Our Bucket List of Beaches in NSW
Today we share 20 fantastic beaches in NSW. After a few more trips, we hope to expand this to an A-Z of the beaches of NSW!
With a coastline stretching over 2000km, the jury is out on exactly how many beaches cut the shore of NSW, so with no official number to quote you, let’s go with a lot! We have been planning road trips and staycations to fill our next travel year, and to add to our ideas, we asked our fellow travel writers to share their favourite beaches in NSW, so we all have a few new spots to visit next time we are on the road.
- Our Bucket List of Beaches in NSW
- Austinmer Beach
- Boomerang Beach, Pacific Palms
- Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie
- Depot Beach, Bateman’s Bay
- Greenfields Beach, Jervis Bay
- Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay
- Kingscliff Beach, Tweed Coast
- Maitland Bay, Bouddi National Park
- Merewether Beach
- North Beach at Mylestom on the Coffs Coast
- Pearl Beach, Central Coast
- Seven Mile Beach Gerroa
- Shelly Beach, Ballina
- South West Rocks
- The Pass, Byron Bay
- Town Beach, Port Macquarie
- Turners Beach, Yamba
- Zenith Beach, Port Stephens
Just over an hour from Sydney, along a winding coastal road and over the famous Sea Cliff Bridge, Austinmer is one of the Coal Coast’s most popular beaches. With its twin ocean pools, wide sandy beach, crystal clear water and rocky outcrop just perfect for exploring, it’s worth at least a day trip.
The Austinmer Surf Club and Pavilion, with change rooms, showers and toilets, is at the southern end of the beach, and lifeguards patrol each day from September to April. There’s a playground for kids, a shady picnic area and lots of all-day parking.
Across the road, Shells Diner is popular with locals for food and drinks; wander a little further to the cluster of cafes housed in early 1900s buildings on Moore St or the Headlands Hotel. You can also reach Austinmer by train, and it’s a short walk down Moore St to the beach.
Suggested by Evie and Emmie from Mompack Travel
Boomerang Beach, Pacific Palms
Boomerang Beach is one of those ultimate hidden gems in NSW. Pacific Palms is about a 3-hour drive from Sydney and just 20 minutes from Forster. While you have Myall Lakes on the one side of the area, the beaches on the other side are truly spectacular.
Expect to find four beaches in a row, which are some of the best you’ll find in Australia. Bluey’s Beach, Boomerang Beach and Elizabeth Beach are exceptional beaches in NSW, complete with clear blue water and white sand. The hidden gem is Shelly Beach, a nudist beach, but due to its hidden nature from the road, there’s an ultimate paradise feel.
With a holiday vibe without the crowds, spend the day exploring the beaches, head over to the Recky Club to watch the sunset over the Myall Lakes, then head back to Blueys and go to Kembali for a traditional Balinese dinner. It won’t disappoint!
Annie from Londoner in Sydney suggested this lovely beach at Pacific Palms
Caves Beach, Lake Macquarie
Just 130 kilometres from Sydney, picturesque Caves Beach is a sandy 300-metre surf beach in Swansea – the largest of Lake Macquarie’s seaside towns. Whether you want to fill your bucket with seashells or would prefer to hit the surf, this beach has something for everyone.
Patrolled by the Swansea-Caves SLSC from September to April, the family-friendly beach boasts well maintained public facilities, including toilets, a change room, showers, plenty of parking and an excellent picnic area with barbecues and plenty of shade. There’s also a café located right alongside to fill hungry bellies or enjoy a quick caffeine fix.
Caves Beach is also known for its critter filled rock pools and an intricate network of sea caves at the south end of the beach, which can be accessed and explored at low tide. And for active types, there’s also a lovely 900-metre coastal walking track that links Caves Beach with Quarries Head, a pretty headland offering gorgeous ocean views.
Suggested by Aleney from Boy Eats
Check out our itinerary for a weekend in Newcastle while you’re in the area.
Depot Beach, Bateman’s Bay
It’s not often you see kangaroos on the beach, but Depot Beach, near Batemans Bay, isn’t just any beach.
Turning off the Princes Highway about three and a half hours south of Sydney, you’ll wind your way through Murramarang National Park. The heart of the park is this white sandy beach, backed by sea cliffs and tall Spotted Gum forest and contrasted by calm turquoise waters.
The Depot Beach campground is well set up and has basic facilities, making this the perfect spot for a weekend away or an extended camping trip. Although there’s little danger from huge waves, the depth of the water changes suddenly, and the beach isn’t patrolled, so it’s not a great swimming spot but can be good for a paddle in the shallows.
If you’re keen on fishing, there’s a rock shelf alongside a deep channel, which makes a great place to drop in a line.
