“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea,
Drink the wild air’s salubrity.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Merlin’s Song
“Oh, I love going to the beach,” our Uber driver was saying as we rode through Sydney’s streets on a quiet Sunday morning. It was our last day in this city that had quickly won us over, and we were heading about thirty minutes to the coast to walk the infamous Bondi to Coogee Beach trail. Our Russian driver, as passionate about living in Sydney as everyone else we had met, filled us in on various beaches, and by the time he had finished, it sounded as if they all were pretty great.
I had purchased a downloadable trail map from Sydney Coast Walks and had planned to follow their recommendation to do the three-and-a-half-mile walk in reverse, from Coogee to Bondi (pronounced Bond-eye). The estimated time to reach Bondi was two hours, not including any stops.
“Although it’s more widely known as the Bondi to Coogee walk, we prefer to walk it in the other direction. We think the reveal of Bondi Beach makes it more exciting; more like you’ve arrived at your destination.”
~Ian and Tara Wells, Sydney Coast Walks
The paved walkway at Coogee Beach was larger than I had envisioned. Trimmed in blue tiles with steps leading to the sand beyond, it was tempting to take a break there before we had even started.
We followed the coastline north to Dolphin Point, where stairs lead to an open rock pool that was once known as Giles Baths. When the Giles Bath complex was demolished in 2002, the portico was preserved and later became a memorial to the Australian victims of the 2002 Bali terrorist attack.
The trail grew narrower, winding along the coast, weaving through neighborhoods, even veering inland for a brief time. Walkers and runners heading in both directions filled up the pathways. Dogs raced alongside their owners, some running off-leash, as if they knew the intricacies of the route by heart.
The terrain was also continually changing. Wooden walkways, concrete roads, stone steps, pebbly dirt paths. We never knew exactly what to expect around the next bend. It was fresh and invigorating and kept us completely “in the moment.” By the time we arrived at Gordons Bay, all we could do was smile.
We reached an open area filled with fisherman, swimmers and seagulls. Just beyond was Clovelly Beach, carved from a narrow bay between two rocky ridges. It was a peaceful, sheltered setting, surrounded by golden rolling hills, and seemed especially popular with families.
The next stop was the most unusual and unexpected of the walk. Waverley Cemetery, opened in 1877 on the clifftops of Bronte, clearly must claim a spot on the list of most beautiful resting places in the world. Filled with ornate monuments and graves of Australian politicians, authors, athletes and poets, its unique setting and local significance reminded me of La Recoleta in Buenos Aires.
Because of storm damage along this portion of the coastal walk in 2016, a detour had been routed through the middle of the cemetery, offering a chance to wander through Waverley before heading back on the main trail.
We continued along the coast past Bronte Beach, another little haven of glorious sand and inviting crystalline waters, and on to a section called Gaerloch Reserve. The surrounding terrain was becoming more rugged, with unusual rock formations providing an abrupt contrast to the previous portions of the trail.
On the final stretch before reaching Bondi Beach, the trail wound past Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club and its stunning saltwater pool. Juxtaposed with surrounding waves from the sea, it’s one of the most beautiful swimming sites imaginable.
And just beyond Bondi Icebergs, in a truly glorious “reveal,” was Bondi Beach. We had reached the end of the trail.
It was a captivating setting, a moment of endless summer perfection spread out before us.
* * * * *
Later that afternoon, we closed our suitcases and prepared for the next leg of our journey “down under.” I always find it difficult to leave a place that I’m just getting to know. I’m excited for what lies ahead, but hesitant to let go of new experiences, wanting to hold on until the memories are etched vividly in my mind. Sydney was an especially bittersweet goodbye.
The Seabourn Encore was docked at White Bay Terminal, ready to take us down Australia’s east coast to Melbourne and across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. It was a beautiful sail-away, passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge as we headed into the open sea. The setting sun was signaling a change, a fitting farewell to our time in Sydney. Maybe moving on wouldn’t be so hard after all.