When I first visited Sydney I met up with some Aussie friends at Bondi (pronounced “Bond-eye”) beach. I remember being shocked that they actually lived there. I asked one of them: “So you go to work and then you come home and…go to the beach?”.
I had travelled halfway around the world to visit this famous beach and here was a guy who had a similar day-to-day as me (similar job in media, working in the city), but he would finish his day in paradise. I couldn’t comprehend that you could actually live like this: city life and beach life together as one, with no compromise in sight. He then pointed to a block of apartments just behind me and said, ‘Yup, and I live right there!’. Gobsmacked.
It didn’t take long for me to move over. Soon I was working in the city, living a block from the beach and enjoying this miraculous, #nofilter life. – Alex
And now, five years later, it’s time to leave this beautiful place. It’s been amazing to pack up and not feel that panic of “What if I never do this again?”. That sense of completeness has come from hundreds of sunrise and sunset swims, gelatos, boardwalk/coastal walks, grassy knoll sits, and more. I think Tory and I can both say that we’ve lived Bondi to the fullest. In honour of this we’ve put together a little guide to help you get the most magic out of our favourite bubble…
Bondi – The bad
A lot of people in Sydney have an opinion about Bondi. Most of the time it goes something like this: too busy, too touristy, too expensive, too vain, too party hard, too wellness, etc. But I think, as with everything, there are many facets to it. Yes, you can find all of those things if you choose to, but our experience in Bondi has pretty much been the opposite.
If you like walking, you’re in paradise. If you try to drive, then you’re asking for it. And of course one of the most famous beaches in the world, in the biggest city in Australia, is going to be busy. What else would you expect? Summer brings the crowds for good reason, it’s 20min from the city and it’s gorgeous! Come winter though it’s a quiet little paradise, but you have to get out there to enjoy it.
Campbell Parade, the main street along the beach, is usually tourist central, but as soon as you turn onto Hall St, Curlewis St, wander into North Bondi, etc. you’re all good. When you live in Bondi you get to experience the strength of its community. Try to NOT run into someone you know – I literally can’t leave the house without having an impromptu catch up with a few friends along the way.
From billionaire penthouses (James Packer had a property on my street) to backpacker share houses…there’s literally something for everyone. I was lucky enough to find an apartment with very cheap rent and stay in it for five years. It was cheaper than what I paid in Toronto – and it was bigger, nicer and one block from the beach. Believe guys!
The land of fitness and yoga. Bondi is a land of beautiful people and it’s easy to look at that as intimidating, but instead of looking at how ‘good’ most people look I think it’s important to look at what they’re actually doing…running the beach, swimming at Icebergs, coastal walks, ocean swims, outdoor workouts…get amongst it! Find the joy and stop caring about what everyone looks like. Most people are outside pursuing their sporty passions, so find yours and join them. My favourite group are the 70+ budgie smuggler (speedo) swim crew, who are out for a sunrise swim EVERY, single morning, shouting hellos, always with big smiles on their faces.
If you’re looking for it you can always find it, but one of the beauties of Bondi is that most places aren’t open past 12. This means you can go out and still be well-rested for sunrise!
The land of GF, kombucha, bio-dynamic, mylks…yup, all true. I think I’m too far down the rabbit hole to comment on this one haha. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid and it was refined sugar free!
Bondi – the good
It’s called “the bubble” for good reason.
It’s the only place I’ve ever found where from about 5am-8am (give or take your schedule), you can swim, surf, run, do any other kind of workout, chat with friends while walking the boardwalk, meditate, be lucky enough to catch a breaching whale or jumping dolphin or two…but still be in your city office by 9am ready to pump out your day. And when summer rolls around, add coming home from work and doing it all over again until sunset. Absolutely life affirming.
Such an amazing community of positive, go-getting people who value and treasure how special the situation is. Case in point: there are two free foam surfboards that live in North Bondi, tied to the boardwalk. They’re for anyone to use and I’m guessing some magic fairy comes along to replace them if they ever get broken.
Top qualities: community, small-town vibes, friendly, safe, multicultural, the best activities are free, good food @ a good price, ridiculously beautiful, so walkable, best people watching, BEST ICE CREAM
Our top 5 favourite things to do in Bondi
After five years of dedicated research, here’s our list of the top five things to do in Bondi. Also note…with the exception of one, they’re all FREE…oh Australia <3. Heed this advice, go forth and enjoy it to the fullest!
