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Best beaches in NSW – plan your trip!

Australians are starting to travel around our regional areas again and it seems timely to remember that the best beaches in NSW are scattered all the way up and down the coast. We really don’t need to travel far to find a fantastic stretch of sand.

Grid of photos of some of NSW best beaches

From the Queensland border stretching all the way south to Victoria these are our top picks for your next beach day or short stay in New South Wales, Australia.

Fingal Head, North Coast

We love the NSW North Coast. It is much quieter and has a totally different vibe than the Gold Coast to the north across the Queensland border. The Fingal Head beach and headland are gorgeous yet we were the only ones there on this sunny morning.

Fingal Head
Fingal Head Beach looking out to Cook Island

Take a walk along the water’s edge, watching you don’t stub your toe on these interesting but sharp rocks as you go. At the end you can scramble up to Echidna rock and the Giants Causeway, the remains of a lava flow into the sea here from the now extinct Tweed Volcano.

From here you can access the headland with a lighthouse and great views of the whales passing during their seasonal migration. If you prefer not to climb up you can drive the another carpark up on the headland and explore from there.

You can regularly see dolphins play in the surf below the headland between the mainland and Cook Island offshore. 

Fingal Head is around a 90-minute drive from Brisbane and a great option for a day trip.

Byron Bay, North Coast

I did cheat a little with this one, there isn’t just the one beach called Byron Bay. There are actually 9 stretches of sand that make up the Byron coastline and they all have a lot going for them.

Wategos Beach in Byron Bay

It’s a 2-hour drive from Brisbane to Byron Bay but I’d highly suggest that if you make the trip out to Australia’s easternmost point that you allow at least 3 days to explore and spend a little time on each of those 9 beaches.

If I had to pick just one I think it would have to be Wategos Beach. This stunning cove of soft sand and turquoise waters has a green backdrop of pandanus trees offering a little natural shade. 

The bay is well equipped with the usual facilities (toilets, showers, BBQs and tables) although like most of Byron Bay it does have metered parking. From here you can walk around the corner to Little Wategos which is a combination of areas of soft sand and large pebbles. It’s a bit further from the facilities and that makes it a quieter option if you don’t mind the walk back when you need to.

The end of Watego’s Beach is also the natural starting point for the clifftop walk up to the lighthouse and beyond which is an absolute must-do while you are in Byron Bay. The walkway does take you uphill to the highest point but it’s a good path and quite doable if you take it slowly. While you can drive close to the top and park the views and wildlife spotted from the trail and well worth the extra time and effort.

Yamba, North Coast

One of our favourite stops on a road trip up or down the east coast is Yamba and I always try to keep a couple of nights aside for our stay there although I’m quite happy to drive down for the week too.

Turners Beach in Yamba
Main Beach in Yamba

Located on the northern NSW coast it has a fabulous laid back vibe. It’s popular with surfers for its excellent surf breaks but is equally fun for families and couples. In addition to the gorgeous white sand beaches, there are rocky foreshores, coastal swimming holes and the Yurigir National Park just up the road with a wonderful coastal and clifftop walkway.

One of my favourite things here though is the wildlife, we’ve seen whales offshore, dolphins right into Hickey Beach and beside the break wall, a New Zealand fur seal resting on the rocks in the photo and then swimming out with surfers on the break. There is also wild coastal emu in the fringes of the National park, kangaroos and wallabies in behind the beaches and long-nosed bandicoot in the bush walk behind the Angourie Rainforest Retreat.

Sawtell Beach, Coffs Harbour

Look at this stunner from Emma of Our Wayfaring Life. Sawtell is on the mid-North coast and you really can’t drive up the east coast without a stop in Coffs Harbour.

Sawtell Beach is the main beach in the seaside town of Sawtell on the southern side of the regional city of Coffs Harbour. A pristine beach with soft pale golden sand and crystal clear water it is a popular swimming and surfing spot.

Sawtell beach
Sawtell Beach

The most popular and safest swimming spots, in the right conditions, is in the patrolled area in front of the surf club and at the southern end where the small isle, Sawtell Island lies just off the shore. The water between the shore and island is shallow and often calmer making it ideal for less confident swimmers and children.

