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Sydney is synonymous with sun, sea and sand. Visitors flock to Sydney during the summer months to enjoy its golden beaches and swim in the Pacific. While having one of the deepest harbours in the world, the city is also blessed with a corrugated coastline dotted with a multitude of beaches. Each has its own character and colour as well as cafes with world-class coffee.

Following is a list of the top beaches in Sydney to bask in the summer sun and share those Instagram-worthy photos.

Bondi Beach

Icebergs pool at Bondi Beach Sydney
Icebergs pool at Bondi Beach. Photo by Ayan Adak

No tour of Australia is complete without landing at Bondi, the Mecca of Sydney’s beaches. The iconic beach, steeped in history, may feel small but it punches way above its size when it comes to character and vibes.

This suburb of Sydney has walls lined with resplendent murals, tastefully decorated cafes and restaurants dishing out fish and chips. Glamorous locals, lifeguards and surfers along with an iconic swimming pool (Icebergs) render a flair to Bondi that makes it irresistible.

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It is also the start of perhaps one of the most sought-after city walks in Australia – the Bondi-Coogee Walk. The path goes from Bondi and continues along a string of beaches (Bronte, Tamarama, Clovelly) before stopping at Coogee.

This walk is filled with steep sandstone cliffs offering amazing vantage points. It also passes through the Waverley Cemetery, the final resting place of many an Australian icon. On this walk, in early spring, you can see the Sculpture by the Sea, an open-air exhibition of artistic sculptures.

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Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach
Coogee Beach. Photo by Ayan Adak

The younger cousin to Bondi, Coogee lies farther south and has its own distinct vibes. It is surrounded by parks and inclining cliffs filled with lookouts. Do visit the Coogee Rocky Point lookout to get some amazing views.

If you’re lucky, you can spot denizen bottlenose dolphins splashing very close to the shoreline. During the whaling season (May – October), you may also see humpback whales migrating to the warmer northern waters.

For a longer walk, you can continue beyond Coogee. The same sandstone cliff-laced grassy walkways continue down to Maroubra and then to Malabar via the scenic Malabar Headland National Park. This section is far less crowded than the bustling walk from Bondi to Coogee and is perfect for nature lovers.

Clovelly Beach and Gordon’s Bay

Gordons Bay Sydney Beach
Gordons Bay. Photo by Ayan Adak

Between Bondi and Coogee lies Clovelly Beach where the waters enter into a thin longitudinal strip. This cuts down the tumultuous waves sought after for surfing and makes Clovelly one of the safest beaches for children with its very calm waters.

But that is not all. Next to Clovelly lies the more expansive Gordon’s Bay which is renowned for its snorkelling and underwater extravaganza. It even has its ownUnderwater Nature Trail.’ This is a self-guided underwater walk that ambles around the bay in a ring.

The trail is guided by a chain of concrete-filled drums with information about the local sea life. Look out for blue gropers, cuttlefish, wrasses, manta rays and the elusive and sought-after, leafy sea dragons.

La Perouse

Bare Island at La Perouse
Bare Island at La Perouse. Photo by Ayan Adak

At the very southern tip of Sydney’s South Head lies La Perouse. It was named after the French explorer Jean Francois Comte de La Perouse. He incidentally happened to land in Sydney only a few days after the British colonised it (thereby perhaps missing the chance to claim Australia as a French territory). You can read about the history of the French explorer and the British colonial days at the dedicated La Perouse Museum.

If you’re interested in hiking, you can walk along the Cape Banks walking track. There are plenty of beaches here – from the longer Yarra Bay Beach and Frenchman’s Beach in the west to the smaller but hidden Congwong Beach and Little Congwong Beach to the east.

A bit farther away lies Little Bay Beach and Malabar Beach. The latter is blessed with calm turquoise waters for the little ones. There is also a walking track to nearby Bare Island which is popular among scuba divers and PADI certification seekers.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach
Manly Beach. Photo by Ayan Adak

Located on the Northern Beaches, Manly is the ‘other’ iconic beach of Sydney. It is world-renowned and often makes the list of the world’s best. Manly is much longer than Bondi and offers excellent swimming conditions and a long, throbbing promenade lined with shops, cafes and gigantic Norfolk Pine trees.

Do take a Ferry from Circular Quay to reach Manly. This ferry route is often considered amongst the most scenic with gorgeous views of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline and candy-coloured houses.

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Manly is also the launchpad for multiple walks. The most notable is the Manly to Spit Walk through Dobroyd Head. There are also shorter walks around the Sydney Harbour National Park in the North Head.

The Fairfax lookout, the Memorial Walk (dedicated to Australian soldiers in the wars of the 20th century) and the Barracks Precinct are some of the many landmarks and attractions around Manly.

