Coogee in a Nutshell
During my year in Australia, I have found myself based in Coogee for the next few months and felt it apt to share my thoughts on what this suburb and the surrounding areas have to offer.
My journey to Coogee
Coogee, perhaps over shadowed by its neighbour, Bondi, is a coastal suburb on the Eastern side of Sydney. Like many other travellers I’m sure, I had planned to settle in Sydney with the ideal location being Bondi. The perfect combination of beach side living and bragging rights; I mean who doesn’t aspire to be a Bondi Babe? However, my arrival in Sydney saw me with somewhat lighter pockets than I anticipated, having spent all my money on a tour around Tasmania. So with budgeting in full swing, I scoured Hostel World for the cheapest accommodation and found myself staying at Nomads in central Sydney, in a 32 bed dorm known as The Church. I am an advocate for the term you get what you pay for so at $18 a night I was not expecting a palace. The place was home to under satisfactory appliances, but it was a bed for a few nights which is all I needed.
I longed to return to the beach. Living in Central Sydney was not what I wanted, I was looking for the easy going, surf by day, chill with a BBQ by night, stereotypical Aussie lifestyle. AKA the stuff that us Brits see on Home and Away. Hostel World once again was my port of call. The only beachside hostel that was even remotely in my budget was Surfside Backpackers in Coogee. They also have a sister hostel in Bondi, but the price increase just seemed unnecessary so I decided to give this place called Coogee a try.
Surfside Backpackers: Coogee
Around the time of my stay in February, I was paying about $21 a night for the cheapest dorm room on weekdays. This price was obtained through my original booking with Hostel World, but I did find that the standard prices were higher than this at around $25 a night. Therefore if you were to extend your stay beyond your initial Hostel World booking, expect to pay a little bit more as the first price would have been a deal for you as a new guest. Nevertheless, this hostel was probably still costing lower than your average city / Bondi price and I could not complain.
In order to get to Coogee from the city, you can get a direct bus. The 373, 374 or M50 are your best bets. They each take around 40 minutes depending on traffic. These buses drop you directly outside Surfside on Arden Street. You couldn’t ask for a better location for a hostel in my opinion. Surfside is situated directly opposite the main bus stop, on the main road, opposite the beach. It is spread out across two floors which are both above McDonald’s and a beachside restaurant. If you are lucky enough to get a room on the lower floor, you can even use the McDonald’s free wifi in certain spots – you’re welcome!
The hostel itself is pretty standard. Bunk beds and minimal personal space, but come on, we are all used to that by now surely? My room had a balcony from which you get a prime view of the sea, as does the upstairs communal area. The upstairs lounge / reception / kitchen was open plan and always had fellow travellers to talk to. Whether there was a movie night going on or boxes of goon and a speaker taking over the room, there was always someone to talk to. The kitchen facilities were basic, but that is also a standard expectation, but they were actually cleaner than many kitchens that I have seen in bigger chain hostels so that was pretty refreshing. Bathrooms were pretty standard too, a few broken locks but otherwise they did the job and certainly felt cleaner than Nomads!
I met a few people who were not happy with the Surfside standards, but as I said previously, you get what you pay for. The facilities were apt for the price I was paying and the location that I was at, and that was enough for me. I met a great mix of people staying here too. You come across both long term and short term travellers, those who are staying over winter, and those who are just passing through. This meant that whilst there were always opportunities to party there, you could also sneak off to bed early without people thinking you were a bore if you had work. Don’t go here expecting a total chill though, as I can’t pretend that evenings in the kitchen and on the balcony were not music and alcohol fuelled. You may have been able to sneak off early, but if you could sleep through the noise and constant comings and goings of people in your room, well that’s another story!
The heart of Coogee is on two main roads. Arden street which runs parallel to the beach and then Coogee Bay Road which runs adjecent off of this. Along these roads you will find ample coffee shops, convenience stores, restaurants, smoothie bars and independent boutique shops. As well as your standard Woolworths, Bottle Shops and bars.
My personal recommendations for a visit include the following:
1). The Sushi Bar on Coogee Bay Road where they do cheap plate deals Monday through to Wednesday. The sushi is so fresh and you can try all the dishes you like at this bargain price! Get down there early though as they have been known to have queues out of the door to be seated.
2). Coogee Cafe on Coogee Bay Road. Go here for brunch. My roommate and I have trialled other places near us but always end up back here. If you are looking for that bacon, avocado, egg and halloumi concoction then look no further. You can even add all the extras you like!
3). Coogee Bay Hotel. Your standard weekend congregation point, everyone’s local in Coogee. There are three bars in the hotel as well as a large beer garden and a gaming room. There are both DJs and live bands over the weekend and also a Sports Bar playing all the latest live games. Something for everyone, whether this be an afternoon drink in the sun or a late night dance on the weekend.
4). Coogee Pavillion. Situated on the far left hand side of the beach, this is the perfect spot. A building with great character and many different levels / bars, as well as a roof balcony. Slightly more pricey than CBH but always busy and a good choice to visit.
Coogee beach is one of the few places nearby that you cannot surf. The beach is renowned for a dangerous shore break and powerful waves making surf forbidden. The water is always great for a swim, you just have to be careful getting in and out of the water or else you risk be taken off your feet by a wave! There are rock pools to the far left of the beach which are sheltered from the waves and prove popular.
The beach does get busy during peak times but has a slightly calmer atmosphere than Bondi. Just behind the beach is a grass area where drinking is permitted and barbecues are accessible. This is very popular with groups throughout the day and night which creates a very social atmosphere. You will be asked to leave the area by police after a certain point in the evening if you have alcohol though, which means anti social behaviour is kept to a minimum.
Coogee and Beyond
As previously mentioned, Coogee is easily accessible by bus to most areas. If you are like me however and detest buses, you may see the lack of a train station as a negative point. I have had to get used to the unreliability of buses and compromise on this, but I cannot pretend it doesn’t frustrate me! The close train station would be Bondi Junction.
Buses to the city – 373, 374, M50
There are also regular buses to Randwick, Maroubra, Bondi Junction and other locations. I will also note here that a direct bus from Coogee to Bondi Beach only runs on weekends. During weekdays you would be required to get one to Bondi Junction and then change.
From Coogee you can also complete the Coogee to Bondi Coastal walk. A well known coastal walk Northwards that takes you past some of the prettiest eastern shore beaches. Thoroughly recommended. You can also walk South to Maroubra beach however the full coastal route is yet to be completed.
So that is Coogee through my eyes. A delightful suburb that I have come to call home for the next few months. It may not be as famous as Bondi, but if anything, it is like Bondi on a smaller scale. It has everything you could hope for from an Australian coastal suburb and I hope you enjoy your time there as much as me.