Whichever way you look at it, Sydney is a beach city. And whether you want to swim, surf, kayak, have a picnic, take a walk, or simply relax, Sydney surely has a particular beach to satisfy your needs. But Sydney is also a huge city, and it does take a bit of planning to figure out where to go. 

With that in mind, let’s lay down everything you need to know about the best beaches in Sydney:

Northern Beachs

An Introduction to Beaches in Sydney: Things to Know

Sydney is blessed with more beautiful beaches than just about any other city on Earth. From busy modern beachside suburbs, to remote national park beaches that feel like another world, Sydney beaches cover a broad and diverse range. 

And there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy at the beach, either: whether surfing, kayaking, sailing, sunbathing, swimming, or attending concerts and events.

But in order to make the most of Sydney beaches, it’s best to keep the following in mind:

  • Know the most popular beaches in Sydney – do you want crowds or quiet spots?

  • Know how to get to Sydney beaches

  • Know how to stay safe at Sydney beaches

 

What are the most popular beaches in Sydney?

There are pros and cons to both busy beaches and quiet beaches – people go to popular beaches for a reason; usually things like fantastic surf, safe swimming, and great facilities. At the same time, quiet, secluded beaches have relaxation and tranquility in bunches, but don’t boast the same beachside buzz that popular beaches do: bars, cafes, restaurants, concerts, events, and the like.

With that in mind, here’s the best of both worlds:


The most popular beaches in Sydney

Bondi Beach:
Arguably Australia’s most iconic beach, Bondi is a famous surf beach blending crowds of city-side sunbathers, chic boutique shops, hip cafes and bars, and events ranging from the Iron Man Competition and major international music acts, to a Mid-Winter Festival and the acclaimed Bondi Short Film Festival. Bondi is home to a large backpacker contingent, artsy local creatives, and an established bohemian scene. 

The Northern Beaches:
Several popular beachside suburbs in the north of Sydney are known collectively as the Northern Beaches region. This large area is bordered by the ocean on one side, and large natural bush lands on the other. The region includes some of Sydney’s most popular and best-known beaches, such as Manly, Palm Beach, Dee Why, and Curl Curl Beach. 

At the other end of the scale, we have:


The best quiet and undiscovered beaches in Sydney

Resolute Beach:
Offering a total escape from the city and modern life, Resolute Beach is a tiny, completely secluded sandy beach with crystalline turquoise water, hidden among the trees of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It’s accessible only on foot, a 45-minute walk from the Resolute car park and picnic area. You have a good chance of having it all to yourself.

 

Great Mackerel Beach and Currawong Beach:
These little gems are certainly not as remote as Resolute Beach, but still much quieter than the Northern Beaches over the other side of the Pittwater Estuary. Relax under a tree, paddle in the calm waters, take a boat over to Palm Beach, or hike around Sinclair Point and up to the Mackerel Trail Lookout.


Tamarama Beach:
This sandy inlet tucked into Mackenzies Bay offers a sniff of Bondi, with only a fraction of the crowds. It has golden sand, a kids playground, cafe, and public showers. As a panoramic bonus, it’s only 20 minutes on foot from the southern end of Bondi Beach, via the gorgeous Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk.

 

Browse our Australian Beach Holiday Self-Drive Itineraries

Map Beach

How to get to Sydney beaches from the city centre

Wherever you plan to be based in Sydney, you’ll never be too far from the sea. Some areas, of course, are more handy to the beach than others – for example, the Northern Beaches suburbs, and the Eastern Suburbs around Bondi, Rose Bay, and Watsons Bay.

But even from central Sydney, it's easy to get to the beach in a matter of minutes:

  • By bus – The 333 bus runs from Elizabeth Street, near St James Station, to South Bondi Beach in just 30 minutes.
  • By train – The T4 train goes directly from Town Hall Station to Cronulla in a little under one hour.
  • By boat – The famous Manly Ferry runs every half hour to Manly Beach from Circular Quay. It takes 30 minutes.
  • By car – It only takes 15 minutes to drive from The Rocks to Rose Bay Beach, along New South Head Road.


Beach-hopping day trips from central Sydney

If you'd like to visit several Sydney beaches in one go, it's easy to do a beach-hopping day trip from central Sydney – by bus, boat, and on foot – if you focus on one region. 

For example:

  • Eastern Suburbs - From Town Hall Station or Museum Station in the city centre, take the bus out to Coogee Beach for the morning. Then walk from Coogee to Bondi via Gordons Bay & Tamarama, along the beautiful cliff walk. After an afternoon at Bondi, get the bus to Watsons Bay and enjoy fish n chips on the beach while watching the sunset. In the evening, take the F4 ferry back to Circular Quay in the CBD.

