Surf beaches are fun, but sometimes you just want to chill out and not worry about losing your bikini bottoms in the shore break or your sunnies under a rogue wave. That’s where Sydney’s idyllic harbour beaches come in. With water that gently laps the sand, they often feel a million miles away from their ocean counterparts and come with some of the best views in town.
1. Camp Cove, Watsons Bay
Located next to the tourist hotspot of Watsons Bay, Camp Cove has managed to maintain its locals only vibe. With a sandy beach that doubles as a backyard for some of the most exclusive waterfront properties in Sydney, this little cove is one of the most idyllic beaches in Sydney.
Local tip: Forget trekking up the beach to buy generic servo standard ice cream. The beach kiosk at Camp Cove sells a delicious array of home made sorbet in tropical flavours like rockmelon, mango and coconut.
Positioned behind the historic Strickland House in one of Australia’s most expensive suburbs, Milk Beach is one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets. Make your way down to the warm shallows and watch the seaplanes take off from Rose Bay while taking in views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Read more.
Local tip: Make friends with the locals and you’ll find out why Milk Beach is known for its infamous summer beach parties where DJs play on the sand, hotties dance in the water, and the nautically blessed mingle from their boats.
3. Nielsons Park, Vaucluse
Next door to Milk Beach is Nielsons Park. Popular with families, the beach is like a giant pool with a shark net stretching almost its entire length. The sand is soft and the water is clear, but it’s best known for the huge heritage listed park that sits behind the beach. There’s also a delicious harbourside café, picnic tables shaded by fig trees, toilet facilities and scenic foreshore walks to explore.
Local tip: The beach is usually completely flat, but when a massive north easterly swell enters Sydney Heads, Nielsons Park becomes a secret surf spot.
4. Queens Beach, Vaucluse
Offering one of the best vantage points of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is Queens Beach in Vaucluse. This small patch of sand is located between Rose Bay and Milk Beach and is part of the Hermitage Foreshore track – a coastal walk that goes from Bayview Hill Road in Rose Bay to Nielsons Park.
Local tip: Hire a kayak or SUP at Rose Bay and paddle into Queens Beach for a hard-earned pit stop.
5. Lady Martin’s Beach, Point Piper
This picturesque harbour beach is divided into two halves with a jetty owned by the exclusive Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club splitting the beach into two. The beach is accessible only by a narrow lane that passes beside the club at the end of Wolseley Road, but this is one beach that’s worth tracking down.
Local tip: Pop down the road to the newly opened Sailors Club for a sundowner and watch the sunset over Rose Bay harbour.
6. Murray Rose Pool, Double Bay
Previously known as Redleaf Pool, Murray Rose Pool is a fenced off section of Seven Shillings Beach that’s located in Double Bay, There’s sand to lie on, shady patches of grass, toilets and showers and a decent a café, but the biggest draw card is in and around the water. The beach is shark-netted and has a boardwalk that runs around the top of the net, along with two sought-after floating pontoons.
Local tip: Sitting just above Murray Rose Pool are the perfectly manicured Blackburn Gardens. Pack yourself some delicious treats, grab an oversized sarong and make the most of one of the best picnic spots in Sydney.
7. Seven Shillings Beach, Double Bay
Next to Murray Rose Pool is Seven Shillings Beach – a semi-private beach that runs around the Point Piper waterfront. Public access is limited as at high tide it’s impossible for the public to use this beautiful stretch of sand without trespassing on the beachfront properties.
Local tip: Woollahra Library (the prettiest library in Sydney) overlooks both Murray Rose Pool and Seven Shillings Beaches – grab yourself a beach read, turn your mobile to silent and let the relaxation begin.
Tucked between Parsley Bay and Watsons Bay, Kutti Beach is not easy to track down. Located at the end of Wharf Road next to the Vaucluse Amateur Sailing Club, beach access is down a narrow staircase. Follow it and you’ll discover a small row of beachfront mansions and their boathouses joining a perfect stretch of golden sand. Read more.
Local tip: If you’re feeling cheeky and the sailing club is closed, swim out to their private deck and use the harbour as your own personal swimming pool.
9. Balmoral Beach, Mosman
Surrounded by beautiful houses and expensive yachts, Balmoral is home to a stunning harbour beach with a sophisticated European vibe. There’s a promenade for lazy weekend strolls, a strip of restaurants and cafes, and grassy areas shaded by huge Morton Bay fig trees. It’s also the first beach out to the heads (the gateway to Sydney Harbour) so the water is always fresh and clean.
Local tip: Enjoy a sunset picnic on Rocky Point Island – a rocky outpost where you can relax on your picnic rug and take in views of the heads.
In New South Wales, there are only five beaches where nudity is permitted legally. Lady Bay Beach (also known as Lady Jane Beach) is one of them. So if you’re looking to get rid of a few pesky tan lines or you just want to go topless without bumping into your workmates, this is the place. This secluded spot is surrounded by rocky cliff faces and offers privacy from the neighbouring Camp Cove. Read more.
Local tip: Lady Bay has a reputation as a gay cruising spot; so if you’re not into that scene you might be more comfortable chilling on the surrounding rocks.