Best Melbourne beaches – from St Kilda to Sorrento

The bayside city of Melbourne is flanked by some beautiful beachside spots. Whether you’re planning fun in the sun or a refreshing walk in winter, here’s your guide to the best Melbourne beaches.

An aerial view of the blue waters and rugged cliffs of Sorrento back beach
  • Jane Ormond
  • July 2019

Melbourne beaches might not be as famous as Sydney’s, but as the city sits at the heart of Port Phillip Bay, with the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas on either side, it’s actually fringed with some gorgeous beachside spots. There are family-friendly splash pads to renowned surf scenes and many Melbourne beaches are just a tram ride away from the city, so you can escape the bustle and be on the sand in a matter of minutes.

Beaches near Melbourne

St Kilda Beach, with boats on the water, kites in the sky, and the Melbourne city skyline in the background.
The famous St Kilda Beach, with Melbourne's skyline behind it.

St Kilda Beach

8kms from the CBD

Possibly Melbourne’s most famous beach, St Kilda, to the southeast of the city, is a whole beachside experience. This famed, historic, once bohemian, beachside playground is a magnet for people wanting to soak up the sun, sand, and calm waters in the shade of the palm trees. People rollerblade, saunter and cycle the beachside path, while tourists take to the good-time rides at Luna Park, the bars, restaurants and cake shops of Acland Street, or the Sunday Market that lines the upper esplanade. Soak up the water then reconvene at one of the hatted restaurants that overlook the sand to watch the sunset.

A little further down, there’s Elwood Beach (10kms), equally lovely but not quite as busy, and a bit more green and grassy with its beachside dunes, skate park, barbecues, picnic spots and Point Ormond – a small, walkable hill that affords gorgeous bayside views.

A row of brightly painted bathing boxes - an iconic vision of Brighton Beach.
The iconic bathing boxes of Brighton Beach.

Brighton Beach

13kms from the CBD

One taken straight from the postcards, Brighton Beach is famous for its heritage-listed and brightly painted bathing boxes. Peeling just a little further south along the bay from St Kilda, Brighton Beach is scenic and clean, and it’s super popular all year round, as people stroll or cycle the trails that edge the beach or hit the sand for some (sun-safe) sun bathing and swimming in the mellow waters of the bay. The beach is also close to Brighton’s clutch of boutiques and cafes.

Carry on a little further south and you’ll see the scenic bluffs and turquoise waters of Sandringham Beach (16 kms) and Half Moon Bay (19 kms) – a hidden crescent-shaped beach with good swimming in its southern corner.

Williamstown Beach

15kms from the CBD

Curving southwest from the city, Williamstown Beach is a clean, broad and picturesque beach where yachts bob in the water, ice cream stores line the Esplanade behind and there are piers to go fishing from. It’s pretty calm but the southerlies can whip up some waves and lifeguards are on patrol during summer months. One of the big drawcards to Williamstown Beach is its accessibility – there is matting that reaches all the way to the shore, and there is free use of floating and regular wheelchairs (bookings required). There’s a park for picnics at eastern end of the beach and some luscious waterside dining for a post-swim meal.

Once you’ve had a swim at Williamstown, check out Altona Beach (18 kms), just a little further along. This broad, bright, pine-fringed beach has a heritage-listed pier, a dog-friendly section, calm waters and some excellent fish and chips across the road.

Further afield

Since so many of the city beaches are sheltered into the curve of the bay, it’s tough to whip up some waves – but! – venture a little further afield and you’ll hit Surf Central.

Surfers riding the waves at Bells Beach, one of the most famous surfing hotspots.
Surfers riding waves at Bells Beach.

Bells Beach

90-minute drive

If you want full-tilt waves and a serious dose of surf culture, take a day trip west on the aptly titled Great Ocean Road to Torquay on the Bellarine Peninsula. It’s a laidback seaside town that is also home to Bells Beach, the state’s surfing capital and a major hotspot on the world surfing circuit. This is where the Rip Curl Pro World Surfing Championship happens every Easter and it’s a major tourist drawcard for surfers who want to hit the swells at Bells or at nearby Jan Juc. Torquay also has some easier, more protected beaches for those who don’t want to face off against a major wave. The township, unsurprisingly, has a swathe of surf wear shops and Bells Beach is surrounded by cliffs so the surf-watching is primo.

Just 20 minutes from Torquay, you’ll come to Barwon Heads, a pretty seaside town that is home to several beaches, including 13th Beach, a popular surf spot, the more easy-going River Beach, and Barwon Bluff, if rock pools and snorkelling are your thing.

A wooden path leading down to the Sorrento to Portsea coastal walk.
The Sorrento to Portsea coastal walk.

Sorrento Beach

Two-hour drive

Curving down the eastern side of the bay onto the Mornington Peninsula, you’ll pass a roll call of gorgeous beaches – Mornington, Safety Beach, McCrae, Dromana, Rosebud, Rye – all low-fi summer holiday towns with caravan parks, hot pie shops and easy-going beaches. At the end of the peninsula, you’ll reach Sorrento, a prestigious cliff-side suburb with two gorgeous, safe beaches – Sorrento Front Beach and Sorrento Park Beach – which are separated by Policeman’s Point. Park Beach has plenty of picnic facilities and private jetties, while Front Beach flanks foreshore reserves.

Just a few kilometres further down, you’ll find Portsea Surf Beach – another popular surf beach, although these waters are a little more hazardous at times.