Coogee, New South Wales

Sydney, New South Wales

Coogee Beach, view from Dolphin Point at the northern end
Population 14,012 (2011 census)[1]
Postcode(s) 2034
Location 8 km (5 mi) south-east of Sydney CBD
LGA(s) City of Randwick
State electorate(s) Coogee
Federal Division(s) Kingsford Smith
Suburbs around Coogee:
Charing Cross Clovelly
Randwick Coogee Tasman Sea
Maroubra South Coogee
Coogee 1900
Coogee Surf Club

Coogee is a beachside suburb of local government area City of Randwick 8 kilometres south-east of the Sydney central business district, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is also a part of the Eastern Suburbs region.[2]

The Tasman Sea and Coogee Bay along with Coogee Beach lie towards the eastern side of the suburb. The beach is popular among families and famous for its safe swimming conditions.[3] The boundaries of Coogee are formed mainly by Clovelly Road, Carrington Road and Rainbow Street, with arbitrary lines drawn to join these thoroughfares to the coast in the north-east and south-east corners.



The name Coogee is said to be taken from a local Aboriginal word koojah which means "smelly place". Another version is koo-chai or koo-jah, both of which mean "the smell of the seaweed drying" in the Bidigal language.[4] or "stinking seaweed", a reference to the smell of decaying kelp washed up on the beach.[5] Early visitors to the area, from the 1820s onwards, were never able to confirm exactly what "Coogee" meant, or if it in fact related to Coogee Beach. Some evidence suggests that the word "Coogee" may in fact be the original Aboriginal place name for the next bay to the north, now known as Gordons Bay.[6] Another name, "Bobroi", was also recalled as the indigenous name for the locality.[7]

The Aboriginal population had largely relocated by the mid-19th century after being decimated by disease and violent clashes with early settlers, though some Aborigines still live in the area today.

European settlement

View from the baths

Coogee was gazetted as a village in 1838.[8] The first school was built in 1863, and the building was converted into the Coogee Bay Hotel in 1873.[9] Three years later, Coogee Public School was established. In late 1887, Coogee Palace Aquarium and swimming baths were constructed. The Coogee Pleasure Pier, a large attraction including a theatre, restaurant and ballroom, was constructed in 1928, but was later demolished in 1934.[10]

Coogee was connected to the City of Sydney by electric tram in 1902. The suburb's popularity as a seaside resort was then guaranteed. The line branched from the line to Clovelly at Darley Road in Randwick. It ran down King Street beside the Randwick Tram Workshops, then ran in its own reservation to Belmore Road. It then ran down Perouse Road, St Pauls Street, Carr Street and Arden Street before terminating in a balloon loop in Dolphin Street at Coogee Beach. It ran through several small tram reservations on its way down from Randwick to the beach. The line from Randwick to Coogee opened in 1883, and electric services were introduced in 1902. The line closed in 1960. It follows the current route of bus 373. Sections of the disused tramways are now maintained by local residents as a community garden.

The Coogee Surf Life Saving Club was founded in 1907 by local people who believed swimmers needed protection from the dangers of the surf.[11] The CSLSC prides itself on being a pioneer in the realm of surf life saving. In fact, the first mass rescue, night surf carnival, shark attack and the development of the resuscitation technique are attributed to the CSLSC.[11]

Built in the early 1890s and occupied by a Mrs T.M. Alcock was a large mansion known as Maidstone, which stands in Waltham Street beside St Brigid's Church.The house features a metal cupola and cedar fittings inside. The Catholic Church bought the building in 1922 and it was restored to its original style by Provincial House of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.[12]

Located in Alison Road is a two-storey Federation mansion named Ocean View. The house was built in 1916 by Philip Wirth, of Wirth's Circus, and is heritage-listed.[13] Other notable buildings in the area include Roslyn, a large Italianate house in Arcadia Street. It is heritage-listed.[14]

Described by many as the pearl of the Australian East Coast; a popular beach destination often preferred over Bondi due to its pristine water quality, verdant green rolling hills and laid back lifestyle.

