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Wide sandy beach of Manly, Sydney

Plenty of sand and nice waves make Manly perfect for families Picture: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

The first stop on the tourist map to Sydney is the coastline. From Coogee to Palm and everything in between, the beautiful beaches of Sydney represent all we love about summer in Australia. Sun, sand and surf, the odd icecream and a good dose of fish and chips make for a perfect family outing for all ages. Our list of favourite Sydney swim spots mixes secluded with city beach, and surf with shallows.

Wide sandy beach of Manly, Sydney

Plenty of sand and nice waves make Manly perfect for families Picture: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

Manly Beach and Shelly Beach

Part of the charm of Manly Beach is that you can get there by ferry. Even in the summer holidays Manly retains its laidback charm; although you can expect plenty of beach volleyballers, beach toys and umbrellas up and down the sand, it never feels as jam-packed as some other city beaches. The swell is just right for littlies to enjoy a splash in the shallows and for older kids to get a decent swim in. Take the short stroll to Shelly Beach (be sure to watch out for little animal statues along the path!) for some great sandcastle building.

Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte Beaches

Ask any first-time visitor to Australia and Bondi will be the beach they’ve heard of. You can expect crowds, but you can also expect great icecream and, if you time it right, the annual Sculptures by the Sea exhibition which transforms Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama into a quirky maze of colourful and thought-provoking art. If you’d stay on dry land, try the well-loved coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee, maybe with a refreshing dip at the end.

View of crowds and lifesaving flags at Bondi beach

On hot summer days, you can see as many as 60,000 people cooling off at Bondi! Picture: Bound Round

Northern Beaches, Pittwater

The Northern Beaches – Warriewood, Mona Vale, Newport, Palm – are my go-to in summer. Although public transport is an issue, it follows that the further you get from the inner city, the more peace and quiet you’ll enjoy. Mona Vale is my favourite. Although the surf can get a little rough, it is patrolled and there is a free-entry ocean pool to splash in. At low tide, walk south to Warriewood, or if you’re after more of a sweat, drive further north to Palm Beach and climb up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse for spectacular views.

Shark Beach and Milk Beach, Vaucluse

This dynamic duo comes as a picture-perfect package deal. Shark Beach, with its deep waters, wide open vista and cute café is a magnet for families looking for a cool dip in its crystal clear waters protected by a shark net. A hop, skip, jump and boardwalk away lies Milk Beach. Small, secretive and with unparalleled views of the spectacular Sydney skyline and the Harbour Bridge, the shallow water is ideal for tiny tots wanting a splash.

Board walk between beaches Sydney

These lesser known swimming spots come with a lovely walk Picture: Rachel Montgomery

Central Coast

It might be an extra drive, but a day trip to the beaches and sleepy towns of the Central Coast is well worth it – take a tent to local caravan parks or rent an apartment and you could make it a holiday. Shelley Beach, Toowoon Bay and Blue Bay have rock-pools to explore and sometimes sandbars for great boogie-boarding waves, and you can try prawning or pelican-feeding in The Entrance Lake. The Entrance also hosts a New Year’s firework show to rival that of Sydney Harbour – take a picnic rug, find a spot on the beach and welcome in the New Year as a family.

A flock of pelicans gather to be fed at The Entrance lake

You'll make a lot of new bird friends fast at the Pelican feeding Picture: Tirin Creative Commons

Read more about Sydney parks and playgrounds here.

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