First published on 10 Jan 2012. Updated on 29 May 2013.
Sydneysiders are known to base their weekend plans around where they’ll be taking a dip. Eating, drinking, shopping and cultural pursuits are considered behind access to the big blue. We suggest you do the same. The city’s beachside café culture is killer, so swim, refuel and then plan your afternoon. You’ll find the best beaches in the Northern coastal suburbs, and east of Maroubra, and the busiest and most easily accessible are Bondi, Bronte and Manly. There’s a helluva lot more to do beyond the water too, so we’ve picked out the best cafes, bars and shops to visit while on your sandy sojourns.
Despite often getting a not so flattering ‘tourist hive’ wrap, Bondi Beach certainly isn’t a bad place to be on a summer day. The surf will shake just about any sin of the previous evening, there are plenty of awesome boutiques to cruise, and the café culture is some of the best in the city. And no visitor should leave town without first navigating the coastal walk between Bondi and Coogee Beaches, where they’ll see some of the world’s most dramatic cliff tops (from Notts Ave, Bondi to Arden St, Coogee).
This fashion boutique is one of the gems of Gould Street – which also houses awesome retro store Grandma Takes a Trip and trendy local label Ksubi – and is a perfect option for swimwear shopping. We Are Handsome and Tori Praver Swim are just two of the great labels stocked here, and good luck getting out of there without also picking up shoes, shades, and a dress.
Shop and Wine Bar
Fancy a post-swim tipple? This is the kind of place that if you visited twice they'd know your name and your poison. It's incredibly intimate (read: the size of a shoebox) and with only a handful of tables and chairs, you'll want to get in early. There are also a couple of tables outside but these are only any good in fine weather – even a hint of rain drives you straight inside and into the arms of a big red. Which, after a long day in the sun, may well be your only saving grace.
Once the home of the late-great Heath Ledger, Bronte is quieter than heaving Bondi, and boasts excellent surf culture and a selection of good-but-pricey cafes. Those looking to forego the scrambo in favour of a picnic should just pack some snags – the park has excellent public barbeques and plenty of green for a backyard cricket game.
There are lines out the door for the bread and even though they're not a sit-down cafe, you can't go past their sourdough. Pick some up en-route to the beach – it’s the perfect picnic staple.
Also known as the Bond Ocean Pool after lifesaving pioneer, Major Bond, this formalised ocean swimming bath benefits from a perfect setting right on the edge of Bronte Beach. It's a decent size for serious swimmers with a shallower end for the kids, and it's totally free. Bronte Rd, Bronte Beach 2204.
Their bacon and egg rolls may indeed be the business but anyone who has eaten here will tell you it's all about the scrambled eggs. The baristas pump out epic coffee, too.
This north-side beach suburb is moving away from its trashy, tourist roots and becoming a haven for good cafés, cosy bars and cutting edge fashion. And outdoorsy types will love the scenic walkway that winds around the coast from the beach to the Spit Bridge just as much as learning to surf - Manly Surf School, or practicing their topspin at the public volleyball nets. The best access from the city is by ferry from Circular Quay.
Most locals, or even sometime visitors, to Manly are familiar with Central Avenue’s Mint – a brilliantly curated store that stocks the likes of Chronicles of Never, Dr Denim and Karen Walker (9–15 Central Ave) – but there’s a new store a few streets away giving the north side shopping institution a run for its money, particularly when it comes to menswear. Last year Murdok opened its doors to reveal an exclusive line-up of labels including Sixpack France, PAM, Pigeonhole and Gravis shoes. We’ll certainly be back for the bamboo frame sunglasses from Une by Waiting for the Sun.
George McLean and Paul Fraser have delivered a new beachfront bar that at last does the Manly view justice. They shake a good cocktail, dish up dude food with a stoner bent (a nacho hot dog is one such option) and have a well-stocked library ready for the picking. Hemingway's is the kind of place Ernest himself would be happy to park awhile, and Miss Marley’s, a few streets away, is well worth a visit too.
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