Coogee Palace Aquarium (1887-1986)

The Coogee Aquarium and Swimming Baths were officially opened on 23 December 1887, it covered a block of land bordered by Arden Street, Beach Street, Bream Street and Dolphin Street. The Palace included an indoor Swimming pool (25 x 10 meters), an aquarium featuring the tiger shark from the famous shark arm murder case, a Great Hall that could be used as a roller skating rink, Canadian toboggan ran down the hillside for over 70 meters, a herd of 14 donkeys to ride as well as swings, whirligig's rocking horses, toy boats, aviaries, flower beds, bandstand and an open-air bar.

In June 1945, a strong storm caused the large dome to collapse, in 1987 the Coogee Palace and Dome was re-built and converted to restaurants and bars. The former hotel on the premises was owned by investment banker David Kingston and was known both as The Beach Palace Hotel and The Aquarium. In August 2014 the building re-opened as the Coogee Pavilion in a $30 million+ renovation by the Merivale group, and its director Justin Hemmes The Coogee Pavilion.

Coogee Pier
Coogee Pier

The Coogee Pier (1928-1934)

In 1924 construction started to build an 'English seaside style' amusement pier at Coogee Beach, on 24 July 1928, the pier was officially opened, reaching 180 metres out into the sea complete with a 1400-seat theatre, a 600 capacity ballroom, a 400-seat restaurant upstairs, small shops and a penny (machine) arcade. Unfortunately Coogee's rough surf damaged the pier and it was demolished in 1934. Life guards have recently discovered remains of the pier on the ocean floor about 50 metres out from shore.[10]

Shark Arm murder case (1935)

Main article: Shark Arm case

The Shark Arm Case refers to an incident at the Coogee Aquarium Baths in 1935, when a captured tiger shark regurgitated a human arm. The arm belonged to a missing person, James Smith, and was identified by a tattoo. The arm had been cut off, which led to a murder investigation. Nobody was ever charged over the murder, although another local criminal, Reginald Holmes, was found shot in a car near the Sydney Harbour Bridge the day before the inquest into Smith's death was due to start.

Alleged Marian apparition (2003)

Makeshift shrine at site of "visions"

In January 2003 it was noticed that one of the fence rails on Dolphin Point, just north of Coogee Beach, when viewed from a particular angle and distance, resembled a veiled woman. A local laundrette was one of the first to draw attention to it, and set up a gallery of photos to attract visiting "pilgrims".

When this example of pareidolia, a human tendency to perceive vague visual stimuli as human faces, was reported in newspapers many Christians (predominantly Roman Catholic) came daily to worship what they interpreted as an apparition of Mary, the mother of Jesus, although the Roman Catholic Church never officially recognised this alleged apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.[15]

No particular supernatural powers were attributed to the shadow (dubbed "Our Lady of the Fence Post" by the media, aka "Rail Mary") and interest waned within a few weeks. The section of fence that created the image was destroyed by vandals within days of it being publicised, although the local council had the fence replaced. While some continue to petition the Catholic Church and the New South Wales government to build a chapel, their claims were not seriously considered.

The garden at the shrine is still maintained by an older local man and pilgrims in prayer are sighted at the spot.


Sydney's steam tramways first reached Coogee in 1883 and were electrified in 1902. The trams were replaced by buses from time to time in the 1940s and 1950s as the infrastructure suffered severe neglect during and after World War II. The tracks were deemed too expensive to repair and the power supply was so inadequate that trams would grind to a halt in incovenient locations. Eventually the entire Sydney tram network was scrapped and replaced by buses. The last trams ran to Coogee in 1960.

There are usually lots of taxis in the area and there is a late night taxi rank on Friday and Saturday nights just behind the main bus stand on Arden St. The suburb is now well served by buses, there are three bus stands at the beach, the following outlines routes and their stand[16]

Main Stand – Beach Side, Arden St be Coogee Bay Rd.

