Newly arrived Backpackers barely have time to get through customs at Sydney Airport before they head to Bondi. The bustling suburb east of the million city is a safe card. Here, suntanned thirty-something hipsters in life crisis and native surfers are intermingled with pale tourists. Bondi is well-known for one thing. The beach. The cream-coloured kilometre-long Bondi Beach is world famous. It shows up on TV screens and postcards all around the world. And the people visiting it is doing a great job of impersonating Australia’s dreamy beach culture. Come here for a roasting summers day and you’ll see some of Sydney’s most beautiful and trendiest people, confidently sashaying in minimalist garments. All equipped with a generous bottle of sunscreen and a pair of dark sunglasses.
The beach lies only a few miles from the Sydney centre and is easy to get to by train or bus. The waves are not too high, and the sand is just as smooth as you imagined. But you pay a high price, for here is packed with people on hot days. And as not to deceive you, the heat too is a frequent visitor. It is especially popular to celebrate Christmas Day at Bondi Beach. Each year, a crowd of North European backpackers take over the beach to celebrate an exotic Christmas. After recurring problems with drunk people getting into fights, it is now prohibited to consume alcohol on the beach. But that does not turn many off.
The iconic lifesavers patrol the area to make sure people swim between the red and yellow flags. The days are hectic, but in early mornings the situation is another. Joggers, cyclists and swimmers are here while the rest of the population is still slumbering. Bondi is more than just sun, beach and saltwater. You will find concrete walls adorned with colourful graffiti paintings that will take you to narrow alleys and cosy cafes. Scattered along the coastline are green dwarf trees with symmetrical branches, with the inviting deep green-blue sea just waiting in the background. Bondi was formerly a suburb reserved for the working class. Today, it is a homely place full of culture and with a vibrant nightlife. Walk among the side streets and discover small hidden places with hole in the wall feeling. Along the beach lies stately single storey homes, watching over the water. During the weekends, two large markets are held where local talents sell their best products. Bondi is a hip and alternative neighbourhood. No wonder that many choose to extend their stay here.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
The obvious main attraction in Bondi is spelt B.E.A.C.H. You are not alone in wanting to visit the beach, so come early if you want some peace and quiet. The beach soon fills up by all kinds of people. If possible, avoid being there in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest and burns substantially. Surfers usually keep to the south of the beach. If you want to swim and sunbathe, stay between the lifesavers red and yellow flags. A large part of the beach visitors does nothing more than sunbathing and scouting. So, don’t worry about staying on the lazy side. Or, you can learn how to surf with Let’s Go Surfing (wotif.com/things-to-do/bondi-beach-surfing-lesson.a189062.activity-details). They organize both group and private lessons during a couple of hours. Once you get the hang of it, you can rent a board and wetsuit and polish your skills on your own. If you want to have a peek behind the scenes of a surfing lifesaver-club, Let’s Go Surfing offers a guided tour combined with surfing lessons including beach lunch (wotif.com/things-to-do/bondi-beach-half-day-tour-surfing-lesson.a189068.activity-details). If you feel like swimming, just head south to Bondi Icebergs Club (icebergs.com.au) at 1 Notts Avenue. They have a 50 m saltwater pool right by the sea. Afterwards, you can relax in their sauna. Another way to unwind in Bondi is to watch a movie. Every summer, there is an outdoor movie at Bondi Beach. During every night of one week, movies are shown at Bondi Pavilion (openaircinemas.com.au). They show the latest movies and you can buy food and drinks in the area.
Why not enjoy Bondi with the wind in your hair and to the sound of horse powers? If you like motorcycles, you can enjoy the coastal views from a sidecar with Shelby’s Sidecar Tours (wotif.com/things-to-do/private-bondi-beach-motorcycle-sidecar-tour.a458980.activity-details) or travel as a passenger on a Harley Davidson with Wild Ride Australia (wotif.com/things-to-do/harley-davidson-sydney-bondi-tour.a257252.activity-details).
Bondi Farmers Markets (bondimarkets.com.au/farmers) is held every Saturday between 9-13 in Bondi Beach Public School at Campbell Parade. If you are looking for good food, head over and you will find almost anything there. Fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade bread and jams, pickles, cheese, spices and shellfish. Buy all your favourites and put together your own picnic to bring down to the beach. On Sundays between 10-16, you will find clothing, jewellery and handicrafts crowding in the same premises when Bondi Markets (bondimarkets.com.au) is held. To take part of Aboriginal art and culture, head to the Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery (cooeeart.com.au) at 31 Lamrock Avenue. It is a small gallery where the owners are very knowledgeable and nice. They have collected Aboriginal art for over 30 years and are happy to share tips and stories.
In Bondi, there are plenty of places to satisfy your hunger at. The prices rise the closer to the beach you get, but you can find less expensive take-away restaurants selling fast food of a more modest kind if preferred. Bondi Fishmongers (fishmongersbondi.com.au) at 46 Hall Street serves fresh grilled fish, seafood and green salads at reasonable prices. Why not test their Bondi box where you get a mixture of fish and octopus along with potato wedges, rice or vegetables. The food is uncomplicated but affordable and tasty. Book in advance if you wish to visit Brown Sugar Restaurant (brownsugarbondi.com.au) at 106 Curlewis Street. They serve awesome brunches and filling dinners. The restaurant is small but popular. Their two bestsellers are pasta with crab and fish pie. And their desserts are great.
