*Updated March 2019*
Best Backpacker Beach in Sydney: Bondi Beach
Easily, Australia’s most famous beach and of course the focal spot for the TV favourite ‘Bondi Rescue!’ Most people have this at the top of their ‘to-do’ list when they hit Sydney, with some tourists making it their first stop, as soon as they get off the plane!
The world famous Bondi beach is wavy and wonderful and is normally packed with both locals and tourists getting a tan or taking advantage of the big swells. Despite the crowds, Bondi Beach still maintains its charm and represents the ultimate Aussie beach culture every traveller and backpacker should experience at least once. There is always something going on, from surfing competitions to beach bar parties, so there’s no doubt you’ll find an activity suited to your style!
The best thing about it? Because it’s so popular, it’s easy to chat and make friends with fellow travellers and backpackers. Its streets are also lined with designer shops, trendy cafés and lively bars that are open until late if you fancy some post-beach drinks.
Another famous part of Bondi is the Bondi Icebergs Pool (that pool you’ve probably already seen on Instagram!) Icebergs is at the southern end of the beach and is a perfect place to
get some lengths in when there are too many surfers! There’s a small fee to get in (Adults: $8), but the photos will be worth it! You can also hire a locker for $3 and a towel for $4.
This surf-perfect sandy beach is busy with locals and tourists all year round so get down there and enjoy the breathtaking view for yourself!
Bondi Beach Location:
Bondi Beach, NSW 2026 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Bondi Beach:
Catch the train or bus from the CBD to Bondi Junction Station and then catch a 10 minute bus, either the number 333 or 380), which will take you right along the main street of Bondi and right onto the beach!
Bondi Beach Highlights:
Make sure you check out the famous ‘Bondi Lifeguards’ and the pavillion right opposite the beach. Pack your going out clothes because Bondi has an excellent night scene, with several swarve beach bars on the main street! Take your camera to the Bondi Icebergs and get that classic Bondi beach shot!
Where to Stay in Bondi Beach:
If you’re on a budget, crash at Bondi Beachouse YHA or Bondi Backpackers. If you’re looking for something more mid-range, book your stay at Hotel Bondi or Meriton Suites. For those with some money to burn, check out QT Bondi. For our complete list of hotels, hostels and apartments, go here.
Best Sunday Afternoon Beach in Sydney: Coogee Beach
On the other end of Bondi Beach is its underrated yet equally beautiful and trendy neighbour, Coogee Beach. The lively but ‘not-so-busy’ town of Coogee is a backpacker favourite! It’s easily accessible from the city centre via bus or you can do the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk! This famous walk is six kilometres long and a must-do for every visitor to Sydney. Remember to take your camera!
‘Coogee’ is actually taken from the Aboriginal work ‘koojah’ which means “smelly place”, but the only smell you’ll find at Coogee Beach is the smell of fish & chips from the nearby food bar on the grassy reserve!
Coogee beach is a good alternative for those who are looking to escape the hordes of tourists, yet still, want to be at the centre of the bustling beach life. The mornings here start early in quirky cafes and end late in modern bars brimming with energy. There are loads of fruity juice bars, unique souvenir shops and beach bars with epic views surrounding the long stretch of white sand, which makes Coogee a perfect place to spend the day! It’s difficult to run out of things to do and easy to lose track of time in Coogee Beach.
There are lots of grassy areas around the beach which is good for those who don’t like getting sandy! For those who don’t like swimming in the sea, there are two rock pools at either end of the beach which are excellent to cool off in! Giles Baths are popular natural rock pools at the northern end of the beach. At the southern end of the beach, you’ll find Ross Jones Memorial Pool, popular with children and families as the waves gently crash over the pool walls. Coogee is also home to the fabulous Coogee Pavilion which is ideal for a rooftop drink!
Coogee Beach Location:
Coogee Beach, Arden St, Coogee NSW 2034 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Coogee Beach:
From the CBD, there are multiple busses than will run you straight into Coogee! Numbers 372, 374, 376 and the M50 run frequently to Arden Street, which is right next to Coogee beach!
Coogee Beach Highlights:
Sunday afternoons is when everybody hits Coogee beach. You’ll see groups of people chilling with their speakers on, having fun! It is a total non-alcohol zone thought, so be careful! Look out for the salsa dancers, they love to practise and perform around Coogee beach!
