(CNN) — Ask Sydney insiders where they go to get away from city life, and they'll probably mention a sleepy little beach town on the north or south coast.
These getaways have a few ingredients: secluded beaches for swimming and surfing, watching bottlenose dolphins and migrating whales, or simply working on your tan.
Most beachfront pads are within a few hours' hightail from the city. From romantic seaside cottages to palatial waterfront mansions, here are seven of the best destinations:
1. House on the Rock at Bundeena
Bundeena is a stunning spot for coastal getaways.
Courtesy Travis/Creative commons/Flickr
It's only a one-hour drive south from Sydney, but the pace of life at the beachside town of Bundeena is much slower. It has only a handful of cafes, a small supermarket and a laid-back community club for cold beers and steaks.
Fringed by the Royal National Park, the beaches are raw: lined with eucalyptus trees, reached by bushwalking tracks and dotted with Aboriginal rock engravings. There are plenty to explore -- head to Garie for surf, the sandy bay at Jibbon Beach for a lazy day's swimming, or the rock pools at Gunyah for snorkeling.
House on the Rock is situated directly above Gunyah Beach. The secluded beach house clings to a craggy ledge and has everything you need for a self-catered weekend away. The wow factor is the floor-to-ceiling windows, which open out to a deck with heart-stopping 270-degree water views across Port Hacking and the Pacific Ocean.
House on the Rock +61 (0)2 9706 3389
2. Pretty Beach House at Tallow Beach
Pretty enough to be a hang for the rich and famous.
Courtesy russellstreet/Creative Commons/Flickr
Around 100 kilometers from Sydney, the Bouddi Peninsula is home to a protected national park, surf beaches and the aptly-named Pretty Beach House. It's favored by Sydney's elite and visiting celebrities, who can arrive in 15 minutes by helicopter from the city.
The property is set above the escarpment of Tallow Beach and is protected from prying eyes among the swaying eucalypts and angophoras. The main house displays artworks by prominent Australian artists such as Arthur Boyd and John Olsen. Guests don't have to lift a manicured finger as all the luxury finishing touches are provided -- including a personal chef, round-the-clock butler and a sommelier.
Each of the three villas is super secluded with private plunge pools and timber-decked terraces -- perfect for couples who want some alone time.
Both Tallow and the 100-meter strip of sand known as Little Tallow can be reached by following a bush track from the house. As an added incentive, staff will prepare a gourmet picnic hamper.
Pretty Beach House +61 (0)2 4360 1933
3. Jonah's at Whale Beach
Follow in the footstep of the stars at Jonah's.
New Yorkers have The Hamptons and Sydneysiders have the Palm Beach peninsula, and anyone with a penchant for splashing their cash tends to stay at Jonah's at Whale Beach. This five-star boutique property is set high on the cliffs above Whale Beach, with an award-winning restaurant and heart-stopping views over the Pacific Ocean.
The uninterrupted vista of the endless blue sea is best enjoyed from a rattan lounger on the terrace, where you can quaff martinis while trying to spot a humpback whale making its annual migration. Each of the 11 ocean-retreat suites is secluded and has a view.
It's a fair hike to get down to the beach, but worth it to ogle the surrounding multi-million dollar mansions.
Jonah's, Whale Beach +612 9974 5599
4. The Noreaster at Pacific Palms
Enjoy the allure of Pacific Palms at The Noreaster.
Courtesy Noreaster Sydney
Just three hours' drive north from Sydney, it's easy to see the allure of Pacific Palms. The boutique coastal area is fringed with gorgeous beaches like Blueys, Boomerang and Elizabeth. There's also Shelley Beach, hidden away in the bush land of Booti Booti National Park, which is favored by skinny-dipping locals.
All are within a 10-minute drive from The Noreaster, a three-bedroomed house with truly brag-worthy views across Smiths Lake and out to the shimmering ocean.
With floor-to-ceiling windows and an oversized timber deck to maximize the water vista, guests who manage to tear themselves from the view can take advantage of water sports aplenty, literally seconds from the door. Rent windsurfers and kayaks on the lake, or simply grab your surfboard and take a tinnie (a small outboard motor boat, for the foreigners who don't know) across the lake to reach Sandbar Beach.
The Noreaster, 9 Lauff Road, Smiths Lake, New South Wales
5. Bells Beach House and Bungalow at Killcare
Equipped with all the accessories -- including a couple of barbecues -- for a typically Australian beach getaway.
Courtesy Bells at Killcare
Only a 20-minute ferry ride from Palm Beach, Killcare is an easy weekender from Sydney, with gentle waves for board and bodysurfing, coastal campsites and a few secluded, unpatrolled beaches like Putty Beach and Little Beach.
Bells Beach House and Bungalow oozes style. Owned by Australian advertising guru John Singleton, the interior design is a mesh of luxury meets quintessential Aussie beach shack; think surfboards mounted to the walls, driftwood and coral and plenty of mod cons like flat screen televisions.
As a final nod to Aussie culture, there's not one, but two barbecues for cooking up steaks and snags.
Best of all, you can saunter across the road for a surf before breakfast as the house sits smack bang on the Killcare beachfront, only a couple of sandy footsteps from the local surf club.
Bells Beach House & Bungalow +61 (0) 2 4349 7000
6. Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages at Hyams Beach
Hyams Beach Seaside Bungalows overlook arguably the world's whitest sand.
Courtesy Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages
Around a two-and-a-half hours' drive from Sydney, Hyams Beach is thought to have the squeakiest, whitest sand in the world. It's only one of a number of beaches in Jervis Bay, but it's the firm favorite as a weekend destination for well-heeled Sydneysiders. There's clear water for swimming and snorkeling and you can even join a whale-watching tour. Or hike along bush tracks through the Booderee National Park to reach rugged coastline like Cave Beach and Bherwerre Beach, where you're more likely to spot a kangaroo than another sunbather.
Stay in total privacy in one of the cute, candy-colored Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages, ideal for couples wanting a romantic weekend. Designed with homely, 1920s-style charm, each has a view of the beach from the veranda and while most don't have a kitchen, it's only a short walk to the juicy burgers at the general store.
Hyams Beach Seaside Cottages +61 (0)2 4441 7838
7. Pacific Road House at Palm Beach
Channel your inner "Home and Away" at Palm Beach.
Courtesy Brian Giesen/Creative Commons/Flickr
Palm Beach and the surrounding peninsula is the ongoing set for Australian soap opera "Home and Away". And the laid-back lifestyle, beachy cafes and ritzy, million-dollar waterfront pads make it a popular haunt for Sydneysiders on a weekend beach escape.
Set high up in the Hollywood Hills-esque area south of the beach, the glamorous Pacific Road House has all the trimmings for a stylish, self-catered getaway. The breezy, 1950s mansion has a huge northeast facing terrace overlooking the ocean -- perfect for balmy summer nights. The ocean pool, surf and hip cafes of Palm Beach are only a 10-minute stroll away. Join the beautiful bodies working on their tans or hike through the bush land up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse, which has sweeping views up to the north coast.
Pacific Road House, Palm Beach, +61 (0)2 9331 2881
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2011. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.