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1) Red Leaf Pools, Double Bay

Just a short walk from Double Bay train station is the idyllic little bay, Red Leaf. Nestled in behind the Woollahra Municipal Council building and next to a beautiful historic garden, Red leaf has an old-timey and art-deco feel to it. With spectacular views of the harbour and a pontoon that wraps around the bay, this really is a special spot. It can get quite busy on weekends but go on a weekday and you’ll have the whole bay to yourself. If you’re tired of the crowds at Bondi and of being pummelled by the waves, Red leaf is a perfect alternative as it’s sheltered from the wind but still in full sunlight, and always on the quiet side.

2) McIver Women’s Baths, Coogee

Although it is reserved for women and children only, I couldn’t resist including this absolute gem! Located just off Beach Street in Coogee, and perched on a cliff face, this small ocean enclosure is a secluded haven in the heart of the busy Eastern Suburbs beaches. The baths were built in 1886 but a National Trust report states that the site was used by Women bathers even before this time. Toss a 20 cent donation through the gated door of the club house and stroll down the walkway. If you forgot you book, don’t worry, there is even a small book exchange in the changing room. Lay your towel on the grassy slopes or on a flat rock by the ocean and wile away the day in this stunning and tranquil retreat!

3) Gordon’s Bay, Coogee

If you don’t mind a bit of rock climbing if it means finding yourself in a secluded lagoon reminiscent of the Mediterranean, Gordon’s bay is the place for you. Just a short walk around the headland from North Coogee, Gordon’s bay is the non-douchie alternative to Coogee beach. You’re more likely to encounter Jim Morrison lookalikes passing joints than Ken and Barbie Dolls pumping mainstream drivel and taking selfies. In fact, all the Inner Sydney hipsters flock here on the M50 bus during weekends, turning it into a cultural hotspot. On weekdays you might have it almost all to yourself, which really is a treat. Don’t forget your snorkel as there is awesome sea-life to be explored!

4) Barrenjoey Lighthouse, Palm Beach

If you’re spending the day lounging about on Palm Beach and feel the need for a bit of action and stimulation, go and visit the Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Built from locally sourced sandstone in 1881, this stunning work of craftsmanship is well worth a look. The Lighthouse is situated on Sydney’s northernmost headland, and boasts incredible views of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the Central coast. There are several options for access to the lighthouse; an easy 1km track or the steeper “Smugglers Track” (about 15 minutes); both awarding stunning scenery and great views. There is also an hour and a half-long walk around the headland from Barrenjoey road for those with a little more time.

5) Shark Island, Sydney Harbour

Although the prospect of picnicking on an uninhabited Island in the middle of the Sydney Harbour does sound absurd and highly unlikely it is, in fact, all too easy to arrange. Just hop on a ferry from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay and you’ll be there in 25 minutes! This tiny 1.5 hectare island is home to some lovely beaches and rich marine life so there are plenty of ways to spend an entire day here. You may encounter the odd tender-hearted soul whose imagination has taken hold a little firmly, and who frolics around giddily, fancying himself pioneer and custodian of the Island. In the event that you should come across someone like this, best maintain a safe distance as they may deem you foreign invaders and try to drive you off the island.

6) Maroubra Fishing Tracks, Maroubra

Fishing enthusiasts have lucked out because it turns out you don’t have to trek even an hour out of the city to find some excellent fishing spots. Just south of Maroubra beach, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs are some obscure and serpentine paths forged by years of tread alone that lead to some spectacular spots. Keep in mind that these are not signposted nor are the paths reinforced so less confident trekkers should not go alone. Getting down to the rocks also requires some daring, but the result is well worth it - raw, unadulterated coastal beauty. It is more than likely that will encounter some seasoned fisherman along the way who I’m sure would gladly provide a few handy tips! And even if fishing is not your thing, this stunning area is definitely worth exploring!

7) Shelley Beach, Manly

Set aside a whole day and take advantage of this slice of paradise just a short walk from the centre of Manly. This North-facing little bay is sheltered from the wind and one of the last spots to profit from the sun’s warm rays before it falls beyond the horizon. Be sure to bring your snorkeling or scuba gear as there is some awesome marine life to be explored not far from the shore. All the basic amenities are there including toilets and showers, plus there is a small kiosk, a cafe, and several barbeques. Bring a picnic, a six pack of beer, and maybe a guitar, and make a day of it!

8) Wattamolla Beach, Royal National Park

Roughly an hour’s drive from the city centre is the Royal National Park; the second oldest National Park in the world, after Yellowstone in the USA. A brief, meandering drive from the gates of the park is the Car Park for Wattamolla bay which provides easy access to the cove. Wattamolla bay, part sheltered cove and part fresh water lagoon, is really a wonderland of turquoise waters and white sand. It is also a favourite spot for cliff jumping, with a ten meter high cliff above the lagoon. Cliff jumping has recently been made illegal, however, so try to scream subtly while hurtling towards the water at a million miles an hour. This place resembles a scene from The Beach, so don’t be alarmed if you start to feel an overwhelming desire to opt out of society completely, and live here in a thatched wigwam for the rest of your days.

9) Crater cove, Manly

Crater cove is one of the most extraordinary places you will visit in Sydney. A little known secret for Sydney-sider’s alike, this heritage gem is well worth a look. If you are fortunate enough to observe the subtle trail leading down the hillside you will begin to notice some man-made structures obscured by the natural landscape. The abandoned huts you now see are believed to have been built by fisherman around the 1940’s, and inhabited permanently during the Great Depression. The settlement was again inhabited during the 70’s and 80’s by ‘hippies’ seeking more traditional and self-sufficient lives outside of the city. In this way, crater cove was a refuge for adventurous and beatnik characters for almost fifty years. Human occupation of the cove was made illegal in the late 1980’s, but despite plans to obliterate the huts, they remain standing today as a proud testament to the spirit of perseverance and self-sufficiency.

10) Aboriginal Heritage Track, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

If you thought you would have to leave Sydney to see some historic Aboriginal art, you thought wrong! Located in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Ku-ring-gai National Park is a haven for bush walkers, birdwatchers, and history buffs, and the Aboriginal Heritage Track is definitely a highlight. Heading off from West Head road is the 45 minute track through the bush where you will discover some the best Aboriginal cave art in the Sydney Region. Just 10 minutes into the walk and you will find yourself at Red-Hands Cave, where much the art is found. Further along the track are some impressive rock engravings as well as an historic Aboriginal dwelling. You’re sure to come away a little more knowledgeable about Sydney’s aboriginal heritage and eager to learn more!

**Disclaimer: All information is correct at the time of printing. Jolly Swagman Backpackers is not responsible for any change in operation of these venues. Jolly Swagman Backpackers would advise guests to check for up to date information prior to visiting these venues.