One of my favorite moments during any trip is after touchdown, when the plane taxis to the gate and a delightful ding fills the cabin: the universal signal that it’s OK to unfasten your seatbelt and stand up. Especially after a long-haul flight, there’s nothing that is quite so satisfying as the feeling of stretching your body out of a seated position, extending your legs into the aisle as you contort around carry-on luggage and reaching your arms above you to free your own from the overhead bin.
OK, maybe there’s one thing that’s even better: getting off the plane and taking a walk.Let’s try that again.
There’s nothing quite like a nice walk outdoors after a long flight. Feeling the sunshine on your face as you stretch your legs can do wonders for your mind and body. The sensation of exhaling recycled air and filling your lungs with fresh air invigorates your mind just as much as your body. That is why, after flying for almost 24 hours from Washington, DC to Sydney, Australia, Adam and I set our sights on the Bondi to Coogee walk to celebrate the start of our vacation.
Sydney is a beautiful city, and during our first visit we were more than happy to stash our luggage in our hotel room before rushing out to explore Circular Quay. On our second visit, we decided to look beyond the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge toward the coastline, and Bondi Beach beckoned. Bondi is iconic; when you picture Australian surf culture, you are picturing Bondi Beach. If your goal is swimming and sunbathing, Bondi Beach might be your primary destination, but a beautiful coastal walk that takes you from Bondi to Coogee might be even more enticing. If your travel plans will take you to Sydney, here are four reasons the Bondi to Coogee walk should be on your Sydney itinerary.
What is the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk?Weaving along the coastline, the Bondi to Coogee walk is about 3.5 miles of well-maintained paths that are effectively a sidewalk designed just for pedestrians. Starting at Bondi Beach, you’ll follow a clearly marked and easy to follow paved walkway that will take you past some beautiful landmarks. The walk will take most people 2-3 hours at a comfortable, relaxed pace, although if you have the time and energy it’s worth it to extend your journey to a half-day or more. There are dozens are places to pause during the Bondi to Coogee walk; you’ll find benches where you can take a break, scenic points that are perfect for photos, and spots that offer swimming and other activities as you go.
The Bondi to Coogee walk is not difficult, and it doesn’t require an advanced fitness level to tackle it. There are many places where steep staircases interrupt flat surfaces, but they are not excessive and are easy to navigate. The walk itself is not wheelchair accessible, though, which may be a limiting factor for some visitors.
The coastal walk is also conveniently close to downtown Sydney. Getting to Bondi Beach in order to begin the Bondi to Coogee walk is simple. Several bus routes regularly depart from spots throughout the city, including Circular Quay; busses 333, 380, and 389 will take you directly to the beach. For a more direct journey, taxis are also a convenient way to travel, but we recommend avoiding a self-driving plan if possible. Parking around Bondi Beach is difficult at all times of the day, and if you plan to take the Bondi to Coogee walk your one-way journey will be a round-trip adventure if you have to return to Bondi to find your car. We took a taxi from our hotel to Bondi Beach to maximize our time, but the bus is less expensive and very convenient to many spots within the city.
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk: the Route
Starting from Bondi Beach, the Bondi to Coogee walk takes you past some truly stunning spots. Although the walk is approximately 3.5 miles, it can be nicely broken up into several shorter sections that also provide natural stopping points.
► Bondi Beach to TamaramaFrom Bondi Beach, it will take about 30 minutes to reach Tamarama. Punctuated by some incredible rock formations, you’ll see everything from sweeping views of the coastline to Aboriginal rock carvings if you look very closely. One of the highlights you’ll see toward the beginning of the walk is the Bondi Icebergs, a beautiful swimming club with a large pool that is so close to the ocean waves regularly crash into it. For a nominal fee you can start your Bondi to Coogee walk with a swim in what is often recognized as one of the world’s most photographed pools. Beyond the Icebergs, continue to Marks Park for some of our favorite views of Bondi Beach; the vantage point allows you see the entire beach. If your walk coincides with low tide, you may be fortunate enough to stumble upon the smallest beach in New South Wales: Mackenzie’s Beach. The beach only appears when the tide is out, but there is a great viewing deck that offers a nice photo stop if the tide is in. Mackenzie’s Point is also a known spot for whale watching.
Tamarama Beach is a fantastic alternative to the busier Bondi Beach, and it’s a great place to pause during your Bondi to Coogee walk. In addition to finding a café, a playground, and a place to fill your water bottle for free, and it’s a good spot for a quick swim or to watch surfers tackling the waves.
► Tamarama to Bronte BeachFollow the path along a suspended boardwalk on the quick walk from Tamarama to Bronte Beach. Easily one of the most beautiful stretches of the Bondi to Coogee walk, it takes just 15 minutes to cover the distance between the two beaches. If walking the entire path sounds daunting—or if you are simply short on time but don’t want to miss the photos and experience of walking along the coastline—this easy-to-navigate path is a terrific choice.
