Coogee Beach is one of our much loved (and over loved) beaches in Sydney’s east – a golden crescent of sand smacked by surf from the Tasman Sea, flanked by towering cliffs. Large amounts of seaweed sometimes drape the beach like tresses from a mythical ocean creaturess, although it’s quickly cleaned up these days because of the pungent… aroma.
On this grey and slightly misty, sultry summer weekend the beach is a jumping kaleidoscope of coloured swimsuits and running children; revellers in the adjacent park are competing with the roar of ocean waves and of course that venerable watering hole The Coogee Bay Hotel is heaving with mostly under-30s in the outdoor drinking barn/courtyard.
The southern end of Coogee Bay Road is wall-to-wall cafes and eateries, a few boutiques mainly catering for beachwear and grocery stores with impressive gourmet ranges of chutneys, cheeses, artisan breads, mini quiches and other cool stuff for picnics. A giant of a man, with an impossibly chiselled jaw and one arm busy with tattoos, poses readily for pictures with young Asian women who approach him as he tries to have a not-so-quiet coffee with mates in a street-front cafe. He’s a major player of some sporting code, I vaguely recall, and there my celebrity knowledge ends. But obviously his reach extends far beyond these shores.
From my fifth floor room at the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach I see rain still a bruised smudge on the horizon, but it’s too far away for beachgoers to worry about. Blond, parched hills to the north, with dramatic cliff-edge scenery separate Coogee from neighbouring Clovelly and have well-defined paths for walkers. The Crowne Plaza – also popular for conferences – is the main source of accommodation on this small bay.
I once attended the Romance Writers of Australia annual gig here. I arrived a cynic and came away humbled, if not converted. They work hard, research hard and take this romance business very seriously.
On Sunday morning the grey skies hang even lower, but it’s not cold and swimmers and walkers are up early. It would take truly foul weather to keep us away from our beloved beaches.
The seaside Wylie’s Baths (to the right of the hotel) had a friendly octopus which recently met its demise thanks to an over-zealous cleaner who used large doses of chlorine to clean the area. A wave of local protest ensued. The bath’s trust posted a notice on its website which said the ”success or otherwise of the cleaning process” was dependent on a range of factors including ”frequency, volume, timing, tide, temperature and swell”. Not quite sure that that means. Anyway, Randwick City Council has asked the baths to come up with another solution.
Not-so-good bits: Wi-fi is $29 for 24 hours access (Australia needs to seriously catch up to widely available free wi-fi); no hairdryer in the bathroom; the traffic and drunks orchestra five floors below which had ceased by late evening.
- Rate for Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach is $A200 per room, per night – check out the summer deal which includes breakfast
- The hotel overlooks the bay and rooms on the upper floors directly facing the ocean are best situated
- Coogee is 8km south of Sydney’s CBD, accessible by bus and good luck with parking on a busy weekend- although the hotel has excellent parking space
- At the northern end of the beach are stairs leading from Dolphin Point down to the Giles Baths – now an open pool carved out of the surrounding rockface.
- Gordons Bay to the north is good for snorkeling
- Just past the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club is the Ross Jones Memorial Pool, and a few minutes walk from there Wylie’s Baths
- The cliff top Bondi to Coogee walk extends for 6km and is just magic
- Coogee has always been a magnet for backpackers. Just sayin’.
- The hotel’s Bluesalt Restaurant (mod Oz, fabulous seafood, steaks etc)
- Ceviche (mod Oz with Peruvian flavour), 56 Carr St
- Churrasco Coogee (Brazilian with bar) 240 Coogee Bay Road
- Sammy’s Restaurant Coogee (Lebanese) 100 Beach St.
* Top picture taken on an iPhone, bottom two images courtesy of Crowne Plaza
* I stayed at Crowne Plaza courtesy of the hotel