Ask any Aussie to compile a list of the country’s most iconic landmarks, and chances are, Bondi Beach will be on it.
The Sydney seaside suburb, which has long informed the city’s laidback psyche, is famous for golden sand, beautiful bodies, celebrity homes, and even a reality TV series. However, there’s so much more to Bondi than just the obvious or superficial. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll discover a wealth of innovative eateries, old-school institutions, charming Art Deco architecture, wellness sanctuaries and creative endeavours.
From the healthy to the hedonistic, here are ten of the best things to do in Bondi.
What began as a modest inner-city café has become a global dining empire, stretching as far as Tokyo, Honolulu and London. bills has been a perennial favourite for breakfast in Sydney for close to 30 years, and the Bondi venue serves up sunny vibes, a laidback atmosphere, and the classic breakfast dishes that the now-chain has become best known for.
Tuck into fluffy scrambled eggs with sourdough toast or even fluffier ricotta hot cakes with banana and maple syrup — the perfect fuel for your day of exploring ahead.
OK, it would be very wrong to come to Bondi and not step foot on the sand. The crescent-shaped beach is about one kilometre long and overlooks the shimmering Pacific Ocean. On a hot summer’s day, pre-social distancing, one would generally see both sand and surf coated with bronzed bodies in bikinis and boardies. Today, you’ll find more space between bathers, but no less enthusiasm for the surf and sun worship.
Stake your claim and spread out your towel, then splash in the shallows or learn to longboard with one of the local surf schools. If you’re body-confident, join the ‘see and be seen’ crowd strutting up and down the beach. Afterwards, stroll along the promenade (past the Art Deco Bondi Surf Pavilion) with an ice-cream cone in hand, and do some people-watching.
Pack your walking shoes, because the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the area. Approximately four kilometres long (six if you continue on to Coogee Beach), the track snakes along the cliff from Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach — with Tamarama in between — offering breathtaking views of the ocean and foreshore along the way.
Surfers and paddle-boarders bob about, while seagulls squawk and cormorants dive. Depending on the season, you may be lucky enough to spot frolicking dolphins and even spouting whales. You can do the walk in as little as 1.5 hours, or make a day of it and take breaks for swimming along the way.
The much-photographed outdoor lap pool at the Bondi Icebergs Club — better known simply as Icebergs — has been a popular part of Bondi life for more than a century. Home to Australia’s oldest winter swimming club, hardy members are expected to compete on three out of every four Sundays for five years to keep their membership.
The ocean-fed pool is open to the public all year round, but if you aren’t up for braving the blue, dive into a great meal at one of their food and beverage venues instead. There’s a casual bistro and two bars serving sensational panoramas with your meal or drink.
You’ve seen them on the telly, now get to know Bondi through the eyes of a real life lifesaver. Surf lifesaving as we know it began on the beaches of Sydney back in the early 20th century. Today, these amazing trained volunteers give their time to protect swimmers at beaches across the country. Let’s Go Surfing offers a walking tour of the Bondi foreshore with a surf lifesaver. You’ll get a look inside a surf lifesaving club and the opportunity to snap a selfie holding a rescue board.
For a long, lazy lunch, take a seat at Totti’s. Hidden behind a nondescript pub, this casual Italian-style eatery is another winner from the Merivale hospitality empire, and offers an innovative menu designed for sharing, an easy-to-navigate wine list, and tables in a lovely alfresco courtyard shaded by olive trees.
Start off by ordering a Negroni (available by the litre!) and Totti’s popular wood-fired bread — an oversized disc of dough, puffed up to perfection and flecked with salt. Tear it up to fold around silky strips of mortadella and other delicious house-made antipasti. It’s a taste revelation!
Back in 1999, Eugene Tan — founder of Aquabumps — began waking up at sunrise to take photos of Bondi Beach. More than two decades later, his combined passion for surfing, photography and the web have led to collaborations with companies as diverse as Speedo, Havaianas, and the Australian Ballet.
Eugene’s distinctive images of everyday beach life provide escapism for the 40,000+ subscribers who get early morning surf shots delivered to their email inboxes daily. Subscribe online, or swing by the gallery on Curlewis Street and snap up a glossy print to adorn your wall.
If your time on the beach has inspired a health-kick, kick start it with a visit to the Nimbus & Co wellness studio. Be soothed by the calm-inducing white interior, before sweating out those toxins in one of the state-of-the-art infrared saunas. Each sleek timber and glass box inhabits its own private therapy room, where you can choose your treatment program and tunes playlist (or skip the music and read instead).
Unlike traditional saunas that simply heat up the air and surface of your skin, infrared saunas use light to warm you up from the inside out, penetrating deeper into muscles, tissues and cells to boost metabolism, immunity and muscle recovery. You’ll leave feeling like you’re walking on clouds.
There’s no shortage of opportunities to shop for beach-inspired chic in Bondi. Designed in the suburb, head to Jones & Co online for heart motifs on hanging planters, pots in a myriad of rainbow colours, and face vases guaranteed to put a smile on your dial. Jones & Co also give back to the community — $1 from every online sale goes to charity.
On the ground, check out the weekend Bondi Markets at the Bondi Beach public school. Saturdays are all about fresh produce and gourmet goodies (perfect for putting together a beachfront picnic), while Sunday brings local designers and artisans to the fore. Shop for clothing, jewellery, art and homewares.
With its cream coloured booths, sleek centrepiece bar, and accents of marble, blond wood and brass, The Pacific Club is shaking up Bondi’s dining scene. This bistro-slash-beach-club is breezy, buzzy and sophisticated, with a menu to match. The beef tartare and woodfired cauliflower are standout starters, and don’t pass on the truffle mash (possibly the most decadent and delicious take on the humble spud to ever cross your lips).
There’s a rotating roster of weekly specials, including $1 oysters on Wednesdays, unlimited mussels and fries on Thursdays, and an epic bottomless brunch on weekends.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Bondi? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Cindy Bingley-Pullin considers herself a freelance writer, wanderluster, corporate bee and happy homemaker. In between analysing spreadsheets in the office, she pursues her combined passions of travel and writing. Her work has appeared in Virgin Australia’s Voyeur magazine, International Traveller, Fitness First magazine, and the Sydney Morning Herald.