Time Out Sydney

Sydney beaches guide

Get the most out of the coast with our guide to the best things to do, places to eat and cocktails to drink at Sydney's top beaches 

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach

Best for Paddle boarding. Visit Balmoral Sailing School (southeast end of the Esplanade) to tee up a lesson.

Where to eat and drink For snazzy brunches, hit the Bather’s Pavilion. In the mood for fish and chips? Bottom of the Harbour is a classic beachfront chipper – once you have your order, head across the overpass bridge for a picnic on the little rocky island, where you can watch sailboats cruise around. Sunset drinks are a must at Public Dining Room.

Hot tip The swimming area near the south end of the beach is netted, lest you fear a shark attack. (But to be clear: the last fatal one here occurred in 1955.)

Getting there Take the E70, E68, 246 or 245 buses just past Mosman and walk down to Balmoral.

Bondi and Tamarama

Bondi Beach

Best for People watching. Because pretty much everyone here is showing off the results of their summer workout regimen.

Where to eat and drink Breakfasts don’t get better than at Bills, Sean’s Panaroma is perfect for a classic long lunch, and if you’re after a drink, you could do worse than to sip a crisp glass of wine while enjoying ocean views from a seat inside Maurice Terzini’s Icebergs Bar. At dinner, try Stuffed Beaver for poutine and Canadian beers, China Diner for tasty Asian eats or head to Da Orazio Pizza and Porchetta inside the same complex. Running out of holiday money? After a day of swimming and sunbathing, the North Bondi RSL is a great place for $5 beers on the balcony.

Hot tip Tamarama (just 1.2km south) is a far more secluded and, we dare say, prettier place to sunbathe. Walk there along the cliffs, starting at the bottom of Notts Avenue near the Icebergs pool. The entire experience is breathtaking.

Getting there Catch the 333 from Elizabeth Street opposite Bathurst Street for your quickest journey.

Bronte Beach

Bronte Beach

Best for Picnicking and celeb spotting. Heath Ledger called Bronte home for a stint, as did Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch.

Where to eat and drink There’s lots of coffee ­and ­smoothie action on Bronte Road – try a Barramundi burger at Café Salina. But eats ­and­ drinks wise, you’re better off a bit further inland. Near the intersection of Macpherson and St Thomas streets, Three Blue Ducks boasts one of the best breakfast menus in Sydney. Grab a table on the footpath and enjoy hot­ smoked salmon served over kale with two poached eggs dusted with fennel seed and hazelnut dukkah. Slightly farther away, Charing Cross has super­traditional pizza at Vacanza and a truly excellent BLAT (with egg) at graffiti­walled Ruby’s Diner, the 2014 Time Out Food Award winner for Best Café.

Hot tip The gorgeous Bronte Baths at the southern end have something for everyone: a perfect setting on the edge of the beach, a decent size for serious swimmers, a shallower end for kids and best of all? No cover charge.

Getting there The 378 goes directly from Central Station to the beach. Or get a train to Bondi Junction and grab a 360 or 361 bus for the last leg.

Clovelly Beach

Clovelly Beach

Best for Snorkelling! The real fun at Clovelly starts when you get in the water for a snorkel. There’s easy entry from the concrete steps near the surf club, and plenty to see when you’re under, including moray eels and blue gropers.

Where to eat and drink Tell your tallest tales at popular local haunt the Clovelly Hotel.

Hot tip Keep your eyes peeled – legend has it that the same blue groper, Bluey, has been swimming in these waters for decades.

Getting there: The 339 bus will get you from Central to the sand in less than 45 minutes on a good day.

Congwong Beach La Perouse

Congwong Beach

Best for Nude sunbathing! The main beach at La Perouse – Congwong – is worth it for the old-world seaside feel. But f you’re a free-thinker, the next beach along is clothing optional. ‘La Pa’ also has a lot to offer besides its beaches and sneaky peeks: you can tour former military fort Bare Island or snorkel in the surrounding reefs.

Where to eat and drink This is a bit tricky. There's a small clutch of cafés and fish'n'chips joints at the bases of the apartment buildings near the car park, all of which do decent sandwiches and snacks. They'll do just fine, but we reckon you'd do just as well to pack a picnic or eat a light meal first. Whatever you do, save room for a Calippo from the Streets ice cream boat, which is a regular visitor to La Pa's shores.

