Coogee Beach in Sydney Australia

Coogee Beach in Sydney Australia

By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids correspondent

As vibrant and cosmopolitan as Sydney’s CBD (short for Central Business District) is, to get a fuller picture of the local lifestyle, hop on a train, bus or ferry to one of Sydney’s stunning beaches. If you like swimming, strolling and people watching, there’s a laid-back urban beach with your name on it. Best of all a beach day is free of charge.

Eastern Beaches

My daughter Maddy lives near iconic Bondi Beach, possibly Australia’s most famous beach. Bondi Beach is just 30 minutes via public transportation from the center of Sydney, but it feels like another planet.

Surfers come for the reliable waves. There are several surf schools if you and the kids would like to take a lesson and learn to hang ten. With a strong undertow, always swim where there are lifeguards present, between the red and yellow flags.

On Sunday, the Bondi Markets sell retro clothes and handmade crafts.  Shops and eateries of all sorts add color and flavor to this dynamic neighborhood.

Tibaldis selfie at a Sydney beach

Tibaldis selfie at a Sydney beach

Ocean Pools

The ocean can be very rough in Sydney but that won’t stop your family from swimming thanks to Sydney’s dozens of ocean baths. These are natural pools protected by towering giant rocks so you may swim in salty ocean water in a sheltered environment.

Maddy’s favorite beach is Coogee Beach. It’s protected position means the surf is not usually as rough as at Bondi Beach. Coogee’s ocean baths are lovely and don’t charge admission. We enjoyed a refreshing swim and a relaxing chat on the soft sand, surrounded by picnickers and happy children.

Bondi-Coogee Walk

Bondi-Coogee Walk

Coastal Walk

If you’re ready for a stroll, the Bondi to Coogee Clifftop Walk is a beautiful 6 km trail.  You’ll enjoy scenic views from the high cliffs while inhaling the fresh sea air.

An Astrology-themed Hotel

After our swim, we headed back to my hotel. I had moved to more affordable digs at The Ultimo. My streamlined room had everything I needed and nothing I didn’t need. It was clean and comfortable, minimalism at its efficient best. The exposed brick walls were a nostalgic reminder that the building originally served an industrial purpose.

Rooms are available in a variety of sizes including a spacious family room.

The Ultimo intriguingly calls itself the world’s first astrology hotel. When I checked in, I was asked what sign I was. I was given a sample itinerary of places to see and things to do that would suit my Capricorn temperament.

The hotel’s top-quality coffee machine in the lobby and Haymarket location, just a few steps from the Central Station in the heart of Chinatown, are unbeatable.

Scene in Sydney's Chinatown

Scene in Sydney’s Chinatown


As a foodie, I was thrilled to be able to experience pan-Asian flavors just outside of the hotel’s front door. I was overwhelmed with choices that made my mouth water, including Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese and dumpling houses.

Best of all was Market City, directly across the street from the hotel. This urban mall has a sparkling new food court with inexpensive options. Each member of the family can buy what appeals to them before you all sit at the spacious communal tables and feast together.

I ordered ramen served in a rich bone broth while my vegetarian daughter chowed down on plump Thai spring rolls filled with a medley of fresh veggies.

Market City is home to Playtime, a giant arcade with old-fashioned pinball machines, high-tech video games and everything in-between. It’s the perfect place for kids to let off a little steam between sightseeing.

Fun and adventure atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge