While lots of places have beautiful beaches, few cities as large as Sydney have them in such abundance within such close proximity. For those not in the know, Sydney has at least fifty beaches; the number changes depending on where you think the city stops and starts. All are free to use, although prepare to pay extortionate parking rates if you take your car there. Many of the ocean beaches also feature pools; low concrete walls built at the rocky end of the beach which fill with sea water at high tide. Some patrons swim laps, but some of my best childhood memories were sitting on the edge of the pools and letting the crashing waves knock me back into the pool.
With the silly season over and summer well underway, it’s time to take a look at Sydney’s best beaches, starting with those on Sydney’s doorstep in the eastern suburbs.
The Icon: Bondi Beach
What would a beach article be if we didn’t mention Bondi? Sure it’s crowded, busy, and, dare we say it, overrated. But It still has much to recommend it. Where else can you lie on a stretch of sand this beautiful, then have a meal at such a wide selection of restaurants, go shopping, or even head back to work after your lunch break? While it’s no doubt pretty, even on a busy day, Bondi trumps anywhere else in terms of accessibility, facilities and backpacker party atmosphere.
- Ocean Pool
- Cafes, restaurants, take-away outlets, juice bars, froyo joints, clothing shops – you name it, Bondi probably has it.
- Parking (if you’re early, or lucky)
- Bus access: Take bus 333 (prepay only) or bus 380 from Circular Quay. They both go right along the beach.
- Accommodation (budget to top end)
Why we like it: Because it’s Bondi!
What we don’t like about it: Mammoth crowds and sometimes sleazy, drunken atmosphere
Recommended for: Tourists, first-timers, people who rely on public transport
The A-list Club: Tamarama Beach
Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Tamarama Beach is the little patch of sand at the bottom of the rocks between Bondi and Bronte. Affectionately called “Glamourama”, this place attracts a who’s who of eastern Sydney beachgoers. The young and beautiful, and the not-so-young (but still beautiful) while away the days behind brand-name sunglasses while hundreds of others stroll past on the spectacular Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk.
- Small but upmarket kiosk/cafe
- Parking on streets nearby, then walk
- Bus access: Take bus 333 (prepay only) or bus 380 from Circular Quay. Get off at Castlefield or Dudley Streets, and walk from there.
Why we like it: The sense of exclusivity
What we don’t like about it: The sense of exclusivity
Recommended for: Anyone who’s anyone, who wants to see and be seen
The Friendly Beach: Bronte Beach
Bronte Beach is the kind of place where you can spend the whole day and feel really welcome. Always playing second to Bondi in the fame stakes, Bronte comes with a sunny disposition and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s down-to-earth, family friendly but still chic enough to host a glut of funky cafes. Bronte invites us to find a comfy spot – on the sand, in the adjacent park, in a coffee shop or by the stunning turquoise ocean pool – and spend a happy day by the beach.
- Ocean Pool
- Cafes, restaurants and fish and chip shops
- Bus access: Take bus 378 from Railway Square at Central Station
Why we like it: The chilled-out, friendly vibe and the startlingly blue ocean pool
What we don’t like about it: Parking, like at most city beaches, can be a nightmare
Recommended for: Anyone looking for a friendlier, calmer and more wholesome version of Bondi.
The Waterhole: Clovelly Beach
Lovely little Clovelly is an anomaly in Sydney; a very short but deep beach at the end of a rocky inlet (while most beaches are long, wide and flanked by headlands). The waves break far out from the beach, creating a tight lagoon-like environment between the coast and the actual shoreline. The concrete catwalks which line the channel provide additional sun-baking space, while little waves race past into the narrow bay. The beach is backed by a small park, surrounded by trees that make Clovelly a perfect little antidote to the rush of other cityside beaches.
- Ocean Pool
- Cafes and a fish and chip shop within walking distance
- Bus access: Take bus 339 from the corner of Pitt and Spring Streets in the city.
Why we like it: Clovelly’s unique formation make it a novelty for beachgoers
What we don’t like about it: The concrete up either side of the bay doesn’t exactly look natural
Recommended for: Sunbathers, families with children, people who don’t like waves