Sunrise (swims) / $0
The number one thing I would tell anyone and everyone to do is sunrise. If you aren’t doing Bondi sunrises you are missing the best thing about it. No matter how tired you are or how cold it may seem, when you get down to Campbell Parade and see that beautiful bay, it shapes your whole day. Each sunrise is different (just ask Aquabumps). No matter how early you wake up, you’ll always feel like you’re late because there will always be someone keener than you already out on the boardwalk, the coastal run, in the water, etc. It’s a buzzing hive of happy people, all doing their own thing and you can’t help but be inspired by it. Starting your day feeling like you’ve already accomplished something great = priceless.
And if you’re out there for sunrise, why not add on a swim/dip/dunk…be brave. Get in there. You will never, ever regret it. I promise!*
*You also never know who you will bump into. Like the time Tory and I were walking down the boardwalk and ran into Hugh Jackman and Zach Efron fresh out of the water and rinsing off at the outdoor showers…
Pro tip: Someone once told me that the water temp is a few months behind the season, so the water’s actually warmest at the start of winter and coldest at the start of summer. – Alex
Icebergs sauna and swim / $8 per visit or get a 25 visit card for $160
Confession…I didn’t even go to Icebergs for the first two years I lived in Bondi. Have you seen it? Coming from Toronto, where anything that beautiful would require membership and $$$, I didn’t even think it was something I was allowed to do. It wasn’t until I wanted to improve my ocean swimming skills and signed up for swimming lessons at the pool that I realised its motto was ‘everyone is welcome’. I was never a lap swimmer until I took that course and learned the pure joy of swimming in a salty, straight-out-of-instagram pool. Add on some meditation or friendly chats in the sauna, complete with ocean view (I once watched a pod of dolphins leap for joy as I was dripping in sweat) and a post sauna hot waterfall shower in the change room and you are set…pretty much for life. – Alex
Bondi-Coogee coastal walk (or Bondi-Tamarama / Bondi-Bronte/Bondi-Clovelly) / $0
When I first moved to Bondi, I couldn’t believe the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk was in my backyard. It’s a 6km walk one way starting from Icebergs and winding along the coast on the cliffs past Mackenzies Bay, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Gordon’s Bay, and Coogee – all beautiful beaches unique in their own way. Everyone in the Eastern suburbs has a favourite and there’s really something for everyone whether you prefer rocky bays, white sand or cement or you’re into ocean pools, parks, bbqs, volleyball or tanning. Around every turn is another breathtaking view and there are some days when the sun is so bright and the ocean so blue that the water literally sparkles. During different parts of the walk you feel like you could be in the mediterranean, on mars or in the tropics and if you’re lucky you may spot dolphins, whales and the occasional local celebrity. I’ve probably done the walk almost a hundred times by now and still, every single time, I stop multiple times along the way to take it all in. It’s the type of experience I would have only had once a year on vacation when I lived in Toronto (if I was lucky), and now I could do it every day if I wanted to which I still can’t quite believe. – Tory
Grassy knoll sits (North & South)
North Bondi / Sunday summer sunset sesh:
Best place to listen to some acoustic guitar whilst watching the surfers, swimmers and sun, and enjoying a few before night falls. Also: very good people watching.
South Bondi / Full moon, new moon, or just any nighttime sesh:
Have sat on this well-lit grass, at night, with friends or on my own, probably over a hundred times. Lie down, take your shoes off, plant your feet on the grass and look up at the stars. Stay until everything feels calm, peaceful and right. Repeat as many nights as needed. – Alex
Nighttime runs / $0
One of my favourite solo things to do in Bondi is go for a run at night. I love running through the streets up to the North Bondi Golf Course where you can catch some epic sunsets and panoramic views of the neighbourhood and the ocean. In the summer, I’ll run down to the beach for a dip and in winter to the boardwalk for a mini workout. The beach at night is a completely different place – no crowds but always enough people around to make you feel safe. Bondi is my playground on those runs. Sometimes I’ll try to master a chin up at the infamous bars that are normally filled with musclemen and influencers (I still can’t do a single chin up without jumping!). Other times I’ll practice handstands, do a mini workout or just sprint down the boardwalk at full speed. There’s a sense of freedom in the darkness that makes me feel like a kid again. If you’re ever feeling like Bondi is too hectic or just need some peace, then definitely take some time to explore the neighbourhood at night because there’s a whole other side to it in those quieter moments. – Tory
Our favourite Bondi eats
Bondi has heaps of food options and we haven’t even come close to trying them all, but here are a few of the Bondi staples that we love and highly recommend. If you’ve ever visited us, we’ve probably taken to you at least one (or several) of the places on this list. – Tory
Cali Press – My go-to spot for smoothie bowls and people watching. They have the best acai in Bondi (expertly layered with delicious granola and topped with passionfruit, coconut flakes, goji berries, pistachios, banana, strawberry). Honourable mentions go to the PB & Choc and Green Me bowls and the Le Chocolat smoothie.
