A day at Bondi Beach: a self-guided walking tour

2 April 2015

Sunrise at Bondi Beach featuring Icebergs ocean pool in foreground

Sunrise at Bondi Beach. Image credit: James Horan; Destination NSW

 

8am: Getting there by bus

One option is to take the 333 limited stops bus to Bondi Beach which leaves regularly from Circular Quay, or you can catch it from Bondi Junction train station. Hop off at the very first stop in Bondi on Campbell Parade and cross the road at the lights.

9am: Breakfast and a dip at Icebergs

Bondi Icebergs Club and Bondi ocean pool

Bondi Icebergs Club. Image credit: James Horan; Destination NSW

 

There’s no better way to start your day than in Bondi’s sunny southern corner. Take in the dazzling curve of the bay as you walk down Notts Avenue to the landmark Bondi Icebergs. The 50 metre Icebergs ocean pool, or Bondi Baths, was built in 1929 by a club of hardy locals who liked to swim in the middle of winter – the Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club exists to this day.

If you choose to take a dip with the bronzed swimmers in the blue ocean water below, the good news is there’s a nice hot sauna and hot showers for after your swim. Grab a bite at the Crabbe Hole café.

Not swimming? Head south past “the Bergs” along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk. Even the first 100 metres – around a rocky cove and up a cliffside to the headland – will take your breath away.

10am: The Bondi promenade

Tony Hawke practicing before the BOWL-A-RAMA skating event at Bondi, Sydney

Mike McGill skating in Bondi. Image credit: Brett Hemmings; Destination NSW

 

Walk back past Icebergs and down the hill onto the Bondi promenade. You’ll see the enormous skate park and giant murals to your left, and golden sand, and the sparkling Pacific Ocean stretching to the horizon on your right. People of all walks of life stroll along one of Sydney’s loveliest and most popular beach each day.

What makes Bondi so unique? It’s the only south facing ocean beach in Sydney – most face east, straight out to sea. This volcanic amphitheatre receives the southerly swells between two headlands, converting them into perfectly barreling waves. The name Bondi comes from the Aboriginal ‘Boondi’. According to some authorities, this means “water tumbling over rocks”, or the “sound of breaking waves”.

Which brings us to our next stop. If you watch Bondi Rescue, you’ll recognise the curved tower on your right – the Bondi Lifeguard Tower. Professional lifeguards patrol the area and watch over visitors to Bondi Beach, 365 days a year. Dressed in blue, they put out the red and yellow flags and signs that tell you where it’s safe to swim. See them in action patrolling the beach from the tower and on their blue quad bikes, frequently giving out safety instructions to swimmers and surfers through their blue loudspeakers.

11am: The ‘Hip Strip’

Two young women shopping in Bondi

Shopping in Bondi. Image credit: Pierre Toussaint; Destination NSW

 

Turn left and head up the hill to Campbell Parade. Cross the road to Hall Street and the Bondi town centre. Here you can purchase a hat and thongs (flip flops), and shop for gifts.

If you fancy a coffee, stop by Gusto’s on your left. Cross over to the right hand side and you’ll find Messina – one of Sydney’s best and busiest gelato bars. Grab yourself a cup or a cone, scoot back down the road and take a left into Gould Street. Along here you’ll find trendy boutiques, stores and surf shops where you can kit yourself up like a local Bondi hipster.

Turn left at Curlewis Street and you’ll be at Aquabumps Gallery, where you can pick up a shimmering print of Bondi Beach, the cream of hundreds of snaps taken daily by talented surf photographer Eugene Tan.

12pm: Lunch at Brown Sugar

Ready for lunch? Food-wise you are spoiled for choice in Bondi, with everything from dumplings to sushi to freshly baked bread. About 100 or so metres up Curlewis Street to your right is another Bondi institution, Brown Sugar Restaurant. Everything on the menu is delicious – don’t miss the decadent Brown Sugar Salad with fried polenta croutons.

1pm: Beach time

Young woman having fun on Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach. Image credit: Pierre Toussaint; Destination NSW

 

After lunch it’s time to head back down to the beach. At the corner of Campbell Parade, the Hotel Bondi is on your right – it has a relaxed beer garden and offers comfortable accommodation. Walk a block to your left and you’ll see the Bondi Public School, where the eclectic Bondi Markets pop up each Sunday.

