Sydney beaches where you won’t have to battle for your own piece of sand
There are plenty of Sydney beaches where you won’t have to fight to find space on the sand. (Instagram: @benn_lucy)
Sick of the crowds at Bondi, Manly and Cronulla?
On a hot summer’s day, if you’re lucky enough to find parking within coo-ee of the beach, you’ll likely end up vying for a postage-stamp-sized parcel of sand to stake your spot.
But fear not. There are plenty of lesser-known — and often less crowded — gems across Sydney worth checking out this summer.
Jibbon Beach, Bundeena
Beachgoers can expect to mingle with hikers on this crescent-shaped stretch of sand, which serves as the northern-most point of the Royal National Park’s 26-kilometre Coast Track.
Go for a dip and marvel at the view north towards the city, or develop serious boat envy checking out the impressive cruisers anchored nearby.
The area’s Aboriginal history is worth checking out, with sand at the eastern end of the beach containing 3,000-year-old shell middens, left by the local Dharawal people.
And you can follow the Jibbon Loop Track up towards the headland, where you’ll find an ancient Dharawal campsite and a rock platform with engravings of whales and kangaroos.
Back on the beach, explore the rock platforms, which are always popular for spotting crabs and other critters.
Tip: Get here by catching the ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena to make it a true day out on the water.
Bungan Beach on Sydney’s northern beaches is a good surfing spot, but beware the rips. (Instagram: @marcellohc_13)
Those who aren’t local to the area would be forgiven for driving straight past this hidden gem between Newport and Mona Vales beaches.
There’s no road access into the beach, so you have to park at Myola or Beach roads and walk down the steep pathways.
Parking is limited, so you’ll never have to fight the crowds at Bungan Beach.
Surfing conditions are usually good, with a solid left break at the northern end — so don’t forget to bring your board.
The beach is patrolled from late December to the end of January and swimmers are advised to stay between the flags due to several dangerous rips.
Bring your own food, otherwise you’ll have to trudge 50m back up to the clifftop and drive to Newport or Mona Vale for supplies.
Tip: At low tide there’s access to Newport Beach by walking along the rock platform at the northern end of the beach around Bungan Head.
Milk Beach, Vaucluse
Milk Beach at Vaucluse has gun-barrel views to the Opera House and Harbour bridge. (Instagram: @nicololoyuisebradon)
Milk Beach is one of three sandy spots in Vaucluse, including Shark Beach in Nielsen Park to the north and the lovely Parsley Bay Beach further east.
Each beach fronts the picturesque Sydney Harbour, but unlike its neighbours, the postage-stamp-sized Milk Beach has gun-barrel views to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
Parking at Milk Beach is a bit tricky, particularly on weekends. If you’re lucky you might find a spot along Carrara Road or Vaucluse Road, or you can park a little further afield and walk in via the Hermitage Foreshore Walk — it’s well worth the trek.
In summer, boats are known to stop by selling ice creams and cold drinks.
Bring a picnic and retire up the hill to the majestic grounds of the heritage-listed Strickland House, open from sunrise to sunset, and pretend you’re a character in a Jane Austen novel.
Tip: Forget the stress of parking and catch the 325 bus from Edgecliff train station.
Great Mackerel Beach, Pittwater
The Great Mackerel Lookout provides panoramic views across Pittwater. (Instagram: @livinwellness)
Surrounded by Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on one side and sparkling Pittwater on the other, the only way to access idyllic Great Mackerel Beach is by boat.
Jump on the old timber ferry, which departs from the Palm Beach wharf every hour, or hire a water taxi.
The beach itself is clean, peaceful and pretty for a day trip. If you have extra time on your hands you can stay overnight in one of the many houses and shacks leased out for holidays, which afford amazing views of the sunrise over the Palm Beach headland.
There are only three ‘streets’ in this tiny town, whose population at the 2016 Census was just 36.
By ‘streets’, we’re talking wide grassy paths along which locals cart wheelbarrows full of food and other supplies they’ve lugged off the ferry — another delightful quirk of this beautiful hamlet.
Tip: Hike up to the Mackerel Trail Lookout for stunning panoramic views to Palm Beach and further north to the central coast.
Congwong Beach, La Perouse
It may be just 14 kilometres from the city, but Congwong Beach feels a world away.
It’s part of Botany Bay National Park, with little development nearby apart from some takeaway food shops if you get peckish at lunch.
Venture 100m down a steep pathway from Anzac Parade to the sand.
The calm waters of Botany Bay mean Congwong Beach is a great option for families with littlies. The largest waves you’ll encounter are from passing watercraft.
A word of warning for those who dare go beyond the rock platform at the eastern end of the beach: you may see more flesh than you bargained for.
The signs at Little Congwong Beach may indicate it’s not a sanctioned nudist beach, but many sunbathing there consider swimwear to be optional.
Tip: Snorkel along the rocks at the western end of the beach, or go one better and join a scuba diving tour around nearby Bare Island — one of Sydney’s most popular dive sites.