Also at the southern end is the Bonville Headland, 15 metres high with views over Sawtell Beach to the headland is a great advantage point for watching whales as they migrant from July to November each year. There are also walking paths, picnic tables and over the other side is Memorial Beach Pool and Bonville Creek.

Scrub and tree covered sand dunes run along Sawtell Beach and access is via short tracks over the dunes. The easiest is a concrete path on the right hand side of the Sawtell Surf Club. 

The surf club is mid way along Sawtell Beach and it has a café called The Kiosk with stunning ocean views. There is also a grass area where you can sit, eat chips from the café and ponder. There are also public toilets and showers.

Off the beach, the Sawtell is a town with a relaxed atmosphere. The tree-lined main street is lovely and inviting with outdoor cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Sawtell, it’s beaches and headlands have been one of favourite destinations so far on our travels around Australia. 

Town Beach, Port Macquarie

Find out why Angie of Where Angie Wanders suggests this central beach in Port Macquarie makes it onto your travel plans.

One of the most popular beaches in Port Macquarie is Town Beach located just a stone’s throw from the main centre of town – hence the name!

Town Beach, Newcastle
Town Beach

This sweeping 600m expanse of golden sand is favoured by both families and surfers for its amenities. A large car park, toilets, shower facilities, an outdoor gym and skate park will keep all members of the family happy.

Town Beach is also next to Town Green, a grassy spot to relax in the shade and enjoy a picnic or outdoor ball games. Town Green is a place where campers can also pitch their RV’s or tents to make the most of the stunning oceanside view.

What really captured the essence of Town Beach for me was the breakwater with its colourful graffiti rocks. The council has allowed locals and visitors free rein to decorate these rocks with brightly painted artwork. As we walked along to the beach, we spent time looking at what people had written on their rocks. From poems to tributes to messages of hope, they were all so unique and something we had not encountered elsewhere.

At the end of the day, grab yourself a coffee from the Town Beach kiosk and hang around to catch one of Port Macquarie’s famous sunsets – you won’t regret it.

9-Mile Beach, Forster

Shandos and the super cute miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel checked out the pristine 9-Mile Beach and both gave it their recommendation for your NSW beach itinerary.

There’s no shortage of beautiful beaches in the Great Lakes Region of NSW, centred around the twin towns of Forster-Tuncurry, about 3 hours north of Sydney. But my favourite beach in the region is 9 Mile Beach, also known as Tuncurry Beach. The beach starts at Tuncurry’s break wall and stretches just under nine miles north to Black Head, backing in many parts onto Darawank Nature Reserve.

9-mile Beach Tuncurry
9-Mile Beach

 Along 9 Mile Beach the sand is blindingly white on a sunny day, squeaking underneath your feet, while the water is sparkling clear and aquamarine-hued. Be warned though that it isn’t patrolled, so be careful and don’t venture out too far.
The main reason I choose to visit 9 Mile Beach is that it is dog-friendly. The southernmost section of the beach only allows dogs on a leash during certain hours, but if you head north of the beach access track off Beach St, dogs are allowed off-leash all day long.

The beach access track isn’t just for visitors on foot, with 4WD vehicles also permitted to drive north along the beach from that point, as long as you’ve purchased a permit. It’s a seriously massive beach, and there’s plenty of room for everyone, whether you’re swimming in the waves, fishing for mullet, walking your dog or adventuring in a 4WD.

Zenith Beach, Port Stephens

Cassie lived in Australia for a year and during that time she sought out the best beaches around Port Stephens. We love her suggestion of Zenith Beach and its coastal walk for your east coast itinerary.

Zenith Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Port Stephens, New South Wales. This gorgeous, white sand bay is beautifully nestled between Mt Tomaree and Stephens Peak. It is a captivating spot for sunrise and popular with Australian photographers. Enjoy a picnic, relax on the beach, or you can also watch out for whales here! The best time to spot whales off the coast of Port Stephens is between September and November. 

Cassie at Zenith Beach
Zenith Beach

If you fancy an even quieter beach, right next to Zenith Beach is the Wreck Beach walk, which is just 2km return with lovely pathways through the bush and sandy boardwalks. The cove here is very secluded and you’ll likely be the only one there. Walk a little further along to reach Box Beach, which is a great place for swimming or surfing.

