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Nov
29

Flights to Sydney-where you will never swim with sharks! No Joke. Never.

sydney's rock pools

sydney's rock pools

Now this is one of the coolest things I’ve heard about in, well, decades. I’m not kidding.  I’m booking my flight to Sydney NOW. And I’m bringing the kids because Sydney is seriously kid friendly and right now you can find some seriously cheap flights to Australia.

Not only does it appease a fear, it also nourishes a desire I think everyone shares:

To feel one-hundred percent free while swimming in deep ocean. Yes, I know that most of you out there perhaps don’t think twice about those little white creatures with large teeth, but I do. And apparently so do a lot of people in Sydney. Hence the Rock Pool.

yes! yes! yes!

yes! yes! yes!

It is not your typical pool, that’s for sure.  No lane markings, no chlorine and far from calm. It really is a rock pool, 50-meters and hammered out of rocks at the ocean’s edge built into the ocean, surf crashing wildly over the side as swimmers navigate their way through the salty and often turbulent water.

On the sea floor there are rocks, seaweed and dappled-sunlight sand. Often bluefish and octopus can be seen passing through, but thankfully there are never sharks or riptides which are what really worry most people out here, they can be so forceful out here that even the most expert swimmer gets pulled.

perfect for children

perfect for children

Apparently Sydney is known for rock pools, it’s a defining characteristic, like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, though not as well known.

Just about every Sydney beach has one, usually at the southern end, to give swimmers some protection when the southerly winds bring cold air and big seas. Most have changing rooms and showers, and are free for swimmers. Serene at low tide, choppy at high, they are, in many ways, the original infinity pools.

wylie's

wylie's

It’s become something of a social scene as well. Take Wylie’s Baths, in Coogee, for instance. About six miles south of downtown Sydney, it’s one of the most popular rock pools in the area and it’s open 365 days a year.  As with most rock pools, it has its own club of locals, men and women of all ages who swim there regularly and compete on Sundays. Sometimes the surf is so fierce that the waves crash over the edge, making it almost impossible to maintain lane etiquette as competitors bump into each other.

wylies beach

wylies beach

A few hundred yards away, within sight, well, partially, is another venerable Sydney institution — a pool for women and children. Built in the 1800s, it was long known as the “‘nun’s pool.” Today, Muslim women in scarves are more often seen, along with pregnant women and older women.

bondi rock pool

bondi rock pool

Sydney’s most famous beach is Bondi. At its southern end is Bondi Baths, an eight-lane, 50-meter saltwater pool built into the cliffs. Open every day except Thursdays, it is home to the Bondi Icebergs Club, which was founded in 1929 by a small group of friends.

From Bondi, you can walk along a well-maintained cliffside path, with spectacular views, just over two miles to Bronte Beach and its rock pool, where the serious swimmers do their laps as the rising sun sparkles off the water. A favorite “sport” for many here seems to be hanging on tightly to the chain railing as the waves come crashing over the sides. There are an expanse of grass and towering evergreens at Bronte, making it a popular spot for picnics.

clovelly

clovelly

A bit farther south is Clovelly, which, unlike other rock pools, is open at the ocean end. It is trapezoidal in shape, starting at a small beach, and the sides are concrete, which may not sound attractive. But it, too, has produced national swimming champions (faded sepias are inside), and because there is no barrier to the ocean, it is a popular place for snorkeling.

FYI in Sydney,  beaches and rock pools are divided by the Harbour Bridge. There are those in the eastern and southern suburbs (Bondi, Clovelly, Wylie’s, Bronte, among them), and the Northern Beaches, which became more accessible when the Harbour Bridge was finished in 1932.

le kiosk

le kiosk

It’s really worth a cheap ticket to Sydney just to experience what they call “beachside dining.” It is so much  more evolved than in California where greasy burgers and soggy fries dominate the coast. Off to the side of Shelly Beach is Le Kiosk. Here, diners can sit in a garden under a giant Moreton Bay fig tree and have shucked oysters or a perfectly grilled John Dory with enoki mushrooms and green pea sauce and order from an impressive list of Australian and New Zealand wines.

Icebergs Pool and restaurant

Icebergs Pool and restaurant

Icebergs has to be one of Sydney’s best hangouts. The dining room sits over an ocean-filled pool with an amazing view of the beach below. And the food, from the hot young Sydney chef Roberto Marchetti is not boring. Starters like tuna tartare with Tuscan dwarf peaches, kale, chives and basil and fresh figs with goat’s curd, Gorgonzola, mint, roasted walnuts and chestnut honey to main courses like a massive T-bone for two brings Michelin-quality cuisine to the beach.

And that, for an American, is unheard of.

bronte cafe strip

bronte cafe strip

A 15-minute walk from Icebergs, at the end of the main Bronte strip is Swell which along with its next-door sister establishment, Bonsai, offers an eclectic Asian-influenced menu, ranging from salt and pepper squid to Thai beef salad to blue swimmer crab and king prawn pasta with tomato and chili.

brothers pavillion

brothers pavillion

The 1930s building that houses the Bathers’ Pavilion at Balmoral Beach is a perfect example of Australian Art Deco architecture now converted into an elegant dining space. With its open windows looking out over the Balmoral waterfront, this is a perfect place for a leisurely weekend afternoon lunch.

dangerously good

dangerously good

Warning: This place is not cheap. Especially as it’s nearly impossible to get out the door without ordering at least a bottle of wine for lunch.

A little more relaxed is the  Andrew “Boy” Charlton Pool , which is like almost no other municipal pool in the world. Named for an Australian swimming champion of the 1920s, this sleek, elegantly designed complex is a favorite for locals.

municipal pool

municipal pool

It’s a popular spot for the city’s serious swimmers, many of whom show up at the crack of dawn, but the cafe also attracts people intent on a good meal. Set on a deck overlooking the pool, the cafe offers great views of the Sydney skyline, and a simple, fresh menu. Book a flight to Sydney this winter and soak in the sun right here.

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