Sydney’s beaches are among its great natural joys. The water and sand seem remarkably clean – people actually eat fish caught in the harbour – and at Long Reef, just north of Manly, you can find rock pools teeming with starfish, anemones, sea snails and crabs, and even a few shy moray eels. In recent years, whale populations have recovered to such an extent that humpback and southern right whales have been regularly sighted from the Sydney headlands in June and July on their migratory path from the Antarctic to the tropical waters of Queensland, and southern right whales even occasionally make an appearance in Sydney Harbour itself.

Topless bathing for women, while legal, is accepted on many beaches but frowned on at others, so if in doubt, do as the locals do. There are two official nudist beaches around the harbour (see the sections on South Head and Middle Harbour).