Sydney is known for its golden stretches of sand and bustling beachscape. Bronzed Aussies, sink slouched noses, teeny-weeny Speedos, surf lifesavers, and red and yellow flags fluttering in the wind are classic snapshots of Sydney beach culture. From the iconic and cosmopolitan Bondi, a short drive from the city, to Palm Beach, a popular day trip and picnic spot, beach connoisseurs will find the perfect sun-soaked slice of coast.
Water sports are plentiful. Surfing, swimming, kayaking and fishing are popular pastimes. If relaxation is high on the agenda, Sydney has plenty of beautiful locks where sunbathers can lay a towel and soak up some rays or enjoy some freshly cooked fish ‘n’ chips.
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Best beaches near the city
Without a doubt Bondi is a favorite for the best beach near the city. About 15 minutes by car or bus from the central business district, it’s a great place to trade the buzz of traffic for the calming goo of surf. Bondi actually comes from an aboriginal word meaning “sound of water breaking over rocks”. From here, visitors can breathe in beautiful scenery along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk , which winds along the sandstone cliffs past popular cafes, rocky outcrops, beaches and coves.
Those looking for a quiet stretch of sand can head to the harbor beaches . Calm waters lap these sheltered coves and pretty stretches of shoreline, and many offer nearby cafes and idyllic picnic spots. Balmoral Beach and Nielsen Park are favorites.
Best beaches for swimming
Blessed with relatively warm water all year round and beautiful green shoals Sydney Beaches are sprinkled with wonderful swimming spots. Close to town, North Bondi is a fantastic place to enjoy a cool dip and a dose of Aussie beach culture at the same time. But watch out for ‘Backpackers Rip’, a dangerous Riptide at the southern end of the beach. Adjacent to Heritage-listed Strickland House , Milk Beach Vaucluse, in Sydney Harbor National Park , is small and quiet with commanding city views. Balmoral Beach to the north of Sydney and Nielsen Park to the east both offer swimming pools with shark nets for safe swimming.
Swimmers who want to wear their caps and goggles for some serious laps can choose from a selection of beachfront ocean pools. For over a century, the Bondi Baths on Iceberg has been a famous Sydney swimming spot with a 50-metre Olympic size pool and a smaller children’s pool. Dating back to 1886, McIver’s Baths at Coogee Beach is Australia’s only seawater swimming pool reserved for women. Female swimmers can paddle here in privacy and then unwind with a relaxing massage while overlooking the beach, while being near Wylie’s Bathswelcomes both men and women. At the southern end of Palm Beach, a 115-foot (35 m) ocean pool is suitable for swimming, although children often frolic in the shallow end. The cliff-top pools at Zoetwater , Bronte , and Maroubra are also great for a paddle with panoramic views.
Sydney’s beaches often make enticing lists for the best water quality palm tree beach , Whale Beach , and Avalon in the north and Maroubra Beach , while in the eastern suburbs Nielsen Park is a relatively clean harbor beach.
Best surfing beaches
Sydney is world famous as a surfing hotspot. Avid boarders can choose from over 70 beaches with fantastic breaks for all levels. On Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Freshwater Beach is the birthplace of surfing in Australia. In 1914, Hawaiian ‘Duke’ Kahanamoku first hit the waves here, and today it’s still a top pick with fairly consistent swells. nearby Curl Curl is also a favorite.
Beginners will find excellent surf schools especially at Bondi , Maroubra , Collaroy , and Masculine , 30 minutes by ferry from the city centre. Gentle breaks can also often be found south of town at Bronte, while Cronulla combines four popular beaches and is a well-known surf spot with a multicultural cafe scene. North of the city, Long Reef is good for beginners in the right conditions, while Palm Tree Beach , Sydney’s most northerly stretch of sand and sea, is a top spot for the kids to learn.
For advanced surfers, Newport Beach , in northern Sydney, faces east and catches the swell in every direction. About 250m offshore, a rock formation called “The Peak” makes two breaks, making it a hot spot for highly skilled surfers. Dee Why offers a pleasant break on good days and North Narrabeen is a favorite with the locals. Intermediate and advanced surfers looking for an escape from the crowds should consider Garie Beach in the Royal National Park .
Best beaches to enjoy the scene
For a truly cosmopolitan beach close to the city, Bondi , star of a hit Aussie reality TV show called Bondi Rescue, has a beachfront promenade and a bustling vibe that draws laidback locals, world travelers and mass-partying backpackers. Popular markets are organized along the beach every Sunday. nearby Tamarama , nicknamed “Glamamama” is a hip spot and model hangout.
Another seaside happening is Manly Beach , a 30-minute ferry ride from the city, where visitors can rollerblade and cycle along the beach, become surf life savers, relax in the many cafes, and browse the shops along the busy course . Soap opera fans should head to the swanky Palm Beach , the filming location for the hit Aussie TV series Home and Away and a favorite hangout for performers, actors and well-to-do Sydneysiders.
