Coastal Vote: A Beach-Lover's Guide to Sydney

Hit the waves on your next trip to Sydney and explore the best beaches around the city with our guide
Hit the waves on your next trip to Sydney and explore the best beaches around the city with our guide | © Road Trip with Raj / Unsplash.com
Doug ONeill

From Coogee Bay to Bondi Beach and modish Manly, we’ve tracked down the best wave-side stays, restaurants and rooftop bars for soaking up Australia’s surfside city.

While the spectrum of cultural attractions, fine restaurants, designer-savvy hotels and landmarks in Sydney often steal much of the limelight, it’s the city’s impressive coastline of 70 beaches that woos sun-seeking travellers eager to escape the grip of winter elsewhere. After all, when the mercury sinks at home, who can resist the city’s mix of sunshine, sand, surfer hangouts and scenic swimming spots? Here’s how to explore the beaches and bays of Sydney in style.

1. Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

Boutique Hotel

Seaside themed double bedroom at Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel with view of the ocean
Courtesy of Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel / Expedia.com

This 32-room boutique hotel overlooks Sydney Harbour in Watsons Bay, minutes from a handful of sandy white beaches. While there’s plenty of coastal culture to soak up near the hotel – Watsons Bay headland, Hornby and Macquarie lighthouses – the food in the resort’s Beach Club will keep you from wandering far: squid-ink linguine, cuttlefish in a cherry-tomato ragu with mussels, and the local specialty, Watsons Seafood Pie.

2. Doyles on the Beach, Watsons Bay

Restaurant, Seafood

View over the beach at Watsons Bay, Australias oldest fishing village and a thriving local inlet popular with splendid views, delightful park and fresh seafood
© Stanciuc1 / Depositphotos.com

This Watson Bay landmark has been in the Doyle family since 1948. Sitting on the end of the rocky South Head peninsula, the restaurant offers excellent views of the city across Sydney Harbour. The Doyles have built their reputation on good seafood – starters include jumbo prawns, Tasmanian mussels and Mornay oysters, while mains feature seafood paella for two, various filets (snapper, flathead, barramundi) and fresh lobster. Chefs whip up innovative salads, such as the smoked pumpkin and goat cheese with beetroot and pine nuts, and the wine list is extensive.

3. Hotel Ravesis

Hotel

Two pink linen chairs in room with balcony overlooking the beach
Courtesy of Hotel Ravesis / Expedia.com

Surfer-summoning Hotel Ravesis is a stand-out in Bondi Beach – and not just because of the flamingo-pink touches to the exterior. Indeed, an ethos of coastal hospitality washes up in all areas of this hip hangout, from the 12 boutique rooms, painted in whipped whites, ice-cream pinks and sandy tans, to the luxurious apartments, with Marshall speakers, kitchens and board space – perfect if you’re planning a longer stay. An upscale nightclub, restaurant and beachside bar serve seafood, salads and spirited cocktails to sandy folk who’ve strolled up off the shore.

4. Salty’s Bar

Bar, Australian

Bar area at Saltys Bondi with an aztec rug and warm lighting
© Salty's Bondi

Staying in Bondi? Make a beeline for Salty’s the moment you step off the plane – unpacking can wait. Salty’s is a welcoming neighbourhood beach bar, nightclub (on Fridays) and restaurant all in one. The decor celebrates the old-school surf and skate culture that have made Bondi so famous. The menu offers modern comfort food in the form of Baja fish tacos, Mexican salad, mac ‘n’ cheese balls and beer-battered fish and chips – not to mention the Big Salty burger, which gets a splash of colour from the melted double cheese and pink sauce.

5. Hotel Steyne

Hotel

Outdoor dining area at Hotel Steyne with view of the beach
Courtesy of Hotel Steyne / Expedia.com

There’s a lot to enjoy at this historic hotel – a fixture on now-fashionable Manly Beach since 1859. The top floor is home to Blacket’s Whiskey Bar, ideal for intimate evenings spent nursing late-night drams. The brightly painted guest rooms in pastels and primary shades have all the post-beach necessities – fridges for storing beers, Eloura toiletries for showers – plus windows onto Manly Beach. The Beach Bar and Bistro menu is eclectic: Tasmanian ocean trout with shaved fennel and spelt, artisan pizzas and baked pumpkin. But the clincher is the sea-spying roof terrace, dotted with pink parasols, served by cocktails and serenaded by regular live-music nights.

6. Flow Mocean

Yoga Studio

Young woman doing yoga on sup board with paddle. Yoga pose, side view - concept of harmony with the nature.
© Nazarov Dnepr / Depositphotos.com

Who knew you could combine yoga with coastal sightseeing – and all before brunch? If you’re a yoga-loving kayaker, depart from the Manly Kayak Centre Wharf at 8am for a half-hour paddle to a peaceful spot on Manly Beach. Upon arrival, you’ll spread out on the sand, open yourself up to the calming sounds of the waves and begin the yoga part of the tour – set to the soundtrack of chirping birds, with a mix of hatha, vinyasa and power-flow styles to start your day in serene style.

7. Coogee Bay Hotel

Independent Hotel

Room at Coogee Bay Hotel with yellow velveet sofa, a desk and a balcony
Courtesy of Coogee Bay Hotel / Expedia.com
It’s all about choice at this cucumber-cool Coogee Bay stay that’s been a fixture of the seaside village community for 150 years. Guests can choose one of the retro-chic rooms upstairs from the main bar, or book into the boutique hotel next door, where turquoise walls and oversized polka-dots are popular. Similarly, there’s ample choice for eating and drinking: the Mediterranean-inspired Marrah serves sustainable food, while the Garden is great for al fresco dinners of gourmet pizzas and shareable starters. Don’t miss the Balcony Bar for cocktails overlooking Coogee beach.

8. Underwater Scooter Tours

Building

Two divers with an Underwater Scooter
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Get close-up views of underwater marine life in Gordon’s Bay, located between Coogee and Clovelly beaches. Just hang onto your scooter – wet suits and instruction provided – for a 90-minute guided underwater excursion along the 600m (1,968ft) underwater trail in the Gordon’s Bay marine reserve. Tours are geared to beginners, as well as advanced swimmers and divers. Expect to see eastern blue groper, octopus, cuttlefish, various species of rays and, quite possibly, sea turtles and dolphins.

9. Sydney Harbour Kayaks

Building

Sydney Harbour skyline with people paddling in the water
© Lucidwaters / Depositphotos.com

A morning kayak tour with a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, plus a coffee and light breakfast? What a perfect way to escape the winter blahs you left at home. The two-hour tour is mostly through the Middle Harbour, with options to paddle to the Grotto Point Lighthouse or over to Cobbler’s Beach. You’ll embark from Smith Boat Shed on Parriwi Road in the suburb of Mosman on the lower North Shore of Sydney.

For more options on where to stay, discover our guide to the best hotels in Bondi, Sydney, and book now on Culture Trip.

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