  • Northern Beaches - Take the bus from Town Hall Station up to Narrabeen Beach, and explore a bit of the Narrabeen Lagoon Trail. Hop on the bus down to Curl Curl Beach for a few hours, then walk the photogenic trail around the rocky headland to Freshwater Beach. Walk or bus on to Manly Beach for the afternoon, then stroll out to Shelly Beach Headland for a gorgeous sunset. Enjoy a drink or meal at the pub near Manly Wharf, before getting the ferry back to Circular Quay.

 

Now we know what they are and how to get there, let’s break down Sydney beaches by category:

Map of the Beach

The best beaches in Sydney for swimming, surfing, and relaxing

This trio pretty much summarizes what makes Sydney beaches famous. And when it comes to combining all three, it’s pretty hard to go past Bondi and Manly

Bondi Beach is ideal for beginner surfers. There are dozens of surf schools and board hire operators, and the waves are mostly gentle and consistent. Manly, on the other hand, is better suited to experienced surfers and experts, who still regard it as one of the best surf beaches in Sydney. 

In terms of swimming, Manly and Bondi cover all the bases. They each have large, well-staffed Surf Life Saving Clubs, with multiple lifeguards on duty throughout the day, and excellent facilities. There are large areas for safe swimming between the red and yellow flags, where even toddlers can safely paddle, in clear view of their caregivers and professional lifeguards. 

At both beaches, there are also public ocean swimming pools: the Queenscliff Rockpool, at the northern end of Manly Beach, and Fairy Bower Sea Pool, at the southern end; and the saltwater swimming pool at Bondi’s iconic Icebergs Swimming Club, at the southern end of the beach.

 

Collins Flat Beach and Bilgola Beach are more quiet and removed, ideal for sunbathing, reading a book, or simply relaxing. 

Shelly Beach, part of the protected marine reserve of Cabbage Tree Bay, is fantastic for snorkeling or scuba diving, with plenty of marine life to observe. 

Milk Beach and Redleaf Beach are two pristine, exclusive inner-city beaches in Sydney Harbour, where you can drop anchor (if you fancy chartering a boat or sailing a yacht). Both have superb views and are backed by lines of boutique shops and chic cafes. 

The best dog-friendly beaches in Sydney include Sirius Cove Dog Beach, Kurnell Dog Beach, and Clontarf Dog Beach, all of which let dogs run and free and wild. There are also dog-designated areas at Rose Bay and Curl Curl beaches. 

If you have a particular activity in mind, however, some Sydney beaches fit the bill better than others:

Dog on a Sydney Beach

The best beaches in Sydney for active adventures & outdoor activities

Kayaking at Sydney beaches

Rose Bay is the best inner-city Sydney beach where you can enjoy smooth kayaking on calm waters, with a nice city-view backdrop and several secluded coves to paddle into. You can hire kayaks from Rose Bay Aquatic Hire right on the beach, or Point Piper Kayak and Stand-up Paddleboard Centre in Rose Bay Park.

Alternatively, Rushcutters Bay is another small but safe kayaking beach near downtown Sydney, offering fantastic views of Sydney Harbour. 

Balmoral and Narrabeen beaches, in the northern suburbs, are also great for kayaking.


Fishing at Sydney beaches

Land-based fishing is one of the most popular forms of fishing in Australia, and Sydney’s beaches are great for both surf casting and rock fishing.

Can you fish in Sydney Harbour?

Yes! There are many great spots for fishing within Sydney Harbour, including Grotto Point and Blues Point Reserve – with its unrivaled views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. 

However, these aren’t exactly the sandiest spots in Sydney.

 

The best beach fishing spots in Sydney

If you’re keen on beach surf casting, or on combining a family trip to the beach with the chance to cast a line out, then you need to get a bit further away from central Sydney to find the best sandy beaches for fishing:

 

  • Wanda Beach, at the northern end of Cronulla Beach, where flathead and Australian salmon abound. The best time to fish here is early morning – which can be a great excuse for a breathtaking sunrise, too.

  • Coogee Beach, just a couple of bays around from Bondi in the eastern suburbs. Bass, bream, trevally, leather jacket, tailor, and plenty of other species can be caught here, even at night (there’s plenty of light from the street and buildings).

