Backpacker hangout and glamour hot spot, here’s how to experience Bondi Beach in style
From backpackers and billionaires to surfers and sunbathers; the charms of Bondi’s golden crescent of sand, turquoise waters and surf breaks knows no bounds. But there’s more to this beachside suburb than sand, surf and ocean air.
Now one of Sydney’s most exciting emerging food and drink hubs, its burgeoning bar scene, awardwinning restaurants, luxe hotels and yoga schools have seen it transform from dodgy backpacker haunt into one of the city’s most glamorous neighbourhoods.
And with summer just around the corner, there has never been a better time to plan your visit to Australia’s most famous beach.
IS THERE A WAY TO AVOID THE MASSES ON THE BEACH?
If you want to see it at its best – and to avoid the crowds, blaring sound systems and South American volleyball players – then follow the lead of locals and go early. Bondi gets busier as the day wears on, so for beach time that errs more on the idyllic side set your alarm clock for dawn and join the early risers.
I’VE HEARD ABOUT THE COASTAL WALK ...
The short, yet spectacular 4km Bondi to Bronte coastal walk shows off the best of Sydney’s coastline. Best undertaken in the early morning, you’ll be energised by the spectacle of crashing waves, panoramic ocean views, beautiful beaches and natural rock pools.
Plan ahead for breakfast at Bronte’s cafe institution, Three Blue Ducks. The original outlet (the brand now boasts cafes in Sydney’s Rosebery and Byron Bay) has been packed with hungry diners since opening in 2010.
Pulling in large crowds, the always changing menu includes the muchloved scrambled eggs with black sausage. Another must-try is the homemade vegemite.
Make sure to pay a visit to the cafe’s backyard kitchen garden filled with homegrown vegetables, beehives and chooks.
WHAT SHOULDN’T I MISS?
Icebergs. A bottleneck point for walkers beginning the Bondi to Bronte trail, Icebergs is home to the grandaddy of all ocean pools.
Casual entry is only $6.50, which gives you access to the pool, gym and glass-fronted sauna. And post-surf, swim or walk, make sure to ease tired muscles by booking in for an expert massage at Iceberg’s the Body Spot.
A staple at the landmark for more than 20 years, it has three massage rooms poolside, staffed by some of the best therapists in the city who are trained to loosen knots and reduce tension. And with the sound of crashing surf in the background, you can easily forget you’re in Bondi and not some tropical island paradise. ICEBERGS.COM.AU BODYSPOTATBONDIBEACH.COM.AU
WHERE CAN I WORK OUT?
In Bondi Beach the outdoors is your gym. No matter what time of the day you’ll encounter runners, swimmers, surfers, and everything in between.
If you’re an exhibitionist – or you just fancy a perv – then check out Bondi’s seafront outdoor gym (the Sydney version of the famed “muscle beach” in LA). But before you even think about hitting the sand, start the day the right way by hitting the mat. Bondi is synonymous with yoga and there’s an array of options, one of the best is BodyMindLife. A yoga institution in Sydney for the last 15 years, their studio on Hall Street (the main thoroughfare in the suburb) offers both restorative yin and dynamic vinyasa classes taught by some of the best teachers in the biz.
All levels of experience are catered to and there are showers, lockers, free herbal teas and an in-house pilates reformer studio too, just in case yoga isn’t your thing.
HOW ABOUT A SURF?
Sheltered by headlands, Bondi’s protected waters are a great place to surf. Whether pro, beginner or fairweather surfer, there’s a break for everyone. As such, locals, tourists and even celebs (don’t be surprised if you end up sharing surf space with Chris Hemsworth or Hugh Jackman) paddle out daily.
If you’re a newbie, head to the area’s most renowned surf school, Let’s Go Surfing. You can rent boards and wetsuits here too. LETSGOSURFING.COM.AU
WHAT’S A GOOD OPTION FOR BRUNCH?
Suffused with energy from surfing or downward dog-ing, you’ll need a good feed. Thankfully, Bondi gives great brekky and there are more cafes here than you can shake a stick at.
