The Glorious Beaches of Sydney, Australia

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Sydney Coastal Path

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I’ve heard the comparisons again and again — Sydney is the gorgeous city, but Melbourne is the cool city. Sydney is the great place to visit, but Melbourne is the great place to live.

I preferred the way my friend Cailin put it: “If you’re dating a few people, Sydney’s the one you want to show off, but Melbourne’s the one you want to get to know.”

I enjoyed my time in Sydney, but truthfully, I found the city a bit soulless. That said, what Sydney may lack in personality it absolutely makes up for in natural beauty — especially when it comes to beaches.

I doubt that I’d ever want to be in Sydney long-term — but everyone should date someone gorgeous who is totally wrong for you at least once in his or her life.

Freshwater Beach

Sydney’s beaches are incredible.

Warm, soft, silky sand, the kind that you can bury your feet in again and again without getting it stuck to your skin. Ocean waves crashing in turquoise, teal, cerulean, fading to indigo in the distance. Hardly any trash, which is unheard of for city beaches.

I’ve experienced a lot of urban beaches around the world. Without a doubt, Sydney’s beaches are the best urban beaches in the world.

Bronte Beach

The Coastal Path: Bronte to Bondi

Several of my readers recommended that I take in the Coastal Path — a walk along the beautiful coast of Sydney. I stayed in a lovely Airbnb rental in Bronte, just five minutes from where I could pick up the path at Bronte Beach.

Bronte is a very upmarket part of Sydney, and I found Bronte Beach to be a very family-oriented beach — kids outnumbered the adults in the water! (Keep in mind that this was during school holidays, but there were far more kids at Bronte than on the other beaches.)

The path wound up a hill and around, descending into a rocky coastline.

Sydney Coastal Path

Soon I found myself overlooking my second beach: Tamarama Beach.

Tamarama Beach

Tamarama Beach was smaller, narrow and deep, and definitely had more of an adult atmosphere.

If I were to guess based on looking down, this would be the hipster beach of Sydney. With fewer beards.

Houses by Tamarama Beach

I loved the houses overlooking Tamarama Beach! And the best part is that all these houses have this view:

Tamarama Beach

Perfect white sand, sheltered by the cliffs but open to a lot of sunshine. Perfection.

After walking the path for awhile, I rounded a corner and found myself before Sydney’s most famous beach: Bondi Beach.

Bondi Beach

Bondi is a haven for surfers and celebrities alike. You know how there are tons of pictures of Hugh Jackman flexing his muscles in the ocean? Most of them are taken here. He lives in Bondi. (Tempted as I was, I did not go Wolverine hunting.)

Volleyball on Manly Beach


“You have to take the ferry to Manly!” This was one of the top tips I got before arriving in Sydney, and I made sure I had time to make the journey from Circular Quay to the beach-loving suburb.

Fun fact: Manly got its name because the Aboriginals living here were fiercely protective of their women when the first Westerners arrived.

Sydney Harbor

Make sure you get out on deck for the view. This ferry journey is a great way to photograph the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from every angle possible!

Flat white by the beach

I stopped for a coffee in front of the beach and I just so happened to have one of the best sandwiches of my life (which I ate too quickly to photograph) — it was salami, a soft cheese like Fontina, and roasted tomatoes on really good bread, toasted and warm. Oh, that sandwich…

And while the stretch of Manly Beach close to The Corso looks like this…

Manly Beach

if you walk further down the beach, you’ll a good deserted stretch mostly to yourself, like this…

Manly Beach

It was heavenly — a perfect warm beach day, sunshine, just a few sets of footprints in the sand.

After basking in the rich springtime weather, I took a look at Google Maps and saw that there was a smaller beach just down the street. Should I head there? Why not!

On the way, I admired the local art: woven sea creatures made by kids.

Woven Fish, Manly

While Google Maps may have made the path look like a short, simple walk, it turns out that the walk led us up a very steep hill, then some staircases. I definitely got in our daily exercise while looking for my mysterious beach.

But soon I got the ultimate reward. Descending from the top, I came to a clearing and saw this ahead of me:

Freshwater Beach

This was Freshwater Beach, which came to be my favorite beach in Sydney. Just around the corner from Manly, it felt as removed from the city as possible.

I found the path…

Freshwater Beach

And took seats on the marvelous sand.

Freshwater Beach

While all the beaches in Sydney were excellent, Freshwater Beach was more special to me. It felt like we had stumbled upon a secret. It was natural, and not too developed. It wasn’t as busy as the other beaches.. It also came with sand dunes, which reminded me a bit of the beaches at home in Massachusetts. And the sand here? It was like butter, melting around your feet in the most pleasant way possible.

I couldn’t imagine a better place to end my beach tour of Sydney.

Manly Beach

I got an email from a reader who lives just north of Sydney, asking me how the beaches compared to the other ones I’ve seen around the world. “I didn’t realize how spoilt I was until hitting up SEA,” he told me.

