If you want to get the most out of Sydney, you need to head to the coast and immerse yourself in the beach culture of this city. Here are my favourite spots to lay in the sun or surf up a storm, from some of Sydney’s best known to the hidden gems.

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is an Australian icon, but this beach has so much more to it than what you see on the front of a postcard. It goes without saying the beach is vast and beautiful, the water is a deep sapphire and the waves will give you a work out (on a good swell day). Venture a little beyond the beach you will find one of Australia’s oldest swimming clubs, Bondi Icebergs. Dating back to 1929 and located at the southern end of the beach this is the perfect location for those who don’t like the sand but still want to bask in the views of Bondi Beach. Down at the northern end you will find a children’s ocean pool and the grass knoll which is also a great sun baking option. For those who don’t shy away from the sand anywhere along the beach is a great spot, just remember to swim between the flags and try and set up a spot relatively close to them. There are plenty of brunch or lunch options to pick from off the beach, my favourites are Beach Burrito (hello frozen Margarita), Porch & Parlour and Bills.

Find it here: Campbell Parade, Bondi NSW 2026

Bronte Beach
Follow the famous Bondi to Bronte costal walk and discover this gem. For me, Bronte Beach has always been ‘the locals’ version of Bondi Beach. It has a quieter more family like atmosphere, but the sand and the ocean are very similar to Bondi, it’s just a bit smaller. There is a large grass area off the beach which is perfect for large picnics and BBQ’s, just make sure you get in early to get a good spot. The waves are generally really good making it a popular spot for surfers, and many people often swim in the ocean rock pool at the south end of the beach. If you feel like something special for lunch, Three Blue Ducks is just up the hill.

Find it here: Bronte Rd, Bronte NSW 2024

Manly Beach
Another iconic Sydney beach and a great ferry trip from Circular Quay is Manly Beach. Whilst Bondi is the icon of the Eastern Beaches, Manly is the icon of the Northern Beaches. Up on this side of the city you will find a more relaxed vibe, with chilled out local surfers and beach loving families alike. From the ferry, jump off at the wharf where the harbour beach is located, here you will find the home to great bars and restaurants like Hugo’s Manly and The Manly Wharf Hotel (great for an afternoon drink or a fun Saturday night). From there, walk the short distance through the suburb to the other side where you will find the ocean beach. This long stretch of sand houses everyone from beginners to pro surfers, make sure you check the flags and only swim between them. Nearby Shelly Beach and Freshwater Beach are also beautiful and worth checking out during your time in Sydney.   

Find it here: N Steyne, Manly NSW 2095

Balmoral Beach
Take a trip over the bridge to discover the scenic Balmoral Beach on Sydney’s north shore. Balmoral is a harbour beach, meaning the waves are gentle and if you swim out far enough you might encounter some boats. My favourite spot is laying on the deck of the enclosed swimming area, being up high makes for a lot of fun jumping into the water. After a long morning of swimming or sunbaking stop in for some lunch at The Boatshed, these are the best fish and chips (amongst other things) you will come across. While you are there you can also hire stand up paddle boards by the hour. As the water is so calm it makes for an easy learning curve to get the hang of it if it is your first time. Before you leave, make sure you also have a look at the Bather’s Pavilion, it is heritage listed and is now an amazing fine dining spot for a long lunch or dinner.   

Find it here: The Esplanade, Mosman NSW 2088

Camp Cove
Spoilt with the options of The Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel for a sunset cocktail or the famous Doyles for fish and chips Watsons Bay is a great little beach spot. Just a short five-minute walk down the road you will find Camp Cove beach, which has the most amazing harbour views. The calm harbour waters attract lots of families and on a peak weekend in Summer you might find it hard to find yourself a spot to lay your towel on the relatively small patch of sand. The closest food is the kiosk which is great for cold drinks and ice-cream, but I love nothing more than walking back to the Watson’s Bay Wharf and grabbing some takeaway Doyles fish and chips to eat down on the beach. If you are feeling adventurous the South Head Heritage trail begins at the northern end of the beach and won’t disappoint, just make sure you have some walking shoes.

Find it here: Cliff St, Watsons Bay NSW 2030

Nielsen Park/Shark Beach
Discover Nielsen Park on the Hermitage Foreshore walk, which winds its wat along the harbour beaches of the Eastern Suburbs. Down on the sand Shark Beach has a great hidden gem feeling to it, although it is generally quite busy compared to most of Sydney’s beaches you can lay your towel out and not feel crowded. Being quite secluded the only food option is Nielsen Park Café which is great for a coffee, cold drink or some snacks, so make sure you pack a picnic for lunch. Up on the grass there is a large picnic area and many people set up on the grass under the shade of one of the local fig trees. A great spot if you want to 'beach' like a local.

Find it here: Fig Tree Rd, Vaucluse NSW 2030