Sydney is, in many ways, defined by its natural wonders. The Blue Mountains to the west, the harbour running through the middle, and the stunning coast along the east. It’s these elements that fundamentally make it the beautiful city that it is.
When it comes to the coast, there are dozens of beaches, rock pools, lookouts, and walking tracks to explore. I would recommend having a look at my recommendations for the best way to discover Sydney’s coastline.
The most famous spot of them all, though, is Bondi. As a visitor to Sydney, it’s one of the places you should visit to get a sense of what is so special about the city. And there are lots of things to do in Bondi.
There’s a right way to do Bondi and there’s a wrong way.
The wrong way is to treat Bondi like a tourist attraction. Unfortunately I see it all the time – people jumping off a bus, taking a few photos, perhaps wandering down on the sand in jeans, then getting back on the bus and heading off to the next stop.
Bondi is not just a scenic view or another landmark to cross off the list. The enjoyable thing about visiting Bondi is about slowing down, relaxing into the beachside atmosphere, going for a swim and a walk along the coast, having a coffee or a meal.
I would recommend at least a few hours to make the most of all the things to do in Bondi. While you don’t need to plan everything in advance, here are some of my tips for making the most of your visit.
When is the best time to visit Bondi?
Bondi has a very different feel throughout the day, and the time you visit will influence the atmosphere you’ll discover.
First thing in the morning (from 7am, for example), it’s absolutely magical. The sun is rising over the water, the beach is almost empty of people, and (in summer) the temperature is perfect.
If you can, I would recommend going down to North Bondi for an early morning swim one day and then grabbing a coffee or breakfast at one of the cafes. If this doesn’t help you fall in love with Sydney, I don’t know what will!
During the summer months, I would recommend NOT visiting Bondi in the middle of the day. It can get very hot and the glare from the sun is quite intense.
Although it’s nice to have a swim when it’s this hot, it’s quite uncomfortable exploring other parts of the neighbourhood and the coastal walk (which I’ll discuss soon) can be unpleasant. (Winter is a different story and the middle of the day can be quite a nice time to be outdoors here.)
So, when is the best time to visit Bondi? Well, I would suggest coming down around 9am and spending a few hours here before it gets too hot. Or come down around 4pm when it’s starting to cool down and get ready for some evening drinks.
How do you get to Bondi?
If you have a car, it’s quite easy to drive to Bondi. However, parking can be difficult (and expensive) on busy days. If you do drive, I would recommend looking for parking in one of the side streets away from the beach and be prepared to walk for five or ten minutes.
The best option for most people will be public transport and there are regular buses to Bondi Beach from Bondi Junction, which you can reach by train from anywhere in Sydney. Look out for bus number 333, which is an express service and takes about 15 minutes.
Remember, you can’t pay cash on most Sydney buses. If you need more information, check out my guide to Sydney’s public transport.
You might want to consider staying in Bondi to be close to the water for your whole trip. The nicest hotel is the QT Bondi, right on the water, but I’ve got more suggestions at the end of this article for the best places to stay in Bondi.
One of the nice things about visiting Bondi is that you can relax a bit and take things as they come – swim when you’re hot, eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty.
But having said that, here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Bondi, to make sure you make the most of your visit.
In the water
If you’ve never been to Bondi before, bring your swimmers, because you’re going to want to get into the water when you see this beautiful beach!
Go for a swim
Of course, it’s a beach, so the number one thing to do in Bondi is go for a swim. It’s a long beach (about a kilometre across) so it may seem at first like there are lots of spots to swim. But, for safety, you should always look for the red and yellow flags and swim between them. This is the area that the life guards have decided is the safest – and the area they’re watching.
Bondi will often have more than one set of flags. If you have a choice, I recommend North Bondi because it has a bit more of a local feel and is usually not quite as crowded.
There are lockers in the Bondi Pavilion if you’re worried about your valuables, but most people just leave their things on the beach when they swim. Although there is very occasional theft, it’s normally pretty safe.
Learn to surf
Bondi is great for swimming – and it’s also great for surfing. It’s probably not the very best surf beach in Sydney but, being one of the most convenient to reach, it’s one of the most popular.
If you’re interested in learning to surf, you can do lessons here that will show you all the basics and help you catch your first wave.
