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Top Beaches in Sydney, Australia

Sydney is famous for its golden stretches of sand and buzzing beach scene. Bronzed Aussies, zinc-slathered noses, teeny-weeny Speedos, surf lifesavers, and red and yellow flags flapping in the breeze are classic snapshots of Sydney beach culture. From iconic and cosmopolitan Bondi, a short hop from the city, to Palm Beach, a popular day trip and picnic spot, beach connoisseurs will find the perfect sun-soaked slice of coast.

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
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Water sports abound. Surfing, swimming, kayaking, and fishing are popular pastimes. If relaxing is high on the agenda, Sydney has plenty of pretty strands where sun seekers can lay out a towel and soak up some rays or plonk down with some fresh-cooked fish 'n' chips.

Best Beaches Near the City

Bondi - near the city
Bondi - near the city
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Hands down Bondi is a favorite for best beach near the city. About 15 minutes by car or bus from the central business district, it's a great spot to trade the hum of traffic for the soothing slosh of surf. Bondi actually comes from an aboriginal word meaning "noise of water breaking over rocks." From here, visitors can breathe in some beautiful scenery along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, which winds its way along the sandstone cliffs past popular cafés, rockpools, beaches, and bays.

Those looking for a more peaceful patch of sand can head to the harbor beaches. Calm waters lap these sheltered coves and pretty slices of shoreline, and many offer nearby cafés and idyllic picnic spots. Balmoral Beach and Nielsen Park are favorites.

Best Beaches for Swimming

Pool near Bondi
Pool near Bondi
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Blessed with relatively warm water year round and gorgeous green shallows Sydney Beaches are sprinkled with beautiful swimming spots. Close to the city, North Bondi is a fabulous spot to enjoy a cool dip and a dose of Aussie beach culture at the same time. But beware of "Backpackers Rip," a dangerous riptide at the southern end of the beach. Adjacent to Heritage-listed Strickland House, Milk Beach Vaucluse, in Sydney Harbour National Park, is small and tranquil with impressive city views. Balmoral Beach to the north of Sydney, and Nielsen Park in the east both offer pools with shark nets for safe swimming.

Swimmers who want to don their cap and goggles for some serious laps can choose from a selection of beachfront ocean pools. For more than a century, the Bondi Baths at Iceberg's has been a famous Sydney swimming spot with a 50-m Olympic pool and a smaller pool for children. Dating back to 1886, McIver's Baths at Coogee Beach is the only seawater pool in Australia reserved for women. Female swimmers can paddle here in privacy and unwind afterwards with a relaxing massage overlooking the beach, while nearby Wylie's Baths welcomes both men and women. At the southern end of Palm Beach, a 35-m ocean pool is suitable for lap swimming, though children often splash about in the shallow end. The cliff-top pools at Freshwater, Bronte, and Maroubra are also great for a paddle with panoramic views.

Sydney beaches frequently gracing lists for the best water quality include Palm Beach, Whale Beach, and Avalon in the north and Maroubra Beach, in the eastern suburbs, while Nielsen Park is a relatively clean harbor beach.

Best Surfing Beaches

Manly Beach
Manly Beach
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Sydney is world-renowned as a surfing hotspot. Avid board riders can choose from more than 70 beaches with fantastic breaks for all abilities. 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 particularly at Bondi, Maroubra, Collaroy, and Manly, a 30-minute ferry ride from the city center. Gentle breaks are also often found south of the city at Bronte, while Cronulla combines four popular beaches and is a well-known surfing spot with a multicultural café scene. North of the city, Long Reef is great for beginners in the right conditions, while Palm Beach, Sydney's most northerly stretch of sand and sea, is a top spot to teach the kids.

For advanced surfers, Newport Beach, in Sydney's north, faces east and catches the swell from any direction. About 250 m offshore, a rock formation called "The Peak" creates two breaks making it a hotspot for high-skilled surfers. Dee Why offers a pleasing point break on good days, and North Narrabeen is a local's favorite. Intermediate and advanced surfers seeking an escape from the crowds should consider Garie Beach in the Royal National Park.

Best Beaches to Soak up the Scene

Christmas at the beach
Christmas at the beach
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For a truly cosmopolitan beach scene close to the city, Bondi, star of a hit Aussie reality TV show called Bondi Rescue, has a beachfront promenade and a buzzing vibe drawing laidback locals, globe-trotting tourists, and throngs of party-loving backpackers. Popular markets are staged along the beachfront every Sunday. Nearby Tamarama, nicknamed "Glamarama" is a hip spot and model hangout.

Another happening seaside spot is Manly Beach, a 30-minute ferry ride from the city, where visitors can rollerblade and bike along the beach, rub shoulders with surf life savers, relax at the many cafés, and browse the shops along the crowded Corso. Soap opera fans should head to posh Palm Beach, the film location for the popular Aussie TV series Home and Away and a favorite haunt of artists, actors, and affluent Sydneysiders.

