Got the winter blues? Make like the birds and head south. Basking in the joys of Indian summer, the Southern Hemisphere is enjoying that perfect time of year when the day still glows from a strong sun and night turns brisk under the watch of the moon. Down Under, surf aficionados are logging some last-minute waves, and Australia’s coastlines, known for soft sand, buzzing shorefront paradises, and good vibes, are experiencing their usual flurry of end-of-season action. With trans-Pacific deals and packages to places like New South Wales and Queensland popping up online, now is the time to finally commit to that surf trip of your dreams. To help you make the most of Australia’s many surfing beaches, here are some suggestions for where to go, what to do, and, of course, where to eat after a long day wrestling an Aussie tide.
Quite possibly the world’s most iconic surf beach, the horseshoe-shaped Bondi Beach is one of Sydney’s treasures. Its south end is littered with beautiful people; hard, tan bodies; itsy-bitsy bikini-clad babes; a talented pool of surfers; and a rainbow of boarders that ebb and flow as they await swells that uncurl unpredictably. New surfers should stick close to Bondi’s north end, which is ideal for beginners. Bondi’s glam factor is at a premium, and boutiques selling everything from boards to bathing suits line its side streets. It’s all about Bikini Island for sexy swimwear, while the flagship Camilla Franks store will polish off any beach look with a luxe caftan or sarong.
It’s easy to work up an appetite here. And quaint restaurants lure foodies looking to pass the time watching lithe surfers do their thing while chowing down on some wonderful plates. A must-visit on the Bondi food trail is Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, located atop one of Australia’s most venerable swim clubs that dates back to 1929 and overlooks the entire beach. Newer to the scene, and also owned by the Icebergs crew, is North Bondi Italian (pictured), the universal choice of Sydney insiders for antipasti and decadent pastas like the arrabbiata with crab and chile. On the other side of the beach, don’t miss tiny Sean’s Panorama, a joint that focuses on fresh ingredients and daily blackboard specials. If you have the time, settle in for the five-course tasting menu for $145 paired with some fine Australian wine. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/黒忍者)
Need a bite before you ride? Nothing tops Trio for a great "brekky," as the locals call it. Fuel up for the day on Mediterranean-inspired egg dishes and heaping platters of fruit and pancakes, then grab your board and hit the water.
Next to Bondi, Manly Beach serves up some of Sydney’s most famous strips of sand. As seen in local artist Joel Coleman’s photography on display at Saltmotion Gallery, Manly by day is a haven for Rollerbladers gliding down the esplanade, scuba divers scouring the underwater scene, and music lovers grooving to some of the country’s best acts performing live at the many local bars. Named for the "manly behavior" of the area’s Aborigine, this short ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay is an oasis for those with an affinity for a good wave. Host of the recent inaugural Australian Open of Surfing, which took place Feb. 11-19 (and gives Manly Beach some serious New South Wales bragging rights), Manly is also the place for those in need of surf instruction. Hopefuls can book a lesson at Manly Surf School, voted the number one surf school in New South Wales by Surfing Australia, to perfect their form.
After a long day beating the waves, you can refuel at a host of great eateries and pubs. If you’re looking for some swank Italian, head to Manly Pavilion, one of 2011’s Best Restaurants according to the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. Dining with friends? Share plates and vino at Manly Wine or Hugo’s breezy outdoor deck for a round of oysters and thin crust pies with plenty of scene. Just drinking? 4 Pines Brewery has a great selection of microbrews, while Hemingway, inspired by the legend, keeps it real with an emphasis on rum. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Frants)