5 amazing coastal havens from Sydney

Tripoto
Photo of 5 amazing coastal havens from Sydney by Ayan

Yes, Sydney rocks! There is no doubt about this. Come summer, and if you are a beach bum, you will just love the amazing troika of sun, sea and sands. If you are not, well, honestly, you might end up becoming one. After all, besides Manly and Bondi, there are scores of beaches strewn all along the amazing coastline of the city.

But there’s more to the state of New South Wales (of which Sydney is the capital) than this bustling megalopolis. If you are that quaint-town-by-the-sea kind of person, you will adore the many townships and hamlets that dot the coast of the blue Pacific, north and south of Sydney. Gorgeous turquoise waters, glistening green lagoons and waterfalls, sandstone cliffs and dense forests sum up the quintessential beachside experience in these places. If you do have time to explore more of this place outside Sydney, here’s a short list of 5 gorgeous coastal havens that you can head to from Sydney:

1. Lake Macquarie

Distance from Sydney: 125 km to the north

Driving time from Sydney: Approximately 2- 2.5 hours

Photo of Lake Macquarie NSW, Australia by Ayan

The famous Cave Beach at Lake Maquarie

Photo of Lake Macquarie NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Lake Macquarie NSW, Australia by Ayan

Lake Macquarie is an absolutely gorgeous lagoon with loads of activities that can keep you busy for days, if not weeks. For the record, it is Australia’s largest saltwater lagoon. With the meandering shoreline of the lake and the immense coastline of the Ocean nearby, you can surf, swim, snorkel and paddleboard round the day. For hikers, there’s miles of hiking trails by the sea as well as in the Wallarah National Park close by. Other activities include feeding pelicans at the Entrance, skydiving, visiting a vintage car museum or better still, doing nothing at one of the many beaches here. There’s Catherine Hill Bay Beach, Moonee Beach, Caves Beach amongst others to choose from.

Must do: A lovely attraction is the Caves beach at Lake Macquarie – as the name suggests, there is a beautiful network of sea caves at one end of the beach that can be easily accessed during low tide. If you come here at dawn, not only can you evade the day-trippers, but you will get to see a gorgeous sunrise, right inside the caves, all by yourself. Yes, feel like Robinson Crusoe for a few moments, then walk over to the many cafes by the beach and welcome your city life by gorging on a sumptuous breakfast!

2. Port Stephens

Distance from Sydney: 210 km to the north

Driving time from Sydney: Approximately 3- 3.5 hours

Further north from Lake Macquarie lies Port Stephens – another gorgeous town, much smaller and therefore less scattered compared to the jewels of Lake Macquarie. There are effectively 3 main bays here, viz. Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay, all strewn with multiple golden sand beaches. There are three large holiday parks at each of these three bays, offering a wide range of accommodation options, within walking distance of the inviting beaches.

At one end of the Fingal Bay lies the Fingal spit – a triangle of a large sandbar that connects to the nearby Shark Island at low tide. If you love long walks on the beach, this is definitely a box you must check – walk all along the Fingal beach, cross the Fingal spit, and then walk up to the Port Stephens Lighthouse, all the while getting amazing sea views while admiring the silver gulls and terns that stay here. And yes, the view from the Fingal spit with two water bodies on both sides (in different shades of blue) is a stunner!

Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan

Pelicans opposite the Shoal bay holiday park

Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan

The beautiful Shoal Bay - one of many bays in the regions

Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan

Sunset at any of the beaches is a spell binding experience

Photo of Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW, Australia by Ayan

Must do: The first at Port Stephens is visit its towering sand dunes, claimed to be amongst the largest in the southern hemisphere. Head to Anna Bay, feel insignificant in front of both sea and sand, then grab a toboggan or a sand board and rush down the dunes. If you need some more adrenaline, grab a quad bike and go dune bashing – the experience can’t get any better in Australia!

Another must do here is the hike to the top of Mount Tomaree, the highest point in Port Stephens. The hike is a moderate 20 -30 minute walk, but the views from the top are literally breath-taking. It is from here that you can admire at the immensity of the harbour of Port Stephens, while killer views of the nearby hills and string of golden beaches, lying adjacent to cyan waters are bound to mesmerize you. And yes, you can also see the Shark Island and the Fingal Spit dazzling in the waters!

3. Myall Lakes National Park

Distance from Sydney: 250 km to the north

Driving time from Sydney: Approximately 3.5 – 4 hours

Driving further north lies Myall Lakes - a series of fresh water lakes protected under the Ramsar Convention. The shores of these large but shallow lakes make for amazing camping, while a few camping sites also provide for more upscale accommodation. Whatever be your budget, the Myall Lakes are well removed from sprawling townships giving you the opportunity to live within nature at its best! The lakes are not too deep, so splashing here is quite some fun. What is amazing is a walk on the lake shores at dusk and watching a fiery sunset and its wondrous reflections on the lakes. You might also want to drive to the nearby sand dunes (continuing from Port Stephens) and walk a bit.

