Visit one of these Secret Sydney Harbour Beaches

Visit one of these relatively secret Sydney Harbour Beaches and get off the beaten track!

Every guidebook tells visitors to visit Bondi and Manly but why not try to visit one of these less known Sydney Harbour beaches and see just how lucky we Sydneysiders are.

Updated: 1 October 2020

While all these beaches are well known to those who live nearby, they are all relatively secret to the many Sydneysiders.

So let’s go find your paradise at a secret Sydney Harbour beach.

Harbour Beaches in the North

On the North side many of the harbour beaches are inside Sydney Harbour National Park. This can mean access on foot and leaving your beloved dog behind but you will be rewarded with a bit more sand to yourself than you will find in Manly.

We have listed as many details as we can about each spot to help you choose the best one for you.

Collins Beach and Store Beach Manly

This secluded little spot on Sydney Harbour is a great place to spend an hour or two escaping the rat-race. After a short bushwalk past a lovely small waterfall, you reach the flat, sandy Collins Beach.

Collins Beach Manly

Store Beach is best reached by boat or kayak. You can rent one in Manly and paddle around the shoreline. Along the way keep your eye out for the small fairy penguin colony but please don’t get too close.

While both these beaches are almost deserted during the week, they can get a little busy on weekends when boats anchor nearby for parties. There are no facilities at all so make sure you bring water and everything else you need with you.

  • Public transport rating: OK, Walk or paddle from Manly wharf
  • BBQs: No
  • Toilets: No
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Playground: No

Getting there: Collins Beach is a 15-minute uphill walk from the Manly ferry wharf. Store Beach will require a boat or kayak.
Website: Sydney Harbour National Park – Collins Beach

While you are in the area check out our guide for more to things to do in Manly.

Reef Beach Balgowlah Heights

Once a nude beach, a visit to Reef Beach is only for the hardy. With fantastic views to Manly Cove, access is via a bush track through Sydney Harbour National Park. Your efforts will be rewarded with an almost deserted beach and looking across the harbour to Manly.

The facilities are basic with bush toilets, cold showers and tap water available.

Tip: Don’t miss the wildflowers on the trail above the beach in Spring.

Sydney Harbour Beaches - Reef Beach
Reef Beach Balgowlah Heights
  • Public transport rating: Bus 132 from Manly Wharf and 18-minute walk or 40-minute walk
  • BBQs: No
  • Toilets: bush toilets
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Playground: No

Getting there: It is a 15 minute (1km) walk along a bush track from Forty Baskets Beach or park at Beatty St, Balgowlah Heights.
More: See the Sydney Harbour National Park page for Reef Beach

Forty Baskets Beach – Balgowlah

Fringed with beautiful Norfolk Pines Forty Baskets Beach offers a recently renovated shark netted harbour swimming pool.

“Forty Baskets Beach is named after a catch of 40 baskets of fish sent to a contingent of New South Wales troops detained at the North Head Quarantine Station after returning from Sudan in 1885.”

Dictionary of Sydney

The small beach is often almost empty mid week so try to visit then if you can. Weekends local families make the most of their neighbourhood

Forty Baskets Beach a small quiet beach near Manly
Forty Baskets Beach

While you are here take a walk see if you can find the monument that commemorates Captain Phillip visit to this spot where he wrote in his diary that the Aboriginals he saw looked “manly”.

  • Public transport rating: Hard
  • BBQs: Yes, electric BBQs
  • Toilets: bush toilets
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Playground: a few swings
  • Cafe or Kiosk: Yes, Forty Beans Cafe

Getting there: It is a 15 minute (1km) walk along a bush track from Forty Baskets Beach or park your car at Beatty St, Balgowlah Heights and take the 500m walk to the beach.

Clontarf Beach

Located along the well-known Manly to Spit Bridge walk Clontarf beach is an excellent spot for families. There are bbq’s, a playground, a great cafe and a pool. There are also some great views looking across Spit Bridge so bring your camera.

Clontarf Beach, Sydney
Clontarf Beach

The water is crystal clear and big trees provide plenty of shade on hot days but this also makes this a very popular family beach, especially on summer weekends. Get there early or visit weekdays to have the place to yourself.

  • Public transport rating: easy 400m walk from the 132 bus stop. Parking is up to $10 an hour!
  • BBQs: Yes
  • Toilets: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, dogs on a leash welcome
  • Playground: Yes
  • Cafe or Kiosk: Yes, Bosk in Clontarf Reserve and also at the nearby Marina

Getting there: 400m from the bus stop on Beatrice Street. Free and paid parking is available a short walk from the beach.
Where: Sandy Bay Road, Clontarf 

Sydney Harbour Eastern Beaches

Like those in the north, several of these beaches fall into the boundaries of Sydney Harbour National Park, meaning they are not pet friendly. I have indicated those that your dog is welcome at in each instance.

Shark Beach at Vaucluse

Perhaps better known as Nielsen Park, Shark Beach is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. This small shaded beach is popular with families and provides sheltered swimming in beautiful surroundings.

Shark Beach Neilsen Park Sydney
Shark Beach is netted and safe despite it’s name.

There is a cafe for snacks and plenty of trees offering shade on hot summer’s days. Parking can be difficult, but there is a bus service from Bondi Junction or the city that drops you off at the entrance to the park behind the beach.

