There are many fabulous parts of living in the inner west but proximity to beaches is sadly not one of them! But for those inner west-dwelling beach-lovers, here is a selection of Sydney’s best family-friendly beaches.
This piece was first published in 2016, and updated in early 2022. If we’ve missed your favourite beach spot, or if something has changed at one of the locations below, please email us at email@example.com.
Shark Beach, Nielsen Park (closed until April 2023 while the seawall is replaced)
Greycliffe Avenue, Vaucluse
Don’t be put off by the name! This beach, located in Vaucluse, is protected by a shark net – and great for young children. Set within Sydney Harbour National Park and with a glimmering outlook, the attractive grounds of Nielsen Park are a popular spot for picnics and gatherings. The park has plenty of shaded areas, three sheltered picnic areas, two toilet blocks, showers and a kiosk and restaurant, The Nielsen. There’s a foreshore walking track with rock pools to explore as well. Both paid and free parking spaces are available in the nearby streets.
Parsley Bay Reserve
Horler Avenue (off Parsley Road), Vaucluse
Another picturesque spot in Vaucluse, Parsley Bay is a narrow inlet surrounded by caves and rocky overhangs. A wooden suspension footbridge crosses the bay, giving a focal point. Parsley Bay Reserve is a much-loved park for families as it offers an enclosed swimming area, picnic facilities, a fantastic playground, cafe and toilets. There’s also a short bushwalk leading to a waterfall. And keep your eyes peeled for water dragons in summer. Parking is available in a small car park on Horler Avenue (off Parsley Road).
Camp Cove Beach
Cove Street, Watsons Bay
Just around the corner from South Head, Camp Cove is a charming family-friendly beach with breathtaking views of the harbour and city skyline. Families love swimming, snorkelling and paddle-boarding at this calm spot. The beach also has a popular kiosk. Toilet facilities are available. There is a car park although it can be tricky to nab a space at peak times. Camp Cove is a short stroll from Watsons Bay ferry wharf.
Bronte Road, Bronte
Bronte Beach is one of Sydney’s most famous beaches, known for its golden sand, glistening ocean views, expansive park and vibrant cafe strip. Of the eastern suburb’s ocean beaches, it’s one of the most family friendly. While the surf at Bronte can be rough, the beach has a lovely enclosed natural pool at one end that kids love. Bronte is a popular spot for large family gatherings as there is ample grassy space, barbecue and picnic facilities, showers and toilets and a playground. A great way to explore this area is the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk which passes through Bronte. Clovelly Beach, the next beach along from Bronte, is another family favourite.
Albert Street, Greenwich
The Greenwich Baths are a bit of a hidden treasure on the harbour, opening in spring/summer only. The best time to go is during high tide. If you are looking for shade, you are better to go in the morning. You can find beach toys left for everyone to use, as well as benches and sun lounges. There is a shark net. There is also a cafe that serves coffee and a small selection of hot food. Please note that entry fees apply: Casual Entry: Adults $4.40; Concession/Child under 16/Student $3.40; kids under 3 years are free. To get to the baths, you can drive and park in the nearby streets, take the Woolwich/Balmain ferry to Greenwich Point or jump on a bus. If you are going with a pram, please note that there are steps down to the beach area.
The Esplanade, Balmoral
Balmoral Beach is one of Sydney’s iconic harbour beaches and a wonderful place for family excursions. There is a long promenade, plenty of grass for picnics and recreational activities, and even a small bridge and island to explore. Parts of the beach and baths area at the southern end are shaded by large trees, making it an ideal spot for babies or toddlers. An excellent fenced playground with equipment to interest little and bigger kids sits next to the kiosk at the southern end. Food and beverages are available at numerous cafes, including the lovely Boathouse Balmoral Beach which sits right on the beach. There are toilets and showers on site.
Morella Road, Mosman
Another picturesque beach is Clifton Gardens, a white-sand beach which offers stunning views of the harbour. The beach is split by a jetty. On one side is a netted bathing area which has shade from trees. The open part of the beach has limited shade. Facilities include an excellent shaded playground, picnic tables, barbecues, showers and toilets, and a kiosk. There is also a large grassy area for recreation and a basketball court. Metered parking is available. If you’re lucky, you might nab an unmetered parking spot in the nearby streets.
