SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — The forecast today called for rain. But then, that’s been true for all our days in Sydney, so we took a gamble and headed out for another hike.
Beth had read about the spectacular four-mile coastal track from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach, and we saw there might be a rain-free window of three hours in the afternoon.
We hoped the rain would have fizzled out by the end of our 1-hour bus ride through neighborhoods of cute but tiny side-by-side bungalows. Beth felt lucky she has lived her whole life in free-standing houses with windows on all sides, because very few people in Sydney do, and that she went to college on a leafy American campus. Our route took us through the University of New South Wales, which was chockablock with mid-rise buildings — no trees in sight.
But by the time we got to Coogee, it was raining, turning into a downpour. We thought of well-traveled friends and asked ourselves, What would John and Mary do? Have lunch!
We settled into the Courtyard Cafe and ordered, in the meantime amusing ourselves by comparing the population density of Sydney, Munich and Minneapolis on versus.com. It said Munich is more dense than Sydney — uh-oh!
Beth had the chicken quesadilla and would have had the steak-sandwich special, but like Kiwis, Aussies feel more is better: In addition to steak, Swiss cheese and caramelized onions, they’d piled on beetroot, rocket greens, tomato, bacon and smoky BBQ aioli. Torsten liked it, though, and is even acquiring a taste for beets on burgers.
By the time we were finished, the rain had stopped. We walked down to the beach, framed by cliffs with houses built right down to the water, like towns on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Barely off the beach, we stopped and walked down a stone stairway to the Giles Baths, a corner of the bay protected by giant rocks. In high winds, the Pacific Ocean put on a show for us: It was mesmerizing to watch waves crash into the barrier rocks and send up soaring plumes of frothy water.
The entire walk is a succession of beaches separated by cliffs with cool sandstone rock formations, such as the long, pointy snout on Sharks Point. We could see why our guidebook called this the most popular walk in Sydney.
Gordons Bay doesn’t have a beach, just a cove lined with rowboats and million-dollar houses with billion-dollar views.
It also has an underwater trail with 25 stops — 44 gallon drums filled with concrete, connected by chains — created by the local dive club. A friendly grouper fish lived here for many years, beloved by locals, until a tourist killed it with a spear.
Around the next corner, we reached the hillside Waverley Cemetery, and because the oceanfront path was closed due to storm erosion, we got to walk through it. There was a lot of marble statuary, but many sites had fallen into disrepair, with broken headstones and plots covered by weeds. Add some fog and you have the ultimate location for a horror movie.
The one exception was the vault of a 20th-century Italian family, which included photos. The three current occupants all passed away in their late 90s, which made both of us think we should stick to a Mediterranean diet.
Next up was Bronte Beach, where we worried a bit about a surfer who was paddling outside the breakers and didn’t seem to be making headway. But when we passed the life-saving station on the beach, we saw that a couple of lifeguards were intently watching the waves.
The most charming of the beaches we visited was Tamarama, which sits well below the road and houses around it. It had such a good vibe, even on a cloudy day, that we both decided to sit down and do some people and surfer watching.
We didn’t notice that the few spots of blue sky had vanished and skies looked ominous again. Sure enough, by the time we rounded our next point, it started to rain — our three-hour window had closed.
We dove under one of the many sandstone overhangs. A small waterfall had developed right next to our shelter, and across the bay, a small trickle had turned into a full-blown waterfall plunging into the ocean. When the rain stopped, we continued on to Bondi Beach in time to see a rainbow stretch across the bay.
Bondi is Sydney’s most famous beach, and it’s huge. We stopped to check bus schedules under the porticoes of the pavilion, called “playground of the Pacific” when it was built in 1928 with Turkish baths and a ballroom.
Then we hopped on the bus for our 1.5-hour return trip to Norton Street, where we picked up an order of pad thai and went home. The day turned out pretty nicely, despite the rain.