Vaucluse is one of Sydney's most exclusive suburbs, and old and new money abounds in the lavish homes gracing the harbour foreshore. The suburb's nearby cousin, Watsons Bay, located on the southern head of the entrance to Sydney Harbour, is recognised as Australia's oldest fishing village, having been established in 1788. It was here that Governor Phillip first landed in Australia.
In the heart of Vaucluse, not far from the harbour, this early 19th-century house was once owned by the flamboyant William Charles Wentworth.
Now a Historic Houses Trust museum, it is a beautifully preserved example of an early Victorian well-to-do household. The gardens are open to the public daily; guided tours of the house are available on request. Wentworth Rd; (02) 9388 7922; open 9.30am–4pm Fri–Sun, daily during school and public holidays.
All roads in the eastern suburbs lead to Watsons Bay. This is where you will find the spectacular ocean cliffs known as the Gap, and Doyles, a famous seafood restaurant with superb views of the city.
Nearby is Camp Cove, a popular family beach and the starting point of a 1.5-kilometre walking track, which takes you past Sydney’s first nude-bathing beach, Lady Bay, to the windswept promontory of South Head.
South Head boasts magnificent views across the harbour to Manly and a poignant memorial to the crew and passengers of the Dunbar who were all lost in 1853 when the ill-fated ship ran aground and sank just outside the heads.
On a hot summer’s day, this beach is about as iconic as it gets – a sweep of pale sand covered with a rainbow of towels and umbrellas, encircling the blue-and-white breaks of the bay.
Interestingly, Bondi Beach was privately owned until 1856, when the state government purchased it for the ‘pleasure of the people’. The suburb was a bohemian and immigrant enclave from the 1950s onwards, and even today with soaring real estate prices, it retains a diverse mix of professionals, artists, students and surfers.
The beach stretches 800 metres between a set of headlands, from the Icebergs sea baths in the south to a rockpool at the northern end. In the south is where you’ll find sizeable, if a little inconsistent, surf, while the more sheltered north is suitable for families. Bondi remains busy at night with its many restaurants.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
Though all these suburbs are easily accessed by bus, the best way to view them is by taking the walking track that starts at the southern end of Bondi Beach , known for its excellent weekend market and chic sidewalk cafes.
From Bondi, the walking track winds south along the cliffs through the tiny boutique beach of Tamarama. In November, this section of the track becomes crowded with people viewing the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. Bronte, a lovely beach with a natural-rock swimming pool known as the Bogey Hole, completes the track.
For those who want to explore further, the walk extends through Waverley Cemetery (where you can find the grave of Henry Lawson), past Clovelly (a popular swimming place), to Coogee. Along with the shops and cafes of Arden Street, you can visit the Coogee Bay Hotel, a lively pub with a sunny waterfront beer garden, which lies directly opposite the beach.