Sydney's Best Beaches: Surf's Up, Down Under
A few things considered synonymous with Australia: sun, surf and sand. And yes, there's good reason to associate the Land Down Under with excellent beaches -- as an island nation, they are, literally, everywhere. Sydney is no exception. Usually a short ferry, train or bus ride from the city center, Sydney's best beaches leave nothing to want.
Visitors will find large sandy stretches of beach, magnificent tree-covered cliffs as backdrops and brilliant blue waters perfect for surfing, as well as good public facilities. One caveat: While Australia is well-known for its beaches, it's just as notorious for rough waters. That said, Australia's lifeguards rank among the world's very best, and always mark safe swimming areas with flags -- pay attention to their directives for a safe and fun trip.
Manly BeachHop aboard the Manly Ferry from Sydney and not only will you enjoy one of the city's most scenic 30-minute boat trips past coves and marinas, you'll land in the epic beach town of Manly. To locals and tourists alike, Manly Beach represents all that is extraordinary about Australian beaches: a stunning wide swath of white sand, excellent waves for surfing, a beach littered with stunning sunbathers and a promenade stuffed with funky, hip restaurants and shops.
The picture-perfect beach is flanked on either side by tree-lined cliffs with gorgeous homes perched precariously above. Visitors may hit the waves to surf, windsurf or snorkel. Others might prefer relaxing on the soft sands, or taking a stroll along the beachfront promenade and trails lining the cliffs. Pro tip: Grab a fish 'n' chips from one of the many vendors along the beachfront, and enjoy it while people-watching on the promenade.
Bondi BeachWith a laid-back beach vibe, and multiple youth hostels, Bondi Beach remains a mainstay of the backpacker set, as well as Sydneysiders who flock to the half-mile-long sandy shore. The beach offers amenities like changing rooms and showers for day trippers. There are also flags along the water, marking areas that are safe for swimming.
The northern end of Bondi Beach generally has gentle waters, while near the southern end lurks a well-known rip-current -- heaven for local surfers, not so much for unfamiliar tourists. So save yourself and Australia's esteemed lifeguards the trouble, and swim where it's safe.
After hitting the water, escape the beach crowds and hit the breathtaking Coastal Walk, a nearly 4-mile pathway that hugs the rocky coast and passes many beaches adjacent to Bondi, such as Coogee Beach.
It's easy to reach Bondi from downtown Sydney. Take the Eastern Suburbs train line to Bondi Junction. From the station here, it's easy to take one of the clearly marked buses direct to the beach.
Tamarama BeachScenesters and wannabes tend to hit the sands of Tamarama Beach, more colloquially known as "Glamorama," thanks to the see-and-be-seen crowds that swarm the stunning beach. Located just south of Bondi Beach, Tamarama can feel like a world away, located in quiet surroundings adjacent to parks and picnic areas. People here are typically splayed out on the sands, sunning themselves. Decent swells -- at times up to 15 feet high -- have insured it's a popular surfing beach as well.
The beach itself is small, less than 100 yards wide. And the brilliant blue water here, though patrolled, can be rough and dangerous. So it's imperative to follow lifeguards' warnings. The lifeguards here maintain rockstar-like status. In a country known for seemingly endless beaches and intense surf, the Tamarama Beach guards haven't lost a single rescue in more than 100 years.
Bronte BeachDive headfirst into Aussie culture by gathering fellow travelers for a beachfront barbecue at Bronte Beach, where free use of grills and scenic picnic areas mean there's always a gathering of friendly locals firing up the "barbie" and having a party, particularly on holidays.
Barbecues aside, Bronte Beach lies in the midst of stunning, rocky headlands, offering visitors soft sands and excellent swimming. The area is home to an enclosed sea pool, ensuring a safe dip in the water. Outside the sea pool, the water here -- like most of the beaches surrounding Sydney -- can become rough, though lifeguards patrol the beach daily.
Located in Sydney's eastern suburbs, Bronte Beach is easy to reach from downtown Sydney. Simply hop on Bus No. 378 from the Central Railway Station, which takes you directly to the beach.
Garie BeachIf vast and secluded beachfront in the midst of acres of wilderness is your idea of paradise, rent a car and head immediately to glorious Garie Beach. This stretch of sand is located in Royal National Park, about 35 miles south of Sydney.
Garie provides a perfect respite from Sydney's more crowded and more urban beaches. The beach itself is a true showstopper: The sands stretch for nearly 1 mile, flanked by 260-foot-high cliffs, all set before crashing waves and gleaming blue water.
Although Garie is a notoriously popular family destination, swimming here can be dangerous. So stay between the flags, where lifeguards have deemed the water safe. Surfers can rejoice though, as rough waters make for good surfing, particularly as you head toward Garie Beach's north end.
Facilities here are on the sparse side. However, you'll find toilets, a surf safety center, car park, picnic area and snack kiosk.
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