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The Top 5 Sydney Beaches to Take Children

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by Linda Moon (subscribe)
... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published February 14th 2013
Adults will love 'em too
Beaches for kids
Seaweed, sand, rockpools and little waves can entertain them for ages.

While by no means an exhaustive list, the selection below includes a discussion of some of the best Sydney beaches to take children.

1. Shelley Beach at Manly.

Shelley Beach, Manly, Sydney
Shelley Beach at Manly. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shelley Beach is the smaller, more secluded bay located on the southern side of Manly Beach. Protected by a headland and reef, it has calm emerald waters that are suitable for children. The presence of reef makes it a great spot for snorkelling. Shelley Beach is part of Cabbage Tree Bay, a protected marine reserve, so don't let Little Johnny take home shells and other stuff he's gathered from the beach.

Facilities include toilets, showers, BBQ's and a restaurant - aptly named Le Kiosk. In addition, there's a bush track to explore, replete with vistas of the Northern Beaches and North Head.

Best Points:
Picturesque and great for snorkelling.

Negatives:
The popularity of this area equates to parking hell. Arrive early to avoid the crush.

Getting there:
Shelley Beach is in Bower Street in the northern suburb of Manly. Manly is 17 Km's North East of the Sydney CBD.

On weekends in summer, finding parking might drive you batty. There is a council run car park with limited parking that takes you downstairs to the beach. Bring stacks of coins if you want to park there (rumour has it that the rate is $8.00 per hour) and expect to be fined if you don't pay up. Alternatively, many people access the beach by walking about 15 minutes from Manly Life Saving Club, or detour right from Manly Beach.

2. Nielsen Park, Vaucluse.

Nielsen Park, Shark Beach, Sydney
Shark Beach at Nielsen Park. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

Nielsen Park in the eastern Sydney suburb of Vaucluse has a safe, calm bay called Shark Beach that is ideal for children. While the name of this beach might raise alarm bells, rest assured that Little Johnny won't be at risk of Jaws since this small swimming bay is protected by a shark net. Part of Sydney Harbour National Park, Shark Beach has an appealing scenic prettiness. In fact, for that reason, I chose it for the site of a past wedding. But that's another story.

Because of its popularity, the grounds are usually littered with picnicking families during summer and you may encounter the usual Sydney parking issues.

Facilities include drinking water, picnic tables and toilets, plus a café.

Best Points:
Arguably one of the best beach-side recreation areas for children and families, in addition to the beach, Nielson Park possesses foreshore walks, top views of Sydney Harbour, extensive picnic areas beneath old fig trees and an on-site café, the Nielson Park Café.

Negatives:
If you like loads of sand space to yourself, as a smaller beach this might not be for you.

Getting there:
To get there, take New South Head Road away from the city, turn left into Vaucluse Road and then left into Greycliffe Avenue. Parking is available just outside the park in Greycliffe Avenue.

3. Camp Cove at Watsons Bay

Camp Cove at Watson's Bay, Sydney
Camp Cove at Watson's Bay - has slight mediterranean feel. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Ahh! Another calm bay with the scenic factor and views of Sydney Harbour. Considered one of Sydney's prettiest and most iconic beaches, the bay is wedged between green slopes within a prestigious residential area. Passing and anchored boats are a common sight and add to the ambience. With its curving bay of glistening blue water, backdrop of prime real estate and locals languishing on the gold sand, Camp Cove possesses an almost Mediterranean feel. It has ample sand space and feels like a local's beach.

Camp Cove is at the end of the South Head peninsula and is the next beach up from Watsons Bay. Facilities include toilets, showers and a kiosk. There is an elevated grassy area shaded by trees (Green Point) on the western area of the beach that is great for a picnic.

Best Points:
The location in one of Sydney's most beautiful harbour locations.

Doyle's, the Tea Gardens Cafe and the Watsons Bay Hotel are around the corner, providing classy or casual lunch options.

From the right of the beach (where the toilets are situated) you can take the South Head Heritage Walk within Sydney Harbour National Park. This 470 metre return cliff top walk includes views of the harbour, natural bush-land and a light-house. Unfortunately, this involves passing through Lady Bay Beach, the nude beach.

There is free parking in some areas around the beach if you arrive early enough to grab a spot.

Negatives:
This really sucks for parking. However, if you are prepared to walk a small distance from your car, it's not a problem. Another option is to catch a bus.

