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Sydney's Beaches

Iconic Bondi Beach
Sydney's Beaches
If you love beaches, Sydney is the place for you: The city has more than 100 of them. You've probably heard of the popular Bondi and Coogee Beaches, but there are plenty of lesser-known sandy spots for you to discover.
By Julie Schwietert Collazo, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by José Fuste Raga/age fotostock
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    Iconic Bondi Beach
    Iconic Bondi Beach
    About five miles from the city center, the half-mile gentle white curve of Bondi Beach has attracted tourists and locals for generations. This is a place where people from all walks of life are quite literally stripped to their essence, united by sun and sea; tens of thousands of beachgoers converge here on any given day. Swim and surf conditions vary considerably, from calm waters to notorious rip currents; ask around for safety tips. There are plenty of dining options and watering holes to enjoy pre- or post-surf. Sean's Panaroma is a highly regarded spot that serves simple yet exquisitely prepared dishes; Bills is beloved for breakfast and brunch; and Gelato Messina is unbeatable for a sweet summer treat.
    Photo by José Fuste Raga/age fotostock
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    Lesser-Known Beaches
    Lesser-Known Beaches
    With more than 100 beaches to choose from, there are plenty of places to lay down your towel and enjoy the Sydney sunshine. If you're looking to escape the crowds, you're in luck: a few of the most secret, secluded beaches are close to the city, including Obelisk Beach, Flat Rock Beach, and Lady Martins Beach. Several can also be found along wilderness tracks like the Manly to Spit Bridge walk and the Hermitage Foreshore Track in Vaucluse. Further south is Little Congwong Beach, which is ideal for those wanting to expose a bit more skin than the usual swimsuit generally allows, and the beaches of Royal National Park. No matter where you go, be sure to “slip, slap, slop,” as locals say—the Australian sun is strong, and many a vacation has been ruined by sunburn.
    Photo courtesy of Mike Newling/Tourism Australia
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    Snorkeling in Sydney
    Snorkeling in Sydney
    Snorkelers love Sydney, whose numerous beaches feature rocky shelves and seagrass great for spying marine life. The most popular site is Bare Island, whose reefs promise an excellent day of exploration. Be on the watch for sand rays, seahorses, and the reef's sponge gardens. If you’re after something a little more accessible, locals love Clovelly Beach—along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk—as it is mostly protected and perfect for the whole family. Blue grouper, octopus, and moray eels are the highlights here. Skilled snorkelers should head to Captain Cook's Landing in Kamay Botany Bay National Park. Keep your eyes open for the wildly colorful weedy sea dragon. While you're down south, Oak Park in Cronulla is beginner-friendly.
    Photo courtesy of Darren Jew/Tourism Australia
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    Sydney's Surf Breaks
    Sydney's Surf Breaks
    Surfing has been popular for more than a century in Sydney, which picked up the sport in 1914 when famed Hawaiian log rider Duke Kahanamoku introduced surfing to locals. With so many fine beaches, it should come as no surprise that there's a break for every surfer, from novice to expert. In fact, nearly 70 of Sydney's 100-plus beaches are surf-worthy. Bondi is a prime spot—its southern end tends to produce advanced waves. Other favorites include Cronulla, Manly, Maroubra, and Narrabeen, all of which are featured as top surf spots on Australia's National Surfing Reserve register. There are plenty of outfitters and instructors offering lessons for beginners. If you left your board at home, "no worries, mate": surf shops will happily rent you a loaner.
    Photo courtesy of Eugene Tan/Tourism Australia
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    Beaches for Families
    Beaches for Families
    If you're a parent taking your kids to the beach, you know that not all strips of sand are created equal. A truly family-friendly beach has calm water, changing rooms, extra activities, lifeguards, and plenty of places where you can buy food and drinks. Among Sydney's many beaches, three stand out as being ideal for kids and their grown-ups. Bronte Beach, between Bondi and Coogee, features barbecue grills, picnic areas, a café, and a play area. Its Bogey Hole is a rock pool safe for swimming tots who don't want to encounter marine life. Newport and Coogee are also family-friendly; the latter, like Bronte, also accesses rock pools as well as the downstairs kids zone at the Coogee Pavilion.
    Photo courtesy of Jonathon Marks/Tourism Australia
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    You Should Be in the Movies
    You Should Be in the Movies
    If you're a movie buff, visiting beaches that have set the stage for some of your favorite films is a fun way to spend the day in Sydney. Roughly 200 films have been shot in the city, and many of them have given the city's beaches at least a cameo role. Bare Island was featured in Mission Impossible II; the 2012 film Careless Love gave prominent screen time to Coogee Beach; and Angelina Jolie's Unbroken was shot around Cockatoo Island. If you'd rather watch a movie than chase down the settings of your favorite films, stick around on the sand for outdoor movie nights. Bondi Beach has a summer film series called Ben & Jerry's Openair Cinemas; it features family-friendly films, classics, and new releases.
    Photo by Robert Francis/age fotostock
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    Schooners Are Not Just for Sailing
    Schooners Are Not Just for Sailing
    If you're going to quaff a "coldie" or "tinnie" near the beach, you need to know the local lingo. When you're ready to order a beer in Sydney, ask for a "schooner," which is just short of a pint. Top spots to order a schooner near the beach include Manly's 4 Pines Brewing Company, a popular local microbrewery across the street from Manly Beach. It features pale ale, stout, and cider, among others. Also in Manly—and right on the beach—is Sugar Lounge, a tiki bar–themed joint serving schooners of beer as well as classic tropical cocktails like mai tais and piña coladas. The Bucket List at Bondi Beach and the Coogee Pavilion in Coogee are two more spots for a beachfront bash.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Beachside Sydney Sunsets
    Beachside Sydney Sunsets
    Sydney's Pacific Coast position means there are plenty of scenic beaches where you can enjoy the southern hemisphere sunset. Turimetta Beach is photogenic any time of day but at sunset it's particularly spectacular, as light plays off sheer cliff faces and bright green mossy rocks. Clovelly Beach, closer to the city center, offers a lovely natural light show, too. And while you're not on the beach, there are three excellent above-the-shore options for enjoying a Sydney sunset. The first is a sunset BridgeClimb on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Second is a meal or drink at 360 Bar and Dining Room 1,000 feet up in the Sydney Tower Eye. Finally, you can't beat a helicopter ride that coincides with sunset. All of the above boast exceptional views of Sydney Harbour.
    Photo by Petrina Tinsley
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    Beach Sports
    Beach Sports
    Beaches in Sydney aren't just for lounging around, soaking up the sun, and frolicking in the waves; they're also prime places for outdoor sports. Nearly every major beach has an official volleyball association that sponsors tournaments as well as classes for wannabe ballers and special events for spectators. Though many Sydneysiders are serious about their game, visitors are often welcome to join in the action. If you're keen to test your skills, you may want to hold out for the SLAMFest on Cronulla Beach, which features games for amateurs who want to compete for cash prizes.
    Photo by age fotostock