Concierge.com's insider take:
Sydney has 37 ocean beaches, stretching from North Palm in the north to Cronulla in the south. There are also more than a dozen placid harbor beaches, including the nude or "clothing optional" beaches at remote Lady Bay and Obelisk.
Beaches south of Sydney Harbour
Bondi, Australia's most famous beach, is about four miles from the city center. Finding a parking spot among the surrounding cafes and surf-wear shops is nearly impossible, but if you come early you can stake out a spot on the half-moon of golden sand and settle in for a day of the best swimming, sunning, and people-watching in Sydney. Just south of Bondi is the small bay beach, accessible by the coastal cliff walk (and by bus), called Tamarama—known locally as "Glamarama" for its stylish see-and-be-seen crowd. Bronte, just south of Tamarama and popular with surfers, has a dangerous current most times of the year but also a fantastic park-cum–forested valley that's perfect for picnics. A mile or so farther south is Coogee, a sort of mini-Bondi that's increasingly popular with the young, good-looking backpacker set. There's not much surf here, so it also attracts families with young children. Maroubra, about two miles south of Coogee, is one of the longest and best surf beaches on the south side. It has a burgeoning café scene but is really a locals' beach, quieter than its northern neighbors.
Manly, about seven miles north of Sydney via a half-hour ferry ride from Circular Quay or by car from the city center, looks and feels like a holiday resort. The Corso, the main street that connects the beach with the harborside ferry wharf, is lined with boutiques and alfresco cafes. Curl Curl Beach, about four miles north of Manly, is considered the best surfing beach on the north side. It's a picturesque, quiet spot far from the touristy beaches farther south. Palm Beach, about 14 miles north of Manly and known as "Palmie," is locally considered the jewel of the northern beaches. Its beautiful remoteness s the reason celebs have chosen to buy holiday homes here, and visitors tend to be equally flush. Balmoral, about four miles north of the city, is one of the most fashionable harbor beaches in Sydney. It is actually two small beaches separated by an outcropping known as Rocky Point. There's a great view out to North Head and the white lighthouse at Grotto Point. Cute cafes and restaurants line the Esplanade running behind the beach.