Cross the road at the lights and stroll down through the park to the Bondi Pavilion, once a tram station and now a cultural centre in constant use for yoga, plays, art exhibitions, kids classes, concerts, dances, cultural festivals and more. Flickerfest Short Film Festival began here and is held each summer as an outdoor cinema. A permanent display of historical Bondi images can be viewed on the downstairs walls. There are public bathrooms – change into your swimmers now if you haven’t already – and pick up some fliers on what’s on.

Come out of the pavilion and head left along the promenade. This is a bright and busy time of day in Bondi. You’ll pass the curved Bucket List bar – which started as a pop up a few years ago and is still packed out each weekend.

Walk too fast and you’ll almost miss the adorable little surf club on your left, the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club. Established in 1907 – shortly after daylight bathing became legal in Australia in 1902 (hard to believe that swimming and bikinis were once banned) – the Bondi Surf Club is officially the oldest volunteer surf lifesaving club in the world. An Australian icon, the club was founded by a group of surfers who found themselves constantly saving inexperienced swimmers, and pioneered the famous surf reel and line.

As a bone of contention, apparently the neighbouring Bronte club was actually the first to be formed (in 1902) ‑ but Bondi was the first “official” club. There are now hundreds of Surf Life Saving clubs across Australia – you’ll pass the shiny new North Bondi Surf Club as you walk toward the north end of the beach. The volunteer lifesavers wear red and yellow uniforms and assist the pro lifeguards in summer.

With all of these life savers and lifeguards about, you should feel perfectly safe for your afternoon adventure, learning to surf, or honing your surf skills on Bondi’s perfect swell.

2pm: Let’s Go Surfing

Let's Go Surfing School

 

Whether you catch a wave or just play around on your soft foam board, this is the most fun you can have in the water in two hours.

The awesome instructors will kit you out in a rashie (rash vest), a wettie (wetsuit – if it’s cold), and your very own board. You’ll practice spotting waves, paddling out and jumping up onto your board while high and dry on the sand, before trialling your new skills on the shallow waves. If you master it, you can paddle out beyond the break and try catching a glassy green wave. There’s nothing quite like riding a longboard and waving at swimmers, as you glide across the shallows into Bondi Beach.

Need more fuel? Speedos Cafe next door to the Let’s Go Surfing headquarters, tucked into the corner at North Bondi, makes great Acai smoothies and chocolate milkshakes.

If you prefer golf to surfing, you can mix teeing off with a spot of whale watching between May and November from the nine-hole, cliff-top golf course on the North Bondi headland. Aboriginal tribes were attracted to this headland to cut tools from the volcanic rock and fish off the rocks below. There are carvings of fish, boomerangs, whales and even a shark on rock platforms at the edge of the Bondi Golf Club course.

5pm: Down time and dinner at North Bondi

Friends enjoying a drink at the North Bondi RSL, Bondi RegionSydney

North Bondi RSL. Image credit: James Pipino; Destination NSW

 

In the late afternoon, laze about on the sand or snooze on the “grassy knoll” with the locals. If you’re getting peckish, head to upmarket North Bondi Fish, or keep it simple at the North Bondi RSL Club.

Truth be told, the modest RSL boasts one of the fanciest views in Sydney from its wraparound balcony. The club’s Blue Wave Bistro does a mean steak or fish and chips, and the bar is cheap for a well-deserved Aussie beer or wine. As the sun goes down, be prepared to stand for a minute of silence to respect the fallen Aussie and Kiwi soldiers.

All you need to remember when you leave the RSL is that the North Bondi bus terminus is but a few short steps up the hill. The 333 departs from here, so you’re guaranteed a seat.

8pm: and beyond… Bondi nightlife

Bondi Baths

View of North Bondi ocean bath at sunset, Bondi. Image credit: James Pipino; Destination NSW

 

Of course, if you prefer to wander back down Campbell Parade for a bit of Bondi nightlife and a chance at celeb spotting, you’ll find frozen margaritas at the too-cool-for-school Beach Burrito, fine wine and a warm and fuzzy hipster vibe at hole-in-the-wall Porch and Parlour, a pumping scene at The Bucket List, and that’s just for starters.

You may need more than a day, you might need a whole season to explore Bondi Beach.

 

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