Coogee

 

 

David Whitley tries to fight off a hangover with a yoga lesson and Sydney’s most famous walk.

 

It’s always good to try out something new, although yoga on a quite staggering hangover wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Well, if anything’s going to test the discipline’s supposedly restorative powers, it’s two hours’ sleep and a tongue so furry that it could be mistaken for a new species of badger. The 5000-year-old art undoubtedly has a helping hand, however. We’re at one of Australia’s most iconic destinations; Bondi Beach in Sydney. What’s more, we’re at Iceberg’s – the premier destination for the discerning Sydneysider that likes to get fit, but hang out with the cool people at the same time. It’s a swimming centre next to Bondi Beach, but somehow much more than that. Imagine a semi-exclusive club, but with trunks, and you’re closer to the mark.

 

We grab our mats and park ourselves in a superb position, just above the sea crashing into the rocks and with a full view of the bay. Yoga By The Sea is the brainchild of Sasha Hawley, who has been all around the world teaching yoga. She wants to make it as accessible as possible, and aims the classes firmly at beginners. She thinks the setting is important – fresh air aids breathing and being with nature aids relaxation. It’s her mission to make Sydney take to outdoor yoga, and by golly, she may well succeed.

 

The next hour is all about “stretching through” and “relaxing through” in various positions. Sasha is careful to explain and demonstrate the basic position, but usually adds how it can be extended for those with more experience, and a cheat’s method for those who possess the flexibility of a house brick. I find myself pleasantly surprised – I’m more flexible than I thought. And I can touch my toes. That said, I do possess the balance of a man with a few too many destroyed brain cells, and a lot of the teetering on one leg stuff is frankly embarrassing.

 

But it has worked – I feel at least one hundred times less seedy, and I’m ready to take on the best of outdoor Sydney. While Australia’s biggest city does have a few indoor attractions – the odd museum and art gallery is worth visiting – it’s unquestionably a city where you do rather than see. The more active you are, and the more time you spend outdoors, the better it gets.

 

It’s a city with plenty of great restaurants, but the meal you have around the public barbecue in the park will end up being the most memorable. There are plenty of great bars, but a cold beer in a beer garden during the day is more likely to hit the spot. It’s also a city where public transport is iffy (even the locals will concede this), and taxi drivers can have an astonishing lack of directional sense, but where walking can reveal a multitude of treasures. And talking of walks, one of the absolute classics begins at Bondi.

 

The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk stretches for about five miles if done from end to end, and it follows a curving path around headlands, beaches, nature reserves and cliff-top parks. Do it all in one sitting, and it’ll take around two hours. The army of joggers you meet on the way will do it quicker, but the real secret is to make a day of it.

 

Starting at Bondi, the route goes past Icebergs to Tamarama – better known in Sydney as Glamarama, and a hang-out for the beautiful people – and on to Bronte via a park. This is the busiest stretch, and is often used for special events like Sculpture By The Sea in November. At this time, the walk is flanked by all manner of weird and wonderful artworks – Sydney even does its culture outside.

 

Bronte Beach is arguably the most underrated in Sydney. It’s got a more family, less posey atmosphere than Bondi, and is bigger than Coogee. And on the walk, it’s a perfect place to stop off for either a frolic in the surf or some fish and chips. The walk continues round past Clovelly – which is the best for swimming in rather than getting bashed around by waves – and Gordon’s Bay before finally arriving at Coogee. Another swim, then a schooner in the beer garden at the Coogee Bay Hotel is entirely justified at this point. You can’t let these health kicks go too far...