Top 6 surf trips in Sydney & surrounds
Discover the top surf trips in Sydney, the Central Coast and Wollongong with expert surf writer Blainey Woodham. Find must-visit surf beaches, world-class waves and maybe even a few champion surfers.
Bondi to Cronulla
- Distance: 32km
- Duration: 2 days
Blainey’s expert tip: “Voodoos is one of the best breaks around Cronulla. But be aware this wave is heavily localised at times, meaning don’t hassle other surfers or make the mistake of becoming impatient. It pays to wait and hope a local calls you into a good one.”
Day 1: Bondi to Cronulla
There’s no better location to start an inner city surf tour than the world famous Bondi Beach. After a surf, head for Bondi’s second biggest attraction, Icebergs. With a spectacular ocean pool carved into the rocks and a buzzing restaurant and bar perched above it – all with views to die for – this is a legendary spot not to be missed. Keep an eye out for the boys in blue (not the police, but those famous Bondi Rescue crew) are already on the beach keeping everyone safe whatever the conditions.
The drive from Bondi to Bronte only takes about five minutes, but you can opt instead to stroll along the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk. The trip takes you through Mackenzie’s Point with a stop to check out the Aboriginal Rock Engravings. The drive from Bronte to The Shire requires a bit of zig-zagging through the city and will take around 40 minutes. Sleep within sight of the ocean at Rydges Cronulla Beachside and raise a glass with the locals at the ever-busy Northies.
Day 2: Around Cronulla
Cronulla is one of five National Surfing Reserves in Sydney and has a great collection of breaks. Voodoos, set off the northern edge of Cronulla State Park, regularly offers good overhead barrels. Cronulla Point regularly runs with big walls and waves up to seven foot. Shark Island is a world-famous rock bottom surf break located offshore behind Cronulla Point. It’s super hollow and surfers can get amazing barrels and beatings all in the same set. Even if you don’t catch one yourself, it’s amazing to witness the wave in all its glory. Bring some binoculars if you can.
Manly to Palm Beach
- Distance: 30km
- Duration: 2 days
Blainey’s expert tip: “North Narrabeen is one of Australia’s best beach breaks with its world-famous sandbar left-handers. If you get a chance to surf North Narra, be sure to respect the locals and wait your turn to avoid any turmoil. Traditional surfing values remain strong in this neck of the woods.”
Day 1: Manly to Narrabeen
When it comes to getting a Northern Beaches road trip underway, Manly is the perfect place to start. The beach breaks offer a good amount of punch and protection from both south and north winds at either end of the big horseshoe bay. Setting off on the journey north, the next stop is Dee Why. This is an exposed, raw, chunky point break wave with a thick barrel that’s worth a look in any conditions.
After two successful surfs, bed down for the night at the Narrabeen Sands Hotel where the sound of the waves will lull you to sleep.
Day 2: Narrabeen to Palm Beach
Wake up refreshed and ready to hit one of Australia’s top breaks, North Narrabeen. You could happily spend hours in the water here, catching amazing waves alongside the locals – who may include world champions like Thomas Victor Carroll.
This afternoon, you’ll pass an endless stream of glorious surf beaches, like Mona Vale, Newport and Avalon. Your destination is Palm Beach, the most northerly beach in Sydney and a spectacularly beautiful spot. This mostly protected cove offers fast, fun waves that suit everyone from beginners to experts.
Bondi to Cape Solander
- Distance: 11km
- Duration: 1 day
Blainey’s expert tip: “There is a nice, smaller pocket at Malabar Headland National Park in the far southern corner of Maroubra Beach. You’ll often find four to five feet of swell making its way around the corner from the south, creating perfect, groomed conditions.”
Bondi Beach needs no introduction, but no serious surfer should pass up the chance to catch a wave here. Around 15min south, Coogee Beach is impossible to predict; it can be flat, onshore, lots of fun or just plain old average. If you're lucky, there will be a big swell running and you can surf Coogee Bombie off the cliffs at the northern end of the beach.
One beach to the south of Coogee lies Maroubra, the last significantly sized beach before you hit Botany Bay. The surf is usually clean but can max out with a big swell. Refuel at the South Maroubra Surf Life Saving Club then stretch your land legs along the Malabar Headland walking track. You’ll find Sydney’s heaviest slab, Ours, at Cape Solander on the southern entrance to Botany Bay. This is truly one for the experts. Sydney’s best surfers will often be towed out on a jetski to tackle the huge barrels.
Avalon to Freshwater
- Distance: 25km
- Duration: 1 day
Blainey’s expert tip: “In North Narrabeen I am greeted by the sight of long spitting left barrels and the first person I see in the tube is none other than two-time World Champion Tom Carroll. I can’t get in the water quick enough! I catch a handful of amazing waves, including one I am given by Damien Hardman, yet another Narrabeen World Champion. Three hours later I am surfed out.”
