When the mercury rises in Sydney, everyone heads to the beach. But instead of joining the throngs heading to spots such as Bondi, Coogee, or Manly, take the opportunity to cool off and see a different side of the city by dipping your toes into one of these beautiful Sydney Harbour beaches.
Nestled deep in Sydney’s Lower North Shore, the charms of the Greenwich Baths are hidden from the street by a glorious green canopy. As you step through the trees and descend the path, towel in hand, you’ll encounter a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind view of Sydney. Framed by the city skyline to the left, the suburbs of Balmain and Birchgrove in front, and Cockatoo Island to the right, the Greenwich Baths offer a deserted island-like setting just minutes from the CBD.
The baths are a small, fenced-in beach area ideal for families. The lapping of the small waves greets you, and the water sparkles invitingly as you fling off your thongs (that’s Aussie for flip-flops or sandals) to feel the soft sand between your toes. Kids run on the sand and splash in the shallows, some venturing out to the shark nets (don’t worry—it’s perfectly safe) on boogie boards or inflatable lounges. The harbour waves are minimal, so it’s calm enough for young children to play beside you safely. For the bigger kids and adults, there is a 30-metre lap section with lane ropes and turning boards. When the hunger pangs hit, there is a cafe that provides excellent coffee, gelato, and fish and chips.
You can access this slice of summer paradise for $3.80 (adults) and $2.80 (children). The beach is just a five-minute walk from Greenwich Point ferry wharf (catch the Woolwich/Balmain service from Circular Quay), or there is paid parking on the surrounding streets.
Dawn Fraser Baths
On the other side of the harbour is one of the most famous Sydney Harbour beaches: Dawn Fraser Baths. Named for the Australian swimming legend (Dawn learned to swim here, back when it was Balmain Pools), it’s been a popular leisure spot since the early 1880s, and is the oldest pool and swimming club in Australia.
To get to the beach, you have to walk through Elkington Park, weaving your way through picnicking families and kids kicking footballs. Stepping through the gate to the baths brings you to a secluded green sanctuary that evokes Australia’s early history. The inviting harbour water is trapped by the charming green and cream wood of the Heritage-listed pavilions. The Balmain old-timers, with their bronzed skin and Speedos, welcome you as you walk down the stone steps to the sand and water. Young families laze or splash about as you decide whether to have a leisurely paddle, or to move over to the lap pool on the right.
When the tide is low, the kids can build castles on the sand. At high tide, you can jump straight from the deck into the water. The warmed wooden boards provide a perfect spot to throw your towel down and indulge in a bit of people watching. Coffee, ice cream, and hot food served at the kiosk means you can spend all day at the baths and want for nothing — except for just a few more hours of fun before the sun dips below the trees to the west.
Entry to Dawn Fraser Baths is $4.80 for adults and $3.30 for children, and there is free parking on the nearby streets.