So you are in Sydney without a car, and you want to spend a day at the beach. Easy! Read on; this article will help you discover how to get to some of Sydney’s most famous and less well-known, but equally beautiful beaches by public transport. There are also tips on what to do when you get there!
- Bondi Beach
- Clovelly Beach
- Coogee Beach
- Watsons Bay – Camp Cove Beach
- Nielson Park Beach (Shark Beach)
- Balmoral Beach – Middle Harbour
- Cronulla Beach
- Manly Beach
- Freshwater Beach
- Palm Beach
Bondi is usually the first beach visitors head to. It’s the one in your guidebook, and it has plenty of attractions, food and great views for you to enjoy. Bondi became a public beach in 1882 and the first life-saving club, which claims to be the world’s oldest, opened in 1907.
Stick to swimming at the northern end of the beach unless you are a strong swimmer. The Southern end of the beach is known locally as “backpackers corner” often has strong currents and is a common spot for swimmers to get into trouble.
It is advisable to swim between the flags here and listen to the instructions of the lifesavers so that you don’t end up appearing in an episode of Bondi Rescue!
If all the talk of currents and lifesavers scares you a little, you can pay $7 for adults and $5 for kids and have your swim at the famous Bondi Icebergs Club. The club is opened from 6am-6.30pm every day but Thursday they close the club for cleaning. You can also rent a towel if you don’t have one.
What to see while you are in Bondi
Check out the Bondi Graffiti wall – this every changing outdoor gallery features dozens of large mural that change every six months.
Watch the action at the skatepark, there are always seriously good skaters doing their thing here.
How to get to Bondi Beach by public transport
Quickest way – Take the train from Town Hall, Martin Place or Kings Cross, it takes about 10 minutes to reach Bondi Junction station. From the station take the escalators to the top level of the concourse. From here buses to the beach take about 15 minutes look out for the 380, 381, 382 or 333.
Scenic route – The bus journey is more scenic than the train so if you are only making this trip once and you are up for some site-seeing try the buses instead of the train. Buses leave from Circular Quay and travel up Elizabeth St into Oxford St.
Look out for the 333 – it’s the express option and will get you there a little quicker. These buses are pre-paid so buy your ticket before you board. You can also get here after exploring Watson’s Bay by taking the 380 from outside Robertson Park.
Unlike the rest of the beaches in the eastern suburbs, Clovelly is well protected from the winds and feels a lot more like a bay than an ocean beach.
There are long concrete platforms on both sides of the beach that are favourite sunbathing spots earning it the nickname locally as the concrete beach.
This is THE perfect beach for anyone who hates sand. There are steps to enter the water straight from the concrete path avoiding any sand at all!
There is also a 25m ocean water lap pool for getting some serious swimming in.
Clovelly is great for kids with small waves most of the time. There is also disabled access on the northern side of the beach.
Things to do at Clovelly Beach
- Clovelly is a great spot for snorkelling
- Picnic in Bundock Park directly behind the beach where you will find plenty of shade, a kids playground and free BBQs.
- Walk the track to Coogee around the edge of the cemetery
How to get to Clovelly
The 339 bus goes from Town Hall via Central and Surry Hills to Clovelly in about 35 mins. The 360 bus goes from Bondi Junction to Clovelly
This horseshoe-shaped beach is fringed with tall Norfolk pines and has a large grass area perfect for picnics. While it may only be a few kilometres along the coast from Bondi, I think it has an entirely different feel slightly fewer tourists.
The word Coogee comes from a local Aboriginal word, Koojah which means smelly place, possibly because the beach can at times attract large amounts of seaweed. Thankfully today it is usually cleaned up quickly.
If you are not a surfer, you might prefer the rock pools at either end of the beach, at the northern end you have Giles Pool which is a deep natural pool and my personal favourite, and the southern end is home to a man-made pool at the Surf club.
There are two more private pools with small entry feels a short walk along the track. McIvers Baths is a women’s only pool, and Wylie’s Baths is tidal pool an historic complex that has been operating since 1907 that provides lots of shade.
Check out the view for yourself on the Coogee Beach cam
What to see while you are in Coogee
There is a little library to borrow books down on the beach wall. You can leave a book you are finished with or just take one if you don’t have one to give. There is also a memorial to the local victims of the Bali bombing at Dolphin Point.
How to get to Coogee by Public Transport
There is no train station in Coogee although the area is very well serviced by buses heading both to the city and into surrounding suburban areas.
