Curved around the fringes of the cities urban sprawl, Sydney’s shoreline is shaped by stretches of sea and sand. It’s what gives Sydney its popular tag as Australia’s most visited city and what defines its culture as an outdoor, beach-loving lifestyle. Gorgeous clear waters, rolling grassy picnic spots and views of some of the most iconic picture postcard attractions are the drawcard for many to Sydney’s most loved beaches. With vibrant cafes and stores just streets away, Sydney’s beach suburbs offer days of endless summer fun. There are over 10,000 beaches stretched around the rugged coastline, with many secret coves and bays, all a short drive from the city and perfect for a gentler day at the beach. So if you’re looking for an escape from the crowds and a quiet spot to unroll the picnic blanket, here’s our guide to some of Sydney’s secluded city beaches.
In the centre of Vaucluse, the secluded Parsley Bay Reserve is a little bushland hideaway, complete with a short nature trail and beautifully set kids playground. In fact, the little beach itself is really the icing on the cake. The narrow bay is home to a 100-year-old suspension bridge and is a great spot for fishing off the jetty. There are locals walking their dogs, a rabble of happy kids climbing and swinging on the play area and people grabbing a take away coffee from the little cafe perched beneath the leafy Moreton Bay Figs. It looks more like a run down shack rather than an eastern Sydney coffee spot and that’s exactly why it suits the unspoiled and natural ambience of the Reserve.
Parsley Bay Beach is located in Parsley Bay and is best reached by taking Hopetoun Avenue to Fitzwilliam Road, Parsley Road and Horler Avenue. There’s also footpath access from The Crescent, and the Parsley Bay Bridge is accessible from Fitzwilliam Road.
Nielsen Park Beach
Just around the peninsula in Vaucluse, another sweeping parkland and kid-friendly beach awaits; Nielsen Park is an idyllic picnic spot nestled under shady trees and offering stunning views of Sydney Harbour. As part of Sydney Harbour National Park, Nielsen Park includes 3 generous picnic areas, harbourside cafe and the sparkling waters of Shark Beach. The Nielsen Park Cafe and Halbert Pavillion is an original 1914 built sandstone and weatherboard home with stained glass windows that open to catch the sea breeze. The beach is narrow and calm, a perfect playground for toddlers and just a short stroll along are the grassy flats of Bottle and Glass Point, with sublime views of the city and a popular wedding location. Definitely add Nielsen Park to your list of must-dos if you’re lucky enough to be showing off Sydney to visitors.
Getting there: Nielsen Park Beach is in the Nielsen Park precinct of Sydney Harbour National Park. To reach, take New South Head Road away from the city, left into Vaucluse Road and then left into Greycliffe Avenue.
When Sydney’s most loved beach Balmoral is packed, the lesser known neighbouring Chinaman’s Beach is a perfect option. It may not have Bathers Pavillion and The Boat House, but it offers an expansive summer backyard for everyone. Here in Rosherville Reserve, you’ll find enough space to roll out the picnic rugs, set up for a game of cricket and still throw a frisbee across the undulating grasslands. The 250m stretch of sand is at the northern peninsula of Mosman and the beach at Shell Bay is calm and welcoming and a popular spot for yachts and rowboats to be anchored. Their picturesque white hulls and sails on the soft waters of Sydney’s Middle Head make for a perfect picnic setting and easy swim. For the keen snorkellers, Chinaman’s Beach has some lovely views of the Harbour’s colourful underwater sea life. The beach was originally named after the Chinese residents who organised market gardens in the park, so it’s long been a hub for social gatherings.
Getting there: Chinaman’s Beach is located on Parriwi Road, The Spit in Mosman. It’s a winding road and not always easy to find, so heading towards Rosherville Reserve might be a little more direct.
Just around the corner from beautiful Watson’s Bay, the secluded Camp Cove boasts millionaire views on the harbour side of South Head. It’s most charming feature is the weatherboard jetty and tiny boathouse. Camp Cove is noted in the diaries of the early European settlers as one of the first landfalls in Sydney Harbour and it was often revisited by members of the First Fleet. It has strong aboriginal significance with some of the earliest canoe sightings on the waters of Camp Cove and today, a small rock shelter holds the remains of a midden. For a unique look at its history, take the South Head Heritage Trail from the northern end of the beach, you’ll see rock carvings, canon and gun emplacements and stunning harbour views. A little summer kiosk with fresh baskets of colourful fruit hangs from the roof and welcomes you into this gentle little bay.
Getting there: Camp Cove is in the South Head precinct of Sydney Harbour National Park. To get there, drive along New South Head Road past Vaucluse to the end. Take a right turn into Robertson Road, then left onto Military Road, which becomes Cliff Road. Turn left into Short Street then right into Cove Street and right into Victoria Street
Overlooking Hermit Bay and set against the backdrop of historic Strickland House, this 50m strip of sand in Vaucluse is still one of Sydney’s more secluded and best kept secret beaches. Located halfway along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, Milk Beach is a quiet alternative to the buzzing beaches of Bondi and Bronte. Being so small, it doesn’t have a kiosk or amenities, but it’s an idyllic spot for a few hours of sunning and gentle swimming in the afternoon. The impressive Strickland House build in the 1850’s and perched above the bay, was home to Sydney’s first Lord Mayor. It gives this secluded little beach a unique historic feel, especially wandering through the grounds of the house taking in the spectacular skyline views.
Getting there: Milk Beach is located in Vaucluse along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk near Strickland House. The nearest street is Carrara Road but you can access from several points along the walk.
Collins Flat Beach
Just a few minutes from Manly, this is a secluded little beach perfect for escaping the crowds. Collins Flat Beach is nestled between North Head and Little Manly Cove and a stone’s throw away from Sydney’s infamous Quarantine Station. Today Q station offers enriching stories and tours, walking you back in time through some of the darker histories of the First Settlers. This stretch of coastline has many fascinating tales to tell. Though Manly with it’s vibrant Marina, Aquatic Centre and beachside cafes is a buzzing beachside community, beaches like Collin’s Flat give Sydney siders the time and space to breath in the beauty and tranquillity of living on the coast.
Getting there: Collins Flat Beach is in the North Head precinct of Sydney Harbour National Park. To reach, just follow Darley Road through Manly past the hospital. Turn right through the stone arch and again right onto Collins Beach Road.