Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security: the beaches do have perils as well as pleasures. Some are protected by special shark nets, but they don’t keep out stingers such as bluebottles, which can suddenly swamp an entire beach; listen for loudspeaker announcements that will summon you from the water in the event of shark sightings or other dangers. Pacific currents can be very strong indeed – inexperienced swimmers and those with small children would do better sticking to the sheltered harbour beaches or sea pools at the ocean beaches. Ocean beaches are generally patrolled by surf lifesavers during the day between October and April (all year at Bondi): red and yellow flags (generally up from 6am until 6 or 7pm) indicate the safe areas to swim, avoiding dangerous rips and undertows. It’s hard not to be impressed as surfers paddle out on a seething ocean, but don’t follow them unless you’re confident you know what you’re doing. Surf schools can teach the basic skills, surfing etiquette and lingo. You can check daily surf reports on realsurf.com.

The final hazard, despite the apparent cleanliness, is pollution. Monitoring shows that it is nearly always safe to swim at all of Sydney’s beaches – except after storms, when storm water, currents and onshore breezes wash up sewage and other rubbish onto harbour beaches, making them (as signs will indicate) unsuitable for swimming and surfing. To check pollution levels, consult the Beachwatch Bulletin (1800 036 677, environment.nsw.gov.au).

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Australia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A Rough Guide to: visiting Australia's Great Barrier Reef

A Rough Guide to: visiting Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders – it’s the largest structure ever built by living things and is even visib…

25 Oct 2017 • Penny Walker insert_drive_file Article
The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
Undiscovered Australia: 7 places to get off the tourist trail

Undiscovered Australia: 7 places to get off the tourist trail

Australia is a vast country, though most visitors stay on the same tried and tested track, ticking off well-touristed pitstops along the way. But, of course, …

07 Aug 2017 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right