Getting To Know Australia
Under the shadow of the Harbour Bridge and Cahill Expressway lies Sydney's most historic area, The Rocks.
More than 200 years ago, Captain Arthur Phillip decided Sydney Cove was a suitable place to site the new penal colony
Today, parts of the original Rocks area are preserved as reminders of rough'n'ready 19th-century Sydney. Two prime examples are historic Susannah Place, and Cadman's Cottage, one of Sydney's oldest surviving buildings.
But there's more to The Rocks than history. Settle the kids in for a storytelling session at the Puppet Cottage before popping off to catch an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art or S.H Ervin Gallery. Then satisfy the appetite you've worked up at the MCA Cafe. If your budget allows it, dine at the pricey but delectable Sailors Thai, Quay or Rockpool.
Rocks shopping options have diversified in recent years: now, it's not just about tea towels and T-shirts emblazoned with Opera House and koala motifs. Browse the Argyle Centre for non-tacky art, craft and local designerwear; or pick up unique gifts and gourmet fare at the Rocks Market, which takes over George Street's northern end on weekends.
There are dozens of decent watering holes in the area, many of them historic. Start your pub crawl at the Mercantile Hotel, Hero of Waterloo, or Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel - which brews its own beer naturally - or the nearby Palisade (at the latter two, you can also get fed).
You could be forgiven for thinking this well-trotted cliff trail was an Olympic training track, but the athletic bods on it are primarily locals power-walking off hangovers. Don't feel as if you have to compete: stroll, if you like, stopping to laze on a ledge, explore a rockpool or do a few sit-ups on the trackside gym equipment.
The scenic trail from Bondi to Coogee is a pleasantly easy one, with paved pathways, only about 100 steps, railings along the steeper, more vertiginous parts, and few steep slopes or hazards (apart from dogs and joggers, and traffic on the strip linking Tamarama with Bronte). It is long, however: allow about two hours to complete the one-way stretch. Many walkers make a day of it, stopping at intervening beaches for a dip, or taking the tour bus to the Coogee end and walking back to Bondi.
The stretch between Bondi and Tamarama beaches, which begins just beyond the Bondi Icebergs (with the option of skirting around the famed Icebergs ocean pool via a new walkway), is so scenic it begs the word spectacular: scalloped sandstone overhangs, rock ledges and a huge, honeycombed monolith dominate the foreground; Bondi's most coveted cliffside apartments dot the slopes. The flagstone-paved path rims a sheltered inlet, popular with rock fishermen and snorkellers. A short uphill stint brings you to the dramatic clifftop look-out and kite-flying hilltop park.
Amble around the point, past Tama's A-list waterfront homes, and you arrive at small-but-picturesque Mackenzie's Bay. Around the headland, past the Tamarama Surf Lifesaving Club (via newly constructed pathways) and you'll see Tamarama nestled in the narrow valley below.
A thin strip of fine white sand popular with the beautiful people, Tamarama boasts a small park with toilet and changing facilities (open dawn-dusk), barbecues and picnic shelters. From October to mid-May, Waverley Council lifeguards and volunteers from the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club patrol the beach, which is popular with bodyboarders but known for dangerous undertows. The park contains an al fresco cafe known as the Tamarama Kiosk that serves breakfasts - but no eggs, brunches, coffees, juices and the like.
Fifteen minutes' walk along the road brings you to Bronte, a user-friendly, family-oriented beach with a large park, weather-protected picnic areas, a working mini-train, a safe beach with lifeguard patrols October to mid-May, change-rooms and toilets (open daily, dawn-dusk) and a tidal ocean lap pool. For famished walkers, there's also a strip of sun-bathed cafes along Bronte Rd.
The path resumes at the edge of historic Waverley Cemetery, meandering through gravesites and on to Clovelly Beach, a favoured spot of fishing fans and scuba divers; and to Little Clovelly, its cement-edged sibling. A kilometre or two farther, the path peters out at Coogee Beach, popular for its safe ocean swimming, snorkelling and bodyboarding, and for its two ocean pools (including the women's-only pool or the popular Wylie's Baths). If the thought of any more activity is too much, sit and swig something cold at the Coogee Bay Hotel or people-watch from one of the trendy shorefront cafes.