The complete Tomaree Coastal Walk (Zenith Beach to Box Beach) is around 6km return and fairly easy, with some uphill sections. Hiking enthusiasts can also continue on a further 3km to Fingal Bay! Begin the walk at Zenith Beach car park, If you’re after an amazing, panoramic view over the entire coastline, this car park is also a great place to begin the Tomaree Head Summit Walk – although that hike is a lot steeper.

Nobbys Beach, Newcastle

The recommendation from David at Travel with Little One gives a locals perspective on this popular Newcastle beach.

Newcastle NSW has several great beaches, and for many locals it’s their favourite. It’s the northernmost and longest of the Newcastle beaches, a lovely sweep of golden sand leading to the iconic Nobbys lighthouse on a low hill a kilometre or so away.

Nobbys Beach Newcastle
Nobby Beach

Nobbys is a hugely popular surf beach, and it’s next to a causeway leading out beyond the lighthouse to the Hunter River estuary. It also has a fantastic little kiosk serving food and drinks from very early morning until late.

Many Novocastrians head to Nobbys to sit down and enjoy a takeaway. I always enjoyed driving there for sunrise, especially in the winter with the sun rising behind the lighthouse.

Nobbys is close to several other Newcastle attractions. Fort Scratchley, which saw service in the Second World War, is on a hill just behind the beach, and it offers superb views over the beach and beyond to the vast Stockton beach and dunes.

It’s also only five minutes along the seafront from Newcastle’s gorgeous Art Deco Ocean Baths. This is next door to Newcastle Beach, which is a little closer to the rather quiet city centre of Newcastle. 

Bar Beach, Newcastle

There’s a second vote for the greater Newcastle area from the team at Drink tea and travel. We are definitely doing that coastal walk next time we are down there.

Located in the vibrant city of Newcastle, Bar Beach is known for its beautiful natural scenery and wealth of activities. The sandy beach has a patrolled swimming area, sheltered rock pools to splash around in, and great surf.

Bar Beach

Bar Beach has picnic areas and toilets onsite and it is close enough to the leafy streets of Newcastle that food options and amenities are never far off. From the cliff overlooking Bar Beach you’ll be treated to some of the best sunsets in the region. We were happy to stumble upon Bar Beach at sunset on our first trip to Newcastle.

Bar Beach perfectly encapsulates the laid-back beach lifestyle and community spirit that Newcastle is known for. Surf contests and other activities are regularly held at Bar Beach in Newcastle and if you ever need to stretch your legs there is a coastal walk which connects Bar Beach to the other beaches in the area. It’s a NSW beach that shouldn’t be missed!

Norah Head Beach, Central Coast

On her working holiday in Australia, Laura from Escapes Etc has got off the main tourist trail and discovered some of the hidden gems between Sydney and Brisbane.

New South Wales is home to some of the world’s most famous beaches, but one of my favourites is one that’s much more under the radar. Norah Heads is a beautiful headland on the Central Coast overlooking a small but pristine beach. This point of the coastline is where rugged meets serene.

Norah Head Beach
Norah Head

From the clifftop next to the Norah Head lighthouse you get a sweeping view over the rockpools below and all the way to Soldiers Beach. Lighthouse tours run here if you want to get an even higher look, but make sure you take the steps down to the beach which is a great spot for swimming and surfing. Keep your eyes on the horizon between April and November for a chance to spot Southern Right Whales migrating too!

If you love walking then Norah Heads has some fantastic routes to explore. The Lillypilly loop trail will take you through beautiful rainforest with views of Lake Tuggerah, or the Headland Nature Trail for more ocean views and cliff top lookouts. 

Norah Head is just 1.5 hours north of Sydney, making it a great beach for a day trip or a must-visit location for an East Coast road trip. I love the sleepiness of the Central Coast and it feels a world away from the bustle of the state’s capital.

Terrigal Beach, Central Coast

The central coast is gorgeous and Kristen over at Our Passion for Travel has some great suggestions around Terrigal Beach.

Just 90 minutes north of Sydney is Terrigal, part of the NSW Central Coast. With a beautiful beach, a sheltered lagoon and a trendy vibe, Terrigal is one of the best beach towns you can visit in New South Wales.

Terrigal Beach

The beachside area has a beautiful Esplanade that is lined with picturesque pine trees. It’s a wonderful area to catch up with friends and family, as there are loads of restaurants and rooftop bars directly opposite the beach. Spend some time in the water and then tuck into some seafood at the Terrigal Beach Fish and Chip Co. Or enjoy a few sunset cocktails at the Florida Beach Bar.