Nalinis – Delicious, healthy, plant-based Indian meals cooked with love! Nourishing food made by a mother and daughter team that feeds your body and soul. The falafel bowl and tasting platter are my favs and if you’re keen for dessert their nut-based ice creams are a treat.
El Indio – Authentic Colombian food and warm vibes. I recommend the bowls which come in huge portions and include your meat of choice, rice, beans, salad, and plantains (the best!). Always brings me back to the days of living in Costa Rica and getting $5 meals from the local soda.
Bangkok Bites – Best Thai food in Bondi. BYO, super fast service and delicious meals that come in generous portions. The seafood feast, papaya salad with softshell crab, and pad thai are a must.
Gertrude & Alice – The bookstore/cafe of my dreams – cozy, warm, serves delicious meals and always has a box of free books to peruse outside. The lentil soup is famous for good reason and their sweet treats will satisfy any of your sugar cravings.
Macelleria – I still don’t know how to pronounce this one but what I do know is that they have the best burgers in Bondi. And it’s not just burgers, you can get steaks and other meat cooked fresh as well as some delicious sides – sweet potato wedges and mixed veg are always winners.
Messina – My first love in Bondi! Alex took me on a Messina Gelato tour when I first arrived in Sydney that included a 5 course degustation at their factory and I was hooked. They make everything themselves (they even have their own dairy cows now) and they put actual chunks of cake/pie/cookie etc. into their gelato. Every week they have new feature flavours and they let you taste test as many as you want! I recommend always trying a few of the features, but you can never go wrong with salted coconut mango, mint chip (very minty!), choc chip and anything chocolatey. Also pro-tip from the factory tour – any time they have pistachio gelato they are actually selling at a loss so take advantage if that’s your flavour of choice!
The Shop – Tiny spot owned by Bondi locals that makes it feel like you’re eating a home-cooked meal with your family…because they are…a family…and you feel it. Their salads are divine, especially the Japanese chop chop and Italian meatball.
* Side note – Just realised 5/8 of these places are on the same street within 100m of each other, that’s how small the Bondi bubble is!
Other random, wonderful Bondi things
Going to Harris Farm Markets multiple times a week (sometimes multiple times a day)
- Margaritas at Bondi Rumba, cheeky dance sessions at Bar 34, chicken kahuna burgers at The Stuffed Beaver
- Petting Billy at Birichina on the walk down to the beach
- Going for a swim at the exact same time as [insert friend’s name here], without ever having to make plans to do so
- Walking out of the house on a Sunday at 7am and not coming back till 7pm because you’ve spent the whole day going from random run in, to impromptu activity to impromptu meal
- Hearing so many different languages as you walk down the street
- The little community library bookshelf popups scattered all over the place, often found in random little alleyways
- Sunset summer surfs after work, even when there are no waves and you just sit out there surrounded by a haze of cotton candy skies
- The days when the ocean is so flat you can just float on your back for ages
- F45 Bondi, the BEST team of trainers and fitness community
- Drinking chai at the market on Saturdays
- The house on Curlewis that says ‘Stop Making Sense’
- Uge-spotting (Aquabumps)
- Seeing every Australian reality TV personality in person at the pub, boardwalk, Icebergs, etc.
- Chocolate chip cookies from Umu
- Swimming the bay and having the lifeguards come over to ask you “How ya going?”
- Sunset volleyball sessions: friends, music, life!
- Walking the boardwalk: bare feet on warm concrete – one of life’s simplest pleasures
- Spotting new art on the graffiti wall along the boardwalk
- Forest Knoll Ave…if streets looked like fairy tales, this would be it
So that’s our little (long) love letter to Bondi, our cozy bubble home for the past several years.
Bondi, you’ve brought us more beauty, joy, friendship and life lessons than we could have ever imagined. Thank you for the countless fairy floss skies, ocean therapy sessions, lazy beach days, boardwalk strolls and nights spent stargazing. You’ll always have a place in our hearts as our first Aussie home. Bondi, you are pure magic and we love you!