Dubbed the “Geordie Shore” of Australia thanks to reality TV show ‘The Shire’, Cronulla has long been maligned by the rest of Sydney. Stereotypes of the nouveau riche, wannabe barbie dolls and true blue bogans covered in Southern Cross tattoos plague the reputation of The Shire. Perhaps jealously could explain why some Sydney-siders still perceive Cronulla with such a classist stereotype?
Geographically, Cronulla has it all. Laid back suburbia away from the concrete jungle of the City, whilst still being primely located a mere 30 minute car ride from the International Airport and Sydney CBD. With a national park on one side, open ocean on the other and the Georges River all around, Cronulla’s vast expanse of sandy shoreline mocks Sydney heavyweights like Bondi and Coogee in sheer comparative size. Cronulla offers up a bit of beach for every man, and his dog, and even his four wheel drive! Additionally, there is a huge selection of stylish cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from, many offering casual al-fresco dining and / or fine-dining with a killer view.
On a warm and sunny autumn’s day in The Shire, I ran my toes through the sand and dipped my feet in the sky blue and azure green waters. This is my guide to Cronulla.
Where to Eat
A colourful breakfast and a good coffee is an integral part of Aussie lifestyle. I like my eggs served with a beach view and so my top recommendation for breakfast in Cronulla is Zimzala. Good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Zimzala is perfectly situated on the promenade along the beach front, so you can kick back with your morning coffee and watch the surf. Embrace the Aussie in you and order the smashed avocado, crumbled feta, poached eggs, tomato and red onion salsa served on toasted vienna. Other popular options a mere few hundred yards from the beach include HAM and the vegetarian-cool Pilgrims. Both come highly recommended by the locals.
For a hipster-cool lunch, grab a burger to-go from Jake Chalmers or, (literally) next door, dine al-fresco at the Blackwood Pantry. For a long lunch with delectable cocktails, bubbly and vino, in a LA-cool outdoor setting, get yourself to Henrys like we did. The menu consists of a mouth-watering choice of share plates, with a major focus on fresh seafood. So fresh in fact, that there is a number of choices of raw dishes that Henrys can certainly pride themselves on. The Prosciutto San Daniele, figs, Burrata, Olive oil and house grilled focaccia was my favourite, and you can’t go past a Crispy Flathead taco if you’re going to dine here either.
My top recommendation for lunch or dinner though is, hands down, Summer Salt. Away from the crowds, Summer Salt couldn’t sit any closer to the sea if it tried. Perched centrally on Cronulla’s strip of white sandy beaches, the panoramic views of sea and sand at lunchtime are simply stunning, but the real romance comes from dining at night. The restaurant lights up the sea throughout dinner service so you can dine with both mood lighting and calming views of waves crashing onto the shore. Summer Salt is not only a top restaurant in Cronulla, but is also widely recognised as one of the top restaurants in all of Sydney. If you want a stylish venue with a great atmosphere, but don’t want to break the bank, try the Old Library (Modern Italian), Alphabet Street (Thai) or Giro Osteria (Italian), just to name a few!
Where to Stay
There are two large chains situated right in the heart of Cronulla. The 4-star Rydges hotel, and the 4-star Quest serviced apartments. Having stayed at both of them before, I have to admit that aside from the beautiful view if you are lucky enough to be allocated to a beach view room high enough up to see over the trees that line the beach, I personally don’t rate either hotels enough to recommend them to my readers. Both could do with a decent renovation, and it’s difficult to see where the 4-stars they proudly advertise comes from. Disappointed by both these hotels, I did some research on alternative places to stay in Cronulla and came up trumps thanks to the match-makers at Air BNB. The Panoramic Ocean Front Views Apartment is beautifully appointed, primely located, and can accommodate up to 6 guests for a minimum 2-night stay. Kim, the owner, is super helpful and friendly so you’ll feel well and truly looked after during your beach-side stay, in stumbling distance of all the action around town.
Where to Shop
I love boutique shopping, and Cronulla is no exception, with a choice of Australian and International Designers across multiple stylish boutiques around town. My favorite designer of the moment, All About Eve, can be purchased from the boutique store Dutchee Dutchee, and don’t forget to visit ROAR and Loft 18 for more must-have items.
Where to Party
If you’re after a bit of live music, head to 2230 or the Brass Monkey. If you want to hit up the dancefloor, party over at Sting Bar or the infamous Northies pub. For a trendy few drinks with a choice of craft beers, Blind Bear is a funky alternative to the party crowds.
What to Do
As with many of the beachside suburbs in Sydney, surf culture in Cronulla is massive. Cronulla Surf School offers surf lessons on North Cronulla Beach, while Cronulla SUP teaches the latest trend of stand-up paddle boarding in Gunnamatta Bay. After your leisurely coffee and breakfast, indulge in one of the many water sports on offer, sunbathe and swim til your heart’s content, take a ferry over to Bundeena or catch a rugby league game at Shark Park (the Cronulla Sharks’ home ground). Enjoy long lunches and dinners with fine cocktails and chilled wine, indulge in a massage or two at one of the many day spas, and take a twilight beach walk along the expansive strip of beaches. Isn’t this what a holiday is all about?