Shelly Beach

The Sea Nymphs at Fairy Bower Pool
The Sea Nymphs at Fairy Bower Pool. Photo by Ayan Adak

Close to Manly, Shelly Beach is another sought-after destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. Part of the wider Cabbage Tree Bay aquatic reserve, the waters here have healthy swathes of seagrass. This grass harbours diverse aquatic life teeming with zebrafish, snappers, fusiliers, goatfish and even harmless sharks such as the Grey Nurse sharks and wobbegongs.

Alternatively, you can relax at the Fairy Bower sea pool nearby. If walking from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach, look out for the diminutive but brilliant sculptures embedded on the rocks and the popular sea-nymphs sculpture atop the Fairy Bower pool.

Collins Beach

Collins Beach
Collins Beach. Photo by Ayan Adak

A lesser-known secret beach of Sydney, Collins Beach is one of those few with the twin beauty of a small waterfall at one end. Though a trickle in the dry season, the waterfall comes to life after a bout of rain, making it a pleasant destination, especially with kids.

Collins Beach is ensconced inside the Sydney Harbour National Park and has extremely calm waters. It is also popular for snorkellers with all the riches of the Sydney Harbour in full display. Do note though that the entrance to the hidden beach is a bit of a walk on downhill slopes that may be difficult for those with mobility issues

Narrabeen Lagoon and Beach

Narrabeen Lagoon
Narrabeen Lagoon. Photo by Ayan Adak

If a beach is no longer enough, head over to Narrabeen in the luxurious Northern Beaches of Sydney (suburbs north of Manly). The Narrabeen beach is wedged alongside the eponymous and expansive Dee Why Lagoon surrounded by green reserves, campgrounds and walking trails. All this is within arms reach of chic cafes and stylish eateries.

The calm waters of the lagoon are a big draw for kids – do not be surprised to see it overflow with energy and excitement on a hot summer day as it is one of the most popular beaches north of Manly.

Clontarf Beach and Reserve

Around Clontarf
Around Clontarf. Photo by Ayan Adak

On the other end of the 10km Manly-Spit walk, just next to the Spit Bridge, lies Clontarf Beach. The waters here are very shallow and calm, while nearby Sandy Bay is a popular dog-friendly beach.

The adjacent reserve, well-shaded with tree cover, is extremely popular for barbeque picnics and celebrations that continue until dusk. Grab a chilled beer with a quintessential Aussie attitude here on a hot sunny day. In between dips in the aquamarine waters, look out for the Spit Bridge opening up at select times to allow large marine vessels to pass through the waters.


Sunset at Cronulla Beach
Sunset at Cronulla Beach. Photo by Ayan Adak

To Sydney’s southernmost tip lies the extensive long Cronulla Beach. It is reminiscent of Manly with its long sandy stretch lined with Norfolk Pine trees and its energetic promenade filled with upmarket shops and cafes.

Sunsets here are stunning and it is worth staying untill late in the evening. Meanwhile the promenade remains bustling all day. There are some stunning walks here as well. You can walk all the way from Gunnamatta Bay in the west to Potters Point and Cape Bailey Lighthouse in the Kamay Botany Bay National Park. Look out for Cronulla’s impressive sand dunes on the way.

The walk continues to Cape Solander, a fantastic viewing point for the whales in migration season. Then it goes even further to the historic landing place of Captain Cook in 1770. If time permits, you can even take the Cronulla Ferry, close to the south Cronulla Beach, to Bundeena, an artistic village hidden in the Royal National Park.

More Sydney Beaches

The sandy beaches around Sydney are a celebration. In addition to the above, there are plenty of beaches to discover in and around the city.

These include the Northern Beaches (Palm Beach, Whale, Avalon, Bilgola, Narrabeen, Curl Curl, Dee Why, Freshwater) and North Head (Manly and surrounds). There is also the Middle Head (Chinamans, Balmoral, Chowder Bay), the South Head (Bondi, Coogee, Malabar) and then, further south (Brighton Le Sands, Dolls Point, Cronulla).

Farther beyond, the city is wrapped in National Parks and eucalypti forests which also have their share of beaches. There is the Royal National Park to the south (with Jibbon Beach, Garrie and Wattamolla). To the north lies Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (with Resolute Beach, Great Mackerel Beach) and Brisbane Waters National Park (with Pearl Beach, Patonga Beach).

There’s even a river beach in Sydney’s west at Penrith on the Nepean River, reflecting the city’s love and obsession with water. It is a traveller’s joy to explore the city’s thoroughfares and uncover these sandy jewels from the large, more popular ones to the smaller local secrets.

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Author Bio: Ayan Adak is a consultant by profession and loves traveling, writing and photography. He has traveled to over 30 countries and has published multiple books on travel and poetry.

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