Where to Stay in Coogee Beach:
And of course, there’s the fabulous Mad Monkey hostel there if you want to spend some more time in Coogee. Mad Monkey right next to the beach and hosts regular events, making it easy to meet new friends. With newly renovated rooms, ocean views, and a fantastic new bar and restaurant, Mad Monkey is every backpacker’s dream beach hostel in Sydney! Just steps from the beautiful beach, the staff here will be sure to take care of your every need. Book your stay HERE!
Best Northern Beach in Sydney: Palm Beach
One of Sydney’s northern beaches, Palm Beach, has an amazing 2km stretch of golden sand, with rugged headlands and a quaint lighthouse. Palm beach is 45 kilometers from the city centre. If you’re already shaking your head and crossing it off your list because of the distance, think again. We assure you the long drive is worth it. There is also a ferry you can get that takes you to Palm Beach. The time you spend getting there will be long forgotten once you see its golden stretch of sand and sparkling blue water.
The beach has an excellent wave and you can hire surfboards for a small fee, from right opposite the sand. Apart from surfing and kayaking, you can also hike to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, enjoy a delightful meal with a stunning view at the Boathouse Palm Beach, or tour the set of the long-running Australian soap opera Home & Away. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see some celebrities in action, giving you bragging rights for when you return home.
Palm Beach Location:
Ocean Rd, Palm Beach NSW 2108 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Palm Beach:
The quickest and easiest way to Palm Beach is to drive, but if public transport is your only option, you can get the L90 or B1 bus from Wynyard Train station, which takes just under 2 hours. A slightly more scenic route is to catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, then catch the 199 bus to Palm beach.
Palm Beach Highlights:
Palm Beach makes for a perfect road trip out of the city! If you’re looking for a place to surf, then Palm Beach has many surf shops that you can hire boards from, or have surfing lessons! Being a bit further out the city means you won’t be chasing the waves with too many people!
Best Surf Beach in Sydney: Manly Beach
The beauty of visiting this beach is the unbeatable, scenic ferry ride that you take to get there! The 30 minute ferry leaves from Circular Quay and awards you with amazing views of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It then continues around Sydney Harbour, passing Rose Bay, Watson’s Bay and then reaching Manly. When you get off the ferry in Manly, you’ll immediately feel a change in the vibe; you’re literally just five miles away from the city but people are more relaxed and time moves slower.
The walk from the ferry station leads you down plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes. At the end of the pedestrian only strip, you will be welcomed by the velvety shore line. It is usually busy with sunbathers, swimmers and surfers, however, being one of the longer beaches in Sydney, there is plenty of space to spread out.
If you’re looking to be a bit active, you can walk the SPIT to Manly coastal walk in reverse. For a more mellow afternoon, you can visit the shops, cafes, restaurants, and pubs that line the beach.
Manly Beach Location:
North Steyne, Manly, NSW 2095 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Manly Beach:
30 minute ferry from Circular Quay to Manly is the most scenic route, or the Manly Fast Ferry Service takes only 17 minutes if you’re short on time! If you’d rather go by bus, the number 170 bus runs from Wynyard station, taking about 40 minutes.
Most people visit Manly on a Sunday as the NSW transport fare is capped at $2.50, meaning the trip to Manly is an excellent value! Walk to the northern side of the beach where the rocks are and look out for the pink heart drawn on the cliff! Go check it out, there might be a little wormhole there, leading to something special!
Best Snorkeling Beach in Sydney: Shelly Beach
A short 10-minute walk from Manly Beach lies Shelly Beach. Most people choose to travel further around to the more sheltered Shelly Beach when they want a little less noise and a little more privacy. The beach has flat and calm waters making it a good destination for leisurely swimmers. It’s also known to have a variety of underwater species and a rich marine life that attract snorkelers and scuba divers to the protected reserve. So make sure you bring your snorkel and catch an epic sunset here!
This beach has all the amenities you need such as BBQs, changing rooms, toilets and showers! Bring your picnic blanket as there are not many seats! From Shelly Beach you can carry on walking up around the headlands which offers a spectacular view of Manly Beach and the further up northern beaches.
Shelly Beach Location:
Marine Parade, Manly, NSW 2095 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Shelly Beach:
The easiest way to get to Shelly beach is to walk 10 minutes towards the southern end of Manly beach, via the Marine Parade. It is a 20 minute walk from Manly Wharf, or the number 135 bus will take you a bit closer to Shelly beach.
Shelly Beach Highlights:
The main attraction about Shelly beach is the calm shallow waters which is great for those who want a relaxing bathe. Definitely bring your snorkel as you will be surprised what can be found in these waters!
