An Insiders Guide to Bondi

What to see, do and eat at Sydney’s best-known beach! 

You likely already know all about the Bondi to Coogee walk but today we want to share some more of this very Sydney beachside suburb with you so have a read and maybe consider spending some time exploring the area on your visit.

Bondi History

How much do you know about Bondi? We like a bit of background when we are travelling so we thought a history lesson wouldn’t hurt 😉

Bondi beach in 1900 creative commons photo
 Credit: cc via Wikimedia.  Bondi Beach 1900

The original owners of the land that is now called Bondi were the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.  It is thought they referred to this area as Bondi although there are a variety of spelling recorded including Boondi, Bundi, Bundeye and Boodye. Bondi reportedly means “water breaking over rocks”.

 

As far back in the 1850s Bondi was a popular spot for locals to relax. Local landowner’s Hall and O’Brien, who owned most of the waterfront allowed people to use their beach for recreation. In the 1860s the council took the beach back from the owners and declared the area a public beach.

It was then it went from local secret to its journey as the cities favourite beach. Hall and O’Brian are remembered in the names of two of Bondi’s main streets.

By 1884 a tram line bought Sydneysiders from Circular Quay or Central stations to the beach. This saw huge visitor numbers and cemented Bondi as one of the cities most popular beaches.

By the 1930s it was not uncommon for 60,000 Sydneysiders to visit the beach over a summer weekend. These days a busy summer day is likely to hit about 35,000 beachgoers.

Much of Bondi’s architecture hails from the first half of the 20th century when large scale development took place. Lots of deco style apartments appeared with some Spanish Mission-style homes thrown in for good measure. While walking the streets here look up for the interesting detail and design features on the tops of many of the buildings from this time.

14 Facts about Bondi

Throw a few of these in to impress your travelling partners with your research skills.

Bondi Pavilion Bondi Beach, New South Wales, Australia
Bondi Pavilion hosts events and exhibitions and lots of lockers.
  • Bondi became a public beach in 1882
  • It was home to the oldest surf lifesaving club in the world in 1907
  • The much loved Bondi Pavillion which is home to change rooms and gallery space was built in 1928
  • The last shark attack at Bondi Beach was in 1929 – there were two that year just weeks apart.
  • Shark mesh was installed across the beach in 1937
  • The first bikini was worn here in 1951
  • Smoking was banned on the beach in 2004
  • A Guinness World Record was set here in 2007 for the largest swimsuit photoshoot with 1,010 women wearing bikinis taking part
  • A second Guinness Record was set for the World’s largest English lesson in 2016 with 3000 students taking part.
  • Free wifi has been available on the beach since 2011
  • Prince Charles had a dip here, and Harry and William have both visited with their wives
  • Bondi is on the National Heritage list
  • It’s illegal to drink on Bondi Beach
  • Over 3000 people are rescued each year.
 

Getting to know Bondi Beach

This 950m stretch can be divided into three areas, each with a slightly different vibe.

North Bondi Beach

North Bondi Beach Sydney Australia
The water at North Bondi is calm and most popular with families.

The Northern end of Bondi is affectionately known as the local’s end. With a safety rating of 4 (gentle), it’s also the best part of the beach for families. There is a designated children’s pool and a fenced playground nearby. If you have a pram, there is a great grassed area saving you from dragging your belongings down onto the sand.

If you are heading this way with kids, check our the Hello Sydney Kids review of the facilities here.

North Bondi RSL Balcony
The balcony at North Bondi is the perfect spot to quench your thirst.

North Bondi is also where you will find the Bondi RSL; its large balcony is the perfect place to relax with a well-priced drink and watch the beach action from above. They also have a real-time beach cam so you can check out what the beach looks like today.

 

The middle of Bondi Beach

The middle section of the beach attracts the most visitors. On this section you will find the local landmark, Bondi Pavillion, in its heyday it was a changing room for up to 3000 bathers.  Today it still houses changing facilities and showers but it is also home to a gallery and exhibition space. On the sand in front of the pavilion is the lifeguard station, made famous by Bondi Rescue. It’s the centre of lifeguard operations and also a first aid station.

If you plan on spending the day at the beach this is where I would suggest you set up. It’s the safest spot to swim and you are close to shops and facilities when you need strikes.

Hire sunloungers on Bondi Beach
You can rent umbrellas, chairs and boogie boards on Bondi beach

Also near the middle of the beach is a rental van called Bondi Beach Hire, they also often have a spot on the beach itself at busy times of the year. The rent all the necessities for a comfortable day at the beach and the prices are pretty reasonable with deck chairs $1o a day and sunloungers $15 a day. Both are available for 3-hour rental for a little less. Umbrellas are popular at $15 a day, and they also have wetsuits, bodyboards, surfboards and paddleboards for hire.