Best beaches for families
A 50-minute drive from the city center, Palm Beach on a peninsula between Pittwater and Broken Bay is a fun place to frolic with the family. The south side is a perfect place for a picnic. Kids can splash in the calm waters, swim in the 35-meter ocean pool, and build sand castles along the shore. On the north side, the waves are great for surfing. Cafes and restaurants are plentiful, and guests can finish their lunch with a walk to the beautiful Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse .
Masculine is also a top spot for families. Little ones can swim in the netted ocean pool, visit the Manly SEALIFE Sanctuary full of fascinating sea creatures, sip some ice cream, and tuck into freshly cooked fish and chips. Shops, cafes and restaurants can be found nearby Corso . A short walk from the Corso, Shelly Beach is a quiet place to paddle in the sheltered cove.
For calm waters and sheltered coves, try one of the harbor beaches like Nielsen Park , in the eastern suburbs, or Balmoral Beach on the north side of town where kids can swim in the darn pools and families can enjoy a picnic in the nearby parks. On the south side of town, Coogee Beach is usually a quiet place to swim with the kids thanks to Wedding Cake Island, which protects it from the bigger swells.
Best beaches for fishing
Sydney beaches provide beautiful environments to throw a row. Sydney’s northern beaches are ideal for rock and beach fishing. Anglers often hook bream, haddock, flathead, tailor and mullet. Avalon , Narrabeen, Collaroy , and Curl Curl are top picks, while the aptly named Fisherman’s Beach drops off close to shore for less energetic wheels.
At the southern end, Maroubra Beach is a favourite. Anglers can catch whiting, tailor, bream, flathead and shark and other species here. Depending on the wind, the beaches at Cronulla offer decent fishing, while more remote Garie and Era beaches in Royal National Park offer good sand gutters in a beautiful bush-lined setting. Those fishing with kids will find Palm Beach Wharf a great place for casting bait lines.
Anglers fishing on rocky shores should exercise extreme caution and avoid fishing. Rogue waves have been known to sweep away unsuspecting fishermen. Fishing licenses are required and can be purchased online: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/licence-fee
Best beach walks
The 10km Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk is a great way to enjoy some glorious views of the sparkling harbour. Start at the Spit Bridge and walk along the shoreline to Fisher Bay, Sandy Bay and Clontarf Beach Sydney Harbor National Park . Along the way, hikers will find sheltered coves and coves where they can cool off. From May to November, keep an eye out for whales. This well-signposted scenic walk takes around three to four hours and ends at Manly Beach where weary walkers can hop aboard a ferry back to town.
A 15-minute bus ride from the city center, the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is a great way to appreciate Sydney’s beautiful beaches without venturing too far from the CBD. This 6km route clings to the coastal cliffs and winds past the cafes of Bronte and Coogee where walkers can stop for a bite to eat. The trail starts at Bondi Icebergs , the famous swimming club with a famous restaurant overlooking the beach. Aboriginal rock carvings await at Marks Park and during the spring, the gallery on the beach, Sculpture by the sea, is an added bonus along this bluff-top walk. For a photo souvenir, climb the stairs at Bronte and snap a photo with a panoramic backdrop of the expansive coastline. From here continue along Clovelly Beach to Coogee .
History and nature lovers will love the Taronga to Balmoral Walk at Headland Park in Mosman. Although this 6 km trail starts at sea level, walkers ascend 90 m to George’s Heights , which was once used to defend Sydney from potential attack. Today, visitors can explore the underground tunnels, gun pits, and preserved defense structures, or snap a photo at the lookout, which offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Sydney Heads, and the city. Along the way, visitors can stop for food at one of the many cafes or enjoy a picnic and swim in Chowder Bay . The walk takes about two hours and ends at Balmoral Beach , a lovely place for a cool swim.
Tips and tactics
Swimming, surfing, strolling and sunbathing on Sydney’s beautiful beaches can be fun, but the following tips will help beach lovers stay safe:
- “Slip, slop, slack,” says the popular Australian sun-safe campaign, and it’s no joke. The Aussie sun takes a beating. Before you hit the beach, throw on a shirt, stock up on some 30+ sunscreen, and clap on a hat. Sunbathers should also seek shelter from the scorching heat of the day and slide on sunglasses to protect their eyes.
- Swim between the red and yellow flags. Surf lifesavers use them to mark safe areas so swimmers can avoid rips and watercraft collisions. Surfers are not allowed to make waves in these areas.
- Check surf conditions before you brave the water.
- If you’re in a rip, stay calm, signal for help, and try to swim across the current rather than against it.
- Anglers fishing Sydney beaches should wear a life jacket and never fish alone.
- Check the depth of swimming areas before diving or jumping.
- Avoid contact with marine animals. Certain species can cause a painful sting in the bite.