It’s no secret that Sydney abounds with beautiful beaches, whether you want to surf, sunbathe or be seen. Australia’s beautiful beaches are one of the main reasons so many people make the move Down Under each year. And truth be told, you could live in the city for years and still not get around to visiting all of its beaches, there are just so many! But while many of Sydney’s eastern suburbs beaches are iconic and not to be missed (Bondi and Manly we’re looking at you), the crowds can be overwhelming at times.
When you are at some of the most famous beaches in the world, it can be tough to even find a section of sand “real estate” to lay your towel on. You’ll eventually lay down to find you’re so close to someone else, you may as well ask to be a member of their family. When you want to go for a relaxing dip in the sea, you’re uninvitingly touched by numerous flailing hands and feet and you can forget the idea of getting space to surf the waves, you’ll be sharing them with numerous others.
The good news is, there are plenty of secret eastern suburb beaches that are frequented only by in-the-know locals where you can escape for a secluded day on the sand. From shallow netted coves that are ideal for families to remote stretches of sand that can only be accessed on foot, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover 15 hidden gems to explore next time you need a beach escape in Sydney.
1. Mackenzie’s Bay, Tamarama
You can’t get any more secret than a beach that isn’t always there and that’s the case with Mackenzie’s Bay. Located in the beachside suburb of Tamarama, this small stretch of sand nestles between rocks on the south side of Mackenzie’s Point – a short walk north of the Tamarama Surf Club.
It only makes appearances sporadically, depending on the prevailing conditions. But when it does, locals flock here before it’s gone again.
Mackenzie’s Bay is a popular setting for rock fishing, surfing and sunbathing, with the often-present rips making it only suitable for strong swimmers. It can be accessed along the scenic coastal walk that leads from Bondi Beach south all the way to Maroubra.
2. Parsley Bay, Vaucluse
Hidden in the north of Vaucluse is this tranquil reserve that’s ever-popular with families thanks to its shallow waters and children’s playground. The semi-circular beach is backed by a grassy lawn, making it ideal for those who prefer to picnic away from the sand.
Aside from walking along the bridge that spans Parsley Bay, there’s a short bushland trail that leads to a nearby waterfall and, in the summer months, you can often see eastern water dragons around the reserve. Snorkellers can spot tropical fish in the bay, safe in the knowledge that there’s a shark net at its entrance.
This eastern suburbs beach has toilets and a shower block near its carpark, as well as a kiosk where you can grab drinks and snacks throughout the day.
3. Nielsen Park, Vaucluse
To the west of Parsley Bay is Nielsen Park, a heritage-listed nature reserve that forms part of Sydney Harbour National Park. It’s renowned for its stunning harbour views and is a favourite picnic spot, with three sheltered areas and a large expanse of lawn that’s shaded by fig trees.
While the beach at Nielsen Park is ominously called Shark Beach, the presence of a shark net makes it safe for swimming. This secret eastern suburbs beach is framed by rocky headlands where you’ll find a historic gun emplacement and the remnants of Aboriginal rock art.
Not only is there a restaurant with views (and a historic kiosk attached) but Nielsen Park is also home to the 1840s-built Greycliffe House that now serves as a headquarters for the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
4. Store Beach, Manly
On the opposite side of the harbour is Store Beach, named due to its historic role in being the place where ships would unload their provisions for the Quarantine Station. Fringed by bushland, this sheltered stretch of sand is only accessible from the water, which means it’s never as busy as many of Manly’s other beaches.
You can rent kayaks from the Manly Wharf and make the 20-minute paddle to Store Beach, which provides a peaceful setting for picnicking, snorkelling and swimming. Shallow waters and scenic views only add to the appeal of this secret eastern suburbs beach as a place to relax throughout the week.
As Store Beach is a breeding ground for fairy penguins, access is prohibited after dusk, so be sure to have your kayak loaded and be paddling out by then.
5. Milk Beach, Vaucluse
Nestled below the lush lawns of Strickland House, Milk Beach is an isolated secret eastern suburbs beach within Sydney Harbour National Park. It offers spectacular views of the city skyline but remains blissfully undiscovered by tourists (and most locals)!
You can swim in the refreshing waters of Hermit Bay, snorkel around the fringing rocks or cast a fishing line to see what’s biting. While there are no cafes or shower facilities at the beach, there are picnic tables in the parkland behind the beach.
When visiting Milk Beach, it’s worth exploring the gardens of Strickland House, a Victorian Italianate-style mansion that was designed by the prominent local architect John Hilly in the 19th century.
6. Kutti Beach, Vaucluse
Kutti is a secret beach in the eastern suburbs that has somewhat of an exclusive feel about it. But don’t be fooled – it’s definitely accessible to the public!
A narrow staircase leads down to the small stretch of sand, which is backed by towering palm trees, upmarket residences and a scattering of boathouses. It boasts beautiful harbour views and emerald green waters that are undeniably inviting on a hot summer’s day.
Compared to nearby Watsons Bay, the atmosphere at Kutti Beach is much more relaxed, with most people coming here to read and sunbathe. Keep in mind that there aren’t any facilities here (such as toilets and cafes), so plan your visit accordingly.
7. Congwong Beach, La Perouse
Forming part of Sydney’s Kamay Botany National Park, Congwong Beach is a south-facing stretch of sand with shallow waters that make it popular with local families. That being said, it’s still relatively unknown and is the perfect place to head in La Perouse if you want to escape the powerful waves that are experienced at the nearby east-facing beaches.
