As Sydney locals, we’ve spent our entire lives exploring every part of the coastline here! We share our favourites and insider secrets with you in this epic guide to the best Sydney beaches!
Australia’s largest city is known for its incredible harbour and epic, rugged coastline, putting it firmly on the map as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Home to more than 100 beaches, from awesome surf breaks to calm sheltered bays, it can be hard to know which ones to check out if you’re visiting for the first (or fifth) time.
Never fear though, because we’ve spent thousands of hours exploring every nook and cranny of the coast here and are excited to finally share our favourite beaches in Sydney with our readers.
So whether you’re looking for free things to do in Sydney or just want to soak up some vitamin D, you’re in for a treat with our expert guide.
The Best Sydney Beaches for Ocean Lovers
We’ve decided to break down our guide into the three most popular regions; north, central and south.
Starting at Palm Beach in the north and heading all the way down to Cronulla in the south, you’re sure to find a gorgeous patch of sand no matter what part of the Sydney region you end up in.
Let’s dive into it…
The Northern Beaches and North Sydney
Our first section will focus on North Sydney, which is essentially everything north of the Sydney Harbour Bridge running all the way to the tip of the Northern Beaches peninsula.
This includes the famous Manly Beach, with its own ferry wharf so you can easily access it from the city.
- Suburb: Balmoral
- Distance from CBD: 9km (20 min drive)
Balmoral Beach is one of the jewels in Sydney’s beach scene and once you get there you can easily see why.
Balmoral’s calm waters make it a lovely sheltered swimming spot with an amazing picnic area just steps from the shoreline.
If you’re in town with the kids, it’s one of the best beaches Sydney has for families.
Snorkelling, kayaking and even sailing are some of the activities you can enjoy here.
Learn to sail with Balmoral Sailing School or simply hire kayaks or stand-up paddle boards to have get out on the water.
Feeling active? Walk up to Middle Head and around to George Head to check out the stunning views and colonial fortifications.
Continue the loop to Sirius Cove before heading back to Balmoral Beach.
There’s a number of different restaurants in the area to dine at or get some takeaway, or pack a picnic lunch and spread out on the grass.
- Suburb – Manly
- Distance from CBD – 16km (30 min drive or 20 min ferry)
It’s a whole other world when you jump over to the north side of the city, and for most tourists, Manly will be their introduction to undoubtedly Sydney’s top ocean beaches.
The shopping promenade, known as the Corso, is lined with cafes, bars, souvenir shops and galleries, leading straight down to the huge sprawl of Manly Beach, complete with beach volleyball courts, picnic areas and gym equipment.
Manly is a great spot to learn to surf, rent a kayak (pre-book it here) or even go whale watching if you’re here in the winter months.
It’s also a great launching point for dozens of short and medium hikes, including the stunning Spit to Manly Walk.
Coming from the CBD, the easiest way to reach Manly is to jump on an iconic ferry from Circular Quay, which is not only convenient but also incredibly scenic.
- Suburb – Manly
- Distance from CBD – 17km (30 min drive)
From Manly you can take a short walk along the coast to Shelly Beach, one of the best snorkelling and kayaking spots in northern Sydney.
Here, the waves are calmer and there’s more room for sunbathing or long walks along its soft white sands.
Shelly Beach is a popular spot for scuba divers and snorkelers of all skill levels.
With depth reaching up to 12 meters, the best location is the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, where a whole variety of different marine life live, including Port Jackson sharks, Maori wrasse, the Eastern blue grouper, and even giant cuttlefish!
Out of the water you’ll find some excellent cafes, free electric barbecues and wonderful hiking tracks up to North Head.
- Suburb – Manly
- Distance from CBD – 18km (30 min drive)
Store Beach is a long protected beach which faces west across North Harbour and can only be accessed by water, so jump in the kayak or SUP and start paddling.