If you want to stretch your legs, a wonderful walking track hugs the coastline. Head south towards The Skillion. This oddly shaped lookout offers some dramatic cliff views. If you’re visiting from May until November, it’s the whale migration season. You might spot a whale or two along the aptly named Humpback Highway.

There are plenty of accommodation options in the area. So consider staying longer than a day. The Crowne Plaza Terrigal is a 4.5-star resort located directly opposite the beach. Grab a sea view room and enjoy a well-deserved beachside break.

Manly, Sydney

One of the things we love about Manly as a must-do for visitors to Sydney is how easy it is to get to from the central city by public transport. It’s a city you really must see from the harbour during your stay and the 30-minute ferry trip across to Manly is a great way to do that.

Shelly Beach look back across at Manly
Shelly Beach look back across at Manly

Manly Beach is one of Sydney’s most popular beaches for swimming and surfing. You ca also hire a bike and take an easy walk around the coast to the sheltered marine reserve of Shelly Bay. This spot is also great for snorkelers and divers as you can see a variety of marine life in relatively shallow depths. 

One of my favourite things to do in Manly though is to grab a seat at one of the excellent cafes along the waterfront, grab some lunch and a glass of wine and watch the world go by. We love The Pantry, it’s right on the beachfront and if you’re lucky, you can nab an open window table for that lovely sea air.

Camp Cove, Sydney

On her visit to Sydney, Rose from Where Rose Goes enjoyed the coastal walks including some of the less well-known beaches like Camp Cove.

Beautiful Camp Cove benefits from a sandy beach, peaceful location and views of Harbour Bridge across the water. It’s a real hidden gem compared to the more popular Sydney beaches.

Camp Cove in Sydney

You’ll find this beach at the tip of the peninsular connecting Old South Head Road. For a rewarding experience, arrive at Camp Cove via the Rose Bay coastal walk which takes 2 hours and passes yet more hidden beaches, all while offering unrivalled views. Begin the hike by catching a bus or the ferry to Rose Bay and locating the start of the Hermitage Foreshore Track. 

After a couple of hours hiking through woodland and spotting wildlife including lizards and kookaburras, you will arrive at Watson’s Bay. While this is the official end of the Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay walk, you shouldn’t stop yet because Camp Cove is the hidden gem of the region, not far from Watson’s. 

After relaxing at Camp Cove and grabbing a much-deserved ice cream, you can continue further still to Lady Bay Beach and Hornet Lighthouse at the very tip of the peninsular. For a beautiful day out exploring beaches, don’t miss Camp Cove and its surrounds. 

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Hannah from Hannahs Happy Adventures enjoyed her time at Bondi. It’s busy for sure, even crazy at times but there’s a reason it’s so incredibly popular.

Bondi Beach is one of the most famous beaches found in New South Wales, and after a visit it’s not hard to see why. The beach is world famous and attracts visitors from across the globe. The beach is a tourist hotspot for surfers; both experienced and beginner surfers are found here. 

Bondi Beach in Sydney
Bondi Beach

On your visit to Bondi I recommend taking a surf lesson with Let’s Go Surfing. Although be warned, it’s a busy beach especially at the weekend. You don’t want to end up needing treatment from one of Bondi’s famous lifeguards!

There’s more on offer than the famous white sands and great surf though. I recommend heading to Chachas Ice cream bar for some vegan ice cream. It’s absolutely amazing whether you’re a vegan or not. Once you’re finished here spend some time at one of Bondi’s many bars.

After you’ve finished exploring the area of Bondi, you can take a great hike from Bondi Beach to Coogee beach. You’ll pass many beautiful beaches and cliff views along the way. It’s so worth your time. Once you arrive at Coogee you can take a bus back to the city centre or Bondi.

Jervis Bay, South Coast

And then there’s the South Coast, it’s stunning from end to end. Jan from Budget Travel Talk adds the Jervis Bay Marine Park to our NSW beaches bucket list.

Some 200 km south of Sydney New South Wales, Jervis Bay is a lesson in diversity. The Bay stretches from the 90-metre tall sandstone cliffs of Beecroft Peninsula to the southern tip and sandy shores of Booderee National Park. Jervis Bay Marine Park covers most of the oceanic bay and up to 1.5 km out from the Heads.