  • Garie Beach, inside the Royal National Park south of Bundeena, is something of a secret Sydney fishing spot. Plenty of locals know about it, but you won’t see many tourists casting out to catch the mulloway (‘jewie’) and salmon on offer.

 

Remember, fishing on Sydney beaches can be enjoyed by everybody, of all ages. But rock fishing in particular can be dangerous. So it’s worth keeping a few things in mind:

 

  • Check the tide: consult the local tide tables to know when the water will be rising. For example on tides4fishing.com.

  • Check the swell: use the surf report to gauge whether the rock you choose – which may seem high and dry at first – is safe from sudden surges and big wave sets.

  • Be prepared: having the right gear and clothing is essential, including shoes with good grip, and light clothes that will keep you warm but not weigh you down in the water.

 

On the topic of being fun for all ages:

Fishing at Wanda Beach Sydney

The best beaches in Sydney for families

Taking the kids to the beach is an Australian tradition, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to do so while in Sydney. It’s surprisingly easy (and fast) to reach fabulous, family-friendly beaches with safe swimming. 

Most also have patrolled swimming areas, toilets and baby-change facilities, plus plenty of shade to protect little ones from the sun if need be:

 

  • Clovelly – one of Sydney’s smallest beaches at only 60 meters long, Clovelly has dead-still water, ideal for little paddlers.

  • Balmoral – a popular beach with a wide esplanade lined with family-friendly cafes, restaurants, and shops.

  • Clifton Gardens – one of Sydney’s most kid-focused beaches, gentle Clifton Gardens hosts lots of primary school trips, children’s events, and boasts a fabulous playground.

  • Clontarf Bay – located on Middle Harbour, this sandy beach has virtually zero surf, so it’s great and safe for toddlers and even babies getting their feet wet. There’s a fenced-off in-ocean swimming area, ice cream shops, and a playground.

  • Collaroy – one of the Northern Beaches best family beaches, Collaroy has a popular tidal rockpool, excellent on-site playground, and a free car park.

  • Dee Why – not as calm for swimming, but this Northern Beaches family favourite is a great place to socialize with local kids and families, either on the beach or adjacent park.


Lastly, if you're feeling daring... the best Nudist Beaches in Sydney are...

Naturists and nudists will have no trouble finding accommodating beaches in Sydney, either. 

Cobblers Beach, located on Middle Head just around from Balmoral Beach, is one of Sydney’s best-known nude beaches. There are plenty of trees for shade, and views straight across to Grotto Point and its historic lighthouse. 

Lady Bay Beach, close to South Head, is another famous nudist (optional) beach in Sydney. It feels more remote and further from city life than Cobblers Beach, located in a secluded cove and surrounded by lush trees. 

Another nudist beach in Sydney worth a visit is picturesque Little Congwong Beach, tucked away between Little Bay and the tip of Cape Banks in the southeastern suburbs. Browns Rock, a popular lookout point and iconic photo spot, is just nearby.

As beautiful as all these beaches are, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

 

Beach safety: safe swimming at Sydney beaches

Sydney beaches are well used, and there are always excellent first aid and medical facilities nearby. So, usually there’s nothing to worry about, safety-wise. However, it’s worth pointing out a few particular things that may not be immediately obvious to foreign visitors:

Rips and strong ocean currents

Sharks get all the bad press surrounding Australian beaches. But actually, rips – strong ocean currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag you out of your depth – are much more deadly. They account for more deaths on Australian beaches every year than anything else.  

Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid the dangers posed by strong rips and currents: always swim between the flags, under the watch of professional lifeguards. Rips and currents are unpredictable and change all the time. So these marked areas are deemed safe swimming zones by professionals, who monitor the water constantly and closely. 

On unpatrolled beaches, use your common sense: if nobody else is swimming, ask yourself why. Patches of dark, murky water, or lines of foamy water floating out to sea are warning signs to indicate a rip. If you’re unsure, don’t get in.


Jellyfish stings and shark bites

Again, sharks are not as scary as everybody thinks – and they show zero interest in humans unless provoked, scared, or desperate. All patrolled Sydney beaches have a dedicated shark watch, with warning bells or sirens to get out of the water if a shark is spotted offshore. However, this is a very rare occurrence on Sydney beaches.

In the unlikely event that somebody does get bitten, Sydney beach life saving clubs have excellent on-site medical teams and facilities. The same goes for treating jellyfish stings – a much more common thing than shark attacks. Although potentially painful and irritating, the vast majority of jellyfish stings are harmless, and can be treated within a few minutes by submersion in hot water, ice packs, or anti-venom (which all surf clubs in Australia have).

