Al Wilson, Sydney’s beach-connoisseur, states, “Typically millions of people visit Sydney every year, but sadly all too many stick tightly to the touristy icons and miss out on the real rugged and beautiful Australia,” a big reason for which he owes to a “lack of knowledge.” Between him, Frank Hobson, Alfonso Calero, and Andy, we’ve gathered up local expertise, and we, like New South Wales’s guides, are eager to impart the info on eager travelers. Dig in!
According to Al Wilson, the Mr. Trustworthy of beach stats, Palm Beach is “the quintessential majestic sweeping beach.” Perched at the end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches peninsula, Palm Beach (‘Palmy’) is regularly used in the filming of Home and Away, but even more special than that (for rock climbers, at least) are the beach’s two sandstone boulders whose impressive vertical and overhanging features make for some epic bouldering.
Unleash your inner Aussie surfer dude at palm tree-clad Whale Beach where, just off the rocks at the northern end of the beach, you’ll find a spectacular surf break called the Wedge. As the name hints, keep your eyes peeled for whales; they’re not strangers to this gorgeous slice of Australian coastline, and neither are dolphins.
What makes Collins Beach that much more fun is that it’s accessible only via a track through lush evergreen bushland that departs from Little Many Beach. Even more whimsical is the small creek that drains across the southern end of the beach, as well as the wide flat grassy berm that backs the bay. Collins beach is also a great spot for eyeing up stunning yachts, but if boats aren’t your thing, look out for roaming little penguins!
Frank Hobson has a soft spot for Store Beach because it’s only accessibly by boat or kayak (which you can rent for a reasonable price at neighboring beaches), so it truly has a desert island feeling. For a romantic break, this is your #1 option.
Great Mackerel Beach
When trekking to Great Mackerel Beach beach via West Head road, Al Wilson warns, “Be sure to take the left fork which takes you down to the Basin.” Great Mackerel Beach is on edge of Ku-ring gai Chase National Park, and the sand, which is the result of sandstone flowing down the Hawkesbury River and ending up at Great Mackerel via a creek found at the north end of the beach, is soft, golden, and perfect for children.
From waterfalls to the Red Hands Cave, an aboriginal site dating back 2000 years, the challenging (but oh so worth it) walk to Resolute Beach offers diverse views of Australia’s coast, but the views are no lesser on the beach itself that is enclosed by breathtaking cliffs, green bush, and rock pools. Bonus: you may even spot the odd kangaroo or blue tongue lizard.
Camp cove is a guide-recommended treasure because it’s lined with spectacular mansions, has views of Sydney Harbour, and is a fantastic spot for swimming and diving. The limited parking means crowds aren’t usually a problem, and there’s a quaint lighthouse only 10 minutes away by foot.
Al enjoys Fisherman’s beach “due to the rich marine life found in the aquatic reserve,” as well as “the walk to Long Reef Headland from there” that takes you through an area packed with a whopping 119 species of native plants, five native frogs, nine native reptiles, 136 native birds, and three native mammals. Fisherman’s Beach is so-called because it has been used by fishermen since the 18th century, at which point it was also used as a small port for loading cattle for the Sydney market.
Curl Curl Beach
Known for some of the best surfing on the Northern Beaches, Curl Curl (‘Curlie’) is the place to go if you’re in the mood for something a little more energetic. Bear in mind that some regard Curl Curl as Sydney’s most dangerous beach (especially at Garbage Bowl, where there is a permanent rough rip tide), so be sure to stay within the lifeguards’ boundaries, or in the rock pools.
Dee Why Beach
Alfonso Calero, a professional photographer based in Sydney who leads top of the line photography tours around New South Wales, is no stranger to beauty, so it means something when he suggests spending the day at Dee Why Beach, a 1.2 km stretch of soft sand overlooking the Tasman Sea. Two playgrounds in the vicinity make Dee Why all the better for families with young children, and promenades and lookout platforms appeal to the athletic too. Behind the beach’s remaining dunes, there is a lagoon bustling with local and migratory birds from Japan and China.
There are two reasons why Narabeen is a must-see: One, owing to the lack of crowds, stellar viewpoints, good swimming water, and pleasant picnic areas, it’s another of Alfonso’s go-to’s, and two, it’s mentioned in the Beach Boys song Surfin’ U.S.A!
Again, we have Alfonso to thank for suggesting Turimetta Beach, a hidden gem sheltered by sheer cliffs. Turimetta is known for its vibrant green moss-covered rocky inlet and ever-shifting sands. Adding to the beauty are yellow flowers growing all over the golden dunes. Typically, people with tripods go to the south, people with rods go to the north, and people with swimming costumes go to the middle. Ultimately, Alfonso recommends Turimetta “for a sunrise photo of the seascapes and rock pools…[and] a walk along the beach watching surfers, swimmers, joggers and rock fishing.” “Once the sun has risen,” he says, “an espresso at the local cafe along the beach, followed by a hearty breakfast, is also a must.”
Andy, the walking treasure chest of Sydney’s local secrets, and a guide who has been running tours in The Royal National Park longer than any other professional, says of his outfitters, Understand Down Under, “We love taking people to see Wattamolla beach, the name [of which] means ‘place near running water’.” He adds, “Wattamolla has a beach and fresh water lagoon that are separated by a sandbar…Unfortunately, you are not able to surf there, but you can go snorkeling.” For non-swimmers, he says, “you can enjoy several walking tracks spanning the National park…One of the more known tracks is Wattamolla to Garie beach, [which is] a 7.5km scenic coastal walk.” Fun fact: Andy’s talents go beyond guiding; he is the photographer behind the above image of Wattamolla!