There’s no denying that Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And our many waterways – the harbour, beaches and rivers included – offer perfect vantage points from which to see our glittering metropolis.

On a kayak, you’ll not only see areas that are only accessible by boat, you’ll discover an entirely new city. One filled with secluded beaches, lush forests and swimming nooks (where you don’t have to fight for a spot on the sand). Here are six of the most beautiful locations to paddle this summer. Before you set out, check out the rules and safety guidelines for kayaking NSW’s waterways here, as well as weather and waterway alerts.

Pittwater
Pittwater is one of Sydney’s most spectacular treasures. Just 30 kilometres north of the CBD, you’ll find crystal-clear waters and bushland galore, plus many spots only accessible by boat. Hire a kayak from Paddlecraft Bayview to explore the surrounds yourself, or head out on an organised tour with Pittwater Kayak Tours. Start at Sandy Beach Reserve and paddle across to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, where you’ll be wowed by pristine beaches, including Portuguese Beach and Currawong Beach (both unpatrolled). Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales, turtles and seals – this area is a haven for animals.

Check conditions here before paddling.

Rose Bay
There are few spots more picturesque to kayak than the waters of Sydney Harbour, which provides spectacular views of the cityscape, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Launch from Rose Bay, then travel north-east towards Vaucluse or west towards Point Piper. Or, if the conditions are suitable, paddle one kilometre to Shark Island (there’s a $7 landing fee). Whichever way you choose, you’ll have views aplenty as you paddle past nooks and bays such as Milk Beach and Parsley Bay. Be sure to pack your swimmers so you can stop for dips. Kayaks are available to hire at Rose Bay Aquatic Hire.

Check conditions here before paddling.

Woronora River
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head down to the Woronora River in the Sutherland Shire. A favourite with nature-loving locals, this 36-kilometre-long river is a stunning spot to paddle. As you head out on your kayak, you’ll come across thick forest, hidden beaches and rocky platforms. You’ll paddle past plenty of idyllic picnic spots on the banks of the river, including Prince Edward Park (also a good launching spot) and The Needles, so be sure to pack lunch. The Boatshed at Woronora rents out kayaks and serves a topnotch breakfast.

Brooklyn
The mighty Hawkesbury River – which has had its beauty immortalised by countless writers, poets and artists over the centuries – flows for more than 120 kilometres, beginning at Yarramundi (near Windsor) and emptying at Broken Bay. Set off from Brooklyn, where you can hire a kayak from Hawkesbury River Kayaks, and try your hand at circumnavigating Dangar Island, which is just a 20-minute paddle away. If you’re keen to continue exploring the area, continue 40 minutes upstream (towards Broken Bay) to Gunyah Beach, which is the perfect spot for a beach picnic.

Manly
When it comes to beautiful spots to explore in Sydney, we don’t need to tell you twice that Manly is a sure thing. Set off from Manly Cove to explore the waters of North Harbour, as well as secluded beaches such as Collins Beach and Store Beach. Keep your eyes peeled for fairy penguins, which can often be seen from late summer through to autumn. If you’re paddling after a recent downpour, you may even spot a fully flowing waterfall at Collins Flat Beach. You can hire kayaks from Manly Kayak Centre.

Check conditions here before paddling.

Bundeena
South of Cronulla, one hour from the CBD, Bundeena is the escape from crowded city beaches you’ve been looking for. Spend your day gliding through the dazzlingly clear waters of Port Hacking: set off from Bundeena Kayaks at Bonnie Vale Picnic Grounds and paddle two kilometres to Maianbar, or go all the way to Audley Weir (11 kilometres). No matter which option you choose, you’ll be met with stunning vistas and plenty of spots for a swim along the way.

Check conditions here before paddling.