If you follow Eat Play Love Travel on Instagram, it’s no secret that since moving to Sydney I’ve become addicted to harbour and coastal walks. They’re just so insanely beautiful. They’ve turned me into a giggling, Beatles-style fan.
I’ve previously written in much detail about the heart-achingly beautiful Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk, and also the Godfather of Sydney’s walking trails: the Spit Bridge to Manly walk. I’ve also written in less detail about a few other goldies.
So, I thought it only fair I share everything you need to know about my local running track – Bondi to Coogee. The track that’s so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes that first weekend in Sydney. No that didn’t happen. Ok maybe it did. (After I stopped pinching myself, I also realised I needed a spray tan and an ab workout stat – these Eastern Beaches folk are ridiculously tanned and fit).
Bondi to Coogee: what to expect
Along this six-kilometre coastal cliff top walk there’s plenty to distract. There’s ocean pools, a cemetery, surfers fighting over the beach breaks below, water the colour of emeralds, secret coves, picnic grounds and stunning views, both of the Pacific Ocean and the million-dollar houses spilling down the hills. It’s all so sickly beautiful it makes you want to jam your fingers down your throat.
Starting at the northern end of Bondi Beach, two hours, and six kilometres, later you’ll finish up at Coogee Beach, having trekked past Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Beach and Gordons Bay.
The walk bench-presses at about a medium difficulty. There’s some hills and stairs, so you might be huffing and puffing in places, but it’s not like you’re going to have a cardiac arrest. I hope.
It’s best to get to Bondi via public transport – Transport NSW’s Trip Planner tool is your friend – because parking in Bondi for more than two hours hurts. Plus, Elvis knows how you’d get back to your car. Bus, I guess.
The path is pretty straight forward. But if in doubt, hug the coastline and follow the crowds.
6 of Sydney’s best beaches
Winding and bending with the curves of the coastline, the Bondi to Coogee walk links some of Sydney’s most famous beaches:
Bondi Beach – this big bastard needs no introduction. From the sand to the Esplanade, this famous beach is buzzing at all hours of the day. With enough sand to be considered a small country, Bondi Beach is ginormous. Mind you, on a summer’s day you can barely see the golden sand in between the beach towels fighting for real estate.
Tamarama Beach – follow the cliff top path around from Bondi and you’ll eventually get to Tamarama Beach. With the in-your-face-yellow Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club standing importantly on the cliff top, you can’t miss it. This deep tongue of sand is as popular for its surf conditions as it is for its posing – it’s not hard to see why it’s earned the nickname Glamourama.
Bronte Beach – Bondi’s popular sister has a little something for everyone. There’s the ocean pool for lap swimming, the kiddie rock pool (that I frequent), the kiosk for snacks (that I also frequent) and ok surf conditions for die-hard surfers. I highly recommend stopping in Bronte for brunch. There’s a bunch of cafes up on Bronte Road (The Bogey Hole Café is one). Or if you want to take a bit more of a detour and are feeling brave, you can battle the lines at Three Blue Ducks – Bronte’s most-lauded breakfast spot.
Clovelly Beach – this skinny beach is quite sheltered so is a magnet for families, while the concrete platforms either side of the water are a magnet for sun-bakers. Although I’m not too sure why. Surely after 30 minutes of sun you’d be feeling like a Sunday lamb roast. Keep walking and you’ll come across some serious lawn bowls game at the cliff top Clovelly Lawn Bowls Club – possibly the most scenic bowls club in the world.
Gordons Bay – this little hidden chicken nugget is great for snorkelling. You just feel like you’re guaranteed to bump into Nemo here. With racks of little fishing boats dominating the beach, there’s not a lot of sand at Gordons Bay. But it’s also the least-crowded of all six beaches, and feels somewhat secret.
Coogee Beach – a lot quieter than braggy Bondi, Coogee is just as good, arguably better. There’s a grassy knoll (just not the ‘knoll’), ocean pools (they’re just not called Icebergs) and Coogee Beach is a lot calmer to swim at (thank you Wedding Cake Island). See the same, but different. There’s also lots of buzz, lots of sand and lots of green spaces for Frisbee-throwing.
Best to pack bathers because you’re guaranteed to want to go for a swim at all six beaches. And I have personally experienced just how unfair life is when the ocean is beckoning and, with no swimming gear, all you can do is stare longingly, like a dog at a biscuit.
A detour through Waverley Cemetery is necessary
Back in the middle of 2016, rowdy storms had a party in Sydney, leaving a heckuva lot of damage. In between the underage drinking and beer pong, the 550-metre wooden boardwalk that swept out around Waverley Cemetery was washed away. This now means you have to walk through the cemetery to get from Bronte to Clovelly.
This idea horrifies me. There’s something eerie about the state heritage-listed Waverley Cemetery. Maybe it’s the old-worldy atmosphere; maybe it’s the imposing Victorian and Edwardian monuments, statues and graves that neatly spill down the hill towards the ocean; maybe it’s the important people buried here or maybe just that it’s a cemetery. Mind you, cemeteries don’t normally give me the bumps of goose, but this one does.
There’s plenty of picnic spots along the way
This stretch of coastline is a picnicking panacea. Throw a rug down on one of the many little rocky outcrops or patches of grass, and make use of the BBQ facilities that are at all of the beaches (except Gordons Bay).
If you’re serious and intend on spending the day, join the masses and put up a shade tent in Bronte Park. To fit in you’re going to want to play some kind of ball, listen to music from a portable Bluetooth speaker and try to hide your alcohol consumption from the police. The fun police. Unfortunately, the Eastern Beaches are largely dry zones.
Sculpture by the Sea
Also be warned: during October and November, a section of this track – from Bondi to Tamarama – is overrun with weird, wacky and wonderful sculptures for the outdoor art installation festival Sculpture by the Sea. 100% free to admire, you’ll find around 100+ sculptures strewn across the beaches, hills and cliff faces. It’s a great time to visit – just be prepared for crowds.
I salute those committed locals who still try to run the track during Sculpture by the Sea, dodging the camera-wielding masses. Your commitment is commendable. I’m definitely not one of them.
- There’s lots of children’s playgrounds (everywhere except Gordons Bay). Children and husbands will be most happy.
- If you’re planning on bringing your canine friend, be aware that dogs aren’t allowed to have a paddle at any of these beaches.
- There’s sport playing of every imaginable variety. Frisbee-throwing, volleyball, soccer, yoga, even tight rope walking.
- There’s lots of quintessentially-Sydney ocean pools to spy. The prettiest is at Bronte (in my opinion), but there’s a couple at Bondi (including the famous Bondi Icebergs), one at Clovelly and three at Coogee.
- Pack sunscreen. It’s six kilometres of total sun exposure and I’ve had silly friends do this walk in the height of summer sans sunscreen, which is just bloody stupid.
- Between Bondi and Tamarama you might spot NSW’s smallest beach – Mackenzies Point Beach – only if the tide’s out. It’s too dangerous to swim here, which is no fun really.
- Once you get to Coogee Beach, reward yourself with a frose from Coogee Pavilion and a good ol’ people watch.
Sign me up for rehab because hot dog the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is beautifully addictive. And I should have really put a limit on how many times I was allowed to use the word ‘beautiful’ in this post… You get the point.