The surf school is designed to be more of a tourist experience than an actual course to learn how to surf (that takes more than a couple of hours). But it’s a fun way to experience Bondi and learn a bit more about Australian culture.
There’s a great surf lesson here that I would recommend – or any of the following options are good:
At the southern end of Bondi is the iconic Icebergs. It started as a winter swimming club in 1929 and the pool is used by club members (they are called ‘an Iceberg’) who do weekly races on Sundays.
But you can also pay to go in and use the pool as a casual guest any time of the year. The lanes are great for people who want to swim laps – it’s not really just for splashing around.
Icebergs has become famous in recent years because it’s also an amazing place for food and drinks. There’s the upmarket Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, where you’ll pay about $50 for a main course or $180 for the tasting menu.
But there’s also the bistro, which has a much more casual vibe. An average main is about $25 and the drinks are also reasonably priced. The views across the beach are priceless, though!
Around the beach
Along the promenade above the sand, and in the side streets across the main road, you’ll find there’s more to do in Bondi than just the beach.
There’s not too much to see at Bondi Pavilion but it’s worth having a quick look because it’s an important part of the beach’s heritage.
The Bondi Pavilion was opened in 1929, mainly as a changing room, because this was a more conservative time when you didn’t just turn up at the beach in board shorts or a bikini. But the building also had space for social and cultural events.
It’s these cultural spaces that you’ll still find today, and the gallery usually has an interesting (normally free) exhibition. There are also regular concerts, theatre, film nights that may be of interest.
(Bondi Pavilion is currently undergoing restoration and will be closed until early 2022.)
Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall
Along the edge of the southern part of the beach promenade, you’ll find the Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall. It started as something illegal – young kids in the 1970s and 1980s using it to spray their tags – but in the late 1980s it was made an official space for young people to come and work on their street art.
Now it’s actually a curated space that has a mix of more traditional graffiti, with murals and stencil art. The spaces along the wall are allocated to particular artists for a specific length of time, so it’s always changing.
Some of the artworks are clearly designed to be Instagram backgrounds, while others have a significant social message. I would suggest taking some time to have a look at each of them, rather than just walking by quickly.
Although you might normally associate a trip to the beach with a spot of shopping, Bondi offers both. Don’t be fooled by the overpriced souvenir and big brand stores on Campbell Parade facing the coast – the real gems are in the backstreets.
If you’re looking for a cool local designer or some handmade crafts, there are some great shops to explore in Gould St, Hall St, and Curlewis St. Bondi as a suburb has a pretty hip reputation and that’s reflected in what’s for sale and the type of store you’ll find here.
There are a couple of great art shops that are interesting for visitors – check at Aquabumps and Cooee Aboriginal Art Gallery.
If you’re visiting on the weekend, you can also check out the stalls at the Bondi Markets, which are held in the grounds of the local Bondi Beach Public School. There’s some great local food and drink (you’ll probably be able to taste some without buying). But look out for the cool crafts and art that might make a nice souvenir.
The clothes and accessories (there’s lots of jewellery) are also good for shoppers because you’ll get a small taste of lots of different styles and designers all in the one place.
The Sydney coastline is stunning and you’ll get some amazing view of the cliffs, bays, and beaches in the stretch around Bondi. There are a few different walking options to see some of the highlights.
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
The 6-kilometre Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is one of my favourite things to do in Bondi (heck, it’s probably one of my favourite things to do in Sydney) and I recommend you give yourself the time to go along at least some of it.
This beautiful path follows the cliffs as it takes you past some of the most scenic beaches in Sydney, including Tamarama, Bronte, and Clovelly.
The trail starts from the Icebergs and would take you about an hour of fast walking to get to Coogee (in reality, it’ll probably take you longer because it’s hard to keep a fast pace when the path is busy). If you’re short of time, head to Bronte and back – that’s what a lot of locals do for a bit of exercise.
There’s lots more to say about the walk, and I’ve put everything you need to know into my Bondi to Coogee Walk guide.
Bondi Walking Tours
Although Bondi is a neighbourhood that you can just explore on your own – as I said, part of the fun is just relaxing – there are a couple of options to have locals explain more of the history and culture.
You can join a Bondi Aboriginal Walking Tour with local artist, Walangari Karntawarra, who will show you Aboriginal rock carvings, bush foods that are still grown here, and other parts of the Indigenous culture around Bondi.
