We may be called the Harbour City but let’s be real guys, you’re all really here for the beaches. Sydney is known for them. Hell, she’s one of the best beach-filled cities in the world and yes, we are more than a little biased. But whether you're a local or a tourist—or you just need some serious beach porn in your life today—you’ve come to the right place.
In no particular order (we know how locals get competitive), these are the best beaches in Sydney.
Framed by towering Norfolk Island pine trees, Manly is another of Sydney’s most iconic beaches—and it was just named the #13 beach in the world in TripAdvisor's 2023 Travellers’ Choice Awards. It's a hotspot for Sydney beach culture—and all things swim, surf, and snorkelling. If you're not a local or staying locally, the thing to do is catch the Manly ferry from Circular Quay, grab some fish and chips along the Manly Corso when you arrive, and set yourself up for the day. Manly Surf School is always there to help, even though you may not stand up first try (guilty), it’s loads of fun and will definitely make for a day to remember. Hungry? Check out the best restaurants in Manly.
Just north of Manly in the Northern Beaches, Freshy is a classic go-to for gentle, reliable waves and good times. It's one of Sydney's favourite family beaches and it's less touristy than Manly with more of a local's vibe and a long history of surfing and surf club culture (keep an eye out for swim events and surf boats). The 50m ocean pool at the north end of the beach is the perfect spot to pump out some freestyle and live your best life. Hungry? Hit up the Harbord Hotel for a casual pub lunch post-swim.
Sydney's beaches east of the city are some of our most famous—but before Bondi, Eastern Suburbs locals love Coogee Beach. This sandy strip is super family-friendly, with calm waves and an abundance of facilities to make your day just that much better. Bring a picnic rug and layout on the enclosed lawn, or head down to the ocean baths at the southern end of the beach. Mid-beach is where you’ll find the showers, so hit those up before heading up to Coogee Pavilion for an arvo Margarita.
The sparkly jewel of Sydney’s beach scene, Bondi is one of the world's most famous beaches. It is the reason some people make the trek to our wonderful country, and we don’t blame them. All year round you’ll find fun things to do to keep yourself busy, from the ultra-popular coastal walk to Bronte, learn to surf classes, Sculpture by the Sea, and a cheeky cocktail at the beautiful Bondi Icebergs. Hot tip: hang around the Pavilion during summer and keep an eye out for the boys in blue (Bondi Rescue we are looking at you). Hungry? Check out our guides to the best restaurants in Bondi and the best cafes in Bondi right now.
Another glamorous stretch of sand has taken out fourth place in our audience-voted list of Sydney's best beaches. At the tip of the Northern Beaches peninsula is Palm Beach. This 2.3km shoreline is hands down one of Sydney’s prettiest beaches, and with as many activities as there are Home and Away episodes (which made this beach so popular), you will not just be catching rays here. As well as the stunning water, you’ll find a golf course, markets, kayaking, cruises, a lighthouse walk, and incredible restaurants like Barrenjoey House. Your day is guaranteed to be action-packed.
A little south of Palm Beach, Whale Beach is another Sydney favourite—and another entry on our top 10 list from the Northern Beaches. "The Wedge" at the north end of the beach is a popular surfing break for more experienced surfers, but if you're not Kelly Slater in the making, Whale Beach also has good beach breaks for body surfing and swimming. You'll also find a playground, picnic area, and a 25m ocean pool.
Camp Cove Beach
Camp Cove is the first harbour beach on our audience-voted best beaches list. Not far from famous Watsons Bay, this quiet cove is perfect for families with calm waters and picture-perfect views of Sydney Harbour. Here you can picnic, snorkel, kayak, and even soak up the history of this special spot. A rock shelter at the northern end of the beach features some undated shell-midden deposits—evidence of the Gadigal people and their deep connection to the area.
And now for a trip to South Sydney. Cronulla Beach is the only beach in all of Sydney that you are able to reach by train—meaning you don’t have to look for (and pay for) parking. So the beach gods are automatically on our side. With year-round pro lifeguards, beautiful rock pools, and a strand of phenomenal restaurants, Cronulla is giving us good vibes only.
Gordons Bay might be considered to be one of Sydney's great secret beaches, but "secret" is probably a bit of a stretch, considering it is a firm favourite with inner-city locals looking to hang out on the rocks and snorkel on sunny weekends. Wedged between Coogee and Clovelly and protected by a reef, it's largely cool, calm, and collected—but only accessible by foot. The sand part of the beach is also fairly limited, so make sure you bring some appropriate footwear so you can meander across the rocks for the perfect picnic spot.
Last but not least, Bronte Beach. The more low-key little sibling of Bondi, Bronte has one of Sydney's best natural ocean pools that the little ones will love. Families flock to the protected baths on Sydney’s scorchers and the lap pool at the south end of the beach is one of the best (and free) ocean pools in town. There's heaps of picnic space in the grassy park behind the beach, making it a favourite spot for weekend BBQs.
More Of Sydney's Best Beaches | Northern Beaches
Make sure you stick between the flags at Bilgola Beach, otherwise you may end up amongst its notorious rips. There was really no nice way for us to say that. Don’t let this deter you from having a dip here though, or just head down at the crack of dawn for one of Sydney’s best beach sunrises.
