Despite its five million-strong population, Sydney is a beachside paradise, with dozens of incredible places to swim, sunbathe and even snorkel within easy reach of the city center. Whether you prefer calm waters, big surf, or panoramic views, there's something for everyone in the Harbour City.
Sydney's coastline can be divided into four main areas: the bustling Harbour, the secluded Northern beaches, the chic Eastern Suburbs, and the southern Sutherland Shire (known by locals as simply the Shire.) Additionally, on the south border of the city, you'll find the isolated inlets of Royal National Park, while Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park divides Sydney from the laid-back Central Coast to the north.
If you're heading out for a day at the beach, don't forget to pack some sunscreen and always swim between the red and yellow flags that signify a lifeguard is on duty (especially if you are an inexperienced swimmer).
Bondi is unquestionably Sydney's most well-known beach, in the heart of the Eastern Suburbs. It's home to the Bondi Rescue lifeguard reality show and the Insta-famous Bondi Icebergs pool.
The golden sand stretches for over half a mile, with a buzzing array of restaurants, boutiques, bars, and pubs just across the road. During the summer months, the beach is often uncomfortably busy, but this iconic landmark is worth a visit at least once during your trip.
If using public transport, you will need to take the train to Bondi Junction and then a bus from there to the beach, for a total journey time of around 35 minutes. Alternatively, Bondi is a twenty-minute drive from the Central Business District (CBD) without traffic.
Around the point from Bondi, Tamarama is a small and pretty beach with a playground, cafe, and barbecue area. The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk passes by here, and the headlands offer lovely views of the surrounding beaches. However, the unpredictable swell means the beach is sometimes closed. Surfers, on the other hand, will enjoy the less crowded conditions.
Further south, Bronte is a great all-rounder, with a sheltered natural pool for kids, a free saltwater lap pool, and challenging waves for experienced surfers. The wide beach is often less crowded than Bondi, while the park offers barbecues and picnic tables. Founded in 1903, the Bronte Surf Lifesaving Club claims to be the oldest of its kind in the world.
To get to Bronte, take the train to Bondi Junction then change onto a bus. The whole trip will take around 35 minutes. Driving time is approximately 20 minutes.
Clovelly is a small, protected beach south of Bronte with opportunities for swimming and snorkeling. Both sides of the bay are lined by concrete promenades, with sand in between, and a ramp offers easy access for kids and less confident swimmers.
Grab a snack from Seasalt Cafe right on the water, or pack a picnic to enjoy in Bundock Park. The park has public barbecues, a playground and toilet facilities. Clovelly is a half-hour drive or a 40-minute bus ride form the city center.
Coogee is generally more relaxed than its Eastern Suburbs neighbors, mostly visited by local families and students from the nearby University of NSW. The surf is also relatively calm, as the long beach is protected by a rocky island offshore.
Here, you'll find Giles Baths and the Ross Jones Memorial Pool, plus two of Sydney's most popular ocean pools (Wylie's Baths and the women-only McIver's Ladies Baths) only a short walk south. The trip to Coogee takes around 40 minutes by bus or 25 minutes by car from the CBD.
In La Perouse, a nature-filled neighborhood on the southern tip of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, you'll find an escape from the city bursting with natural beauty and historical significance. Tranquil Congwong Beach is a local favorite, thanks to its calm waters and leafy surrounds. Make sure to follow the signs, as nearby Little Congwong is an unofficial nudist beach that is less family-friendly.
The La Perouse area is now part of Kamay Botany Bay National Park, which covers the traditional lands of the Goorawal and Gweagal Aboriginal people and remains an important site for Sydney's Aboriginal community. You can take the bus from the city center for around 50 minutes or drive in half that time.
For those with a day to spare, Wattamolla is well worth a visit. This stunning area in Royal National Park offers access to a lagoon, waterfall, picnic area, and sheltered ocean beach. The beach gets busy on weekends and during summer vacations, so plan your trip for a weekday or be willing to battle the crowds for parking.