Hot tip The climax of Mission Impossible: II was shot in La Perouse – the bridge to Bare Island (in the role of villain’s lair) is actually blown up in the film.

Getting there It’s going to be an hour’s travel, so be prepared – grab an L94 or X94 express bus from Elizabeth Street.

Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach

Best for Cheeky afternoon drinks. Coogee is one of the few beaches where you can drink at the beachside parks (though not between January 25 and 27) – so fire up one of the free park barbecues and crack open a cold one.

Where to eat and drink For eats and drinks you don’t have to grill yourself, most of the action is on Coogee Bay Road – grab a coffee at Gusto Espresso Bar, a serve of fresh fish from A Fish Called Coogee and a frothy one in the mammoth Coogee Bay Hotel beer garden.

Hot tip Coogee drew international attention in 2003 when people believed they saw an apparition of Mary in the fence posts at Dolphin Point.

Getting there: Take the M50 bus from Elizabeth Street or the 372 or 374 buses from Central Station.

Manly and Shelly beach

Manly Beach

Best for Getting sporty. Manly has volleyball courts if you’re looking to find out your net worth, and Shelly is an excellent spot for a snorkel.

Where to eat and drink Head to Pure Wholefoods for killer organic breakfasts; if you’re after a boozier affair, try Chica Bonita for margaritas and Mexican. Daniel San has Asian tapas, fun cocktails and pinball machines, or local favourite, and the Hotel Steyne has a sprawling beer garden if you’re after traditional day drinking. Before leaving, save time to pop by Papi Chulo  and pair their excellent hot wings with a Bloody Maria – a killer concoction of tequila, spicy tomato juice, mescal float and fresh prawn garnish.

Hot tip Half the fun of Manly is getting there, and the most worthwhile way is via ferry. The ride is absolutely beautiful.

Getting there Take the F1 ferry from Wharf Six at Circular Quay.

Palm and Whale beach

Palm Beach

Best for A mini­-getaway. It may be an hour’s drive north from the city centre, but once there, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled much further.

Where to eat and drink Head to the Boathouse for smoothies and chocolate milkshakes the size of your head, or brunch with a sublime waterfront view. This is also where long­ running soap Home and Away is filmed, so keep an eye out for the locals of ‘Summer Bay’. Feeling fancy? Head to Jonah’s for sumptuous eats. It’s in the same complex as the Terrace Balcony, where you can enjoy a cheaper and more relaxed meal.

Hot tip Save a good 90 minutes for the Barrenjoey Lighthouse trail walk. But bring proper footwear – there are a few steep ridges. The upshot is the end vista, which is 100 per cent worth the trek.

Getting there The L90 bus departs from Wynyard. But if you can, avoid public transport and consider renting a car so you can really take your time here.

Redleaf Beach

Redleaf Pool


Best for Swimming. On the western end, Murray Rose Pool has shark nets to ensure safe swims in the calm harbour waters. There’s also a wrap­around boardwalk for jumps and dives, and a floating pontoon in the middle.

Where to eat and drink Not much choice here – the Redleaf Kiosk Café on the hill serves meals and icy treats. Otherwise, visit Fish Face Dining down the road for delicious seafood meals, Pelicano for simple Mediterranean fare or Mrs Sippy for antipasti, charcuterie and cocktails.

Hot tip Bring your camera, and before you walk down the hill to the beach, stop for photos with picture­perfect backdrops across the city and towards the harbour.

Getting there Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Double Bay (it’s about a ten-­minute walk from there) or hop on the 326 bus from Elizabeth Street near Martin Place. 

Watsons Bay

Watson's Bay Baths

Best for Meals with a view. Located on the southern head of the entrance to Sydney Harbour, Watsons Bay is famous as the home of fish-and-chip favourite Doyle’s. You could eat at the restaurant, but we say grab a take-away box and make for the park.

Where to eat and drink Finish your afternoon at the Beach Club at the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel – the beer garden-like space with some of Sydney’s best views is the beautiful people’s hotspot right now.

Hot tip Watsons Bay is named for Robert Watson, Sydney’s first harbourmaster, appointed in 1811.

Getting there: Catch a ferry to Watsons Bay from Circular Quay for a scenic route.

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First published on . Updated on .

By Cassie Huckstepp, Jordan Kretchmer, Joel Meares   |  

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