I have never gotten used to Bondi’s swathe of concrete and cars, but there is much to love when you look beyond them.
I first came to Bondi myself in 2003 but, much though I adore it now, it wasn’t love at first sight. My first thought on seeing a deserted, wind-blown, mid-winter Bondi was: “Is this it?” The beachfront was a car park and beyond the four lanes of traffic behind it, a grisly jumble of cheap 1980s blocks crowned the ugly main drag.
It compared poorly, I thought, to the elegant row of Norfolk pines along Manly Beach on the other side of Sydney Harbour or the cute Victorian tree-lined terraced streets of the inner city and harborside suburbs, such as Paddington and Balmain.
Bondi Beach used to be a suburb for artists and gays in Sydney, now the moneyed elite resides here and it has transformed into Australia’s most expensive neighborhood. Surfer and film producer Marcus Gillezeau doesn’t think the influx of wealth will change Bondi for the worse. “Bondi is still a village. There’s a big political controversy around development plans for putting in a full-size supermarket and everyone is protesting against it including the rich.” But the neighborhood is also the most densely populated suburb in Australia and that makes it dynamic and fun.
My favorite walk in Bondi is along the coastal path south that takes in the scrolling panorama of perched houses, cliffs, sea swell and sky. A sunrise run, barefoot up the sandstone steps, past the Icebergs and along to the beach is now a ritual. What better way to start the day than with lungfuls of ocean air, a post-run plunge into cool surf and a breakfast flat white and bircher muesli at the Bondi Pavilion. My daughter has grown up with the sand between her toes and every night, as she goes to sleep, the sigh of the surf in her ears. Lucky? She has no idea.
I like to rest my chin on the edge of the glorious Bondi Icebergs swimming pool which leans over into the ocean, tasting the salt tang of the surf breaking against the walls and gazing the length of Bondi’s sandy crescent. Or stand on the headland beyond looking out for pods of playful dolphins or migrating whales. Simply magical.
Bondi Beach! Are you ready for it? Here's a Truly Wonderful hotel, right at the center of the action.