One of the things that makes Sydney such a picturesque and livable city is the endless beaches that surround it. From the famous sands of Bondi to the little known Northern Beaches, there is no shortage of spots to soak up the Australian sun, surf, and sand. Sydney’s Beaches are intertwined with the local culture, hosting annual festivities and popular TV series, as well as some of the city’s best dining and drinking venues. Here’s my take on five of the best beaches not to miss when visiting Sydney.
Australia’s most well-known beach, Bondi, is a favorite with tourists. On weekends and holidays it can be difficult to find a square of sand to call your own, but during the mid-week it is an ideal place to swim, sunbathe, and absorb the iconic Bondi atmosphere.
There are plenty of trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants lining the beachfront, and festivals are held throughout the year that include the “Festival of the Winds” kite flying event in September and the “Bondi Feast” arts event in July.
Bondi is a fun place to learn to surf and lessons can be arranged ahead of time. The waters here can be dangerous, so always swim between the red and yellow flags where the lifesavers are patrolling.
Bondi is situated around 8km to the east of Sydney’s CBD (Central Business District) and there are frequent buses that will drop you directly on the esplanade.
Hidden down the bottom of a winding road, Bilgola is one of Sydney’s lesser known Northern Beach gems, and a place for those “in the know” to escape the crowds. There is good surf at the northern end of the beach, and a rock pool for those wanting to do some laps, but Bilgola Beach is also the perfect place to just kick back in peace and tranquility on the sands.
Bilgola lies about 22 miles (35km) to the north of Sydney’s CBD, just south of Avalon Beach, and buses from Wynyard Station will drop at Barrenjoey Road, from where it’s a short walk down to the sands.
The ferry ride from Circular Quay over to Manly is as much a part of the visiting this famed stretch of sand as the experience of being there itself. From the Manly Wharf, it’s a short walk up the Corso pedestrian boulevard to the tree-lined promenade that backs Manly Beach. This picture perfect stretch of white sand is not only a favorite with families and tourists, but the reef break at the northern Queenscliff headland makes it one of Sydney’s best surf beaches. Visit in February when the Australian Open of Surfing is held to see some of the best in action!
There are Manly Surf Schools that offers lessons or head to the Dive Centre Manly for a range of scuba diving courses. From Manly it’s a picturesque bike ride north to the surf beach of Freshwater, or head south to beautiful Shelley Beach. No day at Manly Beach is complete without feasting on fish and chips on the sand, followed up with a drink at one of the many iconic pubs lining the Manly promenade.
From Circular Quay it’s a 30-minute ferry ride over to Manly Wharf, then a short walk down to the beach itself.
Australia’s famous, long running TV series “Home and Away” is filmed in Palm Beach as it is undeniably picturesque, and in addition to celebrity spotting the rich and famous at their summer houses, there are plenty of upmarket restaurants where you can eat with a waterfront view. For those feeling energetic, take the short walk up to the heritage listed 19th century Barrenjoey, Lighthouse that sits at Sydney’s northernmost point and offers commanding views along the coastline.
It’s a 45km drive north from Sydney’s CBD to Palm Beach, taking in some breathtaking coastal scenery along the way.
Just to the south of Bondi lies Tamarama Beach, which has been dubbed “Glamarama” for the beautiful people who frequent its sands. It feels enticingly secluded after the crowds of Bondi, but can be notoriously dangerous and is often closed to swimmers. Tamarama’s high cliffs and parklands make it a beautiful spot to hang out and watch the surfers on its left-hand reef break, and it is a good resting point on the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk.
The Bondi to Tamarama Beach section of the walk hosts the annual “Sculpture By The Sea” festival every October, which is a free event of more than 100 spectacular sculptures by artists from across the world. The festival celebrates it’s 20th annual in 2016 and is the largest free to the public sculpture exhibitions in the world.
Tamarama Beach lies 10km to the east of Sydney’s CBD and there are frequent buses stopping at Bondi Beach, from where it’s just a 15 minute walk south.