Tamarama, Clovelly, and Coogee
If Bondi is seared into the consciousness of travelers to Sydney, that's because it is one of the world's most beautiful urban beaches. Insiders know, however, that there is a whole waterfront world just beyond these well-trod sands. Although the main hub of eating, drinking, and socializing is still Bondi's north-south boulevard, Campbell Parade, there is a less flashyscene to be had in Tamarama, Clovelly, and Coogee. Slightly off the backpacker radar—for now—these suburbs, where folks do their shopping in sarongs and raise sun-kissed children in relative peace and quiet, radiate unpretentious cool.
Tamarama, sometimes dubbed Glamarama for its disproportionate quotient of Sydney's re- nowned Beautiful People, like model-turned- swimwear designer Jodhi Packer, is a small, sheltered bay tucked between Bondi and Bronte beaches. The glamour here is just as high-voltage as at Bondi, but the pristine strand is far less crowded. Bronte, with its rolling lawns and buff lifeguards, is more of a family-oriented destination and offers plenty of post-beach refreshment, most notably at Sejuiced at Bronte Beach (487 Bronte Rd.; 61-2/9386-9538), where swimmers go for a quick smoothie. • A memorable experience for those unfazed by vertiginous heights and large crowds is the Bondi to Bronte Walk, an easy stroll along the cliffs running between the two beaches. • Barzura Café (62 Carr St., Coogee; 61-2/9665-5546; dinner for two $54) is a local favorite for its ocean view and Mod-Oz food, such as whitebait fritters and smoked-trout risotto with crisp leeks. For Sunday brunch, a spicy duo of nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) and a Bloody Mary will cure any hangover.• Seafood aficionados flock to A Fish Called Coogee (229 Coogee Bay Rd.; 61-2/9664-7700; dinner for two $31), a nouveau fish-and-chips shop by the beach, serving everything from barbecued shrimp to marinated barramundi. (Fish-and-chips, along with cricket, is one of the few British institutions Australians continue to embrace.) • After dark, it's off to Cushion (242 Arden St.; 61-2/9315-9130), a bar-café on the ground floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel. Given its killer beach views, you can forgive some decorating faux pas. • On rough-surf days, locals head to Wylie's Baths (Neptune St., Coogee; 61-2/9665-2838), for laps and (you guessed it) spectacular views of nearby Wedding Cake Island, a rocky outcrop popular with scuba divers. • Fashion mavens make a beeline for the Frock Exchange (221 Clovelly Rd., Clovelly; 61-2/9664-9188), a boutique run by Belinda Seper, who has an eye for fashion's Next Big Thing. Here, shoppers can sell their designer clothes for either cash or B Dollars, which can be used in any of Seper's stores.
Circular Quay and the Central Business District
No matter how jaded Sydneysiders get, few can resist boasting about their harbor. Just try suggesting to a Sydney resident that there might be a finer curve of water, a more arresting opera house, or a grander bridge somewhere in the world and watch him bristle. Not so long ago, the streets around Circular Quay ground to a halt once the office workers went home. But since the 2000 games, some of Sydney's finest restaurants and bars are within a heartbeat of the harbor. The hulking series of warehouses that make up the Overseas Passenger Terminal building (West Circular Quay) is still the disembarkation point for cruise ships, but also houses several glamorous dining destinations, all of them taking natural advantage of their waterside status. (Insider tip: When planning a romantic dinner for two, avoid nights when cruise ships are in, unless you want to be staring down a row of portholes all night.)
If Bellinis and mai tais are your speed, Cruise Lounge (Overseas Passenger Terminal, Level 3; 61-2/9251-1188), a postmodern study in chocolate brown and slick detailing, with black-clad staff to match, is cocktail heaven. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a sun-drenched terrace mean uninterrupted views of harbor traffic: everything from ornate tall ships to zippy water taxis. • The newly minted Ocean Room (Overseas Passenger Terminal, ground level; 61-2/8273-1277; dinner for two $132) features an up-close-and-personal marine experience: the restau- rant's focal point is a 20-foot-high glass wall of fish tanks. • From the Ocean Room it's a quick walk to the eastern promenade, for a ringside seat at Guillaume at Bennelong (Circular Quay; 61-2/9241-1999; dinner for two $139), tucked into the southern shell of the Opera House. French-born chef Guillaume Brahimi's ravioli of Clarence River prawns with a veal jus-and-foie gras emulsion are a revelation. • After a performance, a cocktail at the Opera Bar (Sydney Opera House, Lower Concourse; 61-2/9247-1666) is essential. The futuristic, low-ceilinged space is beneath the concourse; pull up a stool at the curved, backlit bar or, following a matinee, nab an outside table to take advantage of afternoon sea breezes. • In summer, old-timers and first-date couples alike gather at the Open-Air Cinema (Mrs. Macquaries Point, Royal Botanic Gardens; 61-2/9231-8111), which screens mainly art-house films. The setting—beside the Botanic Gardens and overlooking the harbor—is thrilling even for repeat visitors. Many go just to watch the screen rise magically from the water at the beginning of the show. • Don't pass up the Vintage Clothing Shop (147-49 Castlereagh St., Shop 5, CBD; 61-2/9267-7155), a tiny gem that every Sydney stylist has on speed dial. Besides gowns, coats, and shoes, it also stocks jewelry, hats, gloves, and accessories, not to mention the occasional big-name-designer haul—Givenchy, Dior, Hermès—from a private collection. • The restaurant everyone is talking about doesn't have a beachside address. Instead, it's hidden in a basement (albeit with swanky neighbors like Chanel and Paspaley Pearls). All the better, really, because that way there's no distraction from the perfectly prepared Greek-but-not-as-you-know-it dishes at Omega (161 King St., CBD; 61-2/9223-0242; dinner for two $124). This is refined Greek food for the 21st century, served in a sleek, dramatic space with molded-plastic chairs and Florence Broadhurst wallpaper. The drama plays out on the plate as well: chef-owner Peter Conistis produces such praiseworthy house specialties as anchovy baklava and his twist on the classic moussaka—made with seared scallops, eggplant, and taramasalata.