Good to know
There is no official Visitor Information Centre in Bondi, please turn to one of the centres in Sydney (sydney.com/visitor-information-centres). For example, there is one in Darling Harbour and one in the Rocks. You can also plan ahead and be inspired by Sydney’s official website (sydney.com/destinations/sydney/sydney-east/bondi/beach-lifestyle). If you plan to book a popular activity, there are several discounted activities, tickets and accommodation in Bondi offered on Wotif (wotif.com/discover/australia/new-south-wales/sydney/bondi.d178147).
Warnings and preparations
Christmas Day is a busy day at Bondi Beach. It has become a tradition to gather on the beach and stay all day long. Many partygoers and young people come dressed up in bikini, bathing shorts and the compulsory Santa Claus cap. For some years, alcohol is prohibited in the area. If you don’t feel like this is your thing, you should probably avoid coming here on this very day. And remember – always follow the instructions from the lifesavers during any beach visit. Always swim between the flags. And don’t go too far out in the waters. The rips can be unexpectedly strong, even for the experienced swimmer.
It is easy to get to Bondi from Central Sydney. To avoid getting stuck in traffic queues, avoid the bus during rush hours and take the train instead. You can take a train to Bondi Junction, which is located a bit west from the beach. From Sydney Central Station, the journey takes 15 minutes. It is possible to walk from Bondi Junction to the beach but expect a long and sweaty walk. Instead, you can take bus 333, 380 and 389 from Bondi Junction which all will stop near Bondi Beach (transportnsw.info), and it takes about ten minutes.
There are quite a few options regarding accommodation around Bondi. It all depends on how much money you are willing to spend for a stay. The closer to the beach you stay, the more it costs. If you are willing to stay further away, you can rent an apartment or get a hotel room for a smaller cost. Bondi Beachhouse YHA at 63 Fletcher Street (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Bondi_Beachouse_YHA.htm) is one of the freshest-looking hostels in Bondi. Their premises are large and clean but with a fair distance from the beach. However, they have a penthouse with wonderful views of the sea that compensates for this. If you are planning to stay over Christmas, you must book a minimum of nine nights.
If you wish to have a more private stay, you can rent an apartment. Ultimate Apartments Bondi Beach (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Ultimate_Apartments_Bondi_Beach.htm) rent out 44 fully equipped apartments with access to washing machines, swimming pool and WIFI. They are located west along 59 O’Brien Street, near cafes and restaurants. They also have free parking. The décor is a little old-fashioned, but the price and location is reasonable. At 118 Campbell Parade lies Ravesi’s Hotel (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Ravesis_Hotel_Bondi_Beach_Sydney.htm). The location is unbeatable. It is popular to have a drink in their bar during the weekends, so book a room on a higher floor to avoid staying sleepless at night.
A Saturday in Bondi
08:00 – Breakfast at Trio
Kick off the day with a long stay at the Trio Café (triocafe.com.au) at 56 Campbell Parade. This place is outrageously popular, so please book in advance to avoid unnecessary queues. Do you have difficulty deciding what to eat? Then order their breakfast tasting plate and you will get a bit of this and that. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or a chilled fruit smoothie while you watch Bondi Beach come to life.
11:00 – Move those legs
After a filling breakfast you lace up a pair of comfortable shoes and head south for a walk along Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk (sydneycoastwalks.com.au/bondi-to-coogee-walk). The trail stretches along the rocky coastline from Bondi to Coogee and is six kilometres long, but you can for example turn around in Tamarama. No matter how far you go, you’ll see Bondi from its best side. When the legs start to protest, there are park benches to rest on. Don’t forget sunscreen, your hat and a water bottle.
13:00 – Take a break and lunch
If you can’t make it all the way back to Bondi, catch a bus and a break. Buses travel the area frequently. Then go to 106 Curlewis Street to eat lunch at Brown Sugar (brownsugarbondi.com.au). If you are not that hungry, their Brown Sugar salad, including beetroot and goat cheese, is a tasty alternative. Otherwise, you can always try your best with their filling juicy chicken burger.
16:00 – Going swimming
The time has finally come. Time to find out what it is that everyone is talking about – Bondi Beach to be explored! Get your swimwear and a layer of sunscreen on and a towel under the arm. Stroll down to Bondi Beach and find a vacant spot among all visitors. Be sure not to swim too far out as there may be unexpectedly strong currents. And be sure to always stay between the flags so you don’t end up needing the lifesavers.
18:00 – Asian dining
Visit an ATM to withdraw some money, because where you are going, it is cash only. A hot, sticky and tasty dinner is waiting. Asian flavours are served at Bangkok Bites (bangkokbites.com.au) along 95 Hall Street. The kitchen is lively. Pots and pans rattle and orders are called out. The result is simple but fantastic street food served in large portions. They also have BYO, so bring a bottle of wine and meet up with a bunch of mates to stay for a while.
20:00 – Popular bars
A stroll along Campbell Parade along Bondi Beach provides not only a beautiful view but also the opportunity to visit several popular bars. For the partygoers, maybe a barhop starting at one end at The Anchor Bar (anchorbarbondi.com/) at 8 Campbell Parade, all the way to Bondi Beach Public Bar (bbpb.com.au/) at 180 Campbell Parade might do the trick.