Photo of Myall Lakes National Park, Mungo Brush NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Myall Lakes National Park, Mungo Brush NSW, Australia by Ayan

Camping on the shores of these lagoons is a true 'far from the madding crowd' experience

Photo of Myall Lakes National Park, Mungo Brush NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Myall Lakes National Park, Mungo Brush NSW, Australia by Ayan

Must do: Not far from the Myall Lakes lie Seal Rocks, a beautiful and quaint promontory with an equally beautiful Lighthouse. The Boat beach at Seal Rocks is a sheltered inlet and makes for awesome dips in the transparent blue waters, while the hike up to the Seal Rocks Lighthouse is a wonderful trail through gum trees and blowholes! If you can afford the budget, stay a night or two at the Seal Rocks lighthouse – a paradise for solitude seekers, while helping you tick the ‘stay at a serene lighthouse’ off your bucket list

4. Kiama

Distance from Sydney: 120 km to the south

Driving time from Sydney: Approximately 2- 2.5 hours

We move over to the south of Sydney now, and a beautiful long drive through the Grand Pacific drive takes one to Sydney’s smaller cousin in the south – bustling Wollongong and then further to the coastal haven of Kiama. This drive is super picturesque and allows for magnificent pit stops if you have the time. One can drive through the Royal National Park and wade in the shallow green lagoons plus waterfall at Wattamolla beach, go skinny diving at the hidden Figure 8 pool (yes, the lake is the shape of the number 8), stop at Bald Hill, Stanwell Top for a bit of paragliding from the hills. Or go for a treetop climb near Illawara. Alternately, one can stop at the Nan Tien Buddhist temple for a bit of meditation and moksha at what is one of the largest temple complexes in the southern hemisphere! Finally, zip-zap-zoom past the magnificent Sea Cliff Bridge to finally head towards Kiama. (This road trip actually justifies the saying that the fun lies in the journey more than the destination!)

Photo of Kiama NSW, Australia by Ayan
Photo of Kiama NSW, Australia by Ayan

One of the many rock pools in Kiama

Photo of Kiama NSW, Australia by Ayan

The popular Bald hill lookout

Photo of Kiama NSW, Australia by Ayan

The Kiama lighthouse

Photo of Kiama NSW, Australia by Ayan

At Kiama, rest your now tired soul through beautiful walks by the seaside, swimming in hidden rock pools and of course, watching the blowhole for which Kiama is most famous. There are two of them, and the large one (the ‘Big Blowhole’) gives really tall gushing of the seawater, sometimes reaching a staggering 25 m height and definitely spraying all the onlookers!

Must do: The Kiama blowhole is a definite draw here. But that’s not all. Kiama’s famous rock-pool is one helluva spot. Swimming in its warm waters while staring at the Ocean makes it as good an infinity pool as you can find anywhere on the coastline here!

5. Huskisson, Jervis Bay

Distance from Sydney: 180 km to the south

Driving time from Sydney: Approximately 2.5 - 3 hours

Further south lies the bustling spot of Huskisson. If you want some camping in the wild, head over to the Booderee National Park, with wonderful drives in the woods. Alternately, if you want the luxury of civilization, Huskisson is studded with refined apartments, sparkling restaurants and gorgeous shops. In terms of activities, there is too much on offer at Huskisson. You can take a dolphin cruise to see the denizens of the huge Jervis Bay. Alternately, if it’s whaling season (May – November) go out to check the migrating humpback whales nursing their calves in the calm waters of Jervis Bay. If you like hikes, visit the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse that looks like a cute Lego toy. Or go over to the other side of the bay and trek up the Cape St. George Lighthouse that was destroyed in the 1920s for confusing rather than guiding the ships from wrecking on the nearby rocks!

Photo of Jervis Bay, Australia by Ayan

The point perpendicular lighthouse

Photo of Jervis Bay, Australia by Ayan

Chinaman's Beach

Photo of Jervis Bay, Australia by Ayan

The famous white sands of Hyam's Beach

Photo of Jervis Bay, Australia by Ayan

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Photo of Jervis Bay, Australia by Ayan

The famous white sands of Hyam's Beach

Photo of Jervis Bay, Australia by Ayan

There is also a multitude of beaches hidden within the Booderee National Park that justifies a drive through dirt tracks for a gorgeous swim in hidden inlets and alcoves (such as Honeymoon Bay, Steamers Beach and Cave Beach to name a few)

Must do: The quintessential must do at Jervis Bay is swim at Hyam’s Beach – the whitest sand beach in New South Wales and definitely one of the prettiest beaches all over the country. There is also a beautiful white sands walk through a string of white sands beach (including Hyams) for all those who want to walk and swim through these gorgeous beaches and waters.

Australia is blessed with one of the most beautiful – and longest - coastlines anywhere in the world. It is therefore undoubtedly a land famous for seascapes and seaside vacations. There are scores and scores of beautiful hamlets for those who want to discover and relish this coastline. In winter months, the waters might feel cold for a swim but that is compensated by whale watching – thousands of whales pass by the coastline during their annual migration to the warmer waters of the north. Otherwise, if you visit Australia in it summer, there’s just so much to see and tour. Down Under is indeed a land for the sun, sea and sands!

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