Murrays Beach, Jervis Bay
Murrays Beach

The majority of the Beecroft Peninsula’s 5200 hectares serves as the live Beecroft Weapons Range operated by the Australian Defence Force. Visitors are allowed when the Range is not in use and there are spectacular walks with unusual views to be had. I recommend at least one walk on the Peninsula plus a visit to the pristine white lighthouse on stunning Cape Perpendicular.

Jervis Bay has a stunning array of beaches, the most celebrated being Hyams Beach. A top contender for the title of World’s Whitest Beach, the Silica Sand here is so powdery and soft that it squeaks loudly underfoot. The Village itself is tiny and is catered for solely by the Hampton’s inspired Hyams Beach Café and Store.

Hyams Beach is connected north to the beachside village of Huskisson by road or via White Sands Walk and then continuing on the Round the Bay Path. Once there visit Huskisson Pub, historic Husky Picture Theatre, Jervis Bay Maritime Museum or join a Whale or Dolphin Cruise.

South of Hyams Beach are HMAS Creswell Naval College and Booderee National Park. Before entering the park stop at the Office to collect your pass and maps.

Beaches in the National Park are connected by road, low rocky headlands and walking tracks. My favourite has to be Murrays Beach, the furthest one in the Bay. At low tide her rock ledges are great to explore and search out sea creatures, while the magical blue green water is a snorkeler’s delight.

Set aside at least three days to enjoy the diversity of Jervis Bay.

Racecourse Beach, Ulladulla

Natalie at Curious Campers sold me with this stunning photo of Racecourse Beach on the South Coast.

Racecourse beach holds fond memories for us. It was the first beach we got to on our lap of Australia. Our kids spent hours here trying to master their new boogie boards.

Racecourse beach, Ulladulla
Racecourse Beach

Racecourse Beach is 5 minutes from the centre of Ulladulla. Easiest access is from the carpark located on South Pacific Crescent. There is a lookout at the carpark which is great for watching sun rises and whale spotting.

It is a beautiful spot for a walk, the sand is clean and white. It is an unpatrolled beach so check the conditions if you’re getting in the water. For our visit, the water was turquoise blue and the surf gentle, so the kids had a ball.

The beach is cut off from shops so take your own supplies if you are staying for the day. A long sand dune runs behind the beach. On the other side is a caravan park which, if you are sneaky, is your best bet for a toilet.

Away from the beach, we went fishing at the Ulladulla docks.  While the bait went untouched, the wharf and surrounding bays are a great spot to explore. The Gondwana Coast Fossil Walk near the wharf is a fun activity for all ages.

From Ulladulla we drove 40 minutes to the Clyde River Berry Farm. It’s a beautiful spot and the berries were delicious! Ulladulla is also surrounded by national parks including  Meroo and Conjola which are great camping and walking spots.

Pebbly Beach, South Coast

In the course of his travels to Sydney, Ivan from Mind the Travel blog found time to discover the South Coast of New South Wales and meet some of our friendly local wildlife.

Located in Murramarang National Park some 4 hours drive from Sydney, Pebbly Beach is arguably the best place to see cute Eastern Grey Kangaroos in their natural surroundings. The quintessential Australian beach, Pebbly is also a camping hotspot with a good surfing beach and bush walks within the park.

Pebbly Beach
Pebbly Beach

Since the beach is situated within a national park there is an entry fee of $8 per vehicle per day. However, this fee is very worth the money. As you enter the park and reach the beach, you will soon realize the place has a rather large kangaroo population that seem to be very friendly and don’t mind hanging around with visitors trying to take a photo of them.

While Pebbly was one of the first beaches I visited in Australia, I made my way down here solely to see wild kangaroos on the beach. Both in the morning and the evenings before sunset these gracefully-built animals spend their time grazing. Make sure you visit late afternoon if you want to view kangaroos hopping around on the beach. The young joeys seem keen to be photographed, which makes for some great photos!

We hope we’ve inspired you to explore the New South Wales coast or discover some great new beaches for your bucket list. If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments below or perhaps you have a favourite beach of your own you feel belongs on this list? Let us know, we’d love to check it out.

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Poster for best beaches in NSW
Poster for best beaches in NSW

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