If you’re looking to hit Sydney’s best beaches by day and enjoy the city’s cosmopolitan culture by night, the good news is that you have a range of options to make this happen. There are a number of excellent beaches within 2 hours of Sydney, and many as little as 30 minutes away. This guide will help you to see the best of what Sydney’s beaches have to offer.
Palm Beach is a beautiful, uncrowded beach amongst Sydney’s Northern beaches that’s popular among locals, wealthy Sydneysiders with holiday homes in the area, and Home and Away fans.
If you’ve watched the popular Australian soap opera, you may recognize Palm Beach as one of the major filming locations. Don’t let this put you off though, the beach has considerably more to offer than just the filming location. Lay a towel down on the two-kilometre stretch of golden beach, which runs from Barrenjoey Head through to Little Head in the south, and take a dip in the cool water. If you’re a surfer, you’ll enjoy the consistent waves the beach has to offer, though you might be lucky enough to spot a migrating humpback whale if you visit in winter.
Pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the heads, or eat like a local at one of the great restaurants and cafes. The Boat House at Barrenjoey Boathouse in Governor Philip Park, is popular for weddings and events due to its incredible location, and serves award winning food made from fresh local produce while Dunes Restaurant and Kiosk in Governor Philip Park offers fresh local produce, a seasonal menu, and amazing water views.
Getting there: Palm Beach is best accessible by car, and is a 45 to 60 minute drive from the city centre. Otherwise, bus number L90 runs to and from Sydney and can take 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic.
Bondi can be crowded on a hot summer’s day, but there’s a reason why this famous Eastern suburbs beach draws so many tourists and locals. Perfect for water activities like swimming, diving, bodyboarding and surfing, you won’t find yourself bored in Bondi. Two sets of flags in the north and centre of the beach signify there are lifeguards keeping a watchful eye on you, so you can swim safely. The southern end of the beach is reserved for surfing; locals will rent you some gear and teach you the ropes if need be.
If you’re up for one of the best coastal walks in Sydney, you can walk the popular route from Bondi to Bronte or Coogee. Although the path is stunning all year round, you’ll enjoy the Festival of the Winds in September, an annual kite-flying festival, and Sculpture by the Sea, which runs from October to November.
Bondi has an abundance of great food options, with one of the most popular being Icebergs at 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach. Overlooking an iconic ocean pool with unobstructed views looking far out across the foaming swells of the Pacific Ocean, you’re sure to enjoy one of the reasonably priced food options. You might not be able to see the water from nautical themed bar The Anchor (8 Campbell Parade, Bondi), but try one of their refreshing cocktails.
Getting there: Take the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra train to Bondi Junction, where you can take bus 333, 380 or 389 from the A3 stand at Bondi Junction station. Depart at Campbell Parade near Hall Street, and you’ll spot the beach on your right.
If you’d like to take a taxi, it will cost around $30 for the 7-kilometre trip from the city.
To see where and how the other half live, Redleaf beach in Sydney’s exclusive Double Bay is worth a look. With stunning views of the harbor bridge and city, as well as soft sand and clear water, you’ll find the best of both worlds here. Less than 6 kilometres from the city centre, you can pop over mid-morning and enjoy at one of the exclusive cafes, and cool down in the water in the afternoon. Redleaf is family friendly, and has an enclosed harbourside pool named Murray Rose Pool on the western side of the beach. It can get quite hot, so get to the beach early to snag one of the few shady spots.
There are many dining options in Double Bay, but if you’re looking for food close to the beach then Redleaf Beach Café (536 New South Head Road) is open from early until 3.30pm. It offers a simple, tasty menu and is only a short walk from the beach.
How to get there: Take a ferry from Wharf Number 4 at Circular Quay, and then walk a short distance to the beach. Alternatively, Bus 323, 324, 325, and 326 from Stand D in Circular Quay will take you to New South Head Road, and you can then walk down the stairs to reach Redleaf.
6 kilometres from Sydney’s centre, you can reach the beach with a taxi (around $25-$30).
Balmoral is one of the hidden gems of Sydney’s lower north shore, and is considerably quieter than other beaches like Bondi. Offering a range of activities, it’s popular with families, swimmers and sunbathers. Learn to sail at Balmoral Sailing School, hire a kayak, and watch the windsurfers float around Hunters Bay.
Those interested in heritage and history will want to follow the walking trail from the beach through to Chowder Bay, taking in stunning views of the headlands and harbor while learning of Sydney’s military history at the former Chowder Bay naval base. It’s possible to spend the morning at the beach, and then walk over to Taronga Zoo, stopping for a dip at Little Sirius Cove along the way.
The Boathouse (2 The Esplanade) offers tasty modern Australian cuisine, rustic furnishings, and is right on the beach. Like to do things the old fashioned way? Bottom of the Harbour Seafoods (21 The Esplanade) has fresh takeaway seafood, which you can eat on the shores of Middle Harbour.
How to get there: Mosman is just under 9 kilometres from the city centre, and can be reached by taxi for about $45 – $50. Alternatively, take Bus 244 or 247 from Wynyard station, and from the stop, it’s a 900 metre walk down to the beach.
Top Image courtesy of Phil Whitehouse.