  • Public transport rating: Easy bus from Edgecliff Station or Elizabeth St City.
  • BBQs: No
  • Toilets: yes
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Playground: No
  • Cafe or Kiosk: Yes

Getting there: Bus 325
Website: Sydney Harbour National Park – Shark Bay
Tip: This beach is suitable for disabled visitors with a little effort.

Parsley Bay in Vaucluse

Parsley Bay is really only a secret on weekdays, on weekends it feels like everyone knows about it as families arrive in number for birthday parties and picnics. Visit midweek and it’s hard to believe it’s the same place.

Tip: the shark net is only in place in summer so take care swimming at other times of the year.

Parsley Bay Sydney
The large grassy area makes Parsley Bay popular for family picnics

There is lots of lovely grass and shade away from the small sandy beach. You can also take a short bushwalk and cross the footbridge in front of the park.

The water is sometimes not the best after heavy rain so keep this in mind if you are heading for a swim. The shark net is 200m from shore making this a popular spot for snorkelling.

  • Public transport rating: Easy bus from 325 Edgecliff Station or Park St City.
  • BBQs: No
  • Toilets: yes
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Playground: Yes
  • Cafe or Kiosk: Yes

Getting there: 325 from Town Hall Park St, Stand G or Edgecliff Station. Get off at Fitzwilliam Road
Where: Horler Avenue, Vaucluse – see Woollahra Council Parsley Bay Website for more.

Related: Check out our list of more than 20 picnic spots in Sydney

Milk Beach

Sitting below historic Strickland House, Milk Beach offers a unique view of the city skyline, The Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a sandy foreground making this a bit of an Instagram hot spot. It is particularly lovely at sunset and makes a great place to propose.

Milk Beach got it’s name because it was the spot where boats made milk deliveries to Strickland House

In summer boats often anchor off the beach and the peace and quiet disappears with music from the boats giving a party vibe. This could be good or bad depending what you are in the mood for.

The city from the southern end of Milk Beach

On NYE and some summer, weekends ticketed events are held here, attracting large numbers of party people. At other times it is relatively empty save the odd walker.

You could book this quirky Airbnb for the weekend and pretend your a local.

Tip: Take a walk along the track to nearby Queens Beach for more privacy.

  • Public transport rating: Easy 325 bus from Edgecliff Station or Town Hall
  • BBQs: No
  • Toilets: No
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Playground: No
  • Cafe or Kiosk: No

Getting there: entry via the gardens of Stickland House or from the Hermitage Foreshore Walk
Where: below 52 Vaucluse Rd, Vaucluse

Kutti Beach Vaucluse

Most people who accidentally come across Kutti Beach or spot it from the water assume it’s a private beach off-limits to anyone but homeowners. The entry from the road is well hidden, so this is understandable but follow our advice (and don’t tell too many people) and you will find a quiet patch of yellow sand just waiting for you to set up your towel.

To reach the beach, make your way to the end of Wharf Road. When you see the wooden boatshed – it’s the Vaucluse Amateur Sailing Club building -look for the gap in the fence and the narrow wooden staircase.

The beach is quite small when the tide is in so visit on the low tide for more space. Spend some time daydreaming that you live in one of these homes and watching the activity unfold on the harbour.

  • Public transport rating: Easy and recommended bus from 325 Edgecliff Station or Park St City.
  • BBQs: No
  • Toilets: No, head to Watson’s Bay
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, on leash your dog may even go in the water
  • Playground: No
  • Cafe or Kiosk: No

Getting there: 324/325 from Town Hall or Edgecliff Stations both stop nearby or it’s a 15 to 20-minute walk from Watsons Bay.
Where: Wharf Road Vaucluse. Check the Google map for details

If you want to know more about beaches and walks in the Sydney Harbour National Park or check out our guide to the best walks in Sydney Harbour

Seven Shillings Beach

This beach at Double Bay is part public and part private beach. The area in front of the Murray Rose Pool, which you reach via Blackburn Gardens is open to everyone.

The pool is named after an Olympic freestyle swimmer, Murray Rose who won six Olympic medals.

Murray Rose Pool and Seven Shillings Beach in Double Bay
Murray Rose Pool and Seven Shillings Beach in Double Bay

Halfway along the beach, you will find a fence from here on in, it’s residents only. Those whose homes back onto the beach have access, the rest of us have the other side. There is a sign which states “the public can only use the beach in daylight hours below high water, as above high water is privately owned”.

The private end of Seven Shillings Beach
  • Public transport rating: Easy, bus from 323, 324, 325 & 326 all stop along New South Head
  • BBQs: No
  • Toilets: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: No
  • Playground: No
  • Cafe or Kiosk: Yes

Getting there: 324/325 from Town Hall or Edgecliff Stations both stop nearby.
Where: Check the Google map for details

Check more of our Beach lovers articles

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4 thoughts on “Visit one of these Secret Sydney Harbour Beaches”

  1. Love your posts and once I can visit my daughter I will keep them in mind. Oh so many lovely beaches that dogs are not allowed on. Last time I was there with my dogs (now passed, I have two more) we went to a beach with them on leash. A lovely lady came and told us that dogs were not allowed and the ranges hide in the bushes. It was cold and late afternoon and we were the only ones there. Crazy after coming from a place where dogs are allowed during winter on the beach no leash or summer before 9 and after 7pm. Or two dog beaches within 10 mins of us. Of well…anyway lol your posts are always informative

  2. Such useful info! I love that you list if there are toilets or not and public transport info!

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