One of the best (and newest) additions is Rocker. Part-owned by celebrity chef, Darren Robertson (of My Kitchen Rules fame) this all-day North Bondi coffee spot, cafe and restaurant has another celebrity touch in the form of chef, Stuart Toon, who worked as a butcher with Jamie Oliver for a decade.
Using fresh, local ingredients, winners from the short breakfast menu include the maple-cured bacon sandwich and house-made HP sauce and The Buckler – aka the best fry-up you’ll ever have.
If it wasn’t cool enough, the Rocker recently announced a partnership with hip co-working organisation Two Space, turning part of the space into a hangout for the digital nomad set during the day.
Hall St’s long-running Bondi Hardware is another go-to. With a food philosophy focused on share plates with a seafood influence, their brunch menu (served from 8am onwards) caters to the health conscious as well as those looking for a hearty feast with signature dishes such as the restaurant’s Fruit and Chia Cha Cha, Frank & Beans and the Full Hardware (for the very hungry only).
If you want a long lunch, try the newly launched bottomless rose lunches. Served on weekends, for $75
a person, you’ll get two hours of unlimited French rose or rose sangria and a share-style banquet menu.
WHERE SHOULD I GO FOR SUNDOWNERS?
A longstanding Bondi institution, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar is the place to see and be seen.
The lauded regional Italian restaurant comes with an appropriately large price tag, but if you’ve got champagne tastes on a beer budget, you can still experience the vibe here, and the killer views, by booking into the bar for a few drinks.
The menu is drool-worthy, but you can’t go past the No. 147 on the “classics” list – comprising Ciroc vodka, coconut liqueur and passionfruit – and the Negronis.
Permanently packed during summer, it’s best to come early and secure a position on the terrace to take in the ocean breeze.
HOW ABOUT DINNER?
There are multiple options but a surefire winner is Drake Eatery. The creation of Bondi local and awardwinning chef Ian Oakes, this bustling venue has become one of the favourite dining destinations since opening two years ago.
Positioned in the thick of the action on the corner of Gould and Curlewis streets, it specialises in cracking modern Australian seasonal dishes, prepared using sustainable local produce. You can’t go past the panseared thyme gnocchi with hazelnuts and Pecora blue cheese. Other ticks include the brussels sprouts with truffle parmesan, the chargrilled Kobe wagyu and, for dessert, the decadent white chocolate and honeycomb parfait with salted caramel. So naughty, but oh so good!
For Mexican, Taqiza is a must. Only a few months old, what this small restaurant-cum-bar lacks in size it makes up for in atmosphere.
Packed with a fun crowd, you can work your way through the menu of margaritas as you sample the “Mexican gastronomy” of eight taco varieties (including beef cheek, BBQ salmon and pulled pork) and larger dishes, such as the tuna ceviche and grilled octopus.
Taqiza means “taco party” and you can definitely feel the party vibe on Tuesday and Sunday evenings when a small band entertains diners with lively Latin beats.
CAN I GET MY RETAIL FIX HERE?
Absolutely. If you visit on a weekend, head to the Sunday Bondi Markets – a mecca for homeware-lovers and fashionistas with pieces from local designers, jewellery, hand-poured candles, vintage clothing, retro furniture and exotic imports.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
If you’re looking for slick accommodation that’s a sea breeze distance from the beach then check into Bondi’s newest, and easily coolest hotel, the QT Bondi.
Spearheading the new wave of Bondi development, it opened two years ago as part of the new Bondi Pacific complex.
The 69 studios and apartments have plenty of luxe touches, from the super-comfy beds and fluffy robes, to the Malin+Goetz skincare products. A nice touch is the use of noteworthy locals, including Bondi Rescue’s Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins, as “experience curators” offering their exercise to visiting guests.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Bondi Beach is 19km from Sydney airport – roughly a 30-minute drive by car, taxi or Uber. You can also get a train from the airport to Bondi Junction and from there take one of many buses for the short journey to the beach. Alternatively, there are direct buses from the city.
ICEBERGS POOL Bondi’s golden crescent and aqua waters (main) are well known but the charms of the iconic location are many, including fine dining and eclectic artistic events.
SCULPTURE BY THE SEA