Bondi Beach is as symbolic of Australia as the kangaroo. A photo of a kangaroo automatically makes you think of Australia. Similarly, when you see a photograph of an Australian lifeguard in his characteristic cap, the first beach you think of is Bondi: no caption is needed. Bondi represents the true “Aussie Spirit”: beach lloving, sports crazy, but serious and responsible at the same time.
It is not just since it was discovered by Sydney’s early settlers that “Bondi” and “surf” have been synonymous. The name of the suburb comes from an aboriginal word meaning “the noise of waves crashing on rocks.” Take a walk out onto the headlands on either end of the beach and you will understand why the aborigines gave Bondi this descriptive name.
While the ancient aborigines spent their time on the rocks harvesting the bounty of the sea, the beach at Bondi is where it is all happening today. Smack dab in the middle of Bondi’s wide, crescent shaped beach is the oldest surf life saving club in the world, the Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, established 1907. From the beginning, the club has been dedicated to the pursuit of saving lives at Australia’s most famous beach. February the sixth, 1937 is remembered in Australia as “Black Sunday.” On that day alone, lifesavers in Bondi rescued over 300 beachgoers on a crowded day when huge seas got the best of inexperienced swimmers. Five lives were lost on that day, but had it not been for their heroic efforts, dozens of lives would have been lost.
The tram to Bondi used to be almost as famous as the beach itself. Since the last tram ran in 1961, it has been replaced by buses. The beach is so popular, even though a bus from nearby Bondi Junction runs every ten minutes, during the summer months, every bus is packed.
Aside from the bus services, there is a large parking area in front of the beach. However, it is still a challenge finding transportation for the estimated 40,000 people who visit Bondi on a hot weekend in the middle of the summer. Somehow,it manages to do so in style. Even on the most crowded days, the atmosphere is festive and everyone gets catered to by the local businesses along Campbell Parade and on Curlewis Street, the two main roads.
While Bondi attracts the greatest crowds on hot days, it is a popular destination 365 days a year. In the middle of winter, surfers brave the cold winter waters to ride the waves and the world famous “Bondi Icebergs” jump into the icy waters of their salt water pool. Those who prefer to stay warm and dry exercise by jogging or walking on the scenic coastal walking trail that starts on the southern end of Bondi and goes around the headland to beaches further south.
Bondi is equally popular at night, when the pubs, entertainment venues, restaurants and other nightspots come to life. Bondi’s nightlife reflects its diverse community and tastes. As you wander down the street, you may hear the strumming of an acoustic guitar coming from inside a cafe/bookshop, the sound of electric guitars inside a local pub or the tinkling of piano keys from inside a lavishly appointed gourmet restaurant.
Because of its iconic status and non-stop activity, Bondi is one of Sydney’s most popular destinations for tourists. Bondi accommodations range from very modestly priced backpackers hostels to five star hotels with sweeping ocean views. If you are visiting Sydney, you may as well stay in Bondi, since you will undoubtedly be visiting there anyway. Not visiting Bondi is not an option: you can’t say you’ve seen Sydney until you’ve seen Bondi.