Something of a hidden gem, this gorgeous harbourside park with a sandy beach was once part of the then 206-hectare Vaucluse House estate. Secluded beneath the trees is Greycliffe House, a gracious 1851 Gothic sandstone pile (not open to visitors), which serves as the headquarters of Sydney Harbour National Park. Despite its ominous name, there's really nothing to worry about at Shark Beach – it has a net to put paranoid swimmers at ease.

Visit on a weekday when it’s not too busy: just mums with kids, retirees and slackers taking sickies from work. It's pretty bushy across the harbour at Middle Head too, so it's easy to forget you're in a city here. You can walk here from Bayview Hill Road in Rose Bay along the pleasant Heritage Foreshore Walk, with great views of the bridge and Opera House.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Sydney attractions

1. Milk Beach

0.41 MILES

The only things to distract you from serious beach time at divine Milk Beach are seaplanes and the glistening Sydney skyline. With wow-worthy harbour…

2. Strickland House

0.42 MILES

There are wonderful harbour views from the grounds of Strickland House (1856), which are now a public park. It sits above sweet little Milk Beach. Built…

3. Vaucluse House

0.47 MILES

Construction of this imposing, turreted specimen of Gothic Australiana, set amid 10 hectares of lush gardens, commenced in 1805, but the house was…

4. Parsley Bay

0.59 MILES

A hidden gem, this little bay has a calm swimming beach, a lawn dotted with sandstone sculptures for picnics and play, a little cafe and a cute suspension…

5. Shark Island

0.76 MILES

Little Shark Island, off Rose Bay, makes a great picnic getaway. There's not a lot here except for toilets and drinking water – and at 250m by 100m, you…

6. Camp Cove

1.01 MILES

Immediately north of Watsons Bay, this small swimming beach is popular with both families and topless sunbathers. When Governor Phillip realised Botany…

7. Macquarie Lighthouse

1.05 MILES

Visible from all over Sydney, this striking white lighthouse was built in the 1880s as an exact replica of the original Francis Greenway–designed…

8. Watsons Bay

1.06 MILES

Lovely Watsons Bay, east of the city centre and north of Bondi, was once a small fishing village, as evidenced by the heritage cottages that pepper the…