Wake up to Bondi’s best cafés, shops and things to do

Time Out (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE -

ON THE COOL scale, Syd­ney’s East­ern Sub­urbs have been the Brit­ney to the In­ner West’s RiRi for quite some time. But in 2017, could the East fi­nally be shed­ding the clichés of Bondi hip­sters, back­pack­ers and botox?

As the res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion in these ’burbs con­tin­ues to grow, many way­far­ers from the In­ner West are wash­ing up on our East­ern Beaches. Full dis­clo­sure – I am one of them. In 2012 I traded train lines for tan lines, re­lo­cat­ing from New­town to Coogee in pur­suit of cheaper rent, friendly non-junkie neigh­bours and that gor­geous babe called the beach. While I ini­tially felt quite iso­lated from the rest of the world, I was glad to be rid of the gnaw­ing claus­tro­pho­bia that that in­ner city liv­ing brought out in me, and felt a lib­er­at­ing anonymity walk­ing around among the young fam­i­lies and back­pack­ers.

“I didn’t re­alise the ben­e­fits of liv­ing by the beach,” says Kate Neill, an­other for­mer New­towner who last year found her­self re­lo­cat­ing to Bondi (for love). “I never thought I’d en­joy it as much as I am… The peace and quiet, the peace of mind and the pure beauty of the beach is worth the 333 bus and the $40 Ubers.

“My booze in­take and my par­ty­ing has changed dra­mat­i­cally,” says the Chip­pen­dale hair­dresser, who went from chain-smok­ing and day-drink­ing to morn­ing swims and hit­ting the gym. “I needed a break and a change. I’m 31 now and I can’t drink, smoke and do drugs the way I used to. Liv­ing in the cen­tre of New­town, I was out five nights a week.”

DJ and de­signer Chris Raw­son wound up liv­ing in Bondi af­ter a break-up left him in need of a room. The 2026 post­code hasn’t changed his par­ty­ing ways, but the re­cov­ery is a game changer. “I drink a lot, but I al­ways tell my friends that it’s much nicer to wake up hung over in Bondi than it is in the In­ner West. You’ve got sea breeze, you’ve got the ocean right there and you can have a swim.”

“There’s some­thing to be said about wak­ing up and be­ing able to look out across the road and see noth­ing but ocean and blue sky,” agrees Neill. Her favourite thing to do in Bondi is hit Ice­bergs pool on a quiet day. “The sauna there is Syd­ney’s best kept se­cret. It’s $6.50 for en­try and it feels amaz­ing be­ing able to lay out on that beau­ti­ful white con­crete and look out over the en­tire beach.

“I feel ec­static be­ing out in the wa­ter,” says my neigh­bour, Jess Beck, who re­lo­cated from Ersk­ineville to South Coogee with her band Pirra. Also the lead singer of swing en­sem­ble Elec­tro Al­ley, Beck reg­u­larly gigs in the East, but still man­ages to pull an In­ner West crowd. “Our home is Spring Street So­cial in Bondi Junc­tion, and Jam Gallery next door. A lot of our friends still live in New­town but they make the trek over. It’s un­pre­ten­tious, even when we’re not play­ing, it’s where we go for a drink.”

“It's a very dif­fer­ent scene,” says Neill, who made a con­scious de­ci­sion to “not be­come a Bondi so­cialite” and prefers hit­ting the lo­cal RSL or chill­ing with friends and a bot­tle of wine on North Bondi’s grassy knoll over fight­ing for ta­bles at the bars and clubs in the area. “What stopped me from mov­ing closer to the beach be­fore is that I thought the place was full of wankers. In­ner West or In­ner City peo­ple have this mis­con­cep­tion that ev­ery­one to­wards the East is re­ally self-in­volved and high on co­caine all the time… but there are ass­holes ev­ery­where.”

Sure, you can hate on the East for its lush scenery, ridicu­lously good-look­ing res­i­dents and fancy restau­rants…or you can drink the kom­bucha, come over to the sunny side, and do your own thing.

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