Sydney, Australia

SYDNEY IS OFTEN HAILED AS ONE OF THE MOST LIVABLE CITIES IN THE WORLD, a cultural capital without the pinky-in-the-air attitude. When most people think of Sydney, the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge instantly come to mind. But Sydney and its environs are also a beach destination of the first order. Its profile as a surfing destination is growing like the proverbial seventh wave. Bondi Beach near Sydney draws visitors from around the world

You don't have to be a seasoned surfer to enjoy Bondi's waves—Let's Go Surfing is an outfit on the beach eager to give novices surf lessons. Bondi (pronounced Bond-Eye) Beach is about a half-mile long and one beach leads to another along Sydney's coast, from Bondi to Tamarama, Bronte and Coogee. Tamarama attracts the sleek and beautiful, and locals call it "Glamarama." When the surf is high, surfers come to Tamarama to test their skills against the 15-foot swells. If you're not the type who likes getting wet, take a stroll along the Bondi-to-Coogee scenic cliff walk.

When you get to Bondi, take the time to walk along its promenade to take in the eclectic beach culture. Bondi's main thoroughfare of Campbell Parade is lined with surf shops, souvenir stands, cafés, restaurants, bars and the ubiquitous fish-and-chip shops. Those in the know like to top off a meal with a gelato from the Bondi Pavilion, a Bondi landmark since the 1920s. For a more complete dining experience, consider stopping into The Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, one of the most popular restaurants in Bondi. Here you can order Northern Italian food and enjoy panoramic views of the beach and Pacific Ocean from the restaurant's floor-to-ceiling windows. You can also dine on lighter fare and catch a sea breeze out on the restaurant's Sundeck Café.

There are places to stay right along the beach, from guest houses to five-star hotels, but the proximity of all four beaches to Sydney's center doesn't make it necessary. But being that close to the sand won't be a hardship either.

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