Last updated: November 29, 2022
One of the advantages of living in New South Wales is that the state has a very long coastline, home to some of Australia’s prettiest beaches.
Some of those beaches are quite literally famous all over the world, while others are still very much undiscovered.
With so many great beaches in New South Wales to choose from, there is of course no such thing as a top 10 or a top 15.
But the below list of twenty incredible beaches is what we believe to be a good representation of the many beaches we have on offer in NSW, Australia’s most beautiful state.
Top 20 NSW Beaches
From north to south, here is our top 20 best beaches in New South Wales.
Underneath each photo is a link to the map location of the beach to help you work out where it is.
1. Byron Bay’s Main Beach
With lots of great beaches to choose from in Byron Bay, the iconic Main Beach is Byron Bay’s most popular strip of sand.
Conveniently situated directly in front of the town’s centre, Main Beach is great for swimming with usually very mild waves.
A large grassy park area right behind the beach is a popular venue, with great facilities such as picnic tables, barbeques, toilet blocks and playgrounds. It attracts locals and visitors of all sorts and backgrounds, creating a pleasantly harmonious atmosphere.
Byron Bay’s main beach is patrolled by surf life savers year-round, with their clubhouse located in the centre of the beach. Established in 1907, the Byron Bay Surf Club is one of Australia’s oldest surf life saving clubs.
2. Wategos Beach
By many considered to be the prettiest beach in the Byron Bay area, Wategos Beach is a pleasantly sheltered strip of sand with a relaxed vibe and excellent facilities.
One of the reasons Wategos is so popular is because it produces a friendly surf, suitable for learner surfers.
Located between Cape Byron and the Fisherman’s Lookout, below the Byron Bay Lighthouse, Wategos Beach can easily be accessed by foot via the Cape Byron walking track.
Limited parking is available along Marine Parade just behind the beach.
3. Bennetts Beach
Located on the Myall Coast in Hawks Nest just north of Newcastle, Bennetts Beach is a beautiful 14 km long strip of white sand.
The beach sits between Seal Rocks in the north and Yakaba Headland in the south, and is popular with surfers, swimmers and sunbathers alike.
The busiest part of Bennetts Beach is at the southern end which is also where the local Surf Life Saving Club, the Tea Gardens Hawks Nest SLSC, is located.
You will find various cafes and restaurants in the area behind the beach, where you can go for lunch or a coffee.
Dogs are also welcome, and they can go off-leash a few kilometres north of the main beach, and south towards Yacaaba Headland.
4. Caves Beach
Located in the popular Lake Macquarie region, Caves Beach is best known for its network of sea caves that can be explored at low tide.
There is much more to this beach than just the caves though, with great swimming conditions, a surf life savings club, picnic tables, toilet facilities, and cafes and restaurants nearby.
The caves are located at the southern end of the beach and can be explored along a walking track when the tide is low.
If you’re looking for a more quiet and secluded beach experience, the northern section of the beach is the best spot to relax away from the crowds.
5. Avoca Beach
Avoca Beach is a coastal suburb on the Central Coast with a popular beach that goes by the same name.
It’s located just south of Terrigal, another popular beach and tourist destination on the Central Coast, but Avoca Beach is a bit quieter and perhaps a little prettier.
The beach itself is patrolled, with great surfing spots, good swimming conditions, a rock pool, and also a fenced playground for the kids.
What’s great is that there are lots of cafes and restaurants in the area where you can go for a coffee and a bite, in addition to other things to do, such as hiking, kayaking and stand-up paddling.
6. Umina Beach
Escape the crowds at Sydney’s popular beaches and visit Umina Beach on the Central Coast instead. Overlooking Brisbane Water and Broken Bay, Umina Beach is perfect for swimming and other water-based activities.
Umina Beach is a long strip of sand facing Broken Bay with views of Box Head in the east and Lion Island and Barrenjoey Headland in the south.
The northern part of Umina Beach is actually called Ocean Beach which also has its own surf life saving club.