You can also do a walking tour around Bondi with a local life saver, who will show you more about the coastal heritage and the surfing culture here at Australia’s most famous beach.
Federation Cliff Walk
The Bondi to Coogee Walk may be the famous one in this part of Sydney, but there’s actually another path that goes in the opposite direction – along the cliffs from North Bondi.
You’ll need to go through the backstreets first, to get to Raleigh Park in Dover Heights where the official path starts. The Federation Cliff Walk goes for five kilometres from here to Watsons Bay.
You’re not going through beaches here, like the path in the opposite direction, this is all about the jaw-dropping views of the cliffs and the ocean hitting the rocks beneath. It’s quite spectacular and, once you finish at Watsons Bay, you can get the ferry back to the CBD.
From May to November, this is also one of the best spots in Sydney to see whales!
The best places to eat in Bondi
There are a lot of places to eat in Bondi and you really are spoilt for choice. Local chefs know there is a trendy and affluent crowd here and they are trying to attract that market.
Although I’ll give you a few specific suggestions, there are lots of other places that are great. My tip would be to avoid anything on the main stretch of Campbell Parade that looks like it’s aimed at tourists – the best choices are the smaller local places with a bit of a crowd.
- Porch and Parlour: This local favourite has a combined ‘brunch’ menu for those late breakfasts. One of the most popular options is the green breaky bowl.
- Harrys: In a neighbourhood where restaurants change often with the trends, Harrys is a stalwart, with some classic breakfast options.
- Gusto: The food here is great, with healthy breakfast bowls – and I think it’s also got some of the best coffee in Bondi.
- Icebergs: You may remember I mentioned Icebergs earlier. It has amazing views and there’s the option of an affordable bistro meal or a more upmarket dining room choice.
- Speedos Cafe: A local Bondi institution with a good range of menu items for lunch and breakfast that have been dubbed ‘the most instagrammable food’.
- Bills: There are a few Bills restaurants around Sydney (and the world now) and they’re very popular for modern Australian. The sweet corn fritters with bacon is one of the most popular dishes.
- A Tavola: You’ll find cuisines from all around the world in Bondi, but one of the most popular here is Italian. A Tavola is one of the best Italian options and offers a great mix of the classics and modern tastes.
- North Bondi Fish: It’s the seaside so of course there are going to be a few good fish restaurants here. This is one of the best and the prices reflect the emphasis on quality.
- Sean’s Panorama: This may not look fancy but it’s one of Bondi’s top restaurants. It’s small and intimate and the emphasis is on high-quality local produce with a constantly-changing menu of modern Australian.
The best places to drink in Bondi
As the day goes on, Bondi tends to get busier as people arrive for the restaurants and the bars, not the beach itself.
There’s a lively social scene in Bondi and I think you’ll enjoy finding somewhere for a nice afternoon (or evening) drink.
- Bondi Beach Public Bar: A bustling bar right on the main drag, it’s got a fun feel in the afternoons and turns into a bit of a party in the evenings.
- Neighbourhood: It’s got a very casual feel with some easy dining options. This is more about a quiet drink than a party.
- Hotel Bondi: Hotel Bondi isn’t the trendiest at the beach but it’s got its loyal customers and is an easy option for a traditional pub meal and beer. Probably best avoided later in the night, though.
- Ravesis: Ravesis has been around for a long time and offers great views with a stylish interior design that’s great for an afternoon glass of wine or two.
The best places to stay in Bondi
It can take a while to get from the city centre to Bondi, with the traffic pretty bad during peak hour, and no trains that go this far east. It means it’s not an easy place just to pop to for a quick swim.
That’s why some people prefer to find accommodation in Bondi and stay here for their trip, with a morning swim or surf before breakfast.
Here are my tips for some of the best places to stay in Bondi.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BONDI
You’ll find something here for every budget, with accommodation right on the beach or down some of the quieter side streets.
The view of the water is fantastic from Wake Up! Bondi Beach – plus the hostel has clean rooms and friendly staff.
For something self-contained, I would recommend Bondi 38 Serviced Apartments because there’s a variety of options across from the beach.
The funky modern design of the QT Bondi brings even more colour to its excellent beachside location.