A 100-metre-long path leads down to Congwong Beach where you can spend the day soaking up the magnificent views of Bare Island (a popular snorkelling spot). There are rocky outcrops at either end of this secret eastern suburbs beach for fishing and leisurely hiking trails lead along the clifftops to nearby Henry Head and Cape Banks, a spectacular spot for whale watching.
Around the corner from Congwong Beach lies Little Congowong Beach, which is a nudist beach. This beach is far from tranquil and gets pretty crowded, particularly in the summer.
8. Yarra Bay Beach, Botany Bay
Just a stone’s throw to the north of Congwong Beach is Yarra Bay, which is unique amongst Sydney’s eastern suburbs beaches as it faces southwest. The beach is framed by Yarra Point and Bumborah Point and is located adjacent to the Yarra Bay Sailing Club.
While the beach overlooks the busiest commercial port in Australia (you can even see a container terminal from the sand), it doesn’t detract from the beauty of Yarra Bay Beach with its impossibly blue waters.
Historic Yarra Bay House overlooks the beach and is home to the Aboriginal Land Council, with the entire area having a strong Indigenous history. A sandstone monument nearby commemorates the landing of Governor Philip in 1788, with local Aboriginal people directing him to a water source that’s now known as Bunnerong Creek.
9. Gordons Bay, Coogee
Wedged between Coogee and Clovelly Beach, Gordons Bay is a deserved inclusion on our list of secret beaches in the eastern suburbs. It can only be accessed along the Coastal Walkway (which keeps visitor numbers down) and is backed by native bushland that provides habitat for local wildlife.
A highlight of visiting Gordons Bay is exploring its underwater world, with the offshore reef attracting both snorkellers and scuba divers. The Gordons Bay Underwater Nature Trail is a 600-metre-long route that leads around sand flats and kelp forests and can be explored while diving or from the surface on a clear day.
10. Little Bay Beach
Protected from the large swells that impact many of Sydney’s eastern suburbs beaches is Little Bay Beach, a golden cove that’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling. It’s accessed via a timber staircase that leads from the Coast Chapel (a memorial to wartime nurses), with its double semi-circular shape enclosed by headlands.
Keep in mind that Little Bay Beach is not patrolled by lifeguards and the rocky ledges to the north and south can be dangerous for fishing. There are public toilets and change rooms located halfway down the staircase and there’s a cafe in the nearby Prince Henry Centre. Parking at Little Bay Beach is limited and fills up fast, so it’s best to arrive early.
11. Chinaman’s Beach, Mosman
Just one kilometre from busy Balmoral Beach is this much quieter stretch of sand, which is backed by the green oasis of Rosherville Reserve. Apparently, it takes its name from the Chinese residents who once hosted produce markets here.
Chinaman’s Beach stretches for 230 metres, so there’s always somewhere to throw down your towel and pitch the beach umbrella for a day on the sand. You can swim and splash in the shallow waters while watching the yachts sailing through Shell Cove or join other beachgoers in kayaking and standup paddleboarding.
While there are no cafes or kiosks at this secret eastern suburbs beach, there are several places to eat and drink in the surrounding area.
12. Collins Flat Beach, Manly
Tucked between North Head and Little Manly Cove is this hidden gem, which is accessed along a short walking trail that leads through the surrounding bushland. While it’s just a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of Manly Beach, Collins Flat Beach feels a world away and is the perfect spot to picnic or spend an afternoon reading beside the water.
Young kids will love splashing around in the shallow waters while older kids can launch themselves off the aptly named “jump rock”. It’s important to be aware that Collins Flat Beach is home to a colony of little penguins and the area along the back of the beach remains off-limits to respect their habitat.
Whilst there are numerous secret eastern suburbs beaches that are a must-see, there are also a few other secret beaches in Sydney, slightly beyond the eastern suburbs worth mentioning…
13. Resolute Beach, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase
Hidden in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park to the north of Sydney is Resolute Beach, a secluded stretch of sand that offers beautiful views towards the Barrenjoey Headland.
It can be accessed along two walking trails – one of which starts from the Resolute Picnic Area and the other from the West Head Lookout. An Aboriginal Heritage Walk also leads through the area, taking you to ancient rock art and engraving sites. Combined, they form the six-kilometre-long Resolute Beach Circuit Walk, which can be completed in around three hours.
A steep set of stairs leads down to Resolute Beach, with golden sands where you can enjoy a refreshing swim before continuing along the trail.
14. Jibbon Beach, Bundeena
Jibbon Beach takes its name from the Dharawal word meaning “sandbar at low tide” and lies within Sydney’s magnificent Royal National Park. Backed by shady trees, it’s the starting point for several short walking trails that lead to dramatic seaside cliffs and Aboriginal rock art sites. For those after a longer hike, it’s also located along the multi-day Coast Track that connects Bundeena and Otford.
Stretching for 700 metres, north-facing Jibbon Beach is ideal for swimming but it’s important to know that the water gets deep just a few metres out and there are no lifeguards on patrol. If you want a day of beach hopping, connected along the Jibbon Loop Track are Little Jibbon Beach (an unofficial nudist beach) and the rocky cove of Shelley Beach.
15. Paradise Beach, Avalon
This tiny beach on Pittwater lives up to its name, with lovely views of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park just across the water and of the yachts bobbing just offshore. It features a shark-netted enclosure for safe swimming and shallow waters, as well as a row of boathouses that add to its charm.
There are no toilets, changing rooms or playgrounds at Paradise Beach but there is a healthy cafe, Forage Wholefoods, just a few minutes drive away. The only drawback of this eastern suburbs beach is that parking is very limited and catching the bus that stops nearby may be a better option.