Coogee, a beachside suburb of local government area City of
Randwick, is located 8 kilometres south-east of the Sydney
central business district. It is also a part of the Eastern
Suburbs and south-eastern Sydney regions. Coogee is often
colloquially referred to as "the Coog".
The Tasman Sea and Coogee Bay along with Coogee Beach lie
towards the eastern side of the suburb. The beach is popular
for swimming. 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" or "stinking
seaweed", a reference to the smell of decaying kelp washed
up on the beach. Although at certain times large quantities
of seaweed are still washed up, it is usually removed before
it gets a chance to stink. Coastal winds can carry the
stench to surrounding suburbs and as far westwards as the
University of New South Wales.
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. Another name, "Bobroi", was
also recalled as the indigenous name for the locality.
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 Gordon's Bay.
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.
Coogee was gazetted as a village in 1838, in 1863 the first
school was built which was later converted to become the
Coogee Bay Hotel in 1873, three years later in 1876 Coogee
Public School was established. In late 1887, Coogee Palace
Aquarium and swimming baths followed by the construction of
the Coogee pier in 1928 which was later demolished in 1934.
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 Rd in Randwick. It ran down King St beside the
Randwick Tram Workshops, then ran in its own reservation to
Belmore Rd. It then ran down Perouse Rd, St Pauls St, Carr
St and Arden St before terminating in a balloon loop in
Dolphin St 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.
The Coogee Surf Life Saving Club was founded in 1907.
Population growth began in earnest in the 1920s. An
English-style seaside entertainment pier stood at the beach
between 1928 and 1934, but it was demolished after serious
damage by the surf. 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. Located in
Alison Road is a two-storey Federation mansion named Ocean
View. The house was built in 1916 by Philip Wirth, of
Coogee Palace Aquarium
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 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 meters 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 meters out from shore.
Shark Arm Murder Case (1935)
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
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
When the illusion 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
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
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
WWII. 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.
The suburb is now well served by buses, with routes to the
Sydney CBD via Randwick, and also to Bondi Junction,
Eastgardens via Kingsford and Maroubra and Leichhardt via
Glebe and Newtown.
Geography and landmarks
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.
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).
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 Wylies
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.
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. The Roosters
have represented the area in the League since 1908. Some
junior League clubs in the area are also affiliated to the
South Sydney junior Rugby League, as the borders between the
Roosters and Souths have been redrawn numerous times in the
Coogee area since the 1930s. Local Rugby League teams
representing the Coogee area include the Coogee Dolphins and
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 Wylies Baths' an historic coastal pool facility
has been a long time supporter of Coogee's water-based
sports and recreation.
Festivals and events
The Island Challenge, held in the last weekend in November
by the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club involves a 2.4 km swim
out and around Wedding Cake Island (off Coogee Beach). The
race began in 2000, attracts hundreds of competitors, and is
a prominent fixture on the Sydney ocean swimming scene.
The Coogee Arts Festival in February is a series of open air
events held in the parklands above the Southern side of
Coogee Beach. It features theatre performances and a small
The Annual Coogee Family Fun Day is the first Saturday of
every December held by the Coogee Chamber of Commerce
features amusement rides and stalls next to the beach.
Coogee Carols are held on the weekend prior to Christmas at
Goldstein Reserve, opposite Coogee Beach. The event has been
staged annually since 2002.
Putu Mayam Day is the first of its kind outside of Malaysia.
On the first of every month you can indulge in the world
famous Putu Mayam (rice noodles accompanied by shaved
coconut and brown sugar) on the coastal edge of Coogee