There is one way of seeing Australians as laid-back
people – all “no worries” and “she’ll be right” and partial
to happy hours and long weekends. But this view flies
in the face of daily reality in Sydney, which bursts to life in the morning, every morning,
as locals rise early to swim,
run, surf or salute the sun.
It’s a city that glitters brightest on the water so a dream day involves winding along its ocean and harbour shores. The Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk hugs the sandstone cliffs that meet the Pacific Ocean, taking in Bondi’s postcard beach and Icebergs ocean pool before travelling over rocks to Mackenzies Bay – some years a cove, some years a sandy beach but always unofficially known as “dog beach”. Then it’s on to tiny Tamarama Beach, the early-1900s site of Wonderland City with its seal pond, Alpine Slide and an elephant called Princess Alice. Now nicknamed Glamarama, it’s where Sydney’s fit and fashionable sun themselves and play volleyball but only sometimes swim, its rips being so treacherous. Around the bend, Bronte Beach is where Nippers swarm on Sundays and old men tan themselves leathery at the ocean baths.
Like so many things Australian, the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk doesn’t tout its wares; the journey continues well beyond Bronte – via the stone angels of Waverley Cemetery – to Clovelly, which was declared an aquatic reserve after a celebrity groper named Bluey was speared in 2002 (although it might have been another, less famous fish). At Clovelly Bowling & Recreation Club, the schooners are cheap and you can play lawn bowls overlooking the Pacific before combing the beach for shells so small and perfect, it’s as though a collector has dumped their stash. You could snorkel at Gordons Bay then continue to Coogee Beach, where children are coated in ice-cream and white sand, backpackers slackline between Norfolk Island pines and, in the backyard of a suburban home, that elephant, Princess Alice, lies. Everybody throngs to the Hemmes family’s Coogee Pavilion, where there’s ping-pong on the ground floor and only adults in the rooftop bar.
But this is a city with another marvellous body of water so if you can turn your back on the Pacific, take a taxi to Catalina,
at Rose Bay, where pelicans
fluff their plumes and look hopeful, making themselves as comfortable on the deck as the wealthy diners inside. Here you can embrace the sparkly joys
of a piece of Sydney Harbour where there are no bad tables.
Then, if this perfect Sydney day has to end, catch a ferry to Circular Quay before sunset. The harbour seduces, whether you have to squint in the sun or huddle from rain, but at night it’s aglow, studded with the lights of small boats, and there’s no better way to experience the spectacular lightshow than on the ferry. Wander up to the Sydney Opera House, where you can drink wine right under architect Jørn Utzon’s sails at the Cured & Cultured counter at Bennelong. It means climbing 72 granite steps to claim a stool but, as with anything in Sydney, the exertion is worth it.
Image: Nikki To