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  1. Ocean at Bondi Beach
    Photograph: Anna Kucera
  2. Patrons 2 at Bills Bondi
    Photograph: Anna Kucera
  3. Inside at Isabel Bar Bondi
    Photograph: Anna Kucera
  4. Bike at Bondi Beach
    Photograph: Anna Kucera
  5. Person buying food at Bondi Farmers Markets
    Photograph: Daniel Boud
  6. Bondi beach street art
    Photograph: Daniel Boud
  7. Avocado on toast at Harry's Cafe Bondi
    Photograph: Anna Kucera
  8. Products on shelf at Bondi Wash
    Photograph: Anna Kucera
  9. Icebergs Pool with Bondi Beach in the backgroud
    Photograph: Daniel Boud

A local's guide to Bondi

Enjoy the surf and sand by day and some of Sydney’s best restaurants and bars by night in this iconic beachside suburb

Written by
Sarah Theeboom
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Aside from boasting Sydney’s most famous beach, Bondi offers an unusual combination of laid back coastal lifestyle and cosmopolitan buzz. Once a working class suburb with a large community of European Jewish immigrants, these days it’s more glamorous and upscale – but still immensely popular with budget travellers. The beach and surrounding streets reveal a fascinating cross section of humanity: botox and thongs, prams and surfboards, billionaires and backpackers. These strange bedfellows cross paths constantly throughout the day, from the early risers who surf, exercise and hit the cafes for breakfast, to the night owls who throng the bars and restaurants along Hall Street, Bondi Road and Campbell Parade.

EAT DRINK COFFEE THINGS TO DO SHOPPING

What is it known for?

There’s a joke that Bondi Beach is famous for being famous, and in some ways it’s true. Deservedly or not, the one-kilometre stretch of sand has become an epicentre of Australian beach culture, drawing locals and international visitors alike. It’s beautiful for sure, a wide semicircle of golden sand punctuated by cliffs at either end. Some of those cliffs feature Aboriginal rock carvings, including one of a shark attack, left by the traditional inhabitants (either from the Eora or Darug language group, depending on who you ask). 

Bondi is only seven kilometres from the CBD, and within a century of European settlement it had become an extremely popular recreational spot. In the 1880’s it officially became a public beach with a tramline transporting daytrippers from the city. In the 1900’s the council installed public amenities such as change rooms and showers, and the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club was established – the first surf lifesaving club in the country. By the 1930’s Bondi was receiving 60,000 daily visitors on average during summer weekends, and was fast becoming a destination for international tourists.

Around 90 years later its popularity hasn’t waned. Up to 3 million visitors come to Bondi each year, and you’ll hear multiple languages being spoken at the beach, along the promenade and in the surrounding streets. 

Why do the locals love it?

Where else do you get this density of amenities, people and energy right by the beach? “Bondi has everything from beautiful clean water to amazing restaurants, markets, clothing and bars all within a stone's throw of the ocean,” say Nathan Dalah and Nic Pestalozzi, co-founders of Fishbowl and the recently opened Fish Shop. “It's a diverse melting pot of people, ideas, architecture and activity that is unique to this corner of the world – and it's only getting better.”

Despite all the change, growth and gentrification, it is still a beach suburb at heart. “Bondi was our local beach growing up, and to this day we love nothing more than jumping into the ocean off Ben Buckler point after a hectic day's work.” 

How do I get to Bondi?

From Bondi Junction station there are multiple buses that will get you to the beach within 10-15 minutes, including the 380 and 333 express. By car, it’s a 15-20 minute drive from the city, although parking near the beach can be pricey. Once you’re in Bondi, many of the shops and restaurants are walking distance from the beach. E-bike share services such as Lime and Beam are a convenient and fun way to get around.

What’s nearby?

Directly east is the retail precinct and transport hub of Bondi Junction, beyond which lie Centennial Park and the Sydney Cricket Ground. To the south are Tamarama and Bronte beaches, accessible by road or via a beautiful coastal walking trail. The rest of the adjoining suburbs are residential, including Waverley, Bellevue Hill, Rose Bay (the closest ferry stop) and Dover Heights. 