Best Beach for a Paddle in Sydney: Bronte Beach
Bronte is another excellent surf beach to add to your list of Sydney’s Eastern Beaches. The surf brings in confident swimmers but Bronte is also known as a more ‘family friendly’ beach. The natural sheltered rock pool is ideal for those who would rather just have a paddle.
If you don’t fancy the waves, visit the Bronte sea baths at the south end of the beach. Bronte also hosts an adjacent large grassy area, with picnic benches, BBQs and cafes. People make this a definite stop on the Bondi to Coogee walk as it is so picturesque as well as a great place to get your toes sandy!
Bronte Beach Location:
Bronte Road, Bronte, NSW 2024 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Bronte Beach:
Bronte beach is on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. If you don’t have the time to do the walk and want to just visit Bronte, buses run from the CBD. From Town Hall Station, catch either the 360, 379 or 381 bus which will take you to Bronte beach!
Bronte Beach Highlights:
Being just around the headland from Bondi, Bronte is a perfect place to go when you want a less crowded beach. You will see many people sat watching the pro surfers catching the waves! An excellent addition to Bronte is the sea baths, which makes for a perfect picture at sunrise!
Best Sunbathing Beach in Sydney: Tamarama Beach
Tamarama (or often referred to as ‘Glamarama’) is a beautiful, small and narrow beach, just next door to Bronte. It is surrounded by headlands which is part of the Bondi to Coogee walk. Take a seat and look down on the many surfers below. The conditions at Tamarama beach are perfect for surfing, but it’s prone to have very strong currents.
The immaculate golden sand and deep blue water helps create the relaxing ‘chilled out’ vibe you get at Tamarama beach. Definitely add this to your list of beaches to visit on Sydney’s east coast, especially as it is so different to the busy Bondi, yet just around the corner!
The beach is surrounded by green parklands which is also where you will find the most loved part of Tamarama beach, the beautiful beach café! There are also playgrounds, BBQ facilities and picnic benches.
Tamarama Beach Location:
Tamarama Marine Drive, Tamarama, NSW 2026 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Tamarama Beach:
Tamarama beach is just around the first corner on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, meaning it is very accessible from Bondi Beach. If you are coming from he CBD, catch the 333 bus from Elizabeth Street, or the 379, 380 or the 381 bus from Town Hall Station.
The perfect sand makes this beach one of the best for sunbathing. Look out for the ‘glamourous’ people you see there, you might just see someone famous! Walk to the top of the cliffs on the northern side to get a really good photo of both Tamarama and Bronte together!
Best Swimming Beach in Sydney: Clovelly Beach
This beach is also part of the Bondi to Coogee Walk and is located between Bronte Beach and Gordon’s Bay. Usually quieter than its neighbouring beaches, it also has a unique narrow bay between two rocky ridges. Swimmers and snorkelers can be seen enjoying the tranquil waters with a diverse marine life.
There are concrete platforms and promenades on both sides of the bay where sunbathers can lay out their towels and soak up the sun. The Geoff James Pool is a saltwater pool, with four lanes located at the southern end of the beach and is a perfect venue for swimmers practicing their laps.
Clovelly Beach Location:
Donnellan Circuit, Clovelly, NSW 2031 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Clovelly Beach:
The number 339 bus leaves Elizabeth Street in the CBD, or walk around the corner from Coogee and Gordons Bay (about a 20 minute walk).
For those that prefer to not be on the sand, Clovelly is a perfect place to lie out on the rock. The water is easily accessible with several ladders along the bay, meaning you can get straight into your swimming!
Best views from the Beach in Sydney: Camp Cove
The reason why Camp Cove is named one of the best beaches in Sydney is because of the beautiful city backdrop. The CBD skyline can be seen in the distance which causes some locals to argue that it has the best views in Sydney.
Camp Cove is a calm harbour beach, meaning there are little to no waves and the water is crystal clear. Also, unlike its eastern counterparts, it faces west and gives visitors an amazing view of the sunset. Be sure to stay until early evening to catch this beautiful moment.
Easily reachable by public transport, you can take the ferry to Watsons Bay and follow the crowd towards Cove Street. After some swimming, snorkeling or kayaking, you can treat yourself to an ice cream from the nearby kiosk. If you’re hungry, find your way to the popular ‘Doyle’s’ and get yourself some mouth-watering fish and chips!
Camp Cove Location:
Victoria Street, Watsons Bay, NSW 2030 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Camp Cove:
The ferry from Circular Quay leaves regularly to Watson’s Bay. Once there, follow the directions to the lighthouse walk. You’ll walk through some local streets and when you reach the kiosk, you’ve made it to Camp Cove! Alternatively, you can catch the 325 bus from Town Hall station which will take you nearby.
