The Northern Beaches of Sydney are rightly famous.
From the get-go of international travel and for those hoteled in the CBD the ease of jumping on a ferry to Manly rather than hire a car or head by train further afield elevated this and the bus route to Bondi beach to global backpacker recognition.
Those in the know and with the means head further afield and the beaches and the breaks from Manly to Palm Beach and its cool neighborhood of Avalon deserve all the credits they get. It’s a pretty special place and sometimes the swell is just barreling along the breaks. There is a great coffee van parked there too and if the break is pumping you will definitely meet legends such as Kirk Jenkins coming up from Cronulla and showing everyone how it is done.
However, with an out of date reputation for its 'Steel City' past and only recently becoming accessible from the Royal National Park through the building of the Sea Cliff Bridge, the northern Illawarra breaks are surfing Australia's little secret.
International travel TV presenters have barely made mention of Sydney’s southern reaches, which makes for quieter and more enjoyable line-ups with locals enforcing aloha-style surf etiquette. Not only that, the unique geography and the greater open beach access means there are more places to choose across shorter distances to find the right conditions.
There are over 130 surf breaks south of the state capital. Kicking off at the very edge of the city limits in Cronulla, through the Royal National Park, dropping into the northern communities of the Illawarra, past the hot-spots of Gerringong, Manyana and Ulladulla and towards the Sapphire Coast. Each spot south of the city has free parking, plenty of beach access, small community places to eat and stay with similar peace vibes of the Byron Bay belt.
Need somewhere to replace a leash, pick up some wax or land a local memento tee? No Problem. Great community stores helmed by some of the most famous faces on the Illawarra deliver personal service and advice as well as great coffee stops. Essential in Helensburgh, in Thirroul you have the choice of three of the best in the famous Finbox store and cafe, DPSurfboards and Byrne and its Seafoam Cafe. Thirroul is popular with the city kids as they can jump on the fast train with their boards and walk 500m to the beach, knowing Sandon Point, McCauleys and Austimer are just another 500m if the Thirroul sand bank sets aren’t right.
Travelling south owards the state's largest surf store in Gerringong, the now famous Natural Necessity ,there are outlets, small boutique stores and mall retailers dotted along the route. Overall, there is a great break and a worthy stop for everyone from the curious beginner to the full-on pro within every 10km.
So head south, young man.
And get amped.
*Images kindly recognized by contributors on our instagram