Located approximately 2km from Manly Wharf, it will take you 20-30 minutes to kayak here depending on your fitness levels and weather conditions.
Store Beach offers scenic views for romantic couples or families looking to escape the crowds at more popular beaches nearby.
- Suburb – Manly
- Distance from CBD – 16km (30 min drive)
Collins Flat Beach is a pretty seaside gem tucked between North Head and Little Manly Cove, with bushland to the side. As it is protected, it is a great beach for young families.
This beach has a little waterfall and great views of the Sydney Harbour, although it isn’t the easiest to find for first-timers.
Usually people access this beach by walking the trail from Manly. But you can park your car on Collins Beach Road and walk down to the beach, but parking is very limited.
Pack a picnic and make the most of this picturesque place.
READ MORE: Check out our list of the best places to visit in Australia!
- Suburb – Freshwater
- Distance from CBD – 17km (30 min drive)
Continuing north from Manly you’ll start to lose the crowds, which is surprising considering how much more beautiful the beaches get.
Past Queenscliff Beach you’ll arrive in Freshwater, located between two headlands, offering a bit of protection for swimming depending on the direction the swell is coming, and some surf opportunities too.
There is a beautiful rock pool there that is great for doing laps or swimming around with your friends and family.
Curl Curl Beach
- Suburb – Curl Curl
- Distance from CBD – South – 18km / North – 20km (About 35 min drive)
Curl Curl has it all – epic surf beaches, patrolled swimming, a fantastic rock pool and lots of cafes to snack at.
The beach is divided into North and South Curl Curl, with surf lifesavers dotted across both ends so you can swim in confidence (always swim between the red and yellow flags).
There are plenty of cafés located at each end of the beach too. On the south end check out Gusto on the Beach. There is a coffee truck that comes to the car park located in the middle as well.
If you want to go for a walk you can follow the path along the Curl Curl Lagoon or head up the headlands to Freshwater Lookout (south end) or Tea Tree Lookout (north end) to stretch your legs.
- Suburb – Warriewood
- Distance from CBD – 30km (45 min drive)
We’ll let you in on a little secret – Warriewood is our personal favourite on this list of the best beaches in Sydney!
Located between two headlands at Narrabeen and Mona Vale, Warriewood is about 500m long and is a great spot for beginner and intermediate surfers, as well as swimming.
Dolphins often come into the beach, and during the winter months you can sometimes see whales migrating past.
The surf club at the south end is a popular spot for coffee or breakfast, and Sunrise Cafe located at the top of the stairs makes a delicious brew.
The views from the top of the headlands are spectacular, especially at sunrise when all the cliffs light up in the morning glow.
- Suburb – Avalon
- Distance from CBD – 38km (55 min drive)
Heading to the end of the peninsula you’ll find Avalon Beach, a sandy paradise with excellent surfing opportunities as well as an amazing coastal walk.
There is a large and passionate board riding community here, so if you have the skills to hustle with them paddle out and grab some waves.
North Avalon breaks along its north headland and nearby sand bank, attracting more long boarders.
South Avalon has a triangle shaped sand bank near the ocean rock pool that generates solid waves.
Avalon shopping village is close by where you will find a variety of shops that reflect the surf lifestyle and culture of this area.
- Suburb – Palm Beach
- Distance from CBD – 44km (1 hour drive)
If you’ve ever seen the Australian show ‘Home and Away’, you may be excited to learn that Summer Bay is actually based right here at Palm Beach!
Located at the northern tip of the Northern Beaches peninsula, Palm Beach offers its residents an escape from the city life with pristine beaches and multi-million dollar homes.
Most visitors who make the trip this far north (if they aren’t Home and Away fans) are looking to hike to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, which offers breathtaking views over Pittwater and beyond.
That’s not all there is to do here though. Native bushland offer a series of trails perfect for scenic walks (don’t miss hiking out to Whale Beach), or jump on a ferry and head around Pittwater to some of the more remote harbour beaches, such as The Basin.
