TOP BEACH DESTINATIONS: SYDNEY
Our star travel advisor Beth Cooper, founder of luxury travel PR company, Beth Cooper PR, shares with us her favourite beach destinations and her top insider tips for the best places to stay, eat and visit!
Places to stay: For a hotel in town I'd go with The Darling as it's simply fabulous. If you would like self catering, I think Medina Apartments are ideal for families. They are scattered all around the major cities including Sydney. They are self contained, quite spacious and also centrally located subject to the holiday experience you’re looking for; Coogee for the beach, Surrey Hills for shops and restaurants and Double Bay for the Sydney harbour experience! Also there are some good private lets on www.stayz.com.au which are particularly good if you want to be near Bondi Beach.
The Beaches. Balmoral Beach on Sydney’s north shore is a magnificent sheltered beach, extremely picturesque with a sheltered harbour spot, translucent water and stunning white sand. There are panoramic views of the harbour out to the headlands and the water is lovely and clean. There are fantastic restaurants including Bather’s Pavillion which has won lots of awards and is famous for it's breakfast. There are lots of park areas beside the beach which are perfect for prams and young children. You can spot lots of local yummy mummy’s strolling around!
Nelson’s Bay is the Eastern suburbs equivalent of Balmoral Beach, with a more casual vibe. There are gorgeous coves with spectacular views over the harbour and out to the ocean headlands. The water is nice and clean and has a gentle tide. There are caves, a range of white sand beaches to choose from, cafe, parks and an ice cream stall. It is very popular with families. It is slightly less groomed then Balmoral beach with a more natural, rugged appearance. The walk around the headlands is beautiful in either direction- you can walk left for views right back to Sydney Harbour or you can walk in the other direction around plunging cliff tops and spectacular ocean views all the way to Bondi.
Finally, you can’t come to Sydney and not at least visit Bondi. Whilst it’s not the most beautiful, it is the most famous beach. There are a number of fashionable bars and restaurants, most of which are kid friendly due to the laid back nature of the location. Markets are hosted every Saturday at the local school, located alongside the beach and they sell lots of vintage clothes, jewellery, flowers and some fresh produce that is piping hot and ready to eat with your fingers. Beginner’s surf lesson classes are hosted at Bondi and you have the chance to brush shoulders with the surf lifesaving stars from ‘Bondi Rescue’ who are patrolling the beach. At the far left is a fantastic enclosed rock pool for children.
Bondi Icebergs on the right headland are an institution for locals. Here find fashionable friends meeting up for a drinks, or to do laps at the surf pool at the base of the building. You can also get a massage poolside by the open air with the sound of the crashing waves in the backdrop – very relaxing! An ideal activity is to walk around the headlands past Bondi Icebergs to Tamarama Beach (nicknamed Glamarama Beach), Bronte or Coogee Beach. This walk is not to be missed and along the way there are plenty of opportunities to stop for refreshments in one of the beach side cafes. There is an annual Sculpture By The Sea exhibition in the October/November which is well worth visiting if you are there at the time.
If you’re staying for any length of time there’s a Bondi Toy Library which is a clever idea - set only a couple of blocks back from the beach – very handy for little ones!
Where to Eat? As the atmosphere in Sydney is very relaxed most of the restaurants are child friendly. As per Sunday lunch in the UK, late weekend breakfasts in Sydney are a tradition; eggs, Turkish bread, bacon and just about anything else your heart desires. Generous portions and it is nearly always cheap ($10AU), particularly beach-side in Bondi or Coogee. The vibe is great and you get to read the newspaper and have a lazy morning before letting the kids run themselves out on the beach.
Fresh mangoes in season are delicious. Popular in Bondi and other beach side locations are whole coconuts which you can buy from most fruit stores for a refreshing drink –pop a straw in them and you’re all set to go! You’ll find the full spectrum of cuisine on offer here - Australia is a melting pot of cultures.
For discerning coffee drinkers, the coffee is second to none in both Sydney and Melbourne. Due to the high numbers of Greek population in these cities the benchmark is high. Most Aussies’ are very discerning about the quality of beans on offer and covet their local Barrista. You’ll find them a great source of local information!
What to do or see? Sydney’s Taronga Zoo has a great collection of animals and native fauna, take a ferry across from Circular Quay, then the sky rail to the top of the hill and stroll down the winding pathways through all the sights. The views from Taronga Zoo are the best in the city. They look straight back over the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Look out for family concerts often held in the evenings here.
Sydney’s Aquarium is also popular with families and kids. It houses a fantastic array of native ocean life along with the most enormous sharks and stingrays. King Street wharf is right beside the Aquarium if you’re peckish for a bite after there’s a multitude of restaurants and cafes to choose from. A 2 minute walk around the bay is the Sydney IMAX theatre, which is the world’s largest indoor screen. The line up of 3D features on wildlife, underwater reef life, to the stars, is a big hit with kids. A further 4 minutes around the bay and looking back over at King Street Wharf and the Aquarium is Darling Harbour – a tourist mecca of entertainment with firework displays most weekends at sunset and lots of public art.
Don’t forget to pack: Walking shoes for the beaches and headlands. Hiking boots if you have time to venture up to the Blue Mountains only 1.5 hours away. Buy Haviana flip flops where you’re here – they’re cheaper at $25AU a pair and an absolute staple. You can buy a hat and sarong here but invest in tan-in–a-can before you go, so that you blend in! A heavier face cream then you would use at home is also wise - with sunscreen in it. Wear strappy open toe shoes, either flat or high is fine and lightweight cotton dresses (preferably ones that can be scrunched up in your bag and don’t need to be ironed). The look is generally casual chic, or strappy boho.
Parents will love: Romantic dinner on the harbour or beach side - Try Cafe Sydney, Doyles, The Summit, Bondi Icebergs, - all have magnificent cuisine, delicious cocktails and panoramic views. Surrey Hills also has a wealth of very trendy restaurants,though they are normally without the views and likely to be in a warehouse or backstreet but are a must if you feel the urge to check out the fashionable scene. Two great ones in this area are: Tokonomo (Japanese) or Movida (Tapas).
The best kept secret for an very special romantic day - take the sea plane from Rose Bay to Cottage Point Restaurant which is set in a national park on the Hawkesbury River for lunch. It is a short and very scenic flight (20 mins) where you take off from the heart of Sydney Harbour and land in the Hawkesbury right beside the restaurant set on the river. The restaurant is actually a very quaint converted old general store with a jetty. Typically Australian it is very understated and exceptional – ordering Champagne and Oysters here are a must.
Kids will love: Sailing on the harbour or for a more tame experience the ferries are also frequent and enjoyable. The most scenic ferry is the Circular Quay to Manly which is set at the furtherest point of the Sydney Harbour headlands.
Other great activities for kids - Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, Kayaking on the Harbour or a Jet Boat Ride’s. For teens there’s also Scuba diving lessons just off Tamarama where you can swim with Nurse sharks.
Beth Cooper established her business 13 years ago and she is also mum to three lovely children. She loves luxury travel, the outdoors, good food, good wine and spending time with her friends and family. Beth is also passionate about interior design and is currently learning to play polo with her kids!