Along the wall that separates the beach from the carpark, you will find the Bondi Graffiti Wall

Bondi Lifeguards on the Graffiti wall bondi beach
The walls are an everchanging art show with new murals appearing regularly

With at least two dozen murals running from the Pavillion at the middle of the beach to the southern end if you love street art as much as we do, you will not want to miss this.

There are also sometimes volleyball nets set up on this section of the beach between the lifeguard tower and South Bondi.

 

South Bondi Beach

South Bondi is a favourite with surfers, and you will often see the learn-to-surf school operating classes here. It is also home to the infamous “backpackers rip” named because this spot is closest to the bus stop and attracts lots of visitors who are too excited or too lazy to make their way to the flagged area nearer to the middle of the beach.

South Bondi Beach
South Bondi from the hill

Also at the end of the beach is the Bondi Skatebowl, 10 foot deep with a 5-foot shallow bowl this place that attracts some seriously talented riders. It’s well worth stopping by for a look.

Bondi Skate park
The skate park is rated 4/5 by Skateboard Australia

However, the best-known landmark at the south end of the beach is Bondi Icebergs.

Icebergs Bondi
Bondi Icebergs began as the Icebergs Winter Swimming Club

Bondi Icebergs opened in 1929 as a men’s only swimming club. The club aimed to help members keep in shape over the winter season. To become a member, you had (and still are) required to swim 3 out of 4 winter Sundays for five years. I am guessing it’s a pretty small membership based on that commitment! Women were admitted from 1994.

Thankfully you don’t need to be a member to use the club facilities which include adult and children’s pools* sauna and gym.  There is also a cafe, bistro, 2 bars and a fine-dining Italian restaurant. Wednesday is Trivia night and Friday they have acoustic sessions and $12 cocktails both great ways to end a day in Bondi.

The pools are closed for cleaning on Thursdays.

Related: Once you have done the Bondi to Coogee walk you might want to check out the Bondi to Manly walk

 

Is Bondi Beach dangerous?

Bondi can be dangerous, however, if you use common sense, you should be fine. It is one of the few Sydney’s beaches patrolled year-round which is just as well because sadly lots of visitors get into trouble here. Follow the signs on the beach and always swim between the flags. Don’t go in the water after you have been drinking either, its a recipe for disaster.

Lifeguards patrol the beach seven days a week and “save” up to 30 people a day. Lots of people underestimate their ability and get out of their depth here. The current is really strong and even good swimmers can get caught in a rip.

Check out this video on backpackers rip and make sure you know how to avoid it.

When is the best time to visit Bondi?

Lifeguard Mosiac at Bondi Beach 

Bondi is an excellent spot to visit year-round. It’s too cold for all but the hardiest locals to swim from about late May to October visitors are often seen taking a dip as early as September.

My favourite time of day here is early morning, watching the sunrise. The beach attracts all sorts at this time, partygoers still standing after an all-nighter or the early bird exercise crew. If you are staying here aim to start at least one morning with the locals for a bit of beach exercise. It’s a great way to begin the day.

Wondering when the quiet time is?  Well while Bondi is never really calm, it is a little less frantic on weekdays. Weekends, however, are buzzing year-round if the sun is shining.

 

Annual festivals at Bondi

Bondi loves a celebration; it’s well set up to host events with its crescent-shaped beachfront fringed in parkland, and there are several you should have on your radar if they coincide with your visit.

Festival of the winds Bondi Beach Sydney
Festival of the Winds 2018.

Related: Check out our tips for visiting Sculpture by the Sea

Bondi beyond the beach

So once you have finished exploring the beach, it’s time to hit the streets of Bondi. There are lots worth checking out, especially if you are hungry. But first, let’s shop

Best places to shop in Bondi

Bondi offers a great mix of shops in streets behind the beach, ranging from cheap souvenirs to activewear that will cost the same as your hotel room!  My usual shopping at Bondi happens at the markets which you will find in the grounds on the public school on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Book shop in Bondi Beach
The coffee is excellent at Gertrude and Alice
  • Gertrude and Alice – My favourite shop in all of Bondi, this little bookshop makes a great coffee and its a fantastic spot for booklovers to spend
  • Aquabumps – The gallery of super talented beach photographer Eugene Tan
  • Camilla – Australian fashion label best known for their flowing Kaftans
  • Bondi Bather – locally made, limited edition swimwear
  • Between the Flags – Beach-inspired souvenirs
  • Jac + Jack – comfort and quality rule with garments in cashmere, linen and wool
  • Playa by Lucy Folk – Accessories, jewellery and lots of pretty things
  • Commune – Beach inspired living with homewares and accessories all locally made
  • Vinnies – St Vincent de Paul is a charity (goodwill) store that is an excellent stop if you forgot your book and need a beach read for just a few $$
  • Wayside Op Shop – need an outfit for a job interview or impromptu party and the budget is tight? Check this place before you pull out the credit card.
 

