An hour after having breakfast in a café in downtown Sydney, I was standing on Bondi Beach, sand between my toes.
Bondi, the most famous beach in Sydney, needs no introduction. Loud and proud, it buzzes with life. With a gorgeous beach, weekend market, streets bursting with shops, restaurants, cafés and bars, one can easily while a day away there.
But I had a mission to accomplish: a 6km coastal walk from the south of Bondi to Coogee.
I made my way to the swish Icebergs Dining Room and Bar at the southern end of Bondi Beach, where the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walk begins. I gasped at the ocean vista; it was the start of good things to come.
Crashing waves, turquoise waters, swirling rock pools, dramatic cliffs and beautiful bays greeted me at every turn, as beach after stunning beach came into sight.
The coastal walk brought me past the beaches of Tamarama, Bronte and Clovelly. It also led me through the tranquil Waverley Cemetery perched atop sandstone cliffs and rock platforms, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
Two hours later, I arrived at Coogee Beach, the next biggest and busiest beach after Bondi along this scenic route.
The beaches I passed are among the more than 100 in the city of Sydney, from calm and protected harbour coves suitable for families with young children, to untamed ocean beaches that beckon surfers and bodyboarders.
Here are a few of Sydney’s best beaches.
Best for: Celebrity spotting
This is the most northern suburb in Sydney, and an Instagram-worthy destination. Summer is a time for Hollywood celebrity spotting, when the stars rent stunning multimillion-dollar ocean-facing homes to escape winter in the northern hemisphere. Even if you do not see anyone famous, the place is still worth the 45km drive from the city centre, if only to sink your feet into its golden sand and enjoy a glass of wine along the promenade.
Best for: Laid-back surfing
With a bodyboard in my backseat, I drove up the stretch of more than 15 golden sand beaches of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. After the touristy Manly in the south, I noticed that the suburbs became more residential, until I arrived at the exclusive Palm Beach in the north. If you’re short for time, head for Freshwater Beach, the birthplace of Australia’s surfing culture. This is where the Hawaiian style of surfboard riding was introduced Down Under in 1914 by American Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku.
Best for: Blissful serenity
To chill out, I grabbed a latte and crossed a curved sandstone bridge onto the headland at this beach on the North Shore. Then I kicked back on my picnic mat with a book, occasionally taking my eyes off my book to enjoy the tranquil vista before me. If you prefer to be indoors, enjoy coffee with a view at Bather’s Pavilion café by the beach. Swimming is safe in the calm waters protected by shark nets. Maximise your stay here with a visit to the nearby Taronga Zoo.
Best for: Catching a sunset
From Camp Cove beach in the eastern suburb of Watsons Bay, you can go on a coastal walk around the South Head national park at the southern entrance of Sydney Harbour. The trail offers panoramic views of the city, harbour, ocean and surrounding headlands. I lingered in Watsons Bay till evening and settled on Camp Cove beach with takeaway fish and chips to catch the gorgeous sunset. To get to Watsons Bay, take the ferry from Circular Quay in the city centre.
Best for: Babe watching
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was well-known as the site of the city’s first coastal amusement park. Today, “Glamarama”, as the locals know it, is a beautiful spot that draws a good-looking crowd. Gorgeous runway models with hot bods would not be out of place here. Only 80m long, Tamarama has the biggest rips and is considered the most dangerous patrolled beach in New South Wales.
Best for: Sandless, hassle-free fun
This cosy beach is a godsend for those who enjoy suntanning but can’t stand having sand everywhere they set foot. Thanks to the man-made feature surrounding the foreshores, you can roll out a mat on the concrete and sunbathe on it without the hassle of sand getting everywhere. This is also a favourite snorkelling spot, where you can swim among corals and fish, including the friendly blue groper.
Best for: Mingling with the locals
It was easy to find a quiet spot on the 1.1km-long stretch of sand to lay my beach towel. Most beachgoers here are residents of the suburb, a previous working-class neighbourhood that has been gentrified, and is now home to young professionals and families. Maroubra Beach is also the first National Surfing Reserve (NSR) in Australia. NSRs are iconic surfing locations that have intrinsic environmental, heritage, sporting and cultural value.
I flew to Sydney on Singapore Airlines. The Sydney Airport is 13 minutes by train to the city or 20 minutes by car or taxi.
Australia has some of the highest ultraviolet levels in the world, so protect your skin with sunscreen.
Wear comfortable shoes and carry sunblock, sunglasses, towel, flip-flops and a bottle of water when you embark on a coastal walk.
Newsmakers recall their best moments overseas this year
Philip Lee finds a cheap way to get around when he hops on the buses that go to interesting places on the island
Carolyn Hong discovers scenic spots while getting lost on the Indonesian islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan
A mud house stay and a livestock market tour in Nizwa gives Catherine Hostiani an opportunity to get acquainted with a new culture
Nur Syahiidah Zainal revels in fun activities and interesting discoveries across three prefectures in Japan