Camp Cove Highlights:
Take your camera as the CBD views are not to be missed! On a perfect clear day, the headline of Sydney makes this beach extra special. You will also want to capture the amazing sunset that drops off behind the city!
Best Hidden Beach in Sydney: Parsley Bay Beach
If you’re looking for a quieter beach in Sydney, Parsley Bay Beach is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. It’s tucked away in a residential area, for those looking to have a more mellow day (read: for those looking to cure their hangover). Completely different from the beaches Sydney is famous for, Parsley Bay has a small patch of sand and no big waves to catch you by surprise.
Due to its calm waters, it is usually popular with families. But if you visit on a weekday morning during school season, you might be able to turn it into your own private beach. And what draws adults to it? You can BYO (bring-your-own) drinks! And yes, that includes alcohol!
Parsley Bay Beach Location:
8 The Crescent, Vaucluse, NSW 2030 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Parsley Bay Beach:
With only a 25 minute drive from the CBD, Parsley Bay Beach is easily accessible by car. The buses 324 and 325 run from York Street, in the CBD, or for a slightly quicker trip, catch the train to Edgecliff station and catch the same number buses from there!
Parsley Bay Highlights:
This beach is known for people to hold social gatherings and parties as the picnic facilities are excellent! It has been said that in the warmer, summer months, Water Dragons can be seen sunning along the watercourse, so keep your eyes peeled for these!
Best Locals Beach in Sydney: Freshwater Beach
Fondly called Freshie by the locals, Freshwater Beach is known for its big waves. A short walk north from Manly Beach, this 350 meter stretch of sand is home to some of the largest swells, making it an exciting location for surfing enthusiasts.
Not only are the waves ideal, but this is where the first surfboard demonstration in Australia was held by the legendary Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku in 1915. For the non-surfers, an eight-lane rock pool at the northern end of the beach is perfect for swimming laps.
Freshwater Beach Location:
Kooloora Ave, Freshwater, NSW 2096 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Freshwater Beach:
Being slightly north of Manly Beach, you can walk from there to Freshwater Beach in a short time. If coming from the CBD, the M30 bus towards Taronga Zoo can be caught on Clarence Street in the centre, and then change to the E65 bus towards South Curl Curl, will take you within walking distance to the beach.
Freshwater Beach Highlights:
This beach is where ‘Duke Kahanamoku’ held his famous surfing demonstration, in 1915, that popularised surfing in Australia. The headlands at either side create excellent surfing and swimming conditions.
Best Lagoon Beach in Sydney: Wattamolla Beach and Lagoon
Now this one isn’t technically in Sydney, but if you’re thinking of having a day trip out of the city, Wattamolla Beach is only 50 km away (about an hour’s drive) from the city centre and has a waterfall, a lagoon and a beach! It’s tucked up in the Royal National Park which means you will need a car to get to it and it can get very busy in the summer months! But the lagoon and waterfall are a lovely place to relax, take a picnic and at low tide the lagoon is a perfect place to swim amongst the fishies!
The calm, clear water in the lagoon makes it perfect for floating around, snorkeling and swimming. There are no nearby cafes or beach bars around like the other beaches, so make sure you pack your lunch and head for the picnic areas right next to the car park!
Wattamolla Beach Location:
Royal National Park, Waterfall, NSW 2233 — VIEW MAP
How to get to Wattamolla Beach:
Being slightly further out from Sydney than the other beaches and being in the middle of a National Park, public transport is not available from the CBD. The only option is to drive and will take you just over an hour! There is a parking fee of $12 a day to park at the lagoon.
Wattamolla Beach Highlights:
How many beaches can you say also has a waterfall? The waterfall is at its best, naturally, after we’ve had some rain, but even on the sunny days, the waterfall can still be seen trickling into the lagoon! Bring your floaties, almost everyone there has one!
Want a taste of the best beaches in Sydney? Then watch this video!
More information about Sydney Beaches:
Planning on taking up “beach bumming” as your official hobby and want to find even more stretches of sand in Sydney? Then check out these other articles about the best Sydney beaches:
- 15 Best Beaches in Sydney by Thomas Woodgate from CNN Travel
- 12 Best Beaches in Sydney that You Need to Visit from Hostelworld
- 15 Best Beaches in Sydney by Sophie Davies from Condé Nast
- The 12 Greatest Beaches in Sydney by Courtney Subramanian from Thrillist
- The Best Beaches in Sydney by Hannah Lewis from The Culture Trip