Q: I will be travelling to Sydney soon and wondered whether there are any beach-style resorts in the surrounding areas. I will be with my nine-year-old daughter and would like to stay somewhere with other children around. Any ideas? S Whitehouse, London
A Sydney's 37 beaches are known first and foremost for their fantastic surf; they are less associated with resort hotels. The beaches immediately surrounding the city, from Bondi to Manly, fall into the surf category, and as you move further south they take on a more gentle and bucolic feel. While there are dozens of beach hotels in the city, you'll be hard-pushed to find any with a resort-like feel, or offering organised activities for your daughter. The natural amenities suffice for most locals.
The region is home to a number of spectacular white- sand beaches, perhaps the best example of which is at Manly. Manly occupies the North Head peninsula at the top of the Harbour in Sydney's northern suburbs. It is able to offer a perfect blend of beach and city – the quintessential Sydney experience – and one of the major benefits is that the city centre remains just a 20-minute ferry ride, beneath the imposing Harbour Bridge. So if you feel like visiting some of Sydney's more central attractions, such as Taronga Zoo (00 61 2 9969 2777; www.taronga.org.au), or Darling Harbour, for example, Manly is a good place to choose as your base.
Although there is an absence of hotels with organised children's clubs in Manly, the friendly beachfront is a hive of activity, bustling with an endless stream of surfers, swimmers, joggers and volleyball players.
The Sebel Manly Beach (00 61 2 9977 8866; www.mirvachotels.com.au) is one of the area's more family-oriented hotels, and has two swimming pools. Recently refurbished rooms start at A$189 (£89) per night, room only. Alternatively, the tourist board (www.sydney.com) recommends the family-friendly Manly Pacific Hotel (00 61 2 9977 7666; www. manlypacificsydney.com.au), where doubles start at A$214 (£98), room only. Here, your daughter should enjoy the rooftop swimming pool with views over the Pacific Ocean.
The closest of Sydney's beaches is the renowned Bondi Beach, east of the city centre and south of Manly. Having suffered a decline in its reputation over recent years, in part due to its rowdy nightlife, Bondi has been successfully reclaiming its status as the place for all things sun, sand and surf. With that, its reputation as a family retreat is also happily returning. More than just a beach, Bondi is also celebrated for its vibrant seafront restaurant and café culture. Its kilometre-long sweep of beach suffers from rip tides in places, but areas are marked in degrees of safety, 10 being the most dangerous. The northern end is the gentlest for swimmers. If your daughter is keen to try surfing, this is the place to learn (00 61 2 9365 1800; www.letsgosurfing.com.au). This would also give her a chance to mix with other children.
Overlooking the beach, the luxurious Swiss-Grand Resort and Spa (00 61 2 9365 5666; www.swissgrand.com. au) is the pick of Bondi's hotels. Doubles cost from A$182 (£86) per night, room only.
If you are keen to escape all signs of city life, further south of Bondi lies the coastal suburb of Coogee bay, where the Coogee Sands Hotel and Apartments (00 61 2 9665 8588; www. coogeesands. com.au) offers a relaxed beachfront environment on one of Sydney's safest and most beautiful beaches. Deluxe studio rooms start at A$140 (£64), room only, with children under 12 staying free.
Coogee is home to a protected marine reserve, and is an excellent place to fish out the snorkelling gear. There are also beautiful coastal paths that lead north to Bondi beach, and south to the surfing paradise of Maroubra.
If you've got your heart set on finding a hotel with a club for children, then around an hour's drive south of Sydney is the Novotel Northbeach Wollongong (00 61 2 4224 3111; www.novotelnorthbeach.com.au), in the town of Wollongong. The hotel has ample facilities for you to enjoy together, from a swimming pool to the beach, as well as a children's club, which you must book a day in advance. It costs A$30 (£14) per day for children aged five-12. Activities include cooking, dressing up and painting.
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