Looking towards Coogee Beach from Gordon's Bay
Coogee is home to one of Sydney’s most popular beaches and it is a beautiful spot to spend a lazy summer day. The name Coogee is an Aboriginal word thought to refer to the smell of drying seaweed that washes up on the beach. In 1902 the beach was connected to Randwick by an electric tram and this ran up until about 1960. Today it can be reached easily by bus, car or even on foot. Coogee Bay is only about 400 metres long, but what it lacks in size is certainly made up by its character – from restaurants and bars, to rock pools and headlands, coastal walks and parks, it literally has something for everyone.
Sunrise at the southern end of Coogee Beach, worth waking up for
There are spectacular views from the headlands at both ends, and Coogee is the starting point (or end, depending which way you go) of the famous Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. This 6km walk takes a lazy 2 hours to complete, and along the promenade you’ll find everything you need including rest areas, picnic facilities, barbecues, cafes, toilets, and not to mention about a thousand spots to take breathtaking photos!
Coogee Beach SLSC
Coogee Beach, looking south from the northern end
Coogee Bay is a swimmer's paradise, blessed with natural and man-made rock pools, as well as the beach itself. At the southern end you’ll find Wylies baths (open 365 days a year!), as well as McIver’s Baths, which is the only remaining female-only ocean pool in Australia (dating back to 1886). At the northern end of the beach is Giles baths, a natural pool which is popular with tourists and children due to its shallow nature. Above the pool at Dolphin Point (formerly known as Dunningham Reserve) lies a memorial to victims of the 2002 Bali bombings, where many members of the Coogee Dolphins rugby league team where tragically caught in the blast and killed. Around 700 metres out to sea from Dolphin Point lies Wedding Cake Island, a big chunk of rock that can take credit for drastically reducing the size of the waves that hit Coogee Beach. There's also the annual Coogee Island Challenge event, where thousands of competitors swim out and around the island in a 2.4km race. It's become so popular that 2 events are now being run (one in November and one in April).
A typical sunny day down at Coogee Beach
Living in the shadow of Wedding Cake Island (which blocks most of the swell), this small, sandy beach produces a short closeout-type wave onto the shore which makes it popular for swimmers and bodyboarders and not really suited for surfers. In a larger swells there’s a decent left that breaks on the northern side of the beach, and there’s also an occasional right at the southern end called 'The Southie'. For the more hardcore, Wedding Cake Island can be ridden in big swells, usually by tow-in surfers and is an extreme spot for the experienced only. As Coogee Beach faces south-east, the best conditions are large NE-S swells with NW-SW winds. It is patrolled all year round by the Coogee SLSC, which is one of Australia’s oldest clubs dating back to 1907. Despite the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the beach annually it remains one of the safest beaches in Sydney, averaging around 35 rescues a year. This makes it a popular spot for tourists and families with young children, who can safely swim in the usually calm conditions.
The early morning fitness brigade capitalising on freshly groomed lines
Coogee has more of a community feel to it than other nearby and more famous beaches (cough cough Bondi!), which makes it the perfect choice for those wanting to get away from the hustle and just relax. The café and restaurant scene is alive and well, and caters for everyone from the backpacker right up to those wanting a fine dining experience. On weekends the strip of cafes along Coogee Bay Road are jammed packed, and at night Coogee turns into a hotspot for those wanting to party the night away courtesy of the two local institutions, the Coogee Bay Hotel and the Coogee Pavilion. The Coogee Bay Hotel is a local icon that has been operating for 140 years, with ocean view suites and several bars and a bistro. Its main drawcard is the beer garden, which faces the ocean and is one of the most popular beachside spots in Sydney, not to mention a great place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon catching up with friends. The Coogee Pavilion was re-opened in 2015 after a major refurbishment and has once again re-established itself as a major entertainment hub at the north end of the beach, with sweeping views from the upstairs terrace south along the beach. There are a few smaller places to have a drink and a bite, but these two draw the majority of the crowds due to their commanding positions on the beach. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the area on New Year’s Eve there’s a fireworks display that starts at 9pm on the beach with great vantage points at either end to take it all in.
The Coogee Pavilion is a local establishment, ideal for dates or just hanging with your mates
A relatively uncrowded, mid-week day down at Coogee Beach
Whether you’re looking for that proper beach holiday or simply just a fun day out, Coogee Beach really has something for everyone. Safe waters, a multitude of bars, restaurants and cafés, picnic and bbq facilities as well as coastal walks and parks, you could easily spend the rest of your life here or just visit for a holiday.
Lest We Forget - the ANZAC memorial at the southern end of Coogee Beach at sunrise
Not a bad spot to sit and watch the world go by - northern end of Coogee Beach
A mixture of locals and tourists lapping up the sun
Catch the 353 bus from Bondi junction, or the 373 or 374 from the Sydney CBD. By car simply go down Coogee Bay Road or Arden Street until you reach the beach. Parking is somewhat limited (especially in the summer months), with both free and metered spots.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Coogee Beach is a hive of activity, especially during the summer months when it's inundated with loads of English, Irish and other travellers. The Coogee Bay Hotel is the place to be on a Sunday arvo for a quiet beer, and the main street is jam packed with restaurants and cafés to help keep you going.
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