From the City
- M50 (limited stops)
- 370 – Leichhardt via Newtown
- 372 – Railway Square via Clevland St
- 373 or 374\x74 from Martin Place
From Bondi Junction
- 313 or 314
Watsons Bay – Camp Cove Beach
Part of Sydney Harbour National Park Camp Cove beach is a west facing harbour beach and a great spot to watch the sunset behind the city. Head here on a weekday, and you might find you have the place all to yourself. Exceptions are public holidays and big events like the Sydney to Hobart when Camp Cove beach draw huge crowds due to its aspect.
This was the first place the British first set foot in Sydney Harbour. There is a shark net to make you feel a little more relaxed about swimming, but not a lot of shade on the beach so be sure to slip, slop, slap (slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat) before you head out for the day.
The beach has showers, toilets and a small kiosk selling drinks and ice cream.
Interesting fact: in 1963 2 skeletons were discovered here dated to over 700 years.
What to see and do while you are in Watsons Bay
- The beach is the beginning of the South Head Heritage Trail if you fancy stretching your legs before your swim. I suggest walking around to the candy-striped lighthouse on South Head and also taking a look at the cliff face at the Gap.
- There is also a clothing optional beach, Lady Jane, a short walk around the corner from the northern end of the beach.
- Take an Aboriginal Culture tour with Kadoo Tours
- Have an Aussie beer at the Watsons Bay Beach Club
How to get to Watson’s Bay by public transport
The quickest way is to jump on a ferry from Circular Quay – 45 mins with an 800-metre walk from the Watsons Bay pier to the beach.
You can also:
• Bus – 1 hr 324 from Town Hall Station 325 from Barangaroo
• Train to Edgecliff and bus 325 can save time in heavy traffic
• 380 from North Bondi Beach
Stay a while
The Watsons Bay Hotel sits on the beach looking towards the city and is a lovely spot to spend a day or two relaxing just a short 20 min ferry ride from town. Check out the reviews and photos on Tripadvisor
Nielson Park Beach (Shark Beach)
Once a fishing and camping place for the local Birrabirragal People Nielson Park is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. Located in one of the city’s most exclusive suburbs is this pretty Harbour beach that can be relatively quiet mid-week and feels miles from the city.
What I love most about this beach is that unlike so many Sydney beaches there are lots of big trees to provide shade from the midday sun and plenty of grassy picnic spots if you prefer not to have sand in your sandwiches!
The view back to the city is fabulous, and it’s a lovely place to watch the sunset over the harbour.
The beach itself is netted from mid-Sept to mid-May so despite the name you can swim in peace for at least half of the year.
Check out this google street view of Shark Beach
Things to do at Nielson Park
- Take the beautiful Rose Bay Hermitage Foreshore Walk
- Check out the Historic Vaucluse House built in 1805 and try their high tea
- Enjoy lunch at Nielsen restaurant inside the in the 1914 Edwardian style kiosk
- See if you can find the aboriginal rock at the northern end of the beach
How to get to Shark Beach by public transport
Take the 325 bus from QVB, York St, Stand A, the bus takes about 40 mins, and they leave approx. every 30 minutes.
Balmoral Beach – Middle Harbour
One of the most beautiful Sydney Harbour Beaches, Balmoral is a lovely harbour beach that is on this list for two reasons. First, the beach is home to lots of enormous fig trees that fringe the waterfront providing much-needed shade in the summer and secondly it’s home to the Bathers Pavilion Cafe.
Things to do in Balmoral
- Get some fish and chips from Bottom of the Harbour – they even have healthy options!
- Rent a kayak or paddleboard at the and explore Middle Harbour
- Treat your self to an extraordinary meal at Bather’s Pavillion
- Head off on the bushwalk to Bradley’s Head or Mosman
- Grab breakfast at the Balmoral Boatshed after an early morning swim
How to get to Balmoral Beach by Public Transport
To get here, you can catch the 244 or the 247 bus from Wynyard to Military Road, Mosman; then it’s about a 900m walk to the beach. Other buses stop close to the beach, but they need a change. \ Check 131500 for your options if the walk is a problem for you.
You can also walk from Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach via one of my favourite Sydney Walks
It is easy to visit one of Sydney’s favourite suburban beaches, Cronulla, by train
At the opposite end of the Bondi Junction, train line is Sydney’s longest beach Cronulla. Located 45 mins by train south of the city centre, it is the only Sydney beach that has a railway station.