Avalon Beach has all the goods, with just about something for everyone. Up north, you’ll find the old trusty longboarders who’ve been surfing this particular break for centuries (pretty much), head further south and find flags, as well as a few easy waves for the newbies on the block. Finally, rock up at the edge of the south cliff, known as Little Avalon, for some insane swell and crazy fast barrel surfing.
One of Sydney’s most popular snorkelling and scuba diving beaches, Shelly Beach is definitely a gem you must tick off your list, stat. With a max depth of about 12 metres, a massive variety of marine life, bushwalking tracks and picnic areas, it’s all ticks from us.
This east-facing beach is known for talented local surfers who hang out around the south headland known as The Peak, as well as the long stretch of water smack bang in the middle of the beach which is perfect for swimming (which is where you will find us). Once you’re done at Newport, there are a few mandatory drinks waiting for you at The Newport—doesn’t sound like a bad plan, right?
More Of Sydney's Best Beaches | Eastern Beaches
Situated between Bondi and Coogee beaches, this tiny 80-metre beach is the best place to take a dip halfway along your morning coastal walk. They don’t call it "Glamarama" for nothing, you know.
More Of Sydney's Best Beaches | Southern Beaches
Garie Beach is the perfect place if you want to avoid crowds and head out of the city. During the winter and spring months, you’ll catch a glimpse of the spectacular whales migrating along the coastline, and cast your line with a spot of beach fishing. It’s also one of the best spots in Sydney for coastal bird watching so grab your binoculars and head on down.
This spot is extremely popular for fishing and snorkelling due to the sudden drop a few metres out into the water. See trevally and bream fish in abundance or sit back and enjoy the serenity that is Jibbon Beach.
Some say that heading to Maianbar is like stepping into your dreamiest coastal holiday ever. This stunning area, home to a monthly art trail and only one cafe (Maianbar Beach Cafe), is only a 15-minute trip from Bundeena and believe us, it's absolutely worth the extra few kilometres. At low tide, an epic sand strip called Deeban Spit appears, an island-like sandbank allowing you to set up shop on its white shores for the day. You can access the ‘beach’ through Bonnie Vale Beach.
Located in the Royal National Park in South Sydney, Wattamolla Beach has something to suit everyone. The emerald-green coloured lagoon is perfect for snorkelling and low-key lilo vibes, the beach is an ideal fishing spot, and the picturesque picnic and BBQ area is one of the best in Sydney. And while Wattamolla is known for its jump rock—NSW National Parks advises against this thrillseeker activity as many people have been seriously injured.
Scarborough is a small yet super fun beach and (just quietly) it’s the next beach on your hit list. Thanks to its location far away from the city, you can beat the crowds and be the king of the waves. That’s what we’ll be doing anyway.
Thirroul Beach stretches for a cruisy 1km and is known for its killer swell. It’s a semi-dog-friendly beach, so you can bring your doggies here before 9am and after 6pm in the summer.
More Of Sydney's Best Beaches | Sydney Harbour Beaches
Fully shark-netted and completely enclosed, Greenwich Baths is one of Sydney Harbour’s most stunning spots to take a dip. Beach toys are provided so you’re allowed to feel like a nine-year-old here all over again, minus the guilt of floating at the local indoor pool on a giant Havaiana thong. This one isn’t open all year round and generally closes up shop around April.
Balmoral Beach is one of Sydney’s best and most popular harbour beaches. It’s also the best spot to grab some takeaway, have a bite to eat, have a quick dip and soak up a warm Sydney sunset. Dive into the baths and waste the day away, it’s the only way to do it.
This insanely Instagrammable beach is one of Sydney’s best-kept beach secrets. There’s a playground to keep the little ones busy and you will have no problem finding shade under the ring of trees that surround the bay. Hot tip: head here on a weekday before 3pm and it will pretty much feel like your own private beach in the heart of Sydney.
Lady Bay Beach (Watsons Bay)
Lady Bay Beach (Watsons Bay) is a low-key harbour beach made for those who love to go for a quiet dip and catch up on a good book. Cozzies are optional here as this is one of Sydney’s best designated nude bathing areas. Be free Sydneysiders.
Murray Rose Pool (Redleaf Beach)
This ocean pool is one of Sydney Harbour’s largest beaches, but it’s also a local secret and while it's filled with locals in the know, it will hardly be as jam-packed as some of Sydney’s other, shall we say more famous beaches. The wrap-around pontoon is the perfect spot to park yourself for a quick bite before continuing to practice your Olympic diving technique into the water.
Lady Martins Beach
Lady Martins Beach is the backyard of some of the most expensive real estate in the country, and for a good reason. The water here is the up there with the clearest in Sydney and the sand is just as amazing. Bring your dog along and set up camp because, for today, you are one of Sydney’s elite.
Score front seats to Sydney’s best harbour and city views and set yourself up on Milk Beach for the day. It’s tucked into the base of Hermit Bay with easy access via the Hermitage Foreshore Walk and it’s the ultimate seaside nook for fishing, snorkelling and swimming.
Shark Beach (Nielsen Park)
This netted harbour beach, wrapped in ultra-white sand, is definitely a spot to check off your list of Sydney’s harbour beaches. The park itself has three large picnic areas and the views are unbeatable. We know what you’re thinking—BBQ-packed beach day with the fam.
Now, check out our guide to Sydney's best secret beaches.
Image credit: Destination NSW