At the slightest hint of sunshine, Sydneysiders and tourists alike make a beeline for the beach. There are well over 100 beaches in and around the city, but finding one that offers peace and quiet can seem like an impossible task. But it’s not, really – you just need to be smart about timing and be prepared to venture off the beaten track, according to Tasmin Waby (Lonely Planet’s Destination Editor for Australia and the Pacific).
1. Go early
Beat the heat, and the hordes, by heading down to Sydney’s most iconic surf spot, Bondi Beach, early in the morning. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise over the ocean and you’ll be sharing the experience with locals surfing, running, and saluting the sun. Bondi gets busier as the day wears on. By midday, traffic can clog the main routes down to the shoreline in summer, so book an early lunch on the terrace at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, popular for its fresh-from-the-water seafood, and then get out.
2. Try off-peak season
This may surprise many first-time travellers to Sydney, but autumn is a great time to hit the beach and avoid the crowds seen in the height of summer. Sydney is blessed with a fairly temperate climate so it can stay sunny and reasonably warm (reaching as high as 20°C some days) right into May and June. It takes some months for the ocean to match the temperature on land, which means the sea can still be surprisingly warm even if you’re not baking hot in the sun.
3. Find hidden spots
Sydney is famous for its surf beaches but there are many secluded hideaway beaches dotted all around the harbour. Some are more easily accessed (and therefore popular) than others, but our top tip is the relatively little-known Lady Martins Beach at Point Piper, a long, narrow stretch of sand tucked between the chichi suburbs of Double Bay and Rose Bay. On the northern side of Sydney, look for Balmoral Beach, near Mosman, an excellent beach for families, with a netted enclosed swimming area. Plus, Collins Beach at Manly, a long circuitous walk from the Manly ferry pier where you may well find yourself alone for the day.
4. Beyond Bondi
If you do hit Bondi at peak hour and don’t fancy lying elbow-to-elbow on the sand with the person next to you, take a stroll instead, heading south to Bronte and Coogee via a cliff-side walking path. Beyond Bondi, there are more ocean pools for the less confident swimmers to take a paddle. In these beachside rock pools, you’re protected from sharks (we hope!) and the swell, but you’re still swimming in ocean water with the same breathtaking views of sandstone headlands, sea birds and the occasional band of whales ploughing their migration routes along the Pacific.
5. Follow the locals
An even better option, if you want to avoid the high-traffic beaches altogether, is Maroubra Beach, another few headlands further south of Coogee, where you’ll find more locals than tourists. Maroubra means “like thunder” in the local Indigenous language and it is Australia’s second National Surfing Reserve. If you just want to sit on the sand and watch the action, the breaks here provide plenty for skilled surfers. First-timers can hire a surfboard and sign up for lessons at the local surf school.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.