Start your journey on the golden sands of Avalon, one of the most northerly beaches in Sydney. There’s a good reason surf legend Kelly Slater has lived in Avalon for more than 15 years; when the winds are coming from the northeast, the waves are epic. Then it’s just a five-minute drive south to the beauty and tranquillity of Newport Beach, known for its waves, fish and some of the most photogenic landscapes on the Northern Beaches. Refuel at Cocoa Bar, then walk down to the beach for a wave check on the two breaks. Experts should head to the Pool break at the southern end of the beach, which handles the large south swells.
Your next stop is North Narrabeen, one of the meccas of Australian surfing. It’s officially recognised as a National Surfing Reserve and has produced more than one world champion. More beaches await further down the coast. In Collaroy, walk up to Long Reef Headland in check the surf, which tends to be quite flat in summer. Dee Why is the next beach along and a great spot for experienced surfers to hit the water. Freshwater Beach’s sheltered northern tip is always inviting and you’ll often find the overhead lefts mostly empty. After a surf, retire to the breezy Harbord Hotel, just a couple of blocks back from the beach, for a well-deserved cold beer.
Cronulla to Wollongong
- Distance: 63km
- Duration: 2 days
Blainey’s expert tip: “With clear blue skies at the start of day two comes a perfectly light westerly wind and the first set I lay eyes on at Sandon Beach is two feet of magic rolling down the right-hand rocky break. I’m out there! Afterwards, I come in for breakfast at the Bulli Beach Café and another dip in the Bulli Rock Pool.”
Day 1: Cronulla to Stanwell Park
Kick off this two-day journey in Cronulla, one of Sydney’s recognised National Surfing Reserves. Catch some thick barrels off Shark Island then refuel with a coffee from one of the many beachfront cafes. Heading south, Garie Beach is the first stop, a scenic 30-minute drive through the Royal National Park. If the wind is blowing from the north, tuck into the northern corner for clean, longboard left handers.
Continue along the coast on the Garie Beach. Grab a coffee at Bostin Brew Co and check in to tonight’s accommodation, the breezy Stanwell Park Beach Cottage. Then it’s time to go in search of your afternoon surf location from one of the many surf beaches around Stanwell Park. Coalcliff Beach is known for its consistent waves, offering perfectly groomed A-frame peaks.
Day 2: Stanwell Park to Wollongong
Start today with a coffee at Loaf Caf, a local favourite, before driving south across the breathtaking Sea Cliff Bridge. Jutting out over the ocean, it’s easily the state’s most picturesque highway. You’re bound this morning for the waves at Sandon Point, an arc of golden sand just north of Bulli Beach.
Then it’s just 30 minutes to your final destination, Wollongong. This is a city of avid surfers and plenty of good breaks. North Wollongong Beach has the most consistent surf year-round with both left and right breaks. You’ll also find great waves most days at Port Kembla Beach, especially when the wind is coming from the northwest. Once you’re surfed out, walk up to the Port Kembla Lookout for views over Five Islands Nature Reserve in front and the vast stretch of sand of Perkins Beach to the south.
Copacabana to Caves Beach
- Distance: 80km
- Duration: 2 days
Blainey’s expert tip: “Secluded and somewhat protected from a moderate northerly wind, Frazer Park Beach just north of Norah Head, proves worth the drive. There are perfect little waves and only two people across the entire beach surfing. I finish an epic first day with a great hour of power in the fun, two-foot waves.”
Day 1: Copacabana to Shelly Beach
Just north of Sydney, across the Broken Bay channel, lies Copacabana and MacMasters Beach, one of the first beaches of the Central Coast. It’s not a traditional point break, but a great spot to ease into a surf trip with some fun shoulder-high runners breaking from the southern corner. Then grab a coffee and a toastie from The Bee’s Knees Eatery and hit the road.
Just a 15-minute drive north, Avoca is arguably the most famous surf beach on the Central Coast. With a perfect point break and multiple beach breaks, you’re virtually guaranteed a wave in any weather. Keep an eye out for world champion surfers in the water or at one of the many beachfront cafes. After a full day of surfing, check in to the Ocean Front Motel at Shelly Beach for a well-deserved rest.
Day 2: Shelly Beach to Caves Beach
Wake up early this morning and drive the 20 minutes north to Norah Head in time for a spectacular sunrise at the lighthouse. Clear your head with a quick swim in the Norah Head Rockpool, a sheltered spot that’s ideal for stretching out those wave-weary limbs.
Your final destination is just 30 minutes north, Caves Beach. If you arrive at low tide, take some time to explore the huge sea caves that line the sand. Once the water is up, it’s time to surf. Caves is a relatively short beach, stretching for just 300m, but you should be able to find a good break. There’s often a sandbank around the middle of the beach, creating clean, overhead break conditions that will suit any surfer.