Best Beaches for Families

Balmoral Beach
Balmoral Beach
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A 50-minute drive from the city center, Palm Beach on a peninsula between Pittwater and Broken Bay is a fun spot to frolic with the family. The south side is a perfect spot for picnics. Kids can splash about in the calm water, swim in the 35-m ocean pool, and build sandcastles along the shore. On the north side, the waves are great for surfing. Cafés and restaurants abound, and diners can work off their lunch with a hike to the beautiful lighthouse-topped Barrenjoey Head.

Manly is also a top spot for families. Little ones can swim in the netted ocean pool, visit the Manly SEALIFE Sanctuary filled with fascinating marine creatures, slurp some ice cream, and feast on fresh-cooked fish and chips. Shopping, cafés, and restaurants line the nearby Corso. A short walk from the Corso, Shelly Beach is peaceful spot to paddle in the sheltered bay.

For calm waters and sheltered coves, try one of the harbor beaches such as Nielsen Park, in the eastern suburbs, or Balmoral Beach on the north side of the city where kids can swim in the netted pools and families can enjoy a picnic in the nearby parks. On the south side of the city, Coogee Beach is usually a calm spot to swim with the kids thanks to Wedding Cake Island, which shelters it from the larger swells.

Best Beaches for Fishing

Fishing near Sydney
Fishing near Sydney Brian Giesen / photo modified
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Sydney beaches offer beautiful settings to cast a line. Sydney's Northern Beaches are great for rock and beach fishing. Anglers frequently hook bream, sand whiting, flathead, tailor, and mullet. Avalon, Narrabeen, Collaroy, and Curl Curl are top spots, while the aptly-named Fisherman's Beach drops off close to shore for less energetic casters.

On the south side, Maroubra Beach is a favorite. Anglers here can catch sand whiting, tailor, bream, flathead, and sharks among other species. Depending on the winds, 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-fringed setting. Those fishing with children will find Palm Beach Wharf a great spot for casting bait lines.

Anglers fishing off rocky shorelines should take extreme care and avoid fishing alone. Rogue waves are known to sweep unsuspecting anglers away. Fishing licenses are required and can be purchased online: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/licence-fee

Best Beach Walks

Boardwalk near Bondi
Boardwalk near Bondi
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The 10 km Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk is a great way to soak up some delicious views of the sparkling harbor. Start at the Spit Bridge and wander around the shoreline to Fisher Bay, Sandy Bay, and Clontarf Beach then pop into Sydney Harbour National Park. Along the way, hikers will find sheltered inlets and coves where they can cool off. From May to November, keep a look out for whales. This well-signposted scenic walk takes about three to four hours and ends at Manly Beach where weary hikers can hop aboard a ferry back to the city.

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 6 km trail clings to the coastal cliffs and meanders past the café strips of Bronte and Coogee where walkers can stop for a snack. The path starts at Bondi Icebergs, the famous swimming club with a celebrated beach-view restaurant. Aboriginal rock carvings await at Marks Park, and during the spring, the beachside gallery, Sculpture by the Sea, is a bonus side-trip along this bluff-top stroll. For a photo souvenir, climb the stairs at Bronte and snap a picture with a panoramic backdrop of the sweeping coastline. From here, continue walking past Clovelly Beach to Coogee.

History and nature buffs will love the Taronga to Balmoral Walk at Headland Park in Mosman. Although this 6 km trail starts at sea level, hikers ascend 90 m to George's Heights, which was once used to defend Sydney from possible attacks. Today, visitors can explore the area's underground tunnels, gun pits, and preserved defence buildings, 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 sustenance at one of the many cafés or enjoy a picnic and swim at Chowder Bay. The walk takes about two hours and ends at Balmoral Beach, a lovely spot for a cool dip.

Tips and Tactics

Swimming, surfing, strolling, and sunning on Sydney's beautiful beaches can be fun, but the following tips will help beach lovers stay safe:

  • "Slip, slop, slap" says the popular Australian sun-safe campaign, and it's no joke. The Aussie sun packs a beating. Before hitting the beach, slip on a shirt, slop on some 30-plus sunscreen, and slap on a hat. Sunbathers should also seek shelter in the scorching heat of day and slide on some sunglasses to protect their eyes.
  • Swim between the red and yellow flags. Surf lifesavers use them to mark safe areas so that swimmers can avoid rips and collisions with watercraft. Surfers are prohibited from riding waves in these areas.
  • Check surf conditions before braving the water.
  • If caught in a rip, stay calm, signal for help, and try to swim across the current rather than against it.
  • Anglers engaging in rock fishing at 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 creatures. Certain species can inflict a painful sting of bite.

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