Map of Bondi

If you only do one thing…

Go to the beach. We realise it's not a groundbreaking suggestion, but going to Bondi and skipping the beach is akin to visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. If you're not into swimming and sunbathing, walk along the promenade and check out the murals. On the south end of the beach, there are usually volleyball games to watch and some daredevil tricks taking place at the skatepark. The grassy knoll on the north end of the beach is a popular place to hang out, with BBQ facilities and occasional sunset drum circles. Keep going up the hill and you’ll reach the Ben Buckler cliffs, a lovely lookout point with a view over Bondi Bay. Kids will enjoy the playground next to Bondi Pavilion as well as the protected ocean pool on the beach’s northern end.

Eat
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Eat

With all the skin being bared down by the sand, you might expect Bondi to be all juice bars and health bowls. And while there are plenty of both, the locals aren’t afraid of carbs either, as evidenced by the slew of pasta-championing modern Italian joints. Hidden inside an old pub on Bondi road, the courtyard at Merivale’s perennially popular Totti’s is a gathering place for the stylish and hungry. It’s all about the woodfired bread here – charred, puffy, and made for tearing apart and pairing with antipasti. A few doors down, hole-in-the-wall Peppe’s is the current project by the people behind the now-shuttered plant-based fine diner, Paperbark. The cosy little osteria plates up hand-made, vegan and gluten-free gnocchi and pasta that’s as authentic and tasty as anything you’d find at Nonna’s house. 

Over on Hall street, there are two excellent trattorias within the Adina Apartments complex. There’s the beachside outpost of popular Darlinghurst restaurant, A Tavola, where you can sometimes see the pasta being rolled at the long communal marble table for which the place is named. Over at Maurice Terzini’s Cicciabella, the star studded kitchen sends out elevated antipasti, pizza and pasta all designed to share.  

Maurice Terzini’s other restaurant, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, is the kitchen with the best view in Bondi. Perched atop the Icebergs pool with its ocean views and high-end Italian fare, this fine dining restaurant is the ultimate special occasion venue, and known for attracting celebrity clientele. Bondi’s other fine dining institution is Sean’s Panoroma, where Sean Moran has been serving seasonal, produce-driven modern Australian fare for 25 years. It may look like a casual beachside cottage, but don’t be fooled – the calibre of food and service is among the city’s best.

Of course, seaside dining calls for fish and chips, and pint-sized Bondi’s Best does a quality rendition alongside excellent sushi. If you can’t nab one of the handful of seats, get your food to takeaway and eat by the water. Alternatively, book a table at buzzy North Bondi Fish for a sit-down seafood feast, surrounded by Bondi’s tanned and beautiful, just a stone’s throw from the sand. 

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Drink
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Drink

There’s an impressive diversity of drinking establishments in Bondi, whether you’re after a carefully crafted cocktail, a post-swim beer or a raucous night out. For the latter, the Beach Road Hotel is a rite of passage, as well as a great place to catch live music. The more chi chi Hotel Ravesis is another classic Bondi watering hole, with a pink-and-white colour scheme channeling Palm Springs vibes.

For some serious mixology, look no further than Japanese-inspired Isabel or Rosenbaum and FullerOn the more cheerfully divey end of the spectrum, you’ve got nautical themed margarita joint the Anchor and Canadian sports bar and diner, the Stuffed BeaverLooking for an intimate, dimly-lit spot for a date? Wine bars Ode and shoeboxed-sized The Shop have your number – provided you can nab a table, that is.

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Coffee
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Coffee

Bondi locals are early risers, which makes coffee as important a part of the morning ritual as a sunrise surf or pre-work workout. Skittle Lane doesn’t offer much by way of food or even seating, but it’s one of only two Sydney outposts of this specialty roaster, and you can watch them roast beans or browse shelves of ceramic caffeinating accessories while you wait for your order. The other roaster in Bondi is Will and Co, which is headquartered on the corner of Beach and Gould streets. Again, there’s no food, but there’s plenty of room to sit down and enjoy your cuppa in the airy corner coffee shop.


