I'm escaping my inner-west Sydney life for a couple of days to where there is sun, sand and ocean air. But I'm not heading to the airport and I'm not going to drive for hours to get to my beachside destination. I hop into my hatchback, suitcase in the boot, and drive east of the city. About 35 minutes east, until I arrive at one of the most famous beaches in the country – Bondi Beach.
The one-kilometre-long stretch glows yellow and blue as I drive down Bondi's main strip,Campbell Parade, and make a left turn on Hall Street. I check in at Adina Bondi. The hotel has beach-themed interiors and a resort-style vibe. I'm not in the inner-west any more, Toto. The lady on the front desk checks me in and asks where I'm arriving from. "From about 18 suburbs west of here," I reply, explaining that I'm a fellow Sydneysider in need of a mini escape.
I had told my group of girlfriends about my staycation a week earlier, and most assumed I was taking a trip interstate or up the coast. They were surprised it was Bondi Beach, but as we talked more about the desire to escape the daily grind and adopt another lifestyle for two or three days, the more we saw how easy it could be to reset without leaving our home city. And Bondi was a good spot – beachy and close by.
I'm ready to ditch my inner-westie and discover my Bondi chick. It's not even an hour into my stay and I'm standing in a wetsuit ready to head out for my first surfing lesson. "The waves are calm today," surf instructor Sam from Let's Go Surfing says as I drag my board across the sand. "Wetsuits are so unflattering, how does anyone look good in one?" I think as I lug the heavy board, weaving it past people sleeping on the sand. Sam talks me through the steps I need to master. I have just one concern – how badly am I going to suck at this?
That time when Sam the surf instructor tells you the secret to standing on your board when it's your first time surfing... Sam the surf whisperer 🌴☀️🏄 @letsgosurfingaustralia #letsgosurfing #bondibeach #surfing #beach @travellerau #adinabondi @adinahotels @adinabondibeach #summer Photo credit: Lets Go Surfing
We head out into the surf. Sam watches for a good wave, alerting me when I should start paddling. There are only a few seconds to get it all right. I catch a couple of good ones, getting dunked a few times. On my fourth go, I'm quick enough to push myself up to stand. It feels like I'm riding the waves for ages before toppling into the water. As we leave, I ask Sam how I went. Sam tells me most don't manage to stand the first time. I'm totally stoked. I'm starting to think I could be a natural Bondi chick.
The next day I head to a yoga class. It's the thing to do in Bondi. I'm doing level two heated Vinyasa yoga at Power Living Yoga. The room is hot and packed. I've done yoga before, but never with yogis like this: arms toned and concentration undistracted. I find an empty spot on the floor and lie down my mat. About 15 minutes into the class, I'm already dripping in sweat. It's pouring down the side of my face and I can see the drops running down my arms. "Is this how Bondi locals like to spend their days?" I contemplate as I bend and twist my limbs into unusual poses – half Spinning Dancing Cobra (or whatever it's called). I'm not really following the animal yoga terminology, so I follow what the woman next to me is doing.
I somehow make it to the 30-minute mark, legs and arms a little wobbly. My hair is wet with sweat, my clothes are drenched and my mat is moist. The instructor walks around the room adjusting our poses. "Square hips," she says as she fixes mine. We finish the class on our backs on the floor, eyes closed. I can't believe I survived that; it was the most intense yoga class I've done, yet I feel delightfully refreshed. These Bondi yogis are serious beans. As I leave, the instructor makes a point of saying I did well. I admit that I felt super nervous when I realised it wasn't going to be a relaxing hour. She laughs: she had seen my "oh my god" expression and thought I might walk out.
No way. My determined inner-westie wants the full Bondi experience, even if it includes some very hot yoga.
I'm in need of a hydrating drink. Green juice, a mix of green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and celery, is one of the most popular drinks here and there is no shortage. In fact, I think if you were to measure, Bondi would be the No.1 suburb for green juice purveyors per square metre in Sydney, if not the country. This spurs on the idea of a Bondi green juice hop; moving from cafe to cafe, Bills to Cali Press, tasting as many as I can. I wonder if this would be the catalyst for my transformation from an inner-westie to active, fit and sun-kissed Bondi local? Or would it just turn me green in colour? It doesn't take long before I develop a GJ addiction and give up drinking coffee.
During my visit, I make an effort to wake early and head to the beach, jogging along the promenade and past Tamarama and Clovelly along the Coogee walk. The locals are already out, swimming at Icebergs Pool, sand-running along the beach and training with PTs in Bondi Park. The coastline is beautiful in the morning sun. I could get used to this active lifestyle, I think. It's such a change from running along uneven concrete paths lined with high-wire fencing and WestConnex constructions sites.
I notice the locals never change out of exercise clothes. Tights, tanks and runners are worn sunrise to sunset. But unlike my wash-outed running shorts and $20 exercise singlet, they are in co-ordinates – mesh tops, panelled leggings and white muscles tees, hands down looking way more stylish than me. Unlike big-brand sportswear, such as Nike and Adidas, labels such as Nimble Active Wear are designing functional, on‑trend clothes for those with a active lifestyle and a fashion sense. Even American singer Beyonce saw the trend, launching a line of activewear called Ivy Park last year. I head into the Nimble Bondi store and have a look around. Green leopard-print tights, large leaf-patterned bras; I'm not sure if I can get away with this look in the inner-west. I grab a black bra and a dark blue tank. The lady behind me in the queue has selected one of each item in the green leopard-print range. "She must be a local," I think to myself.
See also: Ten top spots for a Sydney staycation
Bondi Beach is 19 kilometres from Sydney airport (about 40 minutes by car, allow time for traffic). Buses run from the city and Bondi Junction railway station.
Adina Bondi is located on Hall Street. Rooms are beach-themed with touches of blues and yellows; light-coloured wood and white walls give it an oceanside feel. Rates start from $239 a night. See adinahotels.com/hotel/bondi-beach/
Bills Bondi is one of the most popular spots in Bondi for breakfast and lunch, and the queues can get fairly long. Corn fritters and green juice are popular items on the menu. Bills is also open for dinner. See bills.com.au
Harrys Bondi Beach is open for breakfast and lunch. The smoked salmon on the breakfast menu is light and fresh, and there are some interesting late options. See myftpupload.com
Orchard Street in North Bondi is perfect for an organic juice cleanse or chilled afternoon coffee or chai. Choose your own remedy from the bar menu, pick a favour, add your nut milk and more options if you like. Don't pass on the desserts. The chocolate vegan tart is delicious. See orchardstreet.com.au
Orchard Street organic juice and raw food bar in North Bondi. Photo: Romello Pereira
Porch and Parlour is a top choice for breakfast and lunch by locals. The coffee here is excellent. Facing North Bondi Beach, this spot is great for an afternoon drink and people-watching. See porchandparlour.com
Swim at Icebergs. The pool is popular with locals, who drop by before or after work. Entry is $6. Icebergs is closed on Thursday for cleaning. See icebergs.com.au/pool-facilities
Aquabumps gallery. Eugene Tan's photographs of surfers, swimmers and sunbathers, iconic images of Bondi life, are on display. Signed photographs and artworks are available in small or large prints, framed. See aquabumps.com
Shopping. There are plenty of shops with local designs, including swimwear such as Bondi Bather, and brands such as Camilla and Tuchuzy. The Bondi Markets, open on weekends, has unique pieces from local designers and handcrafters.
Annie Dang stayed as a guest of Adina Bondi. The writer paid for some expenses, including her Nimble Active Wear.
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