I told him that I completely got it. While Southeast Asia may have some of the world’s best beaches — Phranang Beach in Railay comes to mind — Australia is something else. If these are the best beaches that the city has to offer, I can’t even imagine how beautiful the ones around the rest of the country are!

Essential Info: The Coastal Path is free to walk. If you’re in Bronte, I recommend hitting up Three Blue Ducks for breakfast.

The fast ferry from Sydney’s Circular Quay to Manly takes 30 minutes and costs $18.50 AUD ($17.25 USD) for a round-trip ticket. That amazing sandwich I had was at the cafe at the Hotel Steyne, right on the corner of Manly Beach and The Corso.

I stayed with friends and in an Airbnb in Sydney. You can find the best rates on hotels in Sydney here.

I never travel without travel insurance and always recommend buying it before a trip. It will protect you financially in case anything goes wrong. I used World Nomads for my entire Australia trip.

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22 thoughts on “The Glorious Beaches of Sydney, Australia”

  1. Soooo pretty! And very different to how they looked when I visited Sydney briefly years ago. I was there in August, in the middle of winter. I went to Manly and Bondi, but there were hardly any people at either one of them!

    I would love to go back in nicer weather.

  2. Beautiful pictures. I have always dreamed about visiting Australia one day. It is good to be able to travel through your posts and pictures. In regards to best urban beaches I would need to say that Rio de Janeiro beaches were stunning. I have not had the opportunity to visit Australia yet so It would be good to compare one day, but as far as my experience goes, Rio still wins for me.

  3. Bondi! My girlfriend lived just blocks from Bondi back in 2010 and her stories about beginning each day with a jog along the beach make me seriously envious. Those pictures of Freshwater beach are incredible. It’s surprising to me one could find such a comparatively peaceful and tranquil beach in a mteropolis like Sydney.

  4. Ahhhh home! You’re right, Sydney has some of the most amazing beaches ever. My personal go to beach in the Eastern Suburbs is Maroubra. It’s a big beach that always has plenty of space, even in the middle of summer. I am traveling around Mexico at the moment, currently on the Pacific coast, and I must say, it’s very hard to impress me with beaches! I am quite underwhelmed by what I’ve seen here so far- beach wise that is.
    Also, for anyone visiting Sydney who is not lucky enough to stay in Bronte, start the beach walk in Coogee. It’s easier to get to from the city via public transport than Bronte and you get to see Coogee which is a lovely beach (I used to live there) and walk past Gordon’s Bay, which is a rocky cove rather than a beach and often has gorgeous blue water.

    You’ve made me homesick!

  5. I had no idea Sydney had so many gorgeous beaches! A friend of mine had told me about the coastal path from Bondi to Bronte a few years ago and it sounded like a lovely walk, but now that I am seeing all your photos I really want to go to Australia!!

  6. I’ve been living in Sydney for about a month and a half now but have had very little time (plus bad luck with weather) to explore the beaches so far! Thanks for the tips and photos!

  7. Don’t discount Melbourne and surrounds. Sydney does have spectacular ocean beaches but Melbournes bay beaches are just as beautiful (& no, i’m not talking about the tourist mecca of St Kilda). Seaford & Chelsea all the way down to Sorrento. And the more undiscovered crytal clear beaches of Indented Head, St Leonards and Portarlington on the other side of the bay. All safe and sheltered with white powder sand without the rips and currents and necessity to ‘swim between the flags’.

  8. Hi Kate,
    Did you happen to catch the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition along the Bondi to Bronte walk? It was on 24 Oct to 10 Nov… You may be interested in my recent post about it!

  9. Freshwater is one of my favs too. It is actually amazing how many incredible beaches there are in Sydney and a lot of them (away from the Eastern suburbs and Manly) are overly crowded. There are beautiful hidden beaches in the harbour that you can pretty much have to yourself, even in summer, and the North Shore beaches such as Palm Beach, Mona Vale, Avalon and Curl Curl have a really laid back vibe. Sydney is such a fantastic city and has so much culture (and friendly people) if the time is taken to discover it.

  10. I’m here at Manly right now! Been here 2 1/2 weeks at a Hostel. You did a great job of writing about these beaches. My daughter lives right overlooking freshwater. I’ve been walking the walk. I’m from Southern California and Australia has the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen. Whitehaven, Rainbow, Byron bay just to name a few . Good job with the photos and You’ve come along way in your writing too Kate. keep it coming!

  11. Gordon’s Bay, just around the corner from Coogee Beach is an absolutely stunning little beach! Definitely one for the tourists!
    The little beaches within the harbour are also beautiful! Like nothing else here in Australia!

  12. We had a coastal walk there last May and it still looks good as your pictures. You can take a bus going to La Perouse at the end of your coastal walk. It’s like their version of Alcatraz.

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