Lady Bay (a nude beach) is just around the corner, so don't take the kids for a walk that way. Okay, so that might be a positive for some of the population, but we're talking kids here.

Getting there:
Camp Cove is located in Cove Street, Watsons Bay in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and is 11km Northeast of the Sydney CBD.

To avoid the parking issues you could catch a bus (the 324, 325 and 380) then walk the five minutes from the bus stop to the beach.

4. Clovelly Beach / Rock Pool

Clovelly Beach, Sydney
An older photo of Clovelly Beach. It now has rock edging and platform on both sides of the channel. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

For older kids who enjoy snorkelling, this deserves a mention. Considered one of the best snorkelling spots in Sydney, Clovelly beach is home to octopi, schooling fish and gropers, many of whom are used to humans ogling at them. Sea-plants, sponges and star-fish also make for top viewing.

This beach is actually a long, narrow channel or embayment of water locked between two long arms of rocks. A very small section of sand and a grassed area exists at the back end of the embayment and the entrance to the ocean at the other end. In my opinion, this small sand and grass area has all the ambience of an unoccupied council lot and it's probably for this reason that most people sunbathe and sit around on the rocks and the man-made concrete promenade that surrounds this beach. Shade is virtually non-existent, so bring the usual accoutrements like sunscreen, quality hats and so on. Fold out chairs and picnic rugs are also a good idea. Remember what I said about concrete.

While the water is generally calm and safe for kids, in rough seas the rocky sides of the bay can become like battering rams if you stray too close and a surge sends you against them. The seaward entrance to the bay should also be avoided by children as it can be treacherous. However, there is an underwater breakwater here that protects the bay. Underwater visibility is usually good here, except in rough seas when the water gets churned up.

Facilities include toilets and showers and an eatery – the Seasalt Café and Kiosk.

There is also a small swimming pool alongside the bay. If snorkelling and swimming isn't enough, check out the views and coastal flora along the Coastal Walkway.

Best Points:
Top snorkelling spot.
Parking isn't too much of a problem.
Clovelly is a patrolled beach with its own surf life saving club.
Wheelchair access to the rock pool.
Rocks offer exploration for kids.
Laid-back and casual atmosphere.

Negatives:
If you like to loll or walk on stretches of sand, this isn't for you.

Getting there:
Clovelly is a small Eastern suburb of Sydney located 8kms south-east of Sydney CBD. Clovelly Beach is located on Clovelly Road. There is parking in the residential streets surrounding, but there's also a designated parking area (accessed via Victory Street at the end of Clovelly Road) with spaces for 300 cars.

5. Clifton Gardens at Mosman

Chowder Bay, Clifton Gardens, Mosman, Sydney
Chowder Bay, one of the beaches within the Clifton Gardens Reserve. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

This beach reserve looks out upon Chowder Bay, but that's not all it has going for it. It gains a mention for its quality facilities and the fact it ticks so many practical kid-friendly boxes. Spacious grassed areas with plenty of shady trees and stretches of very white sand make this a great place to be on a summer day.

An enclosed, netted bathing area offers a safe swim for the kids and a wharf provides another place to explore.

Facilities include refurbished toilets, showers, picnic tables, electric BBQ's, shade shelters, bubblers and the Bacino Kiosk. The basketball court and a path for kids to ride skateboards and scooters adds extra things to do. There are also bush walks to be had from the West end of the reserve through Sydney Harbour National Park to Bradley Head.

Best Points:
Excellent facilities including playground, picnic tables, BBQ's and quality amenities block.

Negatives:
Metered parking

Getting there:
The Clifton Gardens reserve is located on Morella Road, Mosman. There is metered parking available. Mosman is a lower North Shore suburb of Sydney, located 8 km's North-East of the Sydney CBD. For those prepared to bus it, catch the 228.

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When: Those hot, summer days
Where: Sydney
Cost: Parking and lunch
Your Comment
Thanks for info
by preet (score: 1|70) 2288 days ago
Very useful and thorough, thank you!
by lucia (score: 1|25) 2174 days ago
Thanks Lucia
by Linda Moon (score: 3|2671) 2174 days ago
A bit biased towards posh northern beaches! La Perouse and Little Bay are both beautiful calm beaches in the east, and generally water looks and feels much cleaner and clearer than places in the sydney harbour such as watsons and vaucluse. Also sand is much softer and nicer for playing with/sunbaking. And i don't know enough about south sydney beaches.
by Angel (score: 0|2) 1167 days ago
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