You can even take scenic flights in a seaplane in Palm Beach, which is not to be missed!
Beaches in Central Sydney
If you’re trying to find the best Sydney beaches close to the city, these are our personal favourite ones to check out.
READ MORE: Going elsewhere in New South Wales? Head north to see some of the most beautiful beaches in Port Stephens!
Seven Shillings Beach
- Suburb – Double Bay
- Distance from CBD – 5.8km (15 min drive)
Seven Shillings Beach is a secluded strip of sand that provides an ideal spot to escape from crowds.
Tucked between Double Bay and Point Piper, Seven Shillings has a natural charm, with gorgeous views of the Sydney Harbour.
The perfect beach for swimming or relaxing with family, the water is very calm, so great for young or inexperienced swimmers.
There is a cafe down one end of the beach where you can get a drink or food then head back to chill with one of Sydney City’s best views.
- Suburb – Nielsen Park
- Distance from CBD – 17km (25 min drive)
Milk Beach is another little gem tucked away in a great spot.
Located in the Sydney Harbour National Park, at the base of Hermit Bay, the views from here are some of the best Sydney beach outlooks you’ll find, complete with towering sea cliffs.
Check out the little rock pools and see what cool marine life you can find. Watch out for sharp barnacles though if you wander this way.
Be sure to bring food with you, but there’s no worries about bathrooms: you can either go back up the hill at Nielsen Park or down by Shark Beach where they have many amenities available.
Don’t miss out on doing the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, which follows the coastline for 2km from Hermitage Foreshore Reserve through to Steel Point.
Access to this Eastern Suburbs beach is limited, which makes it even more secluded (it will probably just be you and some locals if you find it).
You can access it via public transport then doing the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, or by a private boat if you have one.
READ MORE: Wondering where the whitest sands on the east coast is? Drive about 4 hours south of Sydney to find it at Jervis Bay!
- Suburb – Nielsen Park, Sydney Habour National Park
- Distance from CBD – 9.7km (20 min drive)
Sydney Harbour has a lot of gorgeous beaches, but Shark Beach is one you don’t want to miss.
It’s set in Nielsen Park and features an easygoing atmosphere with beautiful views of the water from just about anywhere on its white sand.
The cafe/restaurant offers great food for visitors looking to refuel after all that time at the beach, as well as drinks like smoothies or frozen iced coffee for anyone who needs a bit of a caffeine boost.
This beach is not patrolled with surf lifesavers, but does have amenities, so just keep this in mind if you stop by here.
Camp Cove Beach
- Suburb – Watsons Bay
- Distance from CBD – 12km (25 min drive)
One of Sydney’s most scenic beaches, Camp Cove Beach is an easy 700m walk from the Watsons Bay wharf, meaning you can take a ferry from Circular Quay to here!
This lovely beach offers a range of family-friendly activities thanks to its calm waters, such as stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling or simply kicking back and watching the boats sail past South Head.
After your morning swim or snorkel, you can relax and have lunch on the sand while taking in spectacular harbour views before rounding off your visit by grabbing an ice cream at the nearby kiosk.
You can walk up to Green Point Reserve at one end of the beach and walk all the way to Hornby Lighthouse passing Little Bay Beach along the way.
Many years ago, Watson Bay and the surrounding area used to provides a wealth of fish, shellfish and food for local Aboriginal people.
There is also evidence that long ago this was inhabited by locals who left behind markings on one rock shelter at Camp Cove Beach depicting these memories from 10,000 years ago.
The Best Beaches in the Eastern and Southern Suburbs
Excluding the Northern Beaches, the other part of Sydney that has the most famous beaches are the Eastern Suburbs, and south towards Cronulla.
Here are our favourites.
READ MORE: Get out of the city with these epic Sydney day trips!
- Suburb – Bondi
- Distance from CBD – 9.8km (20 min drive)
Bondi Beach is one the most famous beaches in Sydney, if not all of Australia.
