A trip I had always yearned to do in my own backyard was to walk Sydney’s famed beaches. Like most Aussies, I love a good beach and the chance to walk from Barrenjoey Lighthouse in the north to Maroubra in the south seemed a perfect way to spend 6 days.
My husband and I carried a small backpack each, and at day’s end, checked into a hotel. Fun! At the end of June, the weather was perfect – blue skies and balmy temps. We were truly blessed given that the week before, Sydney had shivered its way through sub arctic conditions.
We flew into Sydney airport, purchased an Opal transit card and in no time we were on a train and then a bus to Palm Beach. Easy! Barrenjoey Lighthouse did not disappoint, neither did Palm Beach nor its neighbour Whale Beach. Both were spectacular.
Our plan was to walk all the way to Narrabeen, a distance of 20 kms, but at Mona Vale we decided this was way too ambitious, and ended up catching a bus. Narrabeen Hotel was a good choice; beach views, refurbished good sized rooms and a bustling bistro.
We had a good look at the damaged Collaroy beaches the next day on our way to Manly. Fingers crossed for the home owners as they continue to battle council. The walk around Dee Why was particularly good. Lots of bush, ocean views and very few people on the track.
Manly was quiet at this time of the year so it was easy to find accommodation and score a table at a restaurant.
A short ferry ride from Manly is Cockatoo Island, UNESCO world heritage listed in the middle of Sydney Harbour. It originally housed convicts to take the pressure off overcrowded Norfolk Island, then it became a reform school for wayward girls and finally a shipbuilding showpiece. Really interesting, especially with the audio.
My husband is a Balmain Tigers rugby league tragic, so a visit to the suburb of Balmain was firmly on the itinerary. The club and its fields have long gone, but the colonial era buildings and pubs remain in all their glory. Balmain, being so close to the CBD and harbour has well and truly lost its working class label with house prices among the most expensive in Sydney.
Balmain is well known for its pubs. Apparently, the suburb once had 40 pubs for 15,000 people! On our pub crawl we checked out The London Hotel whose claim to fame is the oldest hotel in Sydney, operating since the 1870s. The long time owners have retained much of its 1870s look.
Sir William Wallace Hotel with the slogan ‘Every man dies…not every man really lives’ is a lesson in Scottish history and Australian trade unionism. Many Scots from Clyde and Tyne shipyards migrated to the Balmain area to work in the nearby shipyards. Balmain seethed with industrial unrest, so no surprise that the suburb became the home of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union as well as the Waterside Workers Union.
The Riverview Hotel, also an old pub, was once owned by Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser. Wish we were there at night to enjoy the fireplace and comfy leather chairs.
What’s a Sydney beach walk without dropping into the iconic Bondi? This well established beachside suburb deserves its accolades. It is a spectacular beach and Bondi bars and restaurants like Icebergs are pretty damn good too.
We based ourselves at Bondi for a couple of nights, dedicating one full day to walk to Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee.
The next day we walked to Maroubra which had been on my radar since I viewed the Abberton brothers’ 2007 self produced doco ‘Bra Boys”. Their doco, narrated by Russell Crowe, highlights the awful problems confronting youth in this socially and economically depressed seaside suburb. The surf really was the saviour for many of these boys. Today, Maroubra boasts expensive real estate; its water views are highly sought after. The tide is definitely turning.
We even managed to fit in a walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge to Kirribilli for lunch. The views from the bridge over Sydney Opera House below were postcard perfect.