It is more than likely that at some point in your Australia vacation, you will spend at least a few days in Sydney. Although it is celebrated for its countless landmarks and iconic buildings, Sydney is also loved for its coastline and places to swim. More commonly known as the “Harbour City”, Sydney could be more aptly named “The City of 100 Beaches”. It is hard to imagine a country’s largest city would be one with such a title, but we aren’t far from the truth when saying there is a beach around nearly every bend. To narrow down the list to the best 3 beaches is quite the challenge, but we think we’ve managed!
Sydney’s, and possibly Australia’s most well-known beach is a stunning spot where you can bask on the golden sand and become immersed in its own bubble of shops, cafes, and laid back vibes. Sunrise, sunset or catching some afternoon rays, there is never a bad time to be at Bondi. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of breaching whales or surfing dolphins across the kilometer-long beach. More recently, Bondi has been featured in its own TV show, Bondi Lifesavers, showcasing the amazing work that surf lifesavers do every day to keep beachgoers safe.
Being THE Sydney beach, there are some pros and cons to visiting Bondi. You can learn to surf, pick up some designer goods in some of the local shops or check out the local art scene by visiting the Aquabumps gallery to learn about the essence of local beach life. Its popularity can often make finding parking a significant challenge, so if you do plan on heading there, we highly recommend going for breakfast by the beach and getting the day started on the right foot.
If you are planning on jumping in the water, it's best to stay between the red and yellow flags as even the most confident swimmers can get caught off guard by a rip. If you consider yourself to be more of a pool dweller than an ocean swimmer, consider the Bondi Icebergs ocean pool while taking in the breathtaking views. Rock pools have been built into the rocky shore and are replenished by ocean waves; this one in particular is one of Sydney’s most iconic venues and is one of the oldest rock pools in Australia. It is one of the most photographed pools in Australia, often noted for its winter dips.
If you enjoy taking in the seaside views from a vantage point on land, consider putting your sneakers to use and hit the pavement! Just a short 40-minute stroll along the coastal walk from Bondi is Bronte Beach, a slightly quieter neighbour to Bondi. For something a little further, carry on along the Coastal Walk to Coogee beach - this is a favourite. The Coastal Walk is a delightful 6 km track of coastal vistas, passing 5 beaches on the way. This walk should take approximately 2-3 hours one way. Whatever your heart desires, Bondi will be able to deliver!
Manly, often referred to as “God’s Country,” is a sight for sore eyes. After enjoying a beautiful 30-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay in the city centre you will reach Manly, one of Sydney's most famous surf beaches, and home to the first world surfing championship back in 1964. It is enough reason alone to leave the CBD and venture north from Circular Quay to Sydney’s northern beaches. With a multitude of beachside cafes, bars and restaurants and a lively promenade (called ‘The Corso’) with plenty of shops, Manly has something for everyone. Bring along your snorkel and mask and venture out to the beautiful sheltered spot of Shelly Beach at Manly’s northern end. The area is actually a nature reserve, home to the protected water dragons and blue gropers, so keep your eyes open!
Activities on offer here include learning to scuba dive, surf or taking a bike tour to learn more about Manly’s history. If you’re looking to explore by foot, a slightly different walk on offer is the Manly to Spit Walk, a 10 km walk which links the Spit Bridge to Manly via secret beaches. Visiting Manly is a wonderful way to spend your day, offering a change of scenery from the central Sydney highlights.
Queenscliff is a short walk from Manly Wharf, and has everything you need for a perfect day on the beach. With surfboards available to hire, lifeguards on duty and being easily accessible by public transport, all you need to do is arrive with your swimmers, towel and sunblock in hand! It is favoured by Sydneysiders and visitors alike for its family-friendly nature and laid-back vibes. Like Bondi, Queenscliff is also home to its own rock pool for those who prefer it over swimming in the surf.
A short walk through the Manly wormhole will spit you out onto Freshwater Beach, another favourite among locals. Situated further away from the shops, Freshwater Beach is quieter than the others and has some of the most reliable surf breaks in the city. It is also home to Pilu, a fantastic Sardinian fine-dining restaurant. This italian-inspired establishment serves the best local, seasonal ingredients in a modern and contemporary fashion and is perfectly positioned to take in the views of the sea.
Located just 15km from the central Sydney CBD, you will find Congwong Beach, found in the La Perouse area of Kamay Botany National Park. Given its sandy, calm and sheltered waters, it is favoured as a spot to swim, snorkel, and scuba dive, and is popular amongst families.
You have plenty of walking tracks available to you here, such as Henry Head and Cape Banks. The 4km track from Congwong to Henry Head and vice versa holds a number of important historic sites and also provides viewing opportunities to see whales and seabirds. Kookaburras, lorikeets and yellow-tailed black cockatoos are just some of the bird species you can encounter along with skinks, blue-tongue lizards and water dragons. Once you reach Henry Head, you have the option to turn around and return to where you started from, or carry on to Cape Banks, a further 1.2km along the track.
To do this walk, you will want sturdy walking shoes (not flip flops), a hat, sunscreen, water and a moderate level of fitness. The path can have uneven rocks that can be slippery at times, but the views are well-worth the effort to get there. In winter, it is a prime whale-watching spot, witnessing migrating humpback and southern right whales.
If you are keen to explore some of the local beaches, be sure to give yourself enough time in Sydney to have at least 1 or 2 free days to make the most of your options whilst still enjoying the rest that Sydney has to offer. From a glamorous spot to sun yourself, to a place to learn to surf, the beaches in Sydney provide a wealth of things to do and see and are a great way to escape the concrete jungle. Speak to your travel specialist about how you can make the most of your time in Sydney.
We have lots more information to share with you if you need it. Our team lives and works within New Zealand we have travelled extensively in this part of the world and experienced the best (and worst) of what there is to offer. If you have any questions about tours, locations, or just want some friendly advice please reach out to us by chat, email, or phone. There is no penalty for getting in touch, we do NOT charge any consultant fees so you can take the hassle out of your travels for free!
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