Coogee is easy to get to by bus from the city and Bondi Junction, or walk the coast path around from Bondi in the north or Maroubra in the south. If you have to drive, be warned that parking is a real headache on weekends and holidays [there’s still no meters in most streets though]. The promenade is great for walking, cycling and just people-watching: early mornings bring out the boot campers and sand sprinters, beach volleyball is set up on the sand and on the grass in the afternoons there are performers practising slack line walking, drummers, buskers, Latin dance groups (who love it when people join them).
1 The South Coogee stairs [between Cairo and Denning Streets]: these are really the stairs from hell, all 217 of them! Local teams like the NSW Waratahs, Sydney Roosters and Sydney Swans visit here for a solid base of conditioning during pre-season training.
Stair running is a really effective high-intensity exercise for sculpting your body into peak condition, building speed, power and cardiovascular fitness. Just making it up the South Coogee Stairs a few times will build mental toughness and character! A tough stair workout can take less than 20 minutes and provide the same results as an hour long workout in a much more enjoyable setting. Running up the Coogee steps once at full pace takes only a couple of minutes but will wipe out most athletes.
“For beginners – start slowly and gradually build up your intensity. Even just walking up the stairs can have a good cardio benefit. Once you have built up some fitness you can start trying to jog up them. “A good workout to break up your stair session and build endurance is to continue running up Denning Street once you reach the top, run through Blenheim Park, past the play equipment and back down Oberon Street and continue around Dog Park along the coast and back to the bottom of the stairs. Give yourself a rest in between sets and see how many you can complete”
Other stairs to try out are at UNSW near the central union area, where the campus slopes up to Randwick. More scenic, and less daunting, stairs can be found at Gordon’s Bay on the north side.
2 The Coogee Surf Club http://coogeesurfclub.com.au/ is a big part of the local community, and well worth joining if you live in the area, to feel part of the local action and have access to the facilities – bar, gym, ocean sports and top ranked surf lifesaving club. Coogee also has the biggest nippers club in NSW, and many of the nippers go on to be lifesavers.
Coogee SLSC participates enthusiastically in the various competitive surf club events through the season, and runs the Coogee Island Challenge [including the splash’n’dash, junior dash and 2.4 km Island Challenge] which opens and closes the ocean swimming season in November and April. Other ocean swimming events are held regularly at Coogee as well as surf carnivals, inflatable thong gatherings and suchlike.
3 Ocean swimming pools. Coogee has a wonderful string of pools at the south side of the beach.
The first is the Ross Jones Memorial Pool at the base of the Coogee Surf Club, which is very popular for early morning laps and atmospheric photos. There is a paddling pool right next to it so be warned – it gets pretty noisy and boisterous later in the day and after 3 when school’s out. Membership of the club gives you access to the deck above and the change facilities, otherwise you need to go to the public shower and toilet block in the centre of the beach at the bus terminal. There is another public toilet just up the hill to the south, with the refurbished [and less full on than it used to be, but still wonderful] playground on your right just before Grant Reserve – often called the “Spider Man Park” for the big climbing frame of ropes in the centre. Meanwhile almost hidden away to your left is….
McGyver’s Ladies Pool. This pool for women and children up to 13 is another Coogee institution that the locals will fight long and hard for. The shade comes over early, from about 2pm, but it’s incomparable in the early mornings for a swim and lie down on the rocks. If you choose to take ALL your clothes off, the ‘hot box’ offers steep walls on the uphill sides to frustrate prying eyes. The women’s pool is probably both about community and swimming for fitness – but it’s not a very large pool and depending on the tides it can become a bit polluted. And if you’re more comfortable getting “nearly naked” around other women, this is the place for you, just take a 20 cent contribution.
Wylie’s Baths. To the south of the women’s pool is Wylie’s Baths, http://www.wylies.com.au/, an iconic 50 yard tidal pool that retains its 50’s styling and is famous among the artistic community of the eastern beaches. Entrance is $5 for adults, with various concessions, annual tickets or a $130 pass for 30 swims. Inside there’s a refreshment kiosk, on site massage and yoga classes.
4 Beach volleyball. Beach volleyball is a great sport for all-around fitness and a great way to make some new friends. The Coogee Beach Volleyball Association is very active with over 200 members – there’s a Facebook page and the website is http://www.cbva.org.au/W/, or just rock up to the nets set up at the northern end of the beach. If you are interested in competing they can also put you in touch with the NSW Association. For a more casual game there are other groups that set up and encourage newcomers to join in (although you will be encouraged to join the club for annual membership if you start using the courts regularly), have fun and make new friends – experience not necessary but some level of ball-eye coordination appreciated!