Driving is the only way to get to Wattamolla, about an hour south of the CBD. However, if traveling by public transport, it is possible to reach other parts of the Royal National Park. We recommend the six-mile Karloo Walking Track from Heathcote train station or the slightly shorter Jibbon Loop Track from the Bundeena Ferry Wharf.
Camp Cove Beach
Camp Cove is part of Sydney Harbour National Park, with views of the city skyline across the water. It's a relatively small beach, but the clear, calm waters are ideal for snorkeling and swimming. Plus, there's a kiosk with snacks, ice cream and drinks at the north end of the beach.
At the southern end, you'll find the trailhead of the South Head Heritage Trail, a short, low-intensity walk that passes by the colorful Hornby Lighthouse. Between May and November, you might even catch sight of some passing whales. To reach Camp Cove, take the ferry from Circular Quay to Watson's Bay, then walk for around 10 minutes.
Also on the harbor, Milk Beach is located in the exclusive neighborhood of Vaucluse. At the base of a small, quiet bay, Milk Beach provides unbeatable views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and city skyline, as well as access to the grounds of the heritage-listed Strickland House.
Most visitors pass by Milk Beach on the Hermitage Foreshore Track, a pleasant mile-long trail from Nielsen Park to Bayview Hill Road. It can also be reached by car (25 minutes) although parking is minimal. The bus ride from the CBD takes around 50 minutes.
Balmoral, named after the summer residence of the British Royal Family in Scotland, is a small beach on the northern side of the harbor. The imposing art deco-style Bather's Pavilion adds to this spot's quaint charm, but if you're looking for something a little more casual, you can grab some takeaway Bottom of the Harbour fish and chip shop to eat in the park.
Balmoral can be reached by bus from the CBD (around 40 minutes) or take the ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo and change onto a connecting bus for a slightly faster trip.
Manly is just a 30-minute ferry ride across the harbor from the city center. The sprawling main beach is popular place to visit on weekends, with plenty of dining options nearby. If that beach gets too busy, try tiny Shelly Beach to the south. Shelly is also a great snorkeling destination, where you can see fish, rays and sometimes small sharks within the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.
Just north of Manly, Freshwater is a large beach with reliable surfing conditions. The waves are so good that Hawaiian surfing legend "Duke" Kahanamoku introduced Australia to surfing here in 1915 when he carved a board from a piece of local timber and showed off his skills for the crowd. There's a life-size statue of Duke on the northern headland, plus barbecues, public toilets, and a picnic area.
Sydney's Northern Beaches are often collectively known as the insular peninsula, with the crowds fading and the tans intensifying as you travel up the coast from Manly up to Palm Beach. Bilgola is a quintessential example of the peninsula's chilled-out culture, with pristine golden sand, blue water, and a welcoming ocean pool at the southern end.
The beach is mostly surrounded by bushland and private homes, although there is a kiosk with food and drinks available. You can hike up to the northern headland for the best vantage point of the surrounding area. The bus ride to Bilgola takes around an hour and a half, or you can reach it by car in an hour.
Not far north of Bilgola, Avalon is a slightly more substantial and more developed beach. The neighborhood has become popular with sea-changers and surfers over the past decade, leading to a boom of chic local stores and cafes.
Fortunately, a natural reserve protects the beach from the town center, leaving only the sophisticated Beach House restaurant and kiosk visible from the sand. On the other side of the peninsula, Pittwater estuary is a fishing and sailing destination. Avalon is around an hour-and-a-half bus ride or a one-hour drive from the city.
Palm Beach, at the very top of the peninsula, is one of the city's most exclusive beachside suburbs. Locals call it Palmy, while visitors may recognize the white sand beach as Summer Bay, the setting of iconic Australian soap opera Home and Away. There are plenty of delicious (and pricey) dining options on offer, as well as luxury hotels and Airbnbs frequented by celebrities.
If you'd instead fly under the radar, gorgeous Whale Beach can be found just next door and is often less crowded. You can also hike up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse, where whales can often be spotted between May and September. Palm Beach is just over an hour's drive from the CBD or a two-hour bus ride.