313 – Bondi Junction via Carrington Rd 314 – Bondi Junction via Waverly 353 – Eastgardens via Maroubra 370 – Leichhardt via Newtown 372 – Railway Sq via Clevland St 373 – City Circular Quay via Oxford St (Runs 24/7) M50 – Drummoyne via City X73 – City Museum – Express Stand 2 – Beach Side, Arden St nr Dolphin St 374 – City Circular Quay via Central Station X74 – City Museum – Express Stand 3 – Oval Side, Arden St nr Dolphin St 353 – Bondi Junction via Clovelly and Waverley 362 – Bondi Beach via Bronte (October – April weekends only)

Geography and landmarks

Bali bombing memorial at Dolphin Point

Coogee Bay Road runs from Randwick to Coogee Beach which is relatively protected through its formation as a bay. The surrounding coastline is mostly cliffs, decreasing in height down to the beach in the western part of the bay. The bay is sheltered from the roughest seas by Wedding Cake Island, a rocky reef about 800m off the southern headland. There is an annual swimming event around the island each November.[17]

The beach itself drops off rapidly at the edge of the water, which can result in a dangerous shore break particularly when the surf is large. The combination of this shore break and high visitor numbers mean that Coogee has more spinal injuries than any other Australian beach.

In larger surf, there are often rip currents at both the northern end and at the southern ends, and also quite frequently in the centre of the beach. These are simply the places where the incoming water escapes most naturally. It is claimed by some locals that the rip in the centre of the beach is partly caused by the remaining foundations of the old entertainment pier (see above – history).

Coogee Beach

At the northern end of the beach are stairs leading from Dolphin Point down to the old Giles baths. This is now an open rock pool carved out of the surrounding rocks. This area is now known as "Dolphin Point". The doorway and a four-metre high bronze sculpture serve as a memorial to twenty of the Australian victims of the 2002 Bali bombing who were residents of Coogee and its neighbouring suburbs, including six members of the Coogee Dolphins rugby league team. A short walk further to the north is Gordons Bay, which is a popular location for snorkeling. At the southern end is the Ross Jones Memorial Pool just below the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club. Also at the southern end are two small reefs the inner and the outer. Further south is a coastal walk that goes past the women's baths and Wylie's Baths.

Coogee is one of Australia's more densely populated areas, with apartment buildings in every style from the 1930s onwards. Some free-standing houses remain. The suburb is a popular destination for tourists, particularly backpackers.


At the 2011 census, there were 14,012 residents in Coogee. There were a large number of residents in the 25- to 39-year-old age group (39.6%) a higher percentage than the national average of 20.9%.

The most common ancestries in Coogee were English 24.4%, Australian 18.9%, Irish 13.6%, Scottish 6.7% and German 3.1%. 57.6% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 8.0%, Ireland 3.4%, New Zealand 3.2%, United States of America 1.7% and South Africa 1.2%. 77.5% of people only spoke English at home. Other languages spoken at home included French 1.4%, Greek 1.4%, Spanish 1.2%, German 1.2% and Portuguese 1.1%.

The most common responses for religion were Catholic 30.0%, No Religion 28.3%, Anglican 14.1%, Eastern Orthodox 3.5%, Judaism 2.6%[1] and <1% Jedi Knight.

Sport and recreation

Coogee is represented in one of the most popular sporting competitions in Australia, the National Rugby League, by the local Rugby League club, the Sydney Roosters, officially the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club (ESDRLFC). The ESDRLFC has represented the area in the League since 1908, in line with the articles of association of the New South Wales Rugby League which identify the Randwick Municipality as being part of the territory of the Roosters. Local rugby league teams representing the Coogee area include the Coogee Dolphins and Coogee Wombats.

Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club resides in Brook Street, Coogee and plays their home games across the road at Coogee Oval. Randwick currently competes in all grades of the New South Wales Rugby Shute Shield competition. Randwick First XV Shute Shield home games are often broadcast to local Sydney audiences on ABC1 at 3pm on Saturdays.