If you’re after some breakfast with your coffee, Bondi is awash in quality cafes churning out acai bowls and avocado toasts. But if you’re craving a change from eggs and other brunch standards, Bills – although expensive – is rightly famous for its ricotta hotcakes and sweetcorn fritters. Lox, Stock and Barrel combines excellent coffee with bagels and other New York Jewish deli-inspired fare. And slightly further afield in North Bondi, perennially popular Shuk serves fresh, Israeli dishes such as hummus bowls, shakshuka and a Mediterranean breakfast platter. Otherwise, head to community-oriented Republic Bakery for killer almond croissants, fruit-free fruit buns and punchy coffee. 

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Things to Do
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Things to Do

To make the most of Bondi, you really need to get outdoors. For a change from the beach, go for a dip at the Icebergs Pool – the most photographed ocean baths in Australia, and an important part of Bondi’s history. It’s home to the eponymous winter swimming club, established in 1929 by lifeguards seeking to stay fit over the off-season. Members must swim three Sundays out of every four, for a period of five years, to become an official Iceberg. (The pool is also home to the Bondi Icecubes, the largest – and most adorably named – junior winter swimming club in Australia.) Public entry to the lap pool, kids pool and sauna is $9 for adults and $6 for under-12s, and there’s a cafe and bistro onsite when you need refueling.

Just next to the baths is the start of the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, a jaw droppingly beautiful cliffside trail along the edge of the continent. The six-kilometer path skirts several beaches and inlets – including Mackenzies Bay whose beach only appears every couple of years – so bring your swimmers and a towel. There are also excellent snorkelling opportunities at Gordon’s Bay and Clovelly; if you’re lucky you may even spot Bluey, Clovelly’s beloved resident blue groper. Note that the narrow path can get crowded in the summer so aim for off-peak hours if possible, and factor in time to explore the rock pools and heritage listed Waverley Cemetery.


On the weekend, head to Bondi Markets to while away a few hours eating and shopping. It’s a farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, featuring organic and conventional produce, artisan wares and delicious made-to-order meals. Order a breakfast pho or corn fritters piled high with veggies and poached egg, and enjoy a picnic on the lawn while you listen to live acoustic music. On Sundays, you can browse fashion, homewares, art, vintage goods and indie designer stalls. It’s a great place to find some of the relaxed, stylish outfits you’ll see people (and their offspring) sporting around the neighbourhood, as well as one-of-a-kind gifts and decor.

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Shopping
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Shopping

With Bondi Junction’s shopping centres so close, Bondi’s retail scene has evolved towards smaller boutiques and flagship stores for online brands. While Campbell Parade (the main road running parallel to the beach) is lined with swimwear and surf shops, most of the smaller and more interesting stores are concentrated along Gould street, Hall street, Glenayr Avenue and Bondi Road.

Aquabumps gallery and store is a must, featuring surf photographer Eugene Tan’s shots of daily Bondi beach life. Nearby on Gould street is Bondi Wash where you can stock up on eco friendly home and cleaning products featuring native Australian botanicals. 

Around the corner on Hall street is Playa by Lucy Folk, a pink hued store featuring playful jewelry (think pizza shaped earrings) and luxury global accessories. Further up Hall is the only brick and mortar outlet of Nimble Activewear; activewear is basically a uniform in Bondi, and this is a great place to pick up some comfortable, stylish, high-quality pieces.

Cross the street to visit Gertrude and Alice, a locally beloved cafe bookshop stacked floor to ceiling with new and used titles. And right at the top of the hill, on the corner of O’Brien and Old South Head road, is Winona, the flagship boutique of designer Alyssa Mobbs featuring elegant gowns, attention-grabbing party dresses and high-end resort wear.

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Mark your calendar
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Mark your calendar

Summer isn’t the only time Bondi shines. The beach is the end point of the world’s largest fun run, the City2Surf, in August; and there’s the Bondi Festival every winter which brings performances, a ferris wheel and an ice skating rink to the beachfront.

Culture vultures also flock to Bondi in October and November, when the coastline from Bondi to Tamarama is transformed into an outdoor art gallery for the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibit. The event was postponed in 2020, but will hopefully resume again in 2021.

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