Best Sydney Beaches

Which are the Best Sydney Beaches?

Ask that of Sydneysiders and you'll get plenty of passionate answers.

So I'll try and help you narrow them down a little for your Sydney vacation by answering some frequently asked questions.

What do you want in your "beach for the day" anyway - flat water or surf? Most are within easy reach of the CBD, but some can be a challenge to reach. 

  • What are the best Sydney beaches for families?
  • Are Sydney's surf beaches safe?
  • Which beaches are best for board riding?
  • Which calm water Sydney Harbour beaches are standouts?
  • Is anywhere in Sydney clean and clear for snorkeling fun?
  • Where do you go for an all-over tan (where nudity is okay?).
  • Can we still light up a cigarette on the beach?
Mid-winter in sunny Sydney, NSW, looking south along the beautiful Eastern Suburbs coastline to Tamarama and Bronte Beaches.

Some of the beautiful surf beaches of the Eastern Suburbs. Here we're looking south from Mackenzies Point toward Tamarama and Bronte in mid-winter ... on the day of the big 2014 City2Surf run.

Sydney's beaches are seductive and hard to resist - even when the water's cooler in winter. They can be enjoyed all year round and there are dozens of delightful beaches to choose from!

Great beaches for surfing

Winter's day at Bondi Beach - with surf on the rise.

For fun in the Surf try Bondi (pictured above in mid-winter), Coogee, Bronte, Manly (pictured mid-summer at top of page), Freshwater, Cronulla, Avalon and Newport.

And what of the beaches within Sydney Harbour? These are found among many delightful coves, bays and islands.

Best Sydney Beaches - Harbour

These are mostly sheltered and calm beaches – a wonderful counter to the bustle of the big city. If you have young kids there's a peaceful safe family beach waiting here for you.

At the entrance to the harbour are North Head and South Head. Some of the best Sydney beaches inside the harbour are not far from the heads – at Manly Cove, Reef Beach and Clontarf Beach on the north side, and at Watsons Bay, Shark Bay and Camp Cove on the south side.

You could also try Chinamans Beach and Balmoral Beach on the north side.

Shark Bay might not seem to be the spot to head for, but it is shark-netted so don't let the name put you off.

Camp Cove (pictured above) is a great place to take some photos to send back home. There’s lots of history here – it’s where Arthur Phillip first landed.

(Located near Camp Cove is the clothing optional Lady Bay or Lady Jane Beach. It wins praise as one of the best Sydney beaches for gay nudists).

Wonderful sea baths and pools

Many of the best Sydney beaches also include sea baths which have been cut into the base of cliffs and rocky headlands. (Pictured above is one of the most famous ones - the Bondi Icebergs pool at the southern end of Bondi Beach).

Thirty beautiful pools lie in the surf strip from Palm Beach in the north to Cronulla. Another 40 are harbourside pools within Sydney Heads.  

Our top Sydney surf beaches ...

Beautiful Bondi Beach - rated one of the best in the world. Great surf and golden sands. Experience the laid back Aussie beach culture. Join 50,000 others on a hot summer's day.

Magnificent Manly Beach - if you only have time to visit one Sydney beach, let it be Manly! Go by harbour ferry from Circular Quay and enjoy wonderful views of Sydney Harbour, the Bridge and Opera House.

Gorgeous Bronte Beach - one of Sydney's best-loved beaches. Just a delightful stroll south from Bondi on the much-loved coastal walkway to Coogee Beach.

Fantastic Cronulla Beach - only Sydney beach that you can reach by train. Has all the beach facilities without huge crowds. What better place to make long lazy walks along the shore?

No better place to Learn to Surf

If you're going to learn to surf, do it in Sydney! There's plenty of competition for the surfing student dollar here. That makes it very good value - perhaps only $100 for a whole day!

And if you're a backpacker there's heaps of backpackers' hostels close to the surf at Bondi and Manly.

It's not always safe to swim at Sydney's surf beaches. Any beach can be dangerous at times.

Beach safety ... what you can do

So swim at patrolled beaches. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to work out why. If you get into trouble in the water you're very likely to be rescued!