Coogee Surf Life Saving Club has competed in both branch and state as well as national competitions since its founding in 1907, and continues a strong presence in all three areas of competition today. The club surf carnival is held annually in February each year. The Surf Club fosters and supports many other water-oriented sport and recreation club's including the Coogee Minnows (a junior lifesaving/nipper club), Coogee Triathlon Club, The Coogee Boardriders as well as supporting swimming groups such as the Coogee Penguins. The nearby Wylie's Baths, an historic coastal pool facility, has been a longtime supporter of Coogee's water-based sports and recreation.

The Coogee Penguins Winter Swimming Club compete against Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club, South Maroubra Dolphins Winter Swimming Club, Cronulla Polar Bears Winter Swimming Club, Maroubra Seals Winter Swimming Club, Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club, Clovelly Eskimos Winter Swimming Club, Bronte Splashers, Wollongong Whales and Cottesloe Crabs in the Winter Swimming Association of Australia Championships[18]

Beach volleyball is growing in popularity around the world. The Coogee Beach Volleyball Association ( resides at the northern end of the beach, with the Council authorisation to set up 5 portable nets along the promenade.

Festivals and events


Coogee is part of the City of Randwick, forming the East Ward together with Clovelly. It lies in the Federal electorate of Kingsford Smith (which covers all of south-east Sydney), historically Coogee has been part of the Wentworth and then the Phillp electorates. Coogee is located in the State electorate of Coogee (which also includes the suburbs of Randwick, Waverley, Clovelly, Bronte, and Bondi Junction). After the 2011 state election held on 26 March 2011, Paul Pearce lost the seat of Coogee in a landslide to Liberal candidate and former City of Randwick Mayor Bruce Notley-Smith. Coogee is currently represented by the Australian Labor Party at the Federal level and by the Liberal Party of Australia at the State level.

2007 Federal Election
  Labor 45.85%
  Liberal 32.33%
  Greens 16.67%
  CDP 0.8%
2007 Federal Election
  Labor 45.85%
  Liberal 32.33%
  Greens 16.67%
  CDP 0.8%
2004 Federal Election
  Labor 46.09%
  Liberal 32.6%
  Greens 11.72%
  Independent 1.27%
  Democrats 0.99%
2001 Federal Election
  Liberal 35.97%
  Labor 35.95%
  Greens 12.28%
  Democrats 7.77%
  One Nation 2.76%
1998 Federal Election
  Labor 42.72%
  Liberal 36.71%
  Greens 6.83%
  Democrats 4.68%
  One Nation 3.46%
2011 State Election
  Liberal 46.5%
  Labor 26.0%
  Greens 22.3%
  Independent 2.2%
2007 State Election
  Labor 37.59%
  Liberal 32.96%
  Greens 23.97%
  Democrats 2.73%
2003 State Election
  Labor 43.34%
  Liberal 28.64%
  Greens 19.8%
  Independent 3.29%
  Democrats 2.49%
1999 State Election
  Labor 50.7%
  Liberal 30.45%
  Greens 8.91%
  Democrats 5.31%

Further reading


  1. 1 2 Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Coogee (State Suburb)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  2. Gregory's Sydney Street Directory, Gregory's Publishing Company, 2007
  3. Australia, Tourism (2016-02-03). "Coogee Beach, New South Wales - Tourism Australia". Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  4. Why Coogee smells in history. Joel Gibson. European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights.
  5. "PLACE NAMES.". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 13 May 1964. p. 61. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  6. Archived 27 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. A Randwick Ramble, Part One, Randwick and District Historical Society Inc, 1994
  8. "History overview History of the Randwick area". Randwick City Council. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  9. "Coogee Bay History". Coogee Bay Hotel. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  10. 1 2 "Plaques". Randwick City Council. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  11. 1 2 "About the Club". Coogee Surf Life Saving Club. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  12. A Randwick Ramble, Part One
  13. State heritage Register
  14. State heritage Register
  15. members.optusnet
  16. 8
  17. coogee surfclub
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Coordinates: 33°55′08″S 151°15′20″E / 33.9190°S 151.2555°E / -33.9190; 151.2555

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