A hugely popular TV show is based around Bondi Beach (Bondi Rescue in case you haven’t seen it), and almost every traveller that steps foot in Sydney ends up taking a trip out to Bondi Beach at some point in their trip.
This iconic beach get an enormous amount of people visiting it yearly, so just a heads up, you will not have this beach to yourself.
The strip is lined with dozens of cafes, bars and restaurants, so you’ll never go hungry or thirsty down here at Bondi Beach.
As far as surf beaches go it’s also pretty decent, but you’ll be hustling with the locals to try and get a wave.
The nearby pool called Icebergs is fantastic if you want to go for a swim without having to deal with the crowds, but you do have to pay $7 entry, which is pretty steep.
If you have time and are keen to try one of Sydney’s best day hikes, follow the coast on the Bondi to Bronte walk.
Lifeguards patrol Bondi Beach 365 days a year, but do always swim between the red and yellow flags. The currents and rips here (in particular ‘Backpackers’, which always features on Bondi Rescue) are notorious and dangerous.
We’ll be completely honest with you – Bondi Beach is not a spot we ever go, mainly because of how busy it is, but there’s no denying that it’s beautiful, and the beach culture there is pretty on point.
- Suburb – Tamarama
- Distance from CBD – 9.9km (20 min drive)
Tamarama Beach is a beautiful stretch of sandbetween two prominent headlands over looking Dixons Bay.
It’s one of the best beaches for surfing close to the city, but if are not a surfer that is fine too – just kick back on the sand and enjoy the guys and girls carving up the swell.
Tamarama is a gorgeous little cove but we would recommend only stopping by for a quick dip and some sun bathing.
It is a deep beach so only walk in between 5 – 10m before it drops right off.
If you do go out the back, beware there are strong currents here. This beach is not patrolled so please be careful.
Tamarama is located along the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, so if you’re out for a hike you’ll come across this beach.
- Suburb – Bronte
- Distance from CBD – 10km (20 min drive)
Bronte is one of the best beaches in Sydney if you’re looking for pure natural beauty.
It’s a small and humble place, but it boasts plenty of character.
The soft, white sand and rolling waves make Bronte Beach irresistible for anyone who wants to escape the bustle of Sydney.
Bronte Beach is patrolled so if you want to go for a swim stick between the red and yellow flags.
Follow the safety advice of the surf lifesavers, but if the rips are too gnarly then you can always jump in at the ocean pools, which are some of the nicest in Sydney.
Bronte Park is located just up from the beach. This park has plenty of picnic tables and BBQs for families and friends to enjoy.
You’ll find everything from an array of cafés to restaurants nearby that won’t break your budget and are all within walking distance.
If you want to stretch you legs, you can walk over to Tamarama Beach which is just over the headland.
- Suburb – Clovelly
- Distance from CBD – 11km (25 min drive)
Clovelly Beach is a serene spot located on the end of an isolated bay. It is protected so a great beach for young or inexperienced swimmers.
This popular, family-friendly beach offers plenty to do for both snorkellers, swimmers and sun bathers alike.
With the nearby Bronte-Coogee Aquatic Reserve you’ll find tonnes of marine life around.
There is a fantastic ocean pool where all the kids (and adults too) can play in or do laps if you want.
- Suburb – Coogee
- Distance from CBD – 10km (20 min drive)
No list of the best beaches in Sydney would be complete without mentioning Coogee Beach!
Bondi is for the tourists, but Coogee Beach is where the locals come to. It really is up there as one of the most popular ocean beaches in New South Wales.
The word “Coogee” is from the Aboriginal local tribe. It is said that “Coogee” means the smell of seaweed as there is a bit that washes up on shore in Sydney’s hottest months.
The beach can easily be reached by public bus or by car. If you are walking the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, this is where you’ll start or finish, depending on which way you go.
