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.
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.
Armed with a small backpack each, we flew into Sydney airport, purchased an Opal transit card and in no time were on a train and then a bus to Palm Beach. Barrenjoey Lighthouse didn’t disappoint, neither did Palm Beach nor its neighbour Whale Beach.
Our plan was to walk from Barrenjoey to Narrabeen, a distance of 20 kms, taking in all the good views, and it was a really good plan. What we didn’t count on was our constant need to stop, mainly to admire the beach scenes but also to refresh ourselves with a little liquid amber.
So, at Mona Vale we cheated and caught a bus to Narrabeen. Narrabeen Hotel was a good choice for our night’s stay with its beach views, refurbished good sized rooms and a bustling bistro.
Next day, we set off for Manly. Collaroy beaches were particularly damaged. Fingers crossed for the home owners as they continue to battle council.
Loads of ocean pools dotted the way and we saw a few swimmers braving the winter temps. The walk was particularly good with bush and ocean views and bonus … very few people on the track.
At Manly we found a very quiet beach and suburb. Being winter, it was easy to find accommodation and score a table at a restaurant.
A short ferry ride from Manly was 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. It was a really interesting place to visit, especially with the audio.
A Balmain Tigers rugby league tragic is my husband 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’s pubs were a definite drawcard. 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.
Of course, we called into iconic Bondi. This well established beachside suburb deserves its accolades. There is a spectacular beach and Bondi bars and restaurants like Icebergs (see feature photo) 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. It was a fabulous day.
The next day we walked to Maroubra. The Abberton brothers’ 2007 self produced doco ‘Bra Boys” is set here. Russell Crowe as narrator, highlights the awful problems confronting youth in this socially and economically depressed seaside suburb in 1990s.
Crowe strikes a chord when he says 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 had time to walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge to Kirribilli for lunch. The views from the bridge over Sydney Opera House below were postcard perfect.
Loads of Sydney coastal walking maps are worth downloading from https://www.sydney.com/things-to-do/nature-and-parks/walks/coastal-walks
2 thoughts on “Australia: Sydney Beaches”
Written so well I desire to do this walk myself.
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Wendy I am impressed with your insight, regarding the – important for the traveller to know. You could approach RACQ and write a monthly column for them, as , they are big on insights regarding traveller experiences. They have not captured the heart and soul / essence that you express – which resonates with every day people. You could be paid for this type of work that you produce.
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