At the south-eastern extremity of Sydney Harbour, visitors can find the picturesque suburb of Watsons Bay, with its magnificent water views and charming harbour beaches. The area was first settled by Europeans in 1788, when Watsons Bay was established as a fishing village. Today, it hosts Doyles, one of Sydney’s oldest seafood restaurants. No tour of Sydney is complete without tasting some fillets of flathead or barramundi, or even an exotic shellfish, prepared in the legendary weatherboard clad kitchen.
For those who prefer a picnic to the formality of dining rooms, Doyles also has a takeaway kiosk and the nearby waterside park provides a perfect spot to lounge on a blanket on a sunny day. Thirsty visitors can enjoy the beer garden of the Watsons Bay Hotel and gaze at the turquoise shimmers of the magnificent harbour as they sample the local brews.
After a hearty meal and a cleansing ale, it is always a good idea to take a scenic walk. A path from Watsons Bay leads to Farm Cove, a delightful but tiny white-sand beach where cute little waterfront houses peak out from behind their pastel painted fences. Beyond a small headland is the steep cliff that leads down to Lady Bay Beach. Visitors can access Lady Bay’s yellow sand and gentle surf by climbing down strategically placed ladders that cling to the rock face. On this particular beach, clothing and swimsuits are optional. Thus, it has become a haven for naturists and a magnet for people watchers who wish to observe the naked truth about our species.
Around the headland and turning south, the path reaches the infamous Gap. While the ocean views and the sounds of crashing waves from the top of this monstrous cliff concoct a marvellous feast for the eyes, the Gap can also be a place of great sadness. Over the years, it has provided a gruesome site for many suicides and the occasional murder. More happily, it is also a favourite spot for lovers seeking inspiration in the glittering dance of the surging sea under a starlit sky.
Watsons Bay is an easy half-hour drive from the centre of Sydney. It can also be reached by bus via a journey that winds its way through the salubrious suburbs east of the city. Although the area is sometimes busy on weekends, during the working week it is quiet and uncrowded – perhaps becoming a pleasant reminder of how it must have been in Watsons Bay’s early days as a fishing village.