Where to eat in Bondi

Bondi’s reputation as a hotspot for health nuts and hipsters is no more evident than in its dining options. Vegetarian and vegan options are on offer on most menus. Juices feature and protein balls sit on the counter of almost every coffee shop.

With over 250 places to eat from takeaway to fine dining, it’s pretty easy to get yourself a happy belly here. So in no particular order here are some spots we think you should check out.

Sorry about the lack of photos here – I am not the best at remembering to take food shots, but it just means I will need to go back soon and take some more.

Lunch at North Bondi Fish
Credit: Sandy Papas

North Bondi Fish 
If you want to eat seafood overlooking the beach you have plenty of choices, but North Bondi Fish is my personal favourite, it’s also almost on the sand, so your beach views are front and centre. Another of chef Matt Moran’s restaurants (I love his Chiswick at the Art Gallery of NSW too).  The calamari is one of the best around, and I love the pumpkin dish with dukkah and feta. I am also partial to their cocktails, which often feature an interesting mix of botanicals. Where: 120 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi 

The Bucket List
Bucketlist gets ridiculously busy on summer weekends, but if you arrive midweek at lunchtime, you should be able to get a seat. The menu has a bit of everything, burgers, poke bowls, fried chicken and steak. It would be a fussy eater who could not find something they liked here. A seat outside with a cold beer, prosecco or a summer cocktail and this view is pure magic. Where: Bondi Pavilion, Shop, 1 Queen Elizabeth Dr, Bondi Beach

Rocker
My most recent breakfast at Bondi was here at Rocker, we usually head to Speedo’s which we still love, but this time it was the Salmon and Avo with pumpkin and eggs, and it was epic. A perfect end to a morning walk from Bronte. Where:  5/39-53 Campbell Parade, North Bondi

Fonda
If you fancy Mexican, you ought to find some friends and head to Fonda to partake of the share plates and margaritas. They also have fantastic house sodas including lime and turmeric and ginger and passionfruit.  Where: 85 Hall St, Bondi Beach

The Pacific
If you can try to make time to pop into the Pacific for a weekend breakfast. The menu changes often but usually include some of the local flavours. Things like Davidson plum fruit bowl, granola with lemon myrtle or the mighty fine smashed avocado on black toast. This is a lovely spot to sit and chat for a while. They also have happy hour from 4-6pm weekdays with $5 beer and $10 cocktails.  Where: 182 Campbell Parade Bondi Beach

Macelleria
I remember the first time I walked past Macelleria I thought hmm what an odd spot for a butcher shop, only it was not a butcher exactly.  They do sell meat, delicious meat ( Cape Grim steak) and wagyu but also chicken, lamb and sausages. Eat-in or take away to the beach. Where: Shop 1, 112-116 Campbell St, Bondi Beach

If you fancy a drink rather than a meal, then check out this list of best bars in Bondi by TimeOut

 

Where to stay in Bondi Beach

Bondi is perfect for a staycation or a holiday within a holiday for visitors. Consider splitting your time with a few days in the city and a couple of days at the beach. While getting in and out of the city can be tiresome when you choose Bondi at a base, if this is your second visit or you have a burning passion for being by the beach, this is not a bad choice. Just know you will spend at least 30 mins getting into town because even though it looks close on a map the traffic is horrid.

QT Bondi

Bondi QT Hotel Bondi Beach
The foyer of QT Bondi Beach

If you love the quirky things in life and the little things matter to you then you will love QT. Windows that open, rooms that feel more like apartments than hotel rooms, a washer and dryer, rainforest shower and a kitchenette for when you feel like eating in make QT special.

This luxury hotel, just 300m from the beach opened four years ago. Rooms are bright and modern with lots of fun touches, like a minibar that includes dominos and thongs (the footwear kind).  If you are up for a splurge or need to impress, this is a great fit.

Check prices at QT Bondi or read reviews on TripAdvisor

Adina Apartment Hotel Bondi Beach

Adina Apartment Hotel Bondi Beach Hall St
Free bicycles on offer to guests at Adina Bondi

Offering studios, one, two and three bedrooms apartments Adina Bondi Beach is a  good choice for families or groups. While no onsite dining you are spoilt for choice the minute you walk out the door. Local favourite Messina Gelato is adjacent, and Pasticceria Papa cheesecakes are minutes away. Dangerous for anyone watching what they eat but don’t worry the property has a gym and pool and you are only 5 minutes away from the Bondi to Coogee coastal track to help burn any excess treats you consume.

