A weekend getaway means different things to different people.
At 6.30am on Sunday, July 30, it was time to wake up, my better half decided, to see a spectacular winter sunrise on the east coast of Australia.
And so I did, meandering a few metres from the comfort of my bed in a ocean-view unit at the Crowne Plaza in Coogee, to join her on to the verandah. Over the next 30 minutes the slight amber beacon on the horizon grew into a fascinating blue sky. It was chilly, but mentally invigorating. A moment beyond words, really.
Timing is everything, isn’t it.
We had been to Coogee several years ago for a weekend, and loved it so much we vowed to return. But life gets in the way, and so do the many weekend getaway options within a day of Newcastle.
But reacquainting ourselves with this choice beachside suburb, we found it even friendlier and more fun than our previous visit.
The Crowne Plaza had not changed much; it’s a grand hotel from another era. But staff were engaging, the dining options excellent and the vibe welcoming.
A mezze plate at the Crowne’s Oceans dining room and bar with a bottle of Tatachilla shiraz cabernet settled us in on Friday night perfectly, complemented by a shared apple strudel for dessert. We were particularly impressed by the eggplant schnitzel dish, later making it at home.
The busy tourist district was too bustling not to explore. We walked the beach in the afternoon and returned again that evening, heading to the north end, our curiosity piqued by the reborn Coogee Pavilion run by the Merivale group. The pavilion was hopping: families running amok in the games area (table tennis and petanque), couples schmoozing in the bars, pizza front and centre, coffee if want, even an oyster bar, with bigger action upstairs.
The pavilion has certainly upped the ante in the neighbourhood. Get it right or get out.
That said, the next night we found Annie’s, a long-time local kitchen on Beach Street, featuring Italian fare that had survived changes in ownership through the quality of its food. The pizza and pasta were superb, the BYO option making it even better. The takeaway was walking out the door, but inside dining was warm, even a bit cheesy.
But you can’t keep eating if you don’t walk it off. We had done the rightfully popular Coogee to Bondi ocean walk before, so this time we only partook in a portion of it, before snatching a cool coffee at Cafe Salina in Bronte. It was a stunning winter’s day, and if you just landed from Mars, you might have thought it was the middle of summer judging by the crowds in and out of the water.
The man-made environment is almost as fascinating as the natural wonders, with architect-designed glass and sandstone pads tucked in among vintage dwellings.
On Sunday I explored the coastal walk south of Coogee beach. It was busy with regulars, and lots of dogwalkers. The boardwalk trail traversed rockier terrain, and the historical signs gave strong clues on what the territory used to look like. Times do change, and perhaps for the better, with the commitment to public coastal access to be appreciated.
Little time was spent on the busy Coogee Bay Road commercial strip, although I did make the effort to case it out for future reference. It has a plethora of eateries and coffee houses, catering to every variety of clientele.
My favourite place on the strip: Maloney’s Supermarket, full of natural food and juices, and strong on fresh options.
My favourite boutique shop: Black Boho on Carr Street – great coffee, and trendy clothes at reasonable prices.
Take note, the breakfast buffet option at the Crowne Plaza is of the same high standard found at their other hotels – with a wide variety of hot offerings and fresh fruit. You can get barista-made coffee and chefs will cook eggs to your liking.
The writer was a guest of Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach.