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Sydney's Other Golden Sands
Sydney Beaches

by Sarah Shuckburgh

Sarah Shuckburgh finds that there is a beach to suit everyone in Sydney.

Palm Beach
For the rich and famous

The lighthouse on the headland at the northern end of Palm Beach will be familiar to followers of Home And Away but, despite its fame, the beach is less crowded - and even prettier - than many others. Perched at the limit of Sydney's northern suburbs, the beach boasts a long sweep of coarse, reddish sand, backed with palms. Beyond the strand are the homes of Australia's rich and famous - private seaplanes fly regularly between here and Sydney harbour. Best place to rub shoulders with the locals is at Jonah's restaurant (9974 5599).

Whale beach
Surf the wedge

Less fashionable than Palm Beach, but dotted with some of Sydney's most expensive properties, Whale Beach has spectacular surf and dramatic cliff scenery. On the drive home from work, surfers loiter on the cliffs above Whale, assessing the surf and looking for the famous "wedge" - swell that on certain tides bounces off the rocks and produces a wave twice the size of most Sydney breaks. Eat at De Beers, where the house favourite is the Valrhona chocolate cake.

Avalon Beach, just to the south, is even less built up, with grassy sandhills between the beach and the road, surf as good as any in Sydney, and a quiet and informal air - barefoot customers are the norm in the tiny supermarket.

Shelly beach
Rock pools and bushwalks

Shelly Beach occupies an idyllic little bay, backed by the dense greenery of the bush. Facing north (towards the sun), it is sheltered from the wind, and its waves are gentle. Its rock pools and shady nooks attract families, but not huge crowds. Le Kiosk restaurant (9977 4122) provides a superb lunch, which can be walked off by taking one of many tracks through the bush on North Head. Getting here is a delight in itself - take the ferry from Sydney's Circular Quay to Manly and it's a short walk to Manly's ocean beach and then south to Shelly Bay.

Manly Cove
Sydney's first seaside resort

Manly is one of the oldest names in colonial Australia. In 1788, the year transportation began, Governor Arthur Phillips named the cove to honour the "confidence and manly bearing" of its indigenous people. Day-trippers have taken the ferry here since 1850. For years, Manly's motto has been "Seven miles from Sydney and 1,000 miles from care". A fun fair, Oceanworld aquarium, and other seaside attractions create a cheerful holiday-resort feel. Eat at the Brazil (9977 3825), a relaxed cafe by day and sophisticated restaurant by night. The Manly Scenic Walkway is a great five-mile coastal path that winds through sub-tropical rainforest, coves and deserted beaches.

Balmoral Cove
Kensington on sea

This is a peaceful, leafy area of old money still stuck in the 1920s. Concerts are held in the bandstand on summer Sundays and the esplanade retains an air of calm and dignity. Four-wheel drives - a rare modern import - carry designer-clad children and Labradors to the elegant terracotta-roofed houses that perch on the bush-ringed hillside. The exclusive, wholesome beach - netted against sharks - is popular with families, and has windsurfing, sailing and canoeing. Eat on the esplanade at the chic Bathers' Pavilion (9969 5050) or award-winning Watermark Restaurant (9968 3433).

Camp Cove
A favourite with divers

Just inside the southern entrance to the harbour is a perfect arc of sand: Camp Cove. Small and pretty, it is fringed with palm trees and surrounded by impenetrable bush - though the suburbs, as elsewhere, are only just out of sight. The clear, unruffled water makes this one of Sydney's best beaches for diving. Just south lies Watson's Bay, home to Doyles (9337 1350), a celebrated seafood restaurant. Just north is the even smaller Lady Bay, a favourite with nudists.

Shark Island
In your own tinny

For the doughty, some lovely beaches snuggle on tiny islands in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Of these, the best is Shark Island. No ferry service operates, so take a water taxi or motor boat - known as a "tinny" - hired from Rose Bay. It takes five minutes to chug to the island, and an ideal mooring point is Neilson Bay, with a large netted swimming area and great fishing (but little shade). The island has other isolated beaches, but some restricted zones. Take a picnic and plenty of water - there are no shops, but, if you're lucky, the floating ice-cream man will sail past.

For beautiful people

Known locally as Glamarama: for people whose hair is never tangled, and whose limbs are perfectly toned. The coastal path here is thronged with elegant power-walkers and joggers who pause only to flex their muscles on cliff-top gym equipment. The surf club runs yoga sessions, and the beach cafe serves exotic juices and health foods for the diet-conscious clientele. A luxury waiter service provides chaise longues, umbrellas, cold towels, spring water and snacks.

Laid-back and friendly

Coogee has a mellow atmosphere that appeals to locals who have tired of Bondi. The bay's green headlands provide shelter from the wind, and the waves are smaller than at other beaches. Two saltwater swimming pools nestle at the southern end, one of them a secluded pool for women and children only. The Coogee Bay Hotel is a magnet for British backpackers, and cafés nearby overflow with laid-back, sparsely clad customers. Local favourites include the Barzura Café (9665 5546) and the Beach Pit (9665 0068).

Rose Bay
Fly to a deserted beach

Find a secluded beach by chartering a seaplane from Rose Bay and fly across the harbour with a bird's-eye view of the translucent blues and greens of the ocean, the jagged fingers of dark green bush, and the surf rolling towards each cove and bay. The seaplane can drop you off at any beach (with a picnic hamper) and pick you up later. Contact Palm Beach Seaplanes (; from £120 per person).

First published by the Telegraph

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