Ice skating at the beach?

Ice skating at the beach?

Hell freezes over as Sydney's winter festival turns the iconic sand into an ice-skating rink
Bondi Beach ice-skating
Slippy, slidey surf-side fun on a very different-looking Bondi Beach.

When it comes to beach sports, ice-skating is one of the last things that comes to mind.

But that’s exactly what you can expect to see at Sydney’s world-famous Bondi Beach from now until July 15 as part of the annual winter festival.

Now in its fourth year, entry to the festival is free and, aside from the skating, there’s a seasonally appropriate range of food and drink options to choose from.

For starters, there’s the Alpine Hut -- an après-ski-themed bar with an open fireplace and sofas -- which serves European winter cuisine, schnapps and mulled wine. There’s also live music on the weekends.

At the slightly-less-fancy Chai Tent, festivalgoers can drink free chai latte while sitting in front of a picture of a fireplace, or they can gorge themselves on German sausages, doughnuts and pizza at the fast-food stalls outside.

But the real attraction is the ice rink.

At 40 meters in length, it’s less than half the size of a standard Olympic ice rink but pretty darned impressive given the logistical challenge of putting it on an Aussie beach.

Labor of love

Bondi Beach ice-skatingJust to prove it's real -- the rink really is on the Bondi sand.

The organizers had to truck in 80,000 liters of water and spend three days leveling the sand and laying grids and pipes to physically produce the ice using a chemical called glycol.

Wind, sun and rain -- elements in no short supply on Bondi Beach in wintertime -- all affect the ice, creating a layer of water on the surface that refreezes the moment the sun disappears.

But the extra-slippery conditions are proving no deterrent.

Tens of thousands of Sydneysiders and tourists are expected every day to don bright-yellow rental skates for a 45-minute slide on the crowded, yet highly entertaining, slab of ice.

“It hailed yesterday and people still went out there,” a Chai Tent staffer told us.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing to be ice-skating on Bondi Beach.”

The winter festival also features a lineup of ice-themed entertainment, including ice-hockey demonstrations (a sport alien to Australians), Disney on Ice (perhaps alien to sentient adults?), relays and skating challenges.

Getting there: The best way to reach Bondi Beach is by bus -- service 333 starts at Circular Quay and bypasses the city and Bondi Junction train station before hitting the beach. The ice rink is situated in front of the Bondi Skate Park.

Metered parking is available, but parking inspectors are ruthless, parking spaces elusive and fines over-the-top.

Tickets: Ice-skating costs $29 (US$30) for adults and $23 for children, including skate hire, with discounts available for off-peak sessions on weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on-site, but to avoid disappointment on weekends, it’s best to book online.

More on CNNGo: Amazing images of Bondi Beach

Ian Lloyd Neubauer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist specializing in adventure travel. He has reported extensively across East Asia and the South Pacific and is the author of two travel novels, Getafix (2004) and Maquis (2006), which is being turned into a feature film in consultation with Fox Studios.

Read more about Ian Lloyd Neubauer
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