If you want a day at the beach with the locals and not a bunch of other travellers you ought to consider an outing here.
Cronulla’s beaches are less crowded, have great surf, good cafes and restaurants and an attractive shopping street. There is also a YHA here if you fancy staying somewhere a little quieter than Bondi.
What to see and do while you are in Cronulla
- Walk around to Gunnamatta Bay and fire up one of the public barbeques. The shady waterfront park is an excellent spot for a picnic lunch
- Get some fish and chips and have a beach picnic at South Cronulla
- Ride the Tom Thumb ferry across to Bundena and check out the art, both indigenous and local artists studios
How to get to Cronulla beach by train
Take the train from platform four at Town Hall or Platform 25 at Central direct to Cronulla Station (or Kings Cross/Bondi Junction). The trip takes about 55 mins
Check on some more great photos of Cronulla Beach by local photographer Micheal Sutton. Once you have had enough of the beach why not explore the suburb on foot using the day walk of Cronulla from local blogger Travel with Joanne.
Things to do while you are in Manly
- Snorkel at the Shelley Beach Aquatic Reserve I think it’s one of the best Sydney animal experiences.
- Walk to North Head for fine views over the harbour
- Hire a kayak and paddle over to Collins Beach
There are lots of really great dining choices and bars here to help pass a sunny afternoon.
How to get to Manly Beach by ferry
There are a couple of services that can get you to Manly. The regular Manly Ferry departs from Circular Quay.
You can also jump on the Manly Fast ferry that takes half as long to travel the 7 miles from the Quay to Manly. The fast ferry is a couple of dollars more expensive but if you are in a hurry can save time. They also accept Opal cards
If you are a family, try taking the public ferry on a Sunday and using the $2.60 all day Opal travel option to save money on transport costs.
Head just one beach north of the famous Manly Beach, and you will find one of the favourite beaches of Northside locals. Part of the Manly-Freshwater National and World Surfing Reserve this is the beach where Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku demonstrated surfing to Sydneysiders back in 1915 and setting in motion the rise of surfing as a popular Australian sport.
Things to do at Freshwater Beach
- Check out the Kiosk at Pilu just behind the beach they have fantastic breakfasts and super fresh healthy salads
- Take the boardwalk to Curl Curl
- Check out the Olympic sized freshwater pool
- Take a walk through the Wormhole – a (not so) secret tunnel carved by fishermen in 1908
- Snap a photo with the Duke (statue) on the headland in Mackillop Park
How to get to Freshwater
Take the Bus 139 from Manly Wharf, or you can walk about 25 min walk from Manly Beach.
At 41km north of the Sydney centre in some countries, this would not be called part of the same city, but the trip to Palm Beach is well worth your time.
Palm Beach is on a peninsula with the ocean facing 2km long Palm Beach on one side and the beautiful, peaceful Pittwater on the other. It’s no wonder many of the city’s A-listers spend time here relaxing.
Things to do in Palm Beach
- Take the 1km walk to Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk
- Fancy working up a sweat – rent a kayak and explore Pittwater
- Eat at the Boathouse – Order a bucket of prawns served with sourdough and a bottle of wine.
- Take the marked track from the south end of the beach to the beautiful bible garden (no need to be religious to enjoy the views)
- Head to North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club keep your eyes peeled for film crews from local soap series Home and Away (if you are a big fan you can also book a tour)
- Take the ferry to one of the smaller towns of the area
A weekend here can feel like you are in another world, a holiday on your holiday. If you fancy spoiling yourself, you could consider Jonah’s at nearby Whale Beach.
How to get to Palm Beach
The L90 (known locally as the Hell 90 because it takes so long to reach the city in peak hour) will get you from Wynyard to Palm beach in about 1hr and 45 mins.
Try to do this trip midweek after 10am for the best run.
Further Reading for your Sydney beach holiday.
If you are planning on visiting Sydney with kids, you should check out this guide from Adventure Baby Blog covering 22 of the Best Sydney Beaches for Kids.
Please before you head to the beach if you are not a strong swimmer familiar with ocean swimming spend 5 minutes reading this page from Surf Lifesaving NSW about beach safety.
Want some more beach action? Check out the top 10 beaches in NSW by Cat and Joe from Walk My World.
Need help planning your trip to Sydney? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group where you can ask questions, stay up to date with what’s happening in Sydney and meet a bunch of friendly locals just waiting to share their advice!