Sydney's Coogee ranks alongside Bondi and Manly as offering the city beach experience. Wedding Cake Island helps swimmers mark their bearings on this dazzling stretch of beach, flanked by rock pools on either side. Families and groups of friends dressed in hijabs and hoodies, bikinis and bike gear, all love the grassy area where you can sit and watch seagulls spitting their chips. Young couples hold hands or pram handles and joggers walk the promenade, while old and young salts shake and sun themselves on the many poolsides.
The beach can be brutal, particularly when you are on show 24/7 like the Crowne Plaza, which appeared opposite Coogee's famous sands 30-odd years ago where its grand 1900s predecessor, The Oceanic, once stood. A makeover has been on the cards for a while and stage one of the hotel's multi-million-dollar sea change, which began last year, is now complete.
If you've got it, flaunt it. The Crowne Plaza has a prime beachside position but its interiors had failed to make the most of the coastal vibe. New natural finishes, including bleached timbers, and a surf and sky palette have helped rectify this. The now light-filled lobby is connected to the restaurant, bar and event spaces via a dramatic staircase. Just off the lobby, the Shutters Restaurant and Bar is dressed in beachside blues and greens, while pastel booths, cream and chrome light fittings, scattered plants and sunlight streaming that beach view make this a fresh and relaxing spot for breakfast, a drink or a meal. Downstairs, the new Estate eatery offers more buzz for your buck.
While stage two of the renovation is still under way, the changes that have been completed are more than skin deep, with a new events centre and eight flexible and tech-savvy meeting spaces helping to repurpose the hotel as a business, conferencing and work-away-from-home hub, as well as a perfect place for a seaside staycation or an escape from the country.
The gym is COVID-closed during our stay and the outdoor pool area looks OK, but with that beach across the road – why would you?
COVID-19 Coogee, you'll be pleased to hear, is still Coogee. But there are differences. Those hundreds of people dotted in groups on that brilliant white sand on this sunny pandemic Saturday afternoon are all – on closer inspection – at least 1.5 metres apart. It's reassuring, because Coogee, naturally, is all about that beach.
The sunrise teases us from our window until we give in and cross the road for the main event – that moment when the orb bobs above that dreamy horizon. Facing the beach you have many options: hit the waves or turn right for Ross Jones Memorial Pool, the McIver Baths (aka the Ladies Pool) and the heritage-listed Wylie's Baths. Or, head left, and you can walk past the spot where the Virgin Mary apparently appeared, and on to the moving memorial to local victims of the Bali bombing. Further along the honeycomb headland is Giles Rock Pool; further still and you'll hit the snorkelling wonderlands of Gordons Bay and Clovelly.
On the lawn opposite Coogee's waves are the somewhat faded fish 'n chips shop and juice bar and that grassy area dotted with barbecues and picnickers.
Nightlife? Head downstairs at the Crowne Plaza for Estate, which offers good and fun food options, drinks and karaoke. The Coogee Bay Hotel, that famed haunt of footy players, is a short walk away, as is the Hemmes-ified Coogee Pavilion.
Half of the 209 guest rooms and bathrooms have been refurbished. Our Ocean Front King room has grey-green-blue hues and bleached timbers, but it's all about that dramatic beach view from the private balcony with a table and chairs.
There are thick bath robes, a desk area and the large TV atop a cabinet offers Foxtel. The fresh, stylish bathroom has a strong shower and a good make-up mirror. Under stage two of the renovations, the remaining rooms are being refreshed and individual bath products will be replaced with more environmentally friendly pump packs. Mini-bars will also be given a fun overhaul.
Shutters offers classic cocktails, a good wine list, a Mediterranean menu and all-day dining. Mains include a Bannockburn spatchcock with unlimited fries and a house salad. Head downstairs to Estate and its
beachfront views. Estate is carved into three hotspots: Terrace, for open-air casual dining; Kitchen, a more formal seafood orientated restaurant (try the Moreton Bay tacos with avocado and herbed slaw) and Taqueria, offering authentic Mexican classics.
Crowne Plaza Sydney, Coogee Beach 242 Arden Street, Coogee. See coogeebeach.crowneplaza.com Rooms from $195 per night; packages available, including Stay & Dine by Estate Kitchen with a three-course set menu dinner for two, overnight accommodation, late checkout and parking. Free Wi-Fi.
Missing a killer sunrise in your work week? This is a great place to meet or retreat.
That sunrise view from the bed or the balcony.
Litter, weeds just outside the hotel.
Jane Richards was a guest of Crowne Plaza Sydney, Coogee Beach.