Check prices at Adina Bondi Beach or read TripAdvisor reviews

Bondi 38 Serviced Apartments

While not as shiny and new as QT and Adina,  Bondi 38 has a fantastic location across the road from South Bondi beach with many of the apartments having beach views and balconies.

These fully self-contained studios, one and two-bedroom apartments feature kitchen and laundry facilities. They are recently renovated and are spotlessly clean and comfortable. Kids under three years are free, and they have strollers available. There is a no party policy which helps ensure a quiet nights sleep.

Check rates at Bondi 38 or Read the lasted TripAdvisor reviews

Bondi Backpacker

Bondi Backpackers Campbell Parade
Right opposite the beach on Campbell Parade.

An excellent choice for solo travellers on a budget, this newly renovated property has just joined the Wake-Up family.  It’s always been a popular hostel with its location across the road from the beach and rooftop chill-out zone. They also run a great free activity program that will have you making friends in no time. Everything from morning yoga on the roof to bbq’s, wine and cheese, trivia and karaoke is on offer so there is bound to be something you will enjoy.

There are twin and private rooms along with dorms. In summer the roof is the place to be, and you will probably spend most of your time there. The kitchen area is small, which can get annoying but other than that this is the best hostel in Bondi in my view.

Check prices at Bondi Backpackers

 

Tours and things to do in Bondi

While you can easily amuse yourself with plenty of things to do in Bondi if you like a bit of structure or prefer the help of a local guide, then we think you should consider these tours. We have handpicked these because of their quality. They are all small group or private experiences that would we be happy to give to or receive from our family and friends.

They also make great gifts if you are planning a unique staycation to celebrate a birthday or anniversary at the beach.

Surf lessons at Bondi

learn to surf

Been meaning to learn to surf for a while?  Well, where better than one of the world’s iconic beaches. Let’s go surfing offer 2 hr small group classes with five students or less. They supply a wetsuit to keep you warm no matter the weather.  If you are a bit shy or want more attention, then they also offer private lessons.

A high-speed boat ride

Explore Bondi and the eastern beaches on this high-speed jet boat ride. While several operators run tours of the harbour this ride takes you outside the heads and down to Bondi and Tamarama Beaches. There is a chance to see dolphins, sharks and seals and in season whales head along this part of the coast. Not a trip for the faint-hearted, but if you want to know you are alive this is your tour!

Check the full details and prices here

Drone Photo Tour of Bondi

Drone footage of Bondi coastal walk
Imagine taking home your own drone footage

Explore the Bondi to Bronte walk on a drone photo tour. If you would love to take back some drone footage of the part of the coast but don’t have your own equipment or permits to fly in Sydney this tour is perfect. With your local guide, you will walk this famous path with stops along the way to capture the perfect shots.  I have not done this new tour yet, but I have booked so will let you leave a full review soon.

Check the prices and tour details here

Guided Bondi Headland walk

If you like the idea of a guided tour of the Bondi rather than going it alone, this tour is an affordable option. The offering by a Local Lifesaver & Surf Instructor who will explain the history and culture of Bondi along with all you want to know about lifesaving. It includes a tour of the lifesaving club, a photo with a lifesaver and a tour of the Aboriginal rock engravings.

Six Beaches Trike Tour

If you would rather tour the eastern beaches on the back of a trike, then check this tour out. The visit comes with commentary via headset as you travel from Bondi all the way down to La Perouse. Helmets and jackets supplied. This 1-1.5 hour tour has a minimum of two passengers.

Check the tour prices and itinerary

Professional Vacation photos

If you are celebrating a special occasion on your visit to Bondi then perhaps maybe you might want to take home some professional photos. Localgrapher is a global company that offers photoshoots in famous locations.  This is a perfect option for a proposal or family get-together to give you a momento to take home.

Prices for solo or family shoots


So there you have it, the Sydney Expert Guide to Bondi Beach. Have we missed your favourite spot? Let us know so we can check it out and maybe add it to the list.


If you have any questions about anything to do with Bondi or just want some more general tips for your trip to Sydney head over and join our Plan a trip to Sydney Facebook Group.

If you’re are a local who like to keep up with what’s happening in Sydney our Facebook page is probably for you.

Explore Bondi Beach like a local #Bondi #Sydney

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2 thoughts on “An Insiders Guide to Bondi”

  1. We often visit Bondi when in Sydney.
    It seems to suffer a bit of a reputation as overcrowded and overrated, especially from people in Sydney but really I think that’s just a bit of envy creeping in. We’ve found over the past few years it’s really cleaned up its act and always enjoy ourselves.
    Just one block back from the esplanade and there are some really great places, without the big price tags too.
    That view from Icebergs never gets tired and nor does the walk around to Tamarama.

    • I totally agree Sandy, lots of guidebooks still paint the area as grungy and run down but Bondi has had a new lease of life in recent years. The walks, no matter how often you take them, never get old.

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