SYDNEY LOCALS tend to get a little *funny* about their choice of beach. Generally, they pick one and in typically cliquey Sydney fashion, spend the rest of their days religiously revisiting it as it gets increasingly overcrowded.
But while locals tend to be loyal to a fault about their choice of seaside strip, they shouldn’t be—with Sydney being as blessed with incredible beaches as it is, often driving just 20 or 30 minutes extra up or down the coastline can introduce you to an entirely new marine paradise.
But which beaches are worth venturing out of the way to get to? We trawled through the Northern Beaches, the Eastern Suburbs and Sydney’s southern reaches to get the answer. And no, we’re not apologising if your beloved strip of sand isn’t on it.
Burning Palms, Royal National Park
It’s so far out of the way even by Royal National Park standards that pinning it in Sydney feels like a stretch, but with beaches in the RNP now filling their car parks the second the mercury hits 25 degrees, Burning Palms remains the park’s best and most secluded gem, only accessible via a 90-minute bushwalk and flanked by pristine headland on each side. If you fancy it, the tourist-magnet figure of eight pools are just a kilometer away as well.
Salmon Haul Reserve, Cronulla
The rate of development in Cronulla has left even the most ardent Shire locals fearful of driving to Cronulla on a hot day, and while the suburb’s two main beaches are admittedly pretty generic, Salmon Haul remains a rocky grove of tranquility. Looking out from the suburb’s southern tip over Port Jackson towards Bundeena, it’s shady, secluded and boasts a wealth of crystal clear shallows that make for a perfect morning’s snorkelling.
Gordon’s Bay, Clovelly/Coogee
Secluded, somewhat more quiet by eastern suburbs standards and blessed with a perfect mixture of sand and rocky shelves to suit all types of beachgoers, Gordon’s Bay is one of the few suburbs along that particular strip of coastline that still feels like a bit of an underrated gem. Think we’re exaggerating? Grab a burger from famed takeaway Out of the Blue and enjoy it on the rocks as the sun sets. You’ll be sold pretty quickly.
Manly locals probably won’t thank us for this, but while northern Sydney’s famed beach has immaculate vibes on a Sunday morning, Freshy is pound-for-pound the better beach. Just inaccessible enough to keep the tourists away but central enough to boast the facilities demanded of it by Brookvale’s locals, it’s unrivaled if you’re after a classic Sydney family beach experience. The 50m ocean pool is the cherry on top.
Milk Beach, Vaucluse
We doubt you need much of an excuse to spend a leisurely afternoon ambling past Vaucluse’s collection of obscenely opulent oceanfront mansions, but Milk Beach represents as good of an endgame as any. A tiny sandy nook barnacled on to the southern end of Hermit Bay, it boasts some of Sydney’s best harbour views and still, somehow, has managed to evade detection by a lot of Sydney locals.
Kutti Beach, Watsons Bay
Just up the road from Vaucluse on its border with Watsons Bay lies the palm-adled inlet of Kutty Beach. Small, secluded and once again somehow still very much a secret to everyone apart from Vaucluse locals, there’s precious little space for the eight-figure properties that flank it on each side, but water so clear and pearlescent it’s well worth seeking it out.
Resolute Beach, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
While Palm Beach hoovers up the plaudits and the tourists over the other side of the Pittwater, Resolute Beach on Ku-ring-gai’s northern end stands as perhaps the area’s most picturesque, and comparatively quiet, strip of seafront. Accessible only via a looped scenic bush walk, a dip at Resolute is one of Sydney’s most rewarding nature experiences.
Turimetta Beach, Narrabeen
Surrounded on three sides by 30m buffs that make it feel far more rugged than its location would suggest, Turimetta is perhaps the last of Sydney’s Northern Beaches that, on the right day, genuinely makes you feel like you’ve gone to a different space. The sense of seclusion comes at a price—the surf isn’t great and the combination of strong currents and no lifeguard patrols makes it one for more confident swimmers only – but it’s a small one to pay for so much beauty.
Collins Flat Beach, Manly
A short drive across the headland from the hustle and bustle of central Manly lies the harbour-facing Collins Flat, where you’ll find the perfect blend of serene snorkel-ready waters, nestled in an alcove of picturesque North Head bushland. The wharf is just a 15-minute walk away for Ferry visitors, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
Parsley Bay, Vaucluse
Parsley Bay and its Instagram-friendly suspension bridge that crosses its waters is very quickly becoming a magnet for intrepid Sydneysiders, but still packs plenty of charm if you can get there on a quieter weekday. The lush green park that sits behind the beach gives visitors a bunch of options, while the 20 minute bushland loop that surrounds it makes for a great low-effort, high-reward walk.
Bilgola tends to get overlooked a little with the famed Palm and Whale Beaches to its north and Avalon to its south, but just quietly we think it might be the pick of the bunch. Slightly shorter than its neighbours, it has one of the area’s most consistent surf breaks, masses of golden sand, a quieter vibe and a stunning ocean pool at one end if all you want is a relaxed dip.
Balmoral Beach, Mosman
Arguably, the crown jewel in Sydney’s already extensive list of glitzy harbourside beaches, Balmoral might be on the busier side, but it is so for a reason. Its sandy white shores showcase some of Sydney Harbour’s most picturesque bays, while the choice of shopping and restaurants in its Mosman surrounds is excellent.