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Top 5 Sydney beaches: Off the beaten track

Back in April 2008 (wow, yes that IS a long time ago, and yes I do feel old) Jake, my brother Simon and I packed our bags and headed off on a five month travelling stint around India, China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Not only was it one of the most incredible few months of my life, it also culminated in Jake and I settling down and living in the glorious city of Sydney for two and a half years.

Now, honestly, can you think of a city that has more of a “wow” factor than Sydney? It’s quite unique in that it’s full to the brim of absolutely stunning beaches which are easily accessible from the city centre. Now, I know everyone’s heard of Bondi – but quite honestly, it’s my least favourite Sydney beach! It’s so busy and the waves are too rough for swimming – plus, I don’t like all the posers (and English backpackers!) In its defence, it does look rather spectacular when viewed from the famous Icebergs swimming pool…

Bondi beach viewed from the Icebergs Swimming Club – not one of my favourite beaches though

In my opinion, some of the very best beaches are a little more off the beaten track and as a result are a lot less busy and a lot more charming. We went back to Sydney in December 2018 and I snapped these photos of my five favourites:

Milk Beach

During my two and a half years of living in Sydney I’d never heard of Milk Beach. However, before our most recent trip, Google Maps revealed this little gem to me as I was browsing potential places to visit around Sydney. I was moving my finger over Vaucluse and Shark Beach when I noticed a little beach next to it called Milk Beach. I quickly Googled it and was blown away by how pretty it is. I’m a little annoyed I hadn’t known about it when I lived there, but then it made it even more special when we went there for the first time this year.

You reach the beach via the 324 or the 325 bus to Watsons Bay from Edgecliff Station. After getting off at Nielsen Park you then walk left and follow signs for the Hermitage Foreshore Walk. You take a scenic boardwalk along the harbour until you see the beach peeking out from the trees infront of you. It’s the only beach in Sydney (I think) where you can see both the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge at the same time. It’s truly special.

Shark Beach

Instead of taking a left after getting off the beach at Nielsen Park, to get to Shark Beach you simply walk straight ahead through the park itself. I think we went to this beach more than any other – It was our parents’ ultimate favourite. I’m cheating a little by saying it’s a secret beach, or off the beaten track, as it can actually get quite busy (the photos above are from the last day of the Christmas school holidays so it was rammed!) but it’s not somewhere a lot of tourists would necessarily go to.

Highlights of this beach are the fantastic traditional 1930s Bathers Pavillion where you can get changed into your cossie, and the lovely restaurant, The Nielsen, where I devoured the delicious pomegranate and quinoa salad you can see above. The beach itself is great because the water is calm and there’s a shark net, so you feel safe swimming.

Murray Rose Pool (Red Leaf)

This small harbour beach was the closest one to where we lived in Rushcutter’s Bay so we visited it most weekends. We absolutely loved it. When we went back to Sydney this year, I felt goosebumps on my neck when I walked down the stairs and saw the golden sand and little boats bobbing around in the water again. It brought back so many happy memories of lazy sunny sundays.

There’s lots of shade here and a little cafe for refreshments so it has everything you need. Again, you reach it via 324 or 325 from Edgecliff – but you get off just after Double Bay as you go up the hill.

Parsley Bay Reserve

It’s not necessarily the Sydney beach of choice for sunning yourself but I think there’s something truly magical about this little reserve, Parsley Bay. It forms part of a gorgeous scenic walk from Vaucluse House right up to Watsons Bay along the shoreline and you reach it via a beautiful little white wooden suspension bridge.

Unfortunately it doesn’t look as pretty as usual in the pictures above as it was a slightly grey day, but believe me, it’s stunning. Believe it or not, this was the first time I’d actually made it onto the beach itself – I made it my mission to do so during this Sydney visit!

Balmoral Beach

Last but definitely not least – Balmoral is possibly my favourite beach in Sydney. It’s not the easiest to get to from the city but it’s well worth the journey. The easiest way is to get the ferry to Taronga Zoo then get a bus to Military Road in Mosman, from which you can walk down to the beach in around 15 minutes. It’s a beautiful scenic walk too, and great for house spotting!

The beach itself is postcard perfect with its headland jutting into the water oozing with bushes and trees. Its lined with countless restaurants, fish and chip shops and cafes selling some great quality food – take note of my delicious toasted banana bread slathered with butter. The perfect Sydney breakfast at the perfect Sydney beach.

Have I missed any gorgeous secret Sydney beaches off the list? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll try and head there next time I’m in the city.

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A foodie, a traveller, a writer and a journalist. The Aubergine Kitchen blog is a place for my musings on foodie events, restaurants, recipes, travels and living in beautiful Yorkshire.

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