A beach walk with the kids is one of our favourite things to do on holidays. Depot Beach has plenty to keep the kids interested, from the seashells and skimmable rocks to the rock pools and wildlife. Walking north up the beach for around 3 kilometres will get you to Shelly Beach, which is a good spot to turn around and walk back, taking it all in from a different perspective.
Any time of year is a good time to check out Depot Beach, but visit at low tide if you want to get the most out of the rock pools and your beach walk.
This exceptional beach on the NSW south coast is suggested by Neil from the Bushwalking Blog.
Greenfields Beach, Jervis Bay
Every January, we spend a week at Jervis Bay and almost don’t want to share its secrets, but it would be pretty mean to keep this beauty to ourselves.
Sitting on Greenfields Beach, it’s easy to imagine you are in the South Pacific. It’s the perfect beach for swimming with crystal clear water that is almost always calm and still. The very soft sand is impossibly white; sunglasses are a must here!
My lily-white skin appreciated the shade provided by the trees lining the beach. There are free BBQs and all the facilities you need for a relaxing afternoon.
The beach is located inside Jervis Bay National Park and was named one of the 50 best beaches globally by the Guardian UK in 2016.
Plan a perfect weekend in Mollymook with these tips
Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay
Hyams Beach, located within the stunning Jervis Bay National Park, is a beautiful slice of paradise, famous for its pure, dazzling white sands. The Guinness Book of Records has recognised the superfine sand as the whitest sand in the world. It even squeaks as you walk on it!
Hyams Beach and the surrounding beaches of Jervis Bay are located about 190km from the centre of Sydney, and the scenic drive takes around 2hr 35mins. You can even venture through the stunning Royal National Park en route to Hyams Beach to add to the road trip adventure!
Days here can easily be spent lazing on the powder-soft sand, bathing in the twinkling turquoise ocean, fishing, snorkelling or sampling delicious local food at the only cafe in town, Hyams Beach General Store & Cafe. Wander the tracks in the bushland behind there are plenty of birdwatching and wildlife viewing opportunities, including koalas high in the trees!
Suggested by Claire from Stoked to Travel
Kingscliff Beach, Tweed Coast
Kingscliff Beach on the NSW North Coast is the perfect spot for a beach holiday with everything you need, minus the crowds.
From the breakwater at Cudgen Headland to Fingal Head, you have almost 13km of golden sand to walk along and hardly a soul in sight. The mouth of the river at Gudgen is an excellent spot for families, kayakers and paddleboarding.
The beach is a popular surf spot, too; it’s also home to world champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore.
There are plenty of shops and restaurants lining the beachfront, beckoning you once you have worked up an appetite. If you decide to spend a few days in Kingscliff, there are a couple of caravan parks perfect for a budget holiday and two great resorts, Mantra at Kingscliff and Peppers at Salt Beach.
Maitland Bay, Bouddi National Park
North of Sydney, the NSW Central Coast is both populous and wild. The Bouddi National Park is known for its tessellated pavement and spectacular coastal walk. The walk starts at Putty Beach, an easy drive from Sydney.
There is a coastal section with a boardwalk, which is stunning and easy to walk. On a sunny day, the colours of the tessellated pavement are gorgeous. To continue to Maitland Bay, you have to walk through a mix of bushland and a fire trail. There are a few steps in the dunes, but the walk is absolutely worth it.
Maitland Bay is a secluded and peaceful beach between two headlands. Swimming is quite safe, although the beach is not always patrolled. If you are not doing the Bouddi coastal walk, you can reach Maitland Bay by taking the track off Scenic Road. The turnoff is at the Maitland Bay Information Centre.
The beauty of Maitland Bay is that there is nothing to do but swim and enjoy the seclusion. This is a great NSW beach to visit any time of the year, although the water might be too cold to swim in winter.
Suggested by Delphine from Lesterlost
Check out some of these great walks on the Central Coast while you are there
Merewether Beach in Newcastle is a must-visit when heading north of Sydney. On the north side of town, Merewether often tops the list of best beaches around Australia, and even the world.
It’s not just good looks that Merewether is famous for; the beach has been named as a National Surf Reserve and holds the annual ‘Surfest’ competition. If big waves aren’t your scene, or if you travel with younger kids like us, the Merewether Ocean Baths are a great attraction.
Newcastle is a fabulous destination to visit; there is a lot to see and do, so make sure you stay for a few days. The summer months are the best to visit if you want to take advantage of swimming, the beaches and the outdoor attractions, although there is enough to keep you busy any time of year.
Newcastle is located 160 km north of Sydney and is an easy 2-hour drive. There are also regular trains linking the two cities, and if you travel on a Sunday, the fare is part of Sydney Rail’s special weekend discount.
The highlights of our visit were the Newcastle Museum, the historic Fort Scratchley and Nobby’s Lighthouse. If you’re travelling to Newcastle with kids, there are some fantastic playgrounds and bike/scooter friendly paths.