Walk all the way up to the Sculpture Lookout on Dolphin Point to the north or up to Trenerry Reserve on the southern end of the beach for lovely views.
There are many rock and ocean pools in the area. You have Ross Jones Rockpool to the south of the beach and Giles Baths to the north.
If you keep walking south you will also find Wylie’s Baths and McIver Baths.
There are a number of toilet/changing room block located around Coogee Beach, and there are outdoor showers also.
Nearby Ardens Street has a great selection of restaurants and cafes that offer a range of different foods.
- Suburb – Maroubra
- Distance from CBD – 15km (25 min drive)
Ahh Maroubra, or the ‘Bra’ as it’s known to the rough and raucous surf locals.
Maroubra is one of the most popular surfing locations in Sydney, with regular, consistent year round swell and powerful wave conditions bringing in riders from around the world.
It can be a dangerous place to go for a swim if you’re not confident reading the ocean.
As a result always swim between the red and yellow flags, and ask the surf lifesavers for any safety tips if you’re new to Australian beaches.
The word ‘Maroubra’ originates from the local Aboriginal tribe language which means “like thunder”. This describes the sound of waves pounding on shoreline, which funny enough, sounds like thunder.
There are two lifesaving clubs which are patrolled during the day to keep an eye on swimmers and ensure they stay safe.
There are free BBQs with shelter in Arthur Byrne Reserve and toilets, showers and change rooms at a number of places along the beach. There is even a skate park if you are a keen skateboarder.
Nearby there are a number of shops and restaurants with different varieties of food down the north end behind the Maroubra Life Saving Club.
Grab a coffee or an ice cream and go for a walk up to Mistral Point (north) or Magic Point (south), which are especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset.
- Suburb – Cronulla
- Distance from CBD – 31km (40 min drive)
Finally in our list of the best Sydney beaches we are going to head south, past Botany, towards Royal National Park and into one of the top beach suburbs in New South Wales, Cronulla.
Cronulla Beach is spectacular, located on the Bate Bay coastline in South Sydney, but feeling like its own world altogether.
The word “Cronulla” means “place of pink seashell” in the local Gweagal Aboriginal language as you can find pink seashells all over the beaches.
The surf club at Cronulla Beach has volunteer lifesavers working weekends and school holidays to patrol the ocean, but always check the safety signs in case there’s strong surf or blue bottles (jelly fish) to consider.
The Pavilion and its restaurant are within walking distance of this lovely beach so if you’re looking for some scenic views with your lunchtime meal then stop at this place next time you go out surfing!
Finding your own patch to spread out on at the huge stretch of white sand at Cronulla Beach is never an issue, so bring some beach towels, snacks and drinks when you come down here.
Cronulla Beach is also one of the only beaches Sydney has that you can access by train right from Town Hall or Central Station, so getting here is a breeze.
If you have time make sure you check out the massive sea cliffs at nearby Royal National Park, or you can even continue further south to check out some of the epic Kiama beaches.
Our Wrap Up of the Best Beaches in Sydney
Of course we have barely scraped the surface of all the stunning beaches in Sydney, and the longer you are here the more you will discover. But we hope this list will keep you busy for a while!
The best beaches in Sydney all have something different to offer, depending on whether you want to surf, relax, sun bathe, hike, try some water sports, get away from the crowds or embrace the beach culture.
If you have the time try and visit them all!
If we missed your favourite spot leave a comment below and let us know.
Be Beach Safe
We just want to end this article on the top beaches Sydney has by touching on something very important – being beach safe.
The ocean in Australia is beautiful, with the best beaches in the world (yes, we mean it), but the seas aren’t without their danger.
Swimmers should always swim between the red and yellow flags on patrolled beaches as rips can sweep people out into the open water.
It also helps to learn about coastal environments, understanding rips and knowing how to spot them, marine animals in the area and first aid skills you may need at the beach.
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