I’ve lived in two cities in my life, Sydney and London. I love both dearly, but here’s a funny thing; when I lived in London I needed to get away quite regularly. At first I thought it was just because there were so many amazing places to visit right on the doorstep, but after a while I realised I craved a getaway. Yet in Sydney I never felt that way. Sure I wanted to go explore new places, but it was more in an “I want to see them” than an “I need to get away from it all” way.
Then it hit me. I didn’t need to do that in Sydney because I could get away from it all in my own city.
It’s a thought that came back to me when I had the chance to experience a Sydney seaside staycation in Coogee.
I’m one of those silly Sydney peeps who almost forgets Coogee is there in the winter. So when the nice folks at Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach invited me to come down for a couple of nights in the cooler part of the year I was up for the adventure. An adventure that was even more fun when BMW Australia asked if I’d like to take a BMW 125i along for the ride (insert obvious answer here).
It was fun to pack a couple of bags, throw them in the back of a sleek little hatch and zip down to Coogee. After checking into my room and oohing and aahing at the view, I realised it was going to be hard to tear myself away from my balcony to explore the village. But of course it had to be done, and it turned out my timing was not bad at all.
Wandering down to the beach I noticed that even though it was winter there seemed to be quite a few men splashing around in the surf. Men who happened to run up the beach as I arrived and turned out to be the Sydney Swans enjoying a recovery session (a sight some of the local women also clearly enjoy, going by the number just casually sitting around at that end of the beach on a Monday).
As the lads headed off into the day it was time to do a spot of shopping. It may sound silly to some but I find I don’t have a true feel for a place if I haven’t had a chance to walk into the local shops and have a chat with the people who work there.
On Coogee Bay Road I came across Mackenzie Mode, a boutique filled with colourful dresses and started chatting to the owner and designer. Emily Mackenzie moved to Coogee from Canada after she fell in love with the beach community and says she loves the winters there as much as the summers. She laughed with her assistant about the fact that it’s so easy to get stuck in Coogee and not leave, and told me about building the business in Australia. I soon found myself in the change room trying on a whole range of her creations and feel quite proud of myself for managing to buy only one, as seen held by the designer herself here.
But of course there’s more to Coogee than looking at gorgeous men on the beach and shopping.
While technically not in Coogee, the locals consider Centennial Park part of their backyard, and it was here that I met the lovely Monty. One of Eastside Riding Academy’s beautiful horses, Monty and I were paired up with Elsa and Zeus and went for a ride around the park. Originally from France, Elsa was great company and it was fun to swap tales as we walked around the park, with the occasional trot thrown in for good measure.
Sadly you can’t canter around Centennial Park, which I would have loved the chance to do. It’s a rule I completely understand, especially as some people may lose control and with so many children sharing the space. You can opt to do a lesson in the Equestrian Centre where you can kick it up to a canter, but I liked the idea of enjoying a lap of Centennial Park so was happy just to get back on the horse, so to speak.
After working up an appetite with Monty I headed over to Centennial Parklands Dining, a spot I often walk past when I’m in the park but haven’t spent a lot of time in. Which I decided half way through my meal is rather foolish because the food is worth slowing down for. They have a café, dining room and wine room on offer and on a sunny day that deck is a great place to savour a meal and watch the park life.
Other tasty spots to eat on a Coogee staycation include the Crowne Plaza’s own Bluesalt restaurant and Barzura. Bluesalt’s lunch and dinner offers locally caught seafood and other tempting dishes, while in the mornings they transform into an impressive breakfast buffet with a great range of fresh fruits and a juice station for your vitamin hit, alongside the hot buffet, egg station and continental selection.
Just down from the Crowne Plaza you’ll find Barzura, a bit of a local institution that has been serving up great food with gorgeous views since 1994.
The owner, Rodney has also started a yoga school just upstairs from Barzura, and I started one morning getting my downward dog on with the crew at The Living Room Yoga School. One of the best bits about that is after I felt all fit and healthy from the yoga I could walk right downstairs and order up a healthy breakfast at Barzura (oh okay, so I ordered pancakes along with my fruit salad, but I did say “could”).
As well as enjoying the food I like the way Barzura works with the community. They prepare healthy children’s meals for the local school, and then all money raised from those meals goes to help feed orphaned children in Tanzania. I’m told they’ve raised more than $70,000 over the last six years and as well as being able to provide money the students also get to learn about the challenges children in other parts of the world face.
From yoga and healthy food to a massage. Yes, a Sydney staycation can be hard but Massage by the Sea in Clovelly helped things along nicely. In the summer they literally set up their massage tables by the sea, as the name would suggest, so you can have the sounds of the ocean surrounding you as the tension is worked out of your body. As this was winter I decided it was best to go for the indoor version, which was nice and warm and very relaxing indeed.
Another fun nearby treat is a night at the cinema. But not any cinema, one of only two original Art Deco cinemas remaining in Sydney: the Randwick Ritz. Built back in 1937 the Ritz is family owned and operated and it’s not just great for going out with friends or on a date, it’s a hit with young mums. On Mondays and Wednesdays they have the Bubs Club when mothers can bring their babies along safe in the knowledge that no one will judge them if bub gets a little testy.
Speaking of bubs… a little trivia about the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach for you: it’s also the place where lots of babies get their first ocean views. The hotel has a programme where they take some of the mums and dads from the nearby Prince of Wales hospital. There’s a midwife there 24 hours a day to help out, and as I discovered after speaking to one dad it’s a wonderful way for the family to bond, safe in the knowledge they have help on hand before they’re ready to head on home.
Personally I didn’t hear a single baby when I was at the hotel. What I did hear was the sounds of the ocean, and birds, and my own sighs when I looked out at such a beautiful part of Sydney.
Even though it’s only a short distance from my own Sydney home, it was still hard to say goodbye to my Sydney Coogee staycation. And I can also report that the worst thing about borrowing a BMW 125i is having to say goodbye. But I have the memories. And they give me a sunny smile in the middle of winter.
The Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach has a Discover More winter package including 20% off the room and a complimentary buffet breakfast for two at Bluesalt Restaurant from $209 a night for stays until the 1st September 2013. For more details see the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach website.
Amanda Woods stayed as a guest of Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach but as usual all opinions remain her own. She would also like to thank BMW Australia for her hot hatch experience in the BMW 125i.
Holidaying in Sydney? You may also want to check out my list of things to do on a rainy Sydney day.