Tamarama is also the annual host of the Sculptures by the Sea exhibit, an open-air art installation typically on display in the late spring (October and November). If your visit to Sydney aligns with the exhibit, the Tamarama to Bronte Beach portion of the Bondi to Coogee walk is a must-do item for your itinerary.
More Information: Sydney.com/sculpture-the-sea-bondi
► Bronte to Clovelly
It will take just another half hour to walk from Bronte Beach to Clovelly, a journey that can easily be slowed down with stops to take in the coastline that, by this point in your Bondi to Coogee walk, will stretch as far as you can see in either direction.The real highlight for us during this stretch of the walk was the Waverley Cemetery. The cemetery opened in 1877 and features some stately tombstones that have one of the most iconic views of the Australian coastline you can find—not a bad way to spend eternity! The cemetery features an eclectic collection of monuments, and it is often noted as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. We thought it drew some striking resemblances to La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires (albeit without the oceanfront property!).
Not far from the Waverley Cemetery is the Clovelly Bowling Club, a popular spot on weekends for its famous barefoot bowling and cold beers. The club itself was quiet during our weekday visit, but one look past the greens and out toward the dramatic coastline told us why it is such a sought-after spot for socializing after the work week is through. A few games and a round or two with friends with those views? Not a bad way to spend a day—or take a break during the Bondi to Coogee walk!
Clovelly Beach itself may be a destination for you. Unlike the other beaches you will have passed on the Bondi to Coogee walk, Clovelly Beach is rimmed with concrete, not sand. You may be surprised to see a good number of people enjoying the experience of laying out on the concrete, but the water is quite clear and is a nice place for snorkeling.
► Clovelly to Coogee
As your Bondi to Coogee walk concludes, the final stretch will take just under an hour to tackle. You will be treated to some of the most dramatic views of your journey during this final stretch, but you will work for them: the Clovelly to Coogee portion of the walk is considered by many people to be the most difficult. You will find more steep inclines and stairs here than anywhere else along the walk, but if you take it slow it’s not an especially challenging trek.Gordon’s Bay is a major highlight between Clovelly and Coogee. Gordon’s Bay is a protected aquatic reserve that is surrounded by a reef and can be a nice swimming spot during low tide. Not far from Gordon’s Bay is Dolphin’s Point, which features a sobering monument to 20 Coogee locals who lost their lives in Bali, when a bombing attack left more than two hundred people dead in 2002.
By the time you reach Coogee Beach you will be more than ready for a full meal and a cold drink, and Coogee is a great place to enjoy both. We set our sights on the Coogee Pavilion, a wildly popular destination that serves a nice menu and great selection of beverages. Over a round of cocktails and pizzas we were really happy to toast to some great exercise, a beautiful walk, and a fun day staving off jet lag in Sydney!
More Information: Facebook.com/CoogeePavilion
Why Should You Make the Bondi to Coogee Walk Part of Your Sydney Itinerary?
If you still need convincing, consider these reasons to make time for the coastal walk!
It’s Great for Jet LagIt takes a long time to get to Sydney from just about anywhere. We flew from Washington, DC to Los Angeles (a five-hour flight) before boarding a 14-hour trans-Pacific flight; including a 3-hour layover, it took us almost a full day to reach Australia’s shores. Coupled with the fact neither of us slept much while we were en route, we were quite tired when we checked in at our hotel. Still, going to sleep was a bad idea; it was morning in Sydney when we arrived, and with a goal of acclimating to the new time zone (a full 16 hours ahead of our body time) we knew the temptation of sleeping the day away would be too great if we attempted to nap. Fueled by the hope fresh air, sunshine, and exercise would be the restorative nudge we needed after extended travel, we decided to make the Bondi to Coogee walk our first-day destination.
We were lucky that our first day in Australia was a beautiful, warm day that was perfect for the Bondi to Coogee walk. We extended what is usually a two-hour walk to almost four hours, stopping frequently to soak in the sun, the breeze, and the views. Spending the day outside, slowly making progress on the route to Coogee, was a wonderful distraction from how tired we were and a terrific way to get some gentle exercise after such long flights. By the time our walk was over, and after a great, late lunch at the Coogee Pavilion, we returned to the hotel completely relaxed and ready for some much-needed sleep—this time at a more appropriate hour!
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You’ll See Great SceneryAustralia is surrounded by some of the world’s most picturesque coastlines, and you’ll see a nice diversity when it comes to scenery during the Bondi to Coogee walk. Starting at Bondi Beach, the horizon gently curves in the distance as waves charge toward the shoreline, meekly lapping the beach by the time they arrive. Turning away from the masses gathered to surf and swim, the golden sand begins to give way to jagged cliffs and the powerful waves that crash into them. So goes this transition—from calm to raging, from soft to ragged—throughout the entire length of the Bondi to Coogee walk. The transitions between the extremes are effortless, and you’ll be glad the path offers so many places to pause and appreciate the changing views.
