Planning a visit to Sculpture by the Sea, I have been attending for 20 years and share my tips here for how to enjoy this sometimes crowded but always fabulous exhibition.
Sculpture by the Sea is one of the biggest outdoor events on the Sydney calendar and unofficially for me at least marks the beginning of “beach season” which in Sydney starts well before the summer start date of 1 December.
I am a big fan of this festival because it combines several things I love; walks in the great outdoors, art, photography and ocean views. Now in its 22nd year, it has been steadily growing in popularity, attracting over half a million visitors during its 3 weeks run last year. With more than 100 sculptures lining the 2 km walk, it’s a lovely way to spend a few hours in the Sydney spring sunshine. While the Bondi to Coogee walk is always popular the track becomes a slow stroll rather than the usual brisk walk/jogging track it usually is during this time.
I went along last year on the first weekend and was a bit late getting started so I expected it would be uncomfortably crowded, but the path was moving well considering I arrived right on midday. The best thing about going on the first weekend is that lots of people don’t realise it has started. Things get pretty crazy in the last weekend so try not to leave your visit till then.
My advice for having the best day possible at Sculpture by the Sea
- Go early in the morning – The sunrise over the ocean is worth the early wake up even without the sculpture, but you will be rewarded with a lot more space to enjoy the works if you make the effort to arrive before 8 am!
- Try to go on a weekday if you can. Avoid the last weekend if at all possible.
- Do not take your car – If you do expect to park several blocks from the ocean and walk the last part. Buses operate from Coogee, Bronte, and Bondi so there really is no need to experience the headache of parking here during the festival. You can view a map showing all your public transport options and plan before you go. There are also free shuttles between Bondi and Tamarama on weekends.
- Consider going on a day that is a little overcast – the sculptures can look fantastic with a dramatic stormy sky and the less hardy will stay away waiting for better weather.
- Don’t expect to walk quickly, people stop to take photos in the middle of the path, some are considerate, some not so much – just expect it and keep smiling.
- Try not to touch the sculptures – as inviting as they are some may be easily damaged so pay attention to the warning signs.
- Watch your footing when exploring the works on the rocks, one man today got so carried away with capturing the perfect shot he almost ended up in the ocean.
- If you or anyone in your group has trouble with stairs check out this map showing which parts of the walk are most accessible and where the staircases are.
A selection my favourites from over the years
Where: Along the Bondi to Tamarama section of the walk
When: Thursday 18 October – 4 November
How to get there:
The 380, 381 and 333 buses run between Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach.
The 361 will take you to Tamarama,
The 378 to Bronte Beach, and the 362 runs from Bondi Beach along the coast to Coogee Beach.
The 360 – Clovelly to Bondi Junction
If you are planning on a special meal at somewhere like Icebergs or before or after your walk it is recommended to make a booking.
This year there is also a free shuttle sponsored by Hyundai that will get you from one end of the walk back to where you started on the weekends. It is even equipped with booster seats and a baby capsule!
What’s your best tip for first-time visitors?