Sydney Beaches Guide, Australia

The coast and beaches north of Sydney, Australia

The coast north of Sydney. Photo by Alex Proimos.

North of Sydney is a line of superb and uncrowded beaches, but you’ll need your own transport to find the best bits. Near the city and to the south are a number of equally great strands easily reachable by bus or ferry, though in season you’ll be sharing them with a few others.

Sydney Beaches

Sydney city encompasses a staggering hundred beaches, ranging from tiny to massive, with the best located along the Pacific Ocean coast, north and south. The most popular are the surf beaches such as Bondi and Manly but there are also quiet coves for those who prefer a wave-free time.
The sand is mostly wide, soft and well maintained by local councils while the sea water is very clean thanks to strict pollution controls established in 1989.
The waters are not particularly warm, even in midsummer (December-February), and in winter you’d definitely need a wetsuit, a good chunky layer of subcutaneous fat or Russian-style anti-freeze in your veins.

There’s swimming at a couple of small but tranquil beaches inside the harbour and lots of sailing but most of the action goes on outside Port Jackson where the South Pacific throws steady surf (not generally dangerously huge) onto superb beaches, starting with Bondi to the south-east and Manly to the north, both easily accessible by public transport in about an hour.

A couple of typical South Side beaches

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Bondi Beach. Photo by Adam. J.

Bondi and Manly are closest for a fine Sydney beach experience, with Bondi accessible from the centre by car or train/bus and Manly by ferry from Circular Quay (or by car/bus, but what’s the fun in that? ).

The fastest public bus to Bondi:  Catch the 333 from Elizabeth Street opposite Bathurst Street.

Both Bondi and Manly may take in the region of an hour to reach, but south of Bondi and north of Manly there are plenty more fine strands of sand with increasingly few users if you have the time.

Bondi – Coogee Coast Walk

There’s a wonderfully scenic and easy coastal path starting at Bondi beach winding around rocky headlands and past glorious Pacific Ocean beaches, all dotted with the necessities of life such as bars, cafés and restaurants, not to mention transportation back home. From Bondi the path wiggles past secluded Tamarama Beach, (aka ‘Glamarama’ due to the glittering beach freaks it attracts), Bronte, Clovelly, ending at Coogee where there are buses aplenty for your return.

Clovelly Beach, Sydney, Australia

Clovelly Beach. Photo by J. Bar.

One outstanding feature of Clovelly is that you can snorkel here, with easy entry from the steps near the surf club. There’s a fair amount of action underwater among the rocks including some soft coral and moray eels. Afterwards, you can tell your tallest tales at popular local haunt, the Clovelly Hotel.
The 339 bus runs from Central to Clovelly in 45 minutes if you’re lucky.

Coogee beach, Sydney Australia

Some way down the coast and last stop on the coastal walk is equally beautiful Coogee beach. Photo by Mynameisben123.

Coogee is a rare beach where drinking alcohol in the beach side park is permitted. The best bus there is the M50 bus from Elizabeth Street or the 370 or 374 buses from Central Station.

Hyams Beach super-white sand, Jervis Bay, Australia

And a good 3 hours drive down south from Sydney (private transport required) is what is claimed to be the whitest sand in the world, the stuff coating Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay. Photo by albinfo.

We could argue that Whitehaven beach is as white or whiter than Hyams, except we haven’t been to Hyams Beach so cannot make a fair comparison, but what is unquestionable is that Hyams is on Jervis Bay, a mere morning’s drive from Sydney and thus is a lot easier to reach than the Whitsunday Islands. Similarly McKenzie Beach on Fraser Island is incredibly white and soft and marginally easier to reach than Whitehaven (accommodation nearby! ), but still nowhere near as easy as Hyams. Winner!

A couple of typical North Side beaches

Balmoral Beach, Sydney, Australia

Balmoral Beach, on Sydney’s north side. Photo by Merbabu.

Balmoral is a tranquil suburb about halfway between the Harbour Bridge and Manly, lined with some lovely old houses and a family-friendly beach. The beach offers little surf but instead there are rock pools, a natural splash pool for toddlers, a promenade, netted swimming areas, a playground, picnic tables, and various other kid-oriented features.
The easiest way to get there is to take an E70, E68, 246 or 245 bus just past Mosman and walk down to the beach from there.

Manly main beach, Sydney, Australia

Manly Beach, the largest of eight beaches in this peaceful suburb, just 5 minutes walk from the cross-harbour ferry terminal.

The Bugcrew preferred the larger and lower-key Manly beaches to Bondi. Manly has a small but well-supplied village feel to it, with plenty of bars and eateries, not to mention a lot of low cost accommodation near the beach and good surf gear rental places adjacent.
Manly also has a small inner-harbour beach devoid of surf for those with toddlers not ready for a pounding or lap-swimmers who don’t want to go out beyond the surf line.

Then there’s the lovely ferry ride through the harbour to Manly from the city centre vs. the not very pretty urban train/bus ride to Bondi. On the other Bondi’s beach folk are arguably more glamorous and the coastal path south is stunning, while Manly’s walks are not so inspiring. . . Visit both but stay in Manly if you have the time?

Grose Valley in the Blue Mountains, north of Sydney. Photo by Diliff.

Outside the city and away from the surf-smashed beaches lie a good few National Parks though the #1 tourist target is the cool Blue Mountains with its canyons, cliffs, dense forests, waterfalls, good bush walks and adrenalin activities. A train from Central Station takes a couple of hours to travel the 90 kms to the Blue Mountains National Park staging point, chilly but attractive Katoomba. But don’t expect to see any ‘roos leaping around!

Most tourists to the Blue Mountains see it only from one of the lookouts between Wentworth Falls and Blackheath, never actually doing any activities in the park.
Naturally the most frequently indulged activity for tourists are short walks to viewpoints such as the one overlooking the Three Sisters rock formation, but longer walks to more remote areas are common for Australians, as well as canyoning, abseiling, rock climbing and mountain biking.
Tourists looking for something more than a stroll in the park should check Katoomba for enterprises offering guides and activities support. Katoomba also offers visitors the world’s steepest railway, The Katoomba Scenic Railway.