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.
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.
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.
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
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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”.
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
Save these Sydney Harbour Beaches for your next day out