Access via Rosherville Reserve, McLean Crescent, Mosman
Chinamans Beach in Mosman is a lesser known sheltered harbour beach that is perfect for young kids. Often when Balmoral Beach, one kilometre to the south, is heaving with visitors, this 250-metre stretch of sand is relatively quiet. Chinamans Beach is well protected within Shell Cove and faces Middle Harbour. There’s not much natural shade available along the beach, so it’s wise to bring your beach tent or umbrella in addition to the usual protective clothing, hats and suncream. There are some rocks at each end of the beach with little pools in them to explore. Chinamans Beach is accessed via Rosherville Reserve, which is a great spot for a picnic or barbecue. Mature trees provide ample shade within the reserve. There are also toilets and a change area and even a small playground. Metered parking spots are located adjacent to the reserve and there is unmetered parking in the surrounding residential streets.
Bower Street, Manly
Manly boasts several great beaches, and the splendid Shelly Beach is a top pick for families. The beach is set within a sheltered cove, which is perfect for little ones who want to splash about. For those with older kids, a reef – teeming with marine life – provides an opportunity for snorkelling. A bush track offers spectacular views of the area. Facilities include showers and toilets, a barbecue and picnic area and a gorgeous cafe, The Boathouse Shelly Beach. There is a council car park (fees apply) and limited street parking nearby.
Sandy Bay Road, Clontarf
A peaceful location on Middle Harbour, Clontarf is a great place for families with kids of all ages. This calm beach has an enclosed swimming area. Wander a little further along and you might spot starfish in the shallows. While the beach itself is not shaded, there are numerous large trees on the reserve, and ample space to relax and play. In summer, keep an ear out for the ice-cream boat, whose captain rings a bell upon approach (cards are accepted). A large playground has equipment that appeals to a wide age range. Facilities include showers and toilets, barbecues, picnic shelters, a kiosk and a restaurant. There is a car park, and free spots in the surrounding streets.
Pittwater Road, Collaroy
Sydney’s Northern Beaches have so many fabulous beaches. Collaroy is a favourite among families for its excellent facilities. It has two ocean pools – a large one for adults and a shallow one for young children. A wonderful, partially shaded playground with some all-inclusive equipment is next to the beach, and there is good pram and wheelchair access throughout. Facilities include showers and toilets, barbecues and picnic areas. Several kid-friendly cafes are located nearby. Ticketed parking is readily available.
Nicholson Parade, Cronulla
A lesser known gem in Sydney’s south is Gunnamatta Bay, in Cronulla, an attractive riverside beach which has a relaxed feel. The beach has a large enclosed swimming area that is perfect for a wide range of ages, from toddlers to teens. There are abundant facilities for picnics and parties, as well as shelter sheds, toilets and a playground too. A parking bay runs along Nicholson Parade.
Shelly Beach, Cronulla
Ewos Parade, Cronulla
Shelly Beach, on Cronulla’s ocean side, is ideal for young families. This attractive little beach, which is located just around the corner from the main beach at Cronulla, has an ocean pool. Toilets, showers and change rooms are found in the pavilion. There is a large park behind Shelly Beach with lots of shade under palm trees, picnic facilities and a fantastic playground. Street parking is available.
The Ones that Got Away
Tried them all? Here are some more fabulous family-friendly beaches to check out:
Little Manly Beach, Stuart Street, Manly
Northbridge Baths, off Widgiewa Rd, Northbridge
Carss Park Baths, Carwar Ave, Carss Park
Wattamolla Beach, Royal National Park
Yarra Bay, Yarra Road, Phillip Bay
Cover image/Shark Beach: Ginny Grant; Parsley Bay Reserve: Elia Leitão; Camp Cove: Anita Vitanova; Bronte Beach: Kristen Gislason Callow; Balmoral Beach: Tobias Lord; Ginny Grant; Clifton Gardens: Eve Moo; Chinamans Beach: Ginny Grant; Greenwich Baths: Anita Vitanova; Shelly Beach: Tobias Lord; Clontarf Reserve: Anita Vitanova
This article was first published in 2016 and updated in 2022.