Not all Sydney beaches are patrolled all the time, so look for the beach flags, the life guards and any beach signage. If beach flags are up - swim between them.

Outside the Bondi Pavilion on August 10, 2014 - the day of the big City2Surf run. It's mid-winter in Sydney but lifesavers are on duty to keep swimmers from danger. Signs direct them to a flagged area further down Bondi Beach where surf conditions are safer.

Never swim alone

Check out the beach signs. There could be stinging jellyfish, or the beach may have been closed because of dangerous conditions or the sighting of a shark.

Talk to any lifesaving patrols, they know their beach territory and are keen to help you understand surf conditions.

Don't swim alone, particularly if you're not a strong swimmer. Know your limitations. The best Sydney beaches can sometimes have very rough surf. And beach conditions can change quickly.

Worried about rip currents? Check out our Beach Safety page.

Best Sydney Beaches for Families

Here are two fun beaches for families - one on each side of Sydney Harbour:

Manly Beach on the north side ticks all the boxes for a great family day out. Just getting there by harbour ferry from Circular Quay is enjoyable and exciting for the kids.

There are very good shops for fish 'n chips, ice creams, gelato and coffee around the Corso.

The sweep of Manly Beach is usually family friendly for swimming and surfing. If the surf's too rough try Shelly Beach - just a short walk away. It's a wonderland for snorkeling and very safe for all ages. More on our Manly Beach page.

Bronte Beach also has everything families need for a great day out. The surf can be dangerous, but there are two areas well loved by children - the Bogey Hole (a circle of protective rocks in the shallows) and the seabaths cut into the cliff.

Bronte is small and secluded with the headlands around it giving it a feeling of privacy. It has lots of greenery with heaps of shady parkland and picnic space. Ideal for a hot Sydney day when you worry how much sun exposure the kids are getting.

Plenty of great cafes and restaurants very close by here too. More on Bronte Beach here.

Don't be Tempted to Smoke

Many of Sydney's most popular beaches are now smoke-free. So don't be tempted. Keep your cigarettes in your beach bag or you could incur a fine.

October 2014 will go down as the month when Randwick Council joined three other councils – Manly, Waverly and Woollahra – in banning smoking on their beaches.

So the smoke-free status of Bondi and Manly beaches now also extends to Coogee, Maroubra and Clovelly ... and many others.

Before you light up on any Sydney beach now you'd better look for the No-Smoking signs or ask a life guard if smoking is allowed. 

Best Beaches for Snorkeling ...

A great one to try for snorkeling fun is Shelly Beach. It's a beautiful little secluded beach at Manly. Also good if you're learning to bottle dive.

Try snorkeling at Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay too. Can be interesting with plenty of fish to look at.

Find more information about Sydney's best beaches here.

Worried about danger - even on the best Sydney beaches?

Read the important tips in our Beach Safety and Sun Safety pages. We want all you tourists to have fun in our Surf and Sand. And to go home happy - and not too sore from sunburn! So please read the advice on how to escape Rip Currents - and how to avoid Melanoma from the harmful affects of our scorching Sun.

If you're not embarrassed by nudity and you like an even tan, try these four beaches - Nude Beaches Sydney.

Return to Home Page.

Sun Safety

Take extra care ... the sun at Sydney's beaches can be punishing.

Beach Safety

What to do if you get caught in a Rip Current?

Where to go Nude?

Find the Sydney beaches where you can Skinny Dip!

Where to Snorkel?

See beautiful Weedy Sea Dragons like this at Shelly Beach.

Surfing Etiquette

The Surfers' Code of Conduct is a set of rules applying to anyone surfing Sydney beaches - no matter what your age.

It combines safety tips, rules and unwritten laws that must be obeyed - whether you're a beginner or a pro surfer.

Here are the five simple rules:

  • Don't drop in
  • Paddle wide
  • Communicate
  • Don't throw your board
  • Respect the beach, the ocean, and others.

To find out more about the Surfers' Code visit Australia's Surfing Coast.