To find out more about the current weather conditions, tides, and safety advice on the beach you're planning to visit, Beachsafe.org.au is a fantastic resource, with up-to-the-minute safety information.

Further reading: What if I have an accident while I'm on holiday in Australia?

Sydney Surf Rescue

Alternatives to Sydney beaches

Sydney’s beaches are great. But there are plenty of other water-based activity options for a fun day out. For example:

Sydney Water Parks

If you’re thinking less chill, more thrill, then one of Sydney’s fun water parks could be just the ticket. 

Raging Waters Sydney (formerly Wet ‘n’ Wild), located in the western suburbs, certainly lives up to its name with adrenaline-pumping rides like the ‘Whirlwind’ and the ‘360 Rush.’ But it also has plenty of gentle, family-friendly rides, lazy rivers, water slides, and relaxing pools or artificial beach areas. 


Steel Park Waterplay Park, in southern Sydney, is more toddler- and baby-focused. It has fantastic play equipment and water-play areas set inside a relaxing, pond-like park setting, with plenty of shade and picnic areas.

 

Spend a day at the river from Sydney

The Royal National Park is a beautiful expanse of wetlands, river, and bushlands within a stone’s throw of southern Sydney. From Grays Point, rent a kayak from the Audley Boatshed and drift down the Hacking River to spot birds; or take the kids and throw a fishing line out at Swallow Rock Reserve. 


At the northern and western fringes of greater Sydney, the Hawkesbury River is a huge waterway just waiting to be enjoyed. Whether fishing, kayaking, swimming, cruising on a historic houseboat, or strolling through the forests, the Hawkesbury provides a beautiful wilderness retreat which is basically within the city boundaries.

 

National Parks around Sydney

Sydney is adjacent to some huge areas of stunning natural beauty, all of which offer fantastic hiking, wildlife encounters, and swimming opportunities: 

 

  • The World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park begins just west of the city, at Penrith, while the Royal National Park and Dharawal National Park extend south from Cronulla towards Wollongong. Within these national parks, you can do everything from rock climbing and mountain scaling to taking High Tea and visiting historical sites. 

  • North of the city, Garigal National Park begins just over the hill from Manly; and the enormous Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, home to over 350 precious ancient Aboriginal sites, stretches from Narrabeen and Belrose all the way to the West Head Lookout past Palm Beach.


Itinerary inspiration: 7 Day Sydney & Surrounds

Royal National Park River

In Conclusion: Make Up Your Own Mind About The Best Sydney Beaches

So there you have it. A rundown on what to expect when visiting beaches in Sydney. It’s a lot to take it, and a lot to get through. 

 

To refresh your memory, here’s a quick summary of what we covered:

 

  • The most popular beaches for swimming, surfing, and relaxing in Sydney: If you don’t mind the crowds, Bondi Beach and Manly Beach have everything you need in bunches.
     
  • The best quiet beaches in Sydney: Head off-track to Resolute Beach, Great Mackerel Beach and Currawong Beach up north, or walk to beautiful Tamarama Bay for a quieter version of Bondi Beach.
     
  • The best beaches in Sydney for families, dog owners, and naturists: Whoever you’re visiting with and whatever you’re looking for, there’s a Sydney beach to suit you.
     
  • The best beaches in Sydney for activities: Go fishing, kayaking, or boating at some sublime spots around Rushcutters Bay, Blues Point, Coogee Beach, and many more.
     
  • Alternatives to Sydney beaches for a fun day out: Water parks, national parks, and rivers offer thrilling and relaxing water-based alternatives to a day at the beach in Sydney.

 

Line it up, look forward to it: start planning your Sydney beach trip now!

Sydney has an amazing array of great beaches, and deciding which ones are the best depends largely on what you are looking for. 

So, if you’re ready to start planning a trip, why not call on First Light Travel’s free travel planning service to give you a hand? We can help to answer any questions you have about beaches in Sydney, or give more information about any of the beaches listed above. It’s totally free, so there’s really nothing to lose. 

And now that you know what to expect, once you’ve planned and booked your trip all that’s left to do is to look forward to hitting the beach in Sydney!

 

More Articles to Help You Create Your Dream Trip To Australia:
 

Australia Trip Planning Guide
Australian weather, temperatures & rainfall
Our informative Australia Travel Blog
Trip Inspiration: Amazing Australian Landscapes
Travelling Safely in Australia

David Mckenzie
Submitted by
David Mckenzie
: 24 Oct 2019 (Last updated: 5 Nov 2019)

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