You’ll Learn About the Region’s History
One of the features we liked most while enjoying the Bondi to Coogee walk was learning about the region along our route. In several locations along the path we noticed signage that shared some of the region’s history and a few interesting facts about its relevance. We discovered that Bondi Beach was once home to an elephant named Alice as well as a roller coaster that were part of Wonderland City, an amusement park that peaked as a local attraction before declining and closing in 1911. We were surprised that Bronte Beach once restricted visitors based on gender; the beach was available only to women at certain times of the day and only to men during other times. It was interesting to read about the events and traditions that unfolded where we stood, only to look around and see not even a trace of a very different time in history. The Bondi to Coogee walk was surprising for that reason; if you only see the sand, ocean, and sky as you explore, you may be missing some of the richness of the region that provides context to its significance.
There’s More to Do than Just Walk
The Bondi to Coogee walk may require no more than a couple of hours and a little effort to traverse the path, but there are plenty of activities available to supplement or even break up the trek.The water is the focal point for most of the activities you will find. Swimming and surfing are by far the most popular activities to enjoy, and incorporating either of them into your Bondi to Coogee walk will put you in good company as locals and tourists alike will be out in force if the weather is nice. Diving and snorkeling opportunities can also be found, and there are a few companies that offer boating excursions along the route.
If you are traveling as a family, save some extra time to stop at the various playgrounds that dot the Bondi to Coogee walk; several playgrounds, including a few in shaded locations, seemed just as popular with parents as they did with kids. If the playground isn’t of interest, the outdoor gym just might be: the Clovelly outdoor gym is among several stations that offer a chance to take your workout to the next level (if you have the energy, of course- our jet-lagged bodies didn’t even make an attempt to use the equipment!).
If you are turning your Bondi to Coogee walk into a day trip, there are many places to stop for a snack or a drink along the route. While Bondi Beach has the greatest selection of restaurants, kiosks and cafes are available along the pathway to ensure you stay nourished. Plenty of families set up picnic spreads at tables along the route, which may be another nice option if you bring a few snacks and want to enjoy a meal by the ocean.
Where to Stay for the Bondi to Coogee Walk
Since Bondi Beach is only a short distance from Sydney, we decided to get a hotel in the city and take a taxi to Bondi Beach. Sydney has plenty of great hotels, here are a few options you might consider.
Tips for Enjoying the Bondi to Coogee Walk
Here are a few more tips that might improve your overall experience during the coastal walk.
► Wear sunscreen and a hat
The Sydney sun is strong—very strong—and protecting yourself from the rays is the most important thing you can do. Take strong sunscreen (50+ SPF) and reapply often, especially if you plan to swim or find yourself sweating in the hot weather. A hat will also afford you some much-needed shade, especially during the uncovered portions of the Bondi to Coogee walk.
► Consider walking in reverseAlthough we made the journey from Bondi to Coogee, there’s no reason you can’t reverse the trek and walk from Coogee to Bondi. By reversing the direction, you can avoid some of the steeper portions (you’ll walk down flights of stairs more often than up), and you will end up at Bondi Beach to enjoy the surf or even take a swim in the Icebergs. Depending on the time of day, you may be treated to a sunset over Bondi Beach as well. Although you can’t go wrong no matter what direction you choose, consider what you are looking to do when you reach your destination. If you are looking for a vibrant beach scene with plenty of cafes and restaurants, you may want to walk in reverse. If you are looking forward to ice cream or a drink at the Coogee Pavilion or a stroll through a cute beach town, the Bondi to Coogee walk is a great choice.
► Choose the right shoes
Flip flops will not be the right choice for you during the Bondi to Coogee walk! With the steep inclines and flights of stairs, you will need a shoe that is both more stable and more supportive. Consider a comfortable pair of sneakers or some walking sandals that provide for more stable footfalls. Plus, three miles is a long way to walk in a pair of cheap plastic flip flops—save those for your beach stops!
► Take a water bottle
In addition to the fact hydration is key when exercising and walking in the sun, there are multiple places along the Bondi to Coogee walk where you can refill your water bottles. The water that is available is clean, and you can drink it without a filter.
Enjoy the Bondi to Coogee Walk!
Of all of the attempts we have made to avoid jet lag and acclimate to a new time zone, the Bondi to Coogee walk was by far our favorite. The miles we walked were perfect for stretching our weary bodies, the sunshine and fresh air nourished us after a day of stale plane cabin air, and the views were a constant reminder of how far from home we were—and how excited we were to be back in Australia. Whether you plan to tackle the Bondi to Coogee walk in just a few hours or look forward to spending a day soaking in every twist and turn of the pathway, we know it will be one of the memories you love the most about your trip to Sydney!
More Information: Sydney.com
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