I first heard about Bondi Beach from a book I read as a kid. It was one of those puzzle narrative books, not Choose Your Own Adventure, but similarly interactive. Every couple of pages, the narrative would pause as the characters had to figure out a riddle or number problem, and the reader was meant to do the same. I was always too impatient to actually do them, so I flipped to the back to read the solution before moving on. Anyway, one of these books featured a brilliant scientist who loved to surf, and when his niece finds him missing, she knows just where to look for him—at the surfer’s mecca, Bondi Beach, Australia. The beach went on my mental list of Places to Visit.
In my mind, Bondi was pronounced “Bond-ee” and was a small beach town far away from civilization. Neither of these things is true. It’s pronounced “Bond-eye” and it’s a suburb of the decidedly civilized Sydney. I took the metro out there, and then a short bus ride to the beachfront. The town part of the beachfront is about three blocks long, lined with surf shops, cafes, fancy restaurants, and clothes shops. Unfortunately, a four-lane boulevard separates this area from the esplanade; it must be nice for cruising in a car, but is annoying for pedestrians and for the intimate feeling usually found in beach towns.
I’d read in my guidebook about a place that had gelato so delicious, it was considered the best in all of Sydney, not just Bondi, and it also did pizzas at reasonable cost. Oh, the dangers of entrusting a guidebook with your feelings of anticipation! Those pizzas were not reasonable (at least, I don’t consider $18 for a 6” reasonable), and the gelato was priced as if dairy cows were going extinct (I’ve since discovered that one scoop of ice cream costs $5 no matter where I go in Australia). I got a panini and resolved to buy ice cream later in the day.
I was quickly realizing that the warnings I’d heard before coming here were all too accurate; eating out in Australia is expensive no matter where you go. I’d like to think that’s partly because they actually pay their servers a living wage, rather than the paltry $4.25 an hour American servers make. Tipping isn’t common here, because it isn’t an integral part of the wait staff’s pay. They get paid for the work they do from their employers, which makes sense to me. If you feel particularly well treated, you can round up your bill or leave an extra dollar or two, which returns tips to the realm of nice gesture rather than optional expense left to the whim of finicky customers.
After lunch, I strolled down to the beach. It’s a wide beach, and all of it is fine, white sand, with no sea debris mucking it up. They must do a lot of maintenance on it to keep it that way, and it is well worth it. I read my book, did some people watching, and looked on as twenty adorable kids about age 10 got a surf lesson.
One of my friends back home put me in touch with a friend of hers who had been to Sydney before, and his only must-do was the Bondi coastal walk. When I arrived in Sydney, everyone in my hostel rhapsodized over the coastal walk. I checked my guidebook and it gushed about the coastal walk. Guess what I decided to check out?
Well, I’m gushing and rhapsodizing, because that walk was gorgeous. A paved path, occasionally broken up by uneven stone stairs, it winds its way 6 kilometers along the coast, from Bondi to the town of Coogee. I walked to Bronte, then stopped at Tamarama on the way back for a ginger beer and Magnum ice cream bar (I keep my promises). The path was full of people out for a jog, families on an afternoon stroll, and tourists like me who stopped every 10 feet to take another photo of the plunging cliffs and deep blue sea.
I enjoyed visiting Bondi, and can easily recommend it for a beach visit. If you’re a surfer, take the advice of an obscure puzzle book from my childhood and visit!