Umina’s long sandy beach is one of the most popular destinations on the Central Coast, great for families to spend a day and for surfers catching waves.
While it does get busy here on summer days, there is usually enough room a bit further away from the main area where the Umina SLSC resides.
7. Maitland Bay Beach
The isolated and secluded beach at Maitland Bay can only be accessed by following a walking track through the bush, and for that reason, you may just have the whole beach to yourself when you get there.
The easiest and most logical way to head down to Maitland Bay Beach is via the walking track that starts at the Bouddi National Park Information Centre.
From there, the steep 1 km trail descends through thriving bushland heading all the way to the beach.
Once you’re there, it’s highly recommended to keep walking along the beach to Bouddi Point where you can discover the remains of an old shipwreck.
8. Palm Beach
The Palm Beach peninsula is one of the most well-known beach suburbs in New South Wales, located 41 kilometres north of the Sydney CBD.
Due to its somewhat remote location, it’s a reasonably quiet beach suburb compared to, for example, Bondi Beach or Manly Beach. This is a different story during sunny weekends though, when the area fills up very quickly with day-trippers.
The water at the beach facing the ocean can be a bit rough sometimes due to strong winds, whereas the smaller beach facing Pittwater on the other side of the peninsula has much quieter water and is perfect for a relaxing swim.
If you’re planning to spend a weekend in this beautiful part of Sydney, be sure to check out our guide to things to do in Palm Beach with lots of insider tips.
9. Whale Beach
Whale Beach is a picturesque, 600 metres long strip of sand in the Northern Beaches region, close to Palm Beach.
Not as well known as its bigger neighbour, Whale Beach is usually much quieter and has a pleasantly secluded atmosphere.
Just like many other beaches in Sydney, Whale Beach also has a man-made rock pool. Whale Beach Rock Pool, one of Sydney’s prettiest rock pools, is 25 metres long and is located at the southern end of the beach.
Whale Beach is surrounded by two 40 metres high sandstone headlands, Little Head at the north end and Careel head at the southern end of the beach. It’s worth exploring those headlands, as the views are absolutely stunning.
10. Manly Beach
Manly and Bondi are perhaps Sydney’s most popular beaches and opinions are divided on which one is the best. But because they are so different we believe they both deserve a spot in this list of best beaches in NSW.
Manly has two main beaches, one facing the Harbour with mostly calm waters and the other one facing the ocean with stronger waves.
Just around the corner of Manly’s main beach is Shelly Beach, a small secluded strip of sand with calm water and excellent amenities.
The best way to get to Manly is by ferry from Circular Quay. Alternatively, if you’re feeling energetic, the Spit to Manly walking track is another, yet more challenging way to arrive at Manly Beach.
11. Balmoral Beach
Balmoral Beach is a picturesque Sydney Middle Harbour beach with calm waters, a swimming enclosure and excellent picnic spots.
The Esplanade right behind the beach has lots of cafes and restaurants on offer, while the grassy areas are perfect for a picnic or a nice stroll.
Due to its sheltered location, the water always seems to be calm which makes it great for swimming. You can also be a little more active and go stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, or snorkelling.
There are also lots of hiking options in the area, with one walking track leading to Taronga Zoo on the other side of Sydney Harbour.
12. Bondi Beach
This may come as no surprise, but we do want to include Bondi Beach in this list of best beaches in NSW.
Some people love this beach, others hate it, but the fact remains that Bondi is an icon in Australia, with great swimming and surfing conditions, lots of cafes and restaurants, a large picnic area and even an outdoor gym.
A special mention should also go to Bronte Beach, just around the corner from Bondi. Bronte Beach is a lot smaller than Bondi Beach and also a bit more family-friendly.
Plus, Bronte has a beautiful park situated right behind the beach and a lovely strip of cafes across the road.
13. Coogee Beach
Often referred to as the smaller version of Bondi Beach, Coogee is a popular 400m strip of sand facing Coogee Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. While not the best beach for surfing, the water is usually very suitable for swimming.