Suggested by Bryony from Coasting Australia
Here are 13 more fabulous Newcastle beaches you really should see nearby.
North Beach at Mylestom on the Coffs Coast
Near the tiny coastal town of Mylestom, North Beach is an endless vista of pristine sand stretching for miles past a scenic coastline in both directions – mostly deserted except for surfers, fisherfolk, walkers, dolphins, and shorebirds.
To the north, a rocky outcrop marks the entrance to the coastal rainforest and eucalypt scrub of Bongil Bongil National Park. The beach stretches south along Mylestom Spit, following the Bellinger River for a few kilometres to nearby Urunga and its 1km long boardwalk, crossing a lagoon and two rivers on its way from the town to the ocean.
Follow the winding Waterfall Way west to the picturesque town of Bellingen with weekly markets and a vibrant arts scene, and further to the Dorrigo plateau, a gateway to more national parks, rainforest and waterfalls.
Back at North Beach, take in the sunrise over Tuckers Rocks and sunset behind Picket Hill, and you’ll think you’re in an all-year-round paradise. North Beach and Mylestom are part of the Coffs Coast, just over 500 km north of Sydney and around 25 km south of Coffs Harbour. But when you arrive, you’ll find paradise is only a two-minute walk through the dunes.
Suggested by Marion from Australia by Red Nomad OZ
Pearl Beach, Central Coast
Pearl Beach is less than 90 minutes drive from Sydney but feels a world away. At just over one km long, this crescent-shaped beach is a real beauty.
Surrounded by the Brisbane Water National Park, development has been limited, and as a result, the village has real charm. There are a couple of good places to eat in the town and a couple of bushwalks to keep you busy.
The beach’s northern end can be a bit rough for swimming, and it is not a patrolled beach, so stick to the southern end, which offers an ocean pool.
Another one from us, because we couldn’t publish this list without including this magical Central Coast beach
Seven Mile Beach Gerroa
Gerroa is another of the treasures on the New South Wales South Coast.
About a 2 hour drive south of Sydney, Gerroa is actually a little village that sits on the mouth of Crooked River and at the north end of Seven Mile Beach National Park.
It’s a water enthusiast paradise offering a surf beach and a river to enjoy. If you want to surf, fish or swim in the waves, you can, but if you want to kayak or swim in calmer waters, then you can do that in the river as well as launch your boat from the boat ramp. Go for a walk around the streets; you will receive fabulous views along the coast and up to the hinterland. Watch out for dolphins and whales that play in the waters.
On your walk, make sure you head to the Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial Lookout. The lookout not only offers fabulous views over the area but is a memorial to Kingsford-Smith, who, on January 11, 1933, used Seven Mile Beach as his take-off point on his historic record-breaking flight across the Tasman to New Zealand.
Other things you could do are to head to the Blue Swimmer for a coffee or to the Fisherman’s Club for a meal where there are more spectacular views of this magnificent beach.
Suggested by Sharyn from Live, Work, Play Australia
Shelly Beach, Ballina
If you are road tripping up the East Coast of Australia from Sydney, I suggest visiting the beaches of Ballina some 740 km north of Sydney. Leaving the M1 behind, head toward the Richmond River Light and Shelly Beach in East Ballina.
The best months for beach lovers are the warmest months of January/February (26 degrees) and November December (25 degrees).
I suggest you park at Ballina Head Lookout on the northern side of the Lawrence River; there are usually spots here. Behind the car park on a grassy rise is the historic Ballina Light. This working lighthouse can be viewed from the outside but, unfortunately, cannot be entered.
Ballina Heads points both north to Shelly Beach and south to Lighthouse Beach. It is spectacular and is a relaxing place to enjoy the expansive coastal views.
Speaking of relaxing, Shelly Beach has some great rock pools to play in at low tide and is popular both with swimmers and surfers. There are rips, but the beach is safe to swim at when patrolled by Surf Lifesavers.
If you love a big roadside attraction, keep an eye out for the Big Prawn on River Street West Ballina.
When leaving Ballina, avoid re-joining the highway by driving the Coast Road through the delightful surfing village of Lennox Heads to Byron Bay.
Jan from Budget Travel Talk has added Yamba as one of NSW finest beaches
South West Rocks
Nearly five hours north of Sydney, nestled on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, is the coastal town of South West Rocks. Sometimes overlooked with visitors stopping at its larger neighbours, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, what South West Rocks lacks in size it makes up for with sights and activities.
Historic landmarks, pleasant walking tracks, and sublime beaches are what make this town one of the best family-friendly holiday destinations.
If the reason for a visit to South West Rocks is for the beaches, the summer months are typically the best time for a dip in the ocean, but early autumn can still be appealing and a popular time to stay.
