sea, I think it must be one of the most scenic and peaceful resting places in the world. It contains the graves of many Australian figures, like the poet Henry Lawson,  almost 20 soldiers from World War II, and even illegal casino operator George Freeman.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the concrete-edged Clovelly Beach, where grey slabs extend from grassy slopes, to serve as sunbathing space. But I did of Gordons Bay, an inlet home to a 600m underwater trail, which sits on the opposite side. We weren’t dress for snorkelling, so we admired the cantilevered houses instead.

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We reached Coogee Beach after three hours of leisurely walking, though not without protests from some within the group. (For the record, I was impressed with the distance we covered and my commitment to the cause.)

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After watching some beachgoers get a couple of giant whale/squid kites in the air, we took a bus to Hartsyard (33 Enmore Road, Newtown), an American restaurant that served the best food we had on this trip. Prices aren’t cheap, but try the duck rillettes and fried chicken. Plenty of delicious desserts and cocktails to cap off the meal, too.

  • The fastest and cheapest way to get to Bondi from the Sydney centre is to take a train from Central to Bondi Junction, then take bus 333 to Campbell Pde Nr Hall St.
  • The Bondi-Coogee coastal walk measures about 6.2km on relatively flat land. There are a few gentle slopes, but nothing out of the ordinary for a relatively healthy (even if not so active) adult.
  • It’s a great way to see Sydney’s famous beaches, burn off some of the kilos you’re sure to pack on on this trip, and relax. Bring a sweater and a pair of sunglasses to make the walk more enjoyable — you’ll probably need both, during most seasons.
  • Read about the bookstores I visited and bands I listened to while in Sydney here.

Postscript: It’s been a sad week, what with two acts of terrorism one after another, first in Sydney and then in Pakistan. One wonders if pure evil exists in the world. But — though “buts” never suffice in such senseless situations — Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson have been flickers of light in a time of darkness. I hope one day the light can prevail.

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