Goldstein Reserve, the large parkland area located right behind the beach, has great facilities such as tables, barbecues, picnic shelters and trees that provide plenty of shade.
South of Coogee Beach are two private baths that are also worth visiting. Surrounded by coastal vegetation and grassed areas, the McIver’s Baths complex consists of a large concrete sea pool, a sunbathing area, change rooms and a small clubhouse. McIver’s is one of the last remaining women’s only sea pools in Australia.
A bit further south you will find Wylie’s Baths, a large ocean tidal pool that has been in operation since 1907. For a small entrance fee, you can hang out here all day and enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean and Wedding Cake Island.
14. Maroubra Beach
One of Sydney’s most popular beaches for surfing is Maroubra Beach, located just south of Coogee.
The beach is long and wide so that there’s pretty much always a free spot to put down your towel, even on warm and sunny days.
Maroubra Beach is surrounded by open space. To the north of the beach are Jack Vanny Memorial Park, Mahon Pool and the rocky headland.
South of the beach are Arthur Byrne Reserve and headland, and Broadarrow Reserve is to the west, all very much worth exploring.
15. North Cronulla Beach
The Cronulla Peninsula south of Sydney has no shortage of beautiful beaches, making it a popular weekend destination for many Sydney-siders.
Popular with surfers, North Cronulla Beach is a beautiful 400m long strip of sand facing Bate Bay. Swimming can be somewhat hazardous there though, due to the strong rips that are almost always present.
The North Cronulla SLSC has an iconic clubhouse located right behind the beach, next to Dunningham Park with a large playground and a few popular cafes and restaurants nearby.
From North Cronulla, it’s only a short walk along the shore to South Cronulla Beach, a small family-friendly strip of sand backed up by an excellent park with great facilities and lots of cafes to choose from.
16. Garie Beach
Patrolled by its own Surf Life Saving Club, Garie Beach is a popular surf beach in the Royal National Park with dedicated parking and other facilities.
Swimming at Garie Beach can be quite hazardous though due to the tides and rips, so it’s strongly recommended to always swim between the flags for your safety.
Garie Beach is also the starting point of a beautiful coastal walk to Era Beach, another beautiful strip of sand in this National Park.
Check out our list of Royal National Park beaches for more beach options in this beautiful part of Sydney.
17. Austinmer Beach
Austinmer Beach is not as well-known as most other beaches in this list of best beaches in New South Wales, but this popular strip of sand north of Wollongong has a lot to offer.
The beach is nestled between two headlands off Lawrence Hargrave Drive which connects to the famous Sea Cliff Bridge further north.
You will find excellent facilities at Austinmer Beach, such as a large car park, beach patrol during the summer months, public toilets and showers, and two great ocean pools.
18. Hyams Beach
Located approximately 180 km south of Sydney, Hyams Beach is a seaside village on the shores of Jervis Bay and home to one of the prettiest beaches in New South Wales.
Famous for its perfectly turquoise-coloured water and bright white sand, Hyams Beach is a popular holiday destination for Sydney-siders.
And for good reason, as there are lots of things to see and do in the greater Jervis Bay area, such as hiking, swimming, snorkelling, fishing, diving, and whale watching.
19. Narrawallee Beach
Narrawallee Beach is one of the better beaches in the Shoalhaven region, with excellent beginner surf conditions along the southern end of the beach, and stronger waves towards the north.
Swimming can be challenging at times at Narrawallee Beach, but the quietest part is at the southern end of the beach which is also patrolled during the summer months.
20. Broulee Beach
Situated only a short drive south of Batemans Bay, Broulee Beach is a long and stunning strip of sand sheltered by Broulee Island.
The town of Broulee is a popular holiday destination, with lots of outdoor activities to undertake, such as diving, surfing, fishing, kayaking or snorkelling.
And with Batemans Bay just around the corner, it’s no surprise why people like to spend a midweek or long weekend at Broulee Beach.