Sydney’s beaches are known all over the world as some of the best the Pacific Ocean has to offer.
As well as picturesque coastlines, cerulean blue waters and golden sand, the area provides an excellent environment for surfers and swimmers, whatever their ability level.
Home to some dangerous riptides and surf breaks, Sydney’s beaches are popular with athletes who like to challenge themselves and are generally very well supervised by trained lifesavers. For children and those less confident in the water, the many ocean pools provide a relaxing break away from the surf.
Sydney’s beaches all offer something unique in terms of atmosphere and lifestyle, whether down to the size of the beach or in the scope of the entertainment, restaurants and bars that line the promenades. Some are quiet and secluded while others are the life and soul of the party.
Here are our favourites of Sydney’s beaches:
Just a 20-minute drive to the east of Sydney is Coogee; one of the area’s most beautiful beaches, complete with soft sands and turquoise water, and offering one of Australia’s most stunning coastlines. Coogee is the startpoint for the 6-kilometre picture perfect coastal walk to Bondi Beach which leads you through Bronte, Clovelly Beaches and Gordon’s Bay.
As one of the oldest of Sydney’s beach suburbs, the waterfront lifestyle is fully entrenched in Coogee with plenty of opportunities to sunbathe, swim, surf and snorkel. Less confident swimmers will love the two ocean baths found in the vicinity – Wylie’s and McIver’s – while you can eat and drink to your heart’s content in the myriad of bars and restaurants in the area.
Considered by many to be one of the best beaches northern Sydney has to offer, Whale Beach is all golden sand and beautiful rock pools in its location at the bottom of the wind down from the stunning headland above Dolphin Bay. It’s close to the aesthetically similar Palm Beach but doesn’t attract the same volume of crowds due to the fact it’s a little off the main drag – perfect for those after some peace and quiet.
While it’s a challenging swim, it is patrolled by lifesavers, and is a firm favourite with the surfing crowd thanks to The Wedge – a famous surf break at the northern end of the beach.
No ‘best beaches in Sydney’ list is complete without an entry from Australia’s most famous stretch of sand: Bondi.
Even though it measures around a kilometre long and over 100 metres wide, it’s very rare to find Bondi not covered in tourists and locals alike who go for the beautiful golden sand and brilliant surfing and swimming opportunities, suitable for every skill level. And frankly, it’s the place to be seen in Sydney.
The atmosphere at the centre of Sydney’s beach scene is buzzing all year round and there’s plenty to keep yourself occupied; from ocean walks, farmers markets and icecream parlours to whale-watching, golf and a throbbing nightlife.
In contrast to Bondi and other far-stretching beaches, Tamarama’s charm lies in its intimate and small space, a beautiful bay caught between the headlands. Adding to its aura of exclusivity is the fact that it’s often frequented by the young, beautiful, and often famous – you won’t be surprised that it’s nicknamed ‘Glamarama’!
A word of warning: the swimming at Tamarama is challenging with two competing riptides and should be attempted by strong swimmers only. It’s for this reason, of course, that surfers can’t get enough – even if you don’t fancy dipping a toe in the tempestuous waters yourself, the surfing on display is sure to wow you.
Just a couple of kilometres south of Bondi is the east-facing Bronte Beach – although it’s comparably small, it benefits from awesome views, cerulean blue waters and a fun, laidback atmosphere.
Surfers and swimmers alike love Bronte for its challenging surf and dangerous rip, but there’s even a few spots for less confident water-goers to enjoy themselves, such as the 30-metre ocean pool, rock pool and bogey hole at the southern end of the beach.
Beyond the water, there’s a children’s playground and picnic area, and even free use of electric barbecue facilities. There’s also a host of cafes and restaurants on the promenade.
If you’re feeling brave, head on down to Obelisk Beach – one of Sydney’s notorious ‘clothing optional’ beaches. Quiet, tranquil and friendly, Obelisk is a great choice to avoid the mass of tourists and to really get back to nature in every sense of the word.
Although rather small in size, Obelisk offers cracking panoramic views of Watsons and Vaucluse Bays as well as Camp Cove and Parsley. Many people consider Obelisk to be ‘gay-friendly’ and it’s generally frequented by homosexual men.
Milk Beach is considered to be one of Sydney’s best kept secrets, being small and relatively secluded yet only a few minutes away from Bondi at the opposite end of the crowd popularity scale. It’s prime selling point is undoubtedly its stunning views of the city and beyond from its location within the Sydney Harbour National Park.
While reasonably deserted in the winter months, you’ll stumble across some cracking parties when it comes alive in the summer. It’s also great for fishing, surfing and walking, and close to the historic landmark of Strickland House.
Another beautiful northern treasure, Bilgola is reached down a long and winding road which contributes to its atmosphere as an unspoilt spot free of the usual tourists who populate beaches like Bondi and Manly. It’s clean, with plenty of room to relax, and there’s lifesavers on duty so you won’t feel out of your depth.
Many visitors recommend Bilgola for families with young children – if they don’t fancy splashing around in the surf, there’s a huge ocean pool to spend time while a cafe will provide all of your refreshment needs. The headland closes in around Bilgola, giving it a cosy atmosphere, and the crystalline waters are simply picture perfect.
You’ll need to catch a 30-minute ferry ride to get there, but the travelling time is definitely worth it for one of Australia’s loveliest beaches. For many, the ferry ride itself is part of Manly’s attraction: a charming waltz through Sydney’s many marinas and caves.
Once you’ve reached Manly, it’s easy to become enamoured with the famous beach: white sand stretches for seemingly miles while the surfing, swimming and sunbathing opportunities are excellent. Once you’re finished lapping up the waves, a quick retreat to the beachside promenade will land you among a selection of restaurants, shops and bars.