Horseshoe Bay is within walking distance of town with a grassy headland overlooking a sheltered cove. The protected waters make it a perfect place for families to enjoy a full day at the beach.
On the eastern side of Horseshoe Bay is Front Beach (otherwise known as Main Beach). This long stretch of sand curves round to Trial Bay and offers visitors another swimming option and is the best spot for those who prefer a secluded patch of sand.
Both beaches are only patrolled during peak season, such as weekends in the summer and during school holidays.
Suggested by Sharee Middleton from Inspire Family Travel who thinks South West Rocks is one of the top beaches in NSW.
The Pass, Byron Bay
The Pass in Byron Bay is a visually stunning beach with its bush backdrop on the cliff behind, soft white sand and clear blue water. Perfect for many beachgoers with its shallow waters great for swimming and (usually) predictable surf conditions with long-running waves that are great for learners through to confident riders.
Eight hundred metres long and away from the centre of town, The Pass is less crowded than Byron’s Main Beach. Enjoy views over the Pass from Fisherman’s Lookout, and if you visit in June and November, you may see a migrating whale.
Parking closest to the beach entries cost $4 per hour per car and is challenging to get. There is free 4-hour parking on Massinger St, and it is more readily available. It is then a 1.5 km walk along the Cape Byron Walking Track to the beach.
It is a 9 hour or 800 km drive from Sydney to The Pass and its town of Byron Bay. Byron Bay is a carefree seaside town known for its natural beauty, shops, cafes and restaurants, and is popular with visitors all year round.
Suggested by Emma from Our Wayfaring Life
Town Beach, Port Macquarie
Town Beach in Port Macquarie is enjoyed all year round by backpackers, couples and families.
Just under 400km away from Sydney, Port Macquarie is a popular stop as part of an East Coast road trip. It is easily accessible, being close to the centre of Port Macquarie.
The 600m long beach is patrolled from September to April, making it safe for young children. It is also known to be a surfer’s delight as surfers come in their numbers to enjoy the swell.
Town Beach has its own charm and uniqueness by having a colourful break wall. On these walls and rocks, you can see vibrant graffiti and tributes produced by tourists and locals.
January has comfortable weather; by the end of the month, when the school holiday season ends, it is much less crowded. Alternatively, the spring months between September – November have a handful of events happening around the town, with September typically being the driest month of the year.
Don’t forget to check out the nearby playground with a skate park and outdoor gym facilities.
Suggested by Kerrie & Woody from Just Go Travelling
Turners Beach, Yamba
Yamba is a relaxed beach town located a 7.5-hour drive north of Sydney. In the summer, it is very popular with surfers and families. However, we recommend visiting in the spring and autumn when it’s still warm enough for a swim and not too hot to do the cliff top Angourie walking track that forms part of the Yuragir National Park.
There are beautiful beaches all around the area, and they are rarely crowded. At the mouth of the Clarence River, they offer sheltered water for swimmers, and the ocean beaches down the coast offer some of Australia’s best surf breaks. Most have white sand, but you’ll find rock pools to explore too.
Turners Beach is the most central. It’s wide and sandy with shelter from the break wall. It’s suited to both swimming and surfing with lifeguards patrolling in summer, you can fish from the wall, and it’s an easy walk back to the cafes in town.
There’s car parking, toilets and picnic facilities available. The break wall is an excellent spot for watching a sunset over the water on the east coast.
Another reason to visit Yamba is the wildlife; we’ve watched pods of dolphins, a New Zealand fur seal frolicking with the surfers and large groups of migrating whales from the beach. On land, you might also spot kangaroos, bandicoots and wild coastal emu.
Toni from 2 Aussie Travellers is lucky enough to be a regular at Yamba Beach on the NSW North Coast
Zenith Beach, Port Stephens
Zenith Beach is one of many beaches in Port Stephens. This area is a wonder of the NSW coast, as it has many unique features. Stockton Bight, for instance, is a tiny desert with the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s worth a visit by itself. You can do sandboarding, safari tours, stargazing, etc.
As for Zenith Beach, it is one of the landscape photography pearls of Port Stephens and NSW in general. Tomaree Head Mountain borders the beach from the Northside, making a beautiful background. It also has some reddish rocks in the sand for the foreground.
Other popular activities include surfing as it features big waves (be careful) and walking around Shoal Bay. Zenith Beach is also visible from the top of Tomaree Head, which is worth a walk as well.
Port Stephens is located next to Newcastle. The drive from Sydney CBD right to the beach is around 215 km and takes 2h 40m without traffic. It’s best to avoid peak hours as it can be quite complicated to get out of Sydney during this time.
You can visit Port Stephens at any time. If you want to visit the dunes as well, my best advice is not to go when it’s too hot and a week or two after heavy rain.
Suggested by Photographer and blogger Anton
First published May 2020 Updated Sept 2022