Here comes the sun: Australia’s best beaches
Build your own beach bucket list with our favourite places for swimming, surfing, snorkelling and people watching.
- September 2020
For many of us, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Take heart, summer is on its way. Beach time beckons.
These are some of our favourite patches of sand for soaking up the rays, riding the waves, snorkelling the reefs and rockpools, and swimming in the surf.
A beach bucket list to build on, whatever your sand-time style.
Best beaches for swimming
Sandy beaches with gentle swells, and beachfront ocean pools. Dive in!
Cairns and Port Douglas: Head to Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas and Palm Cove Beach for sheltered, palm-fringed swims.
Whitsunday Coast: Almost any island beach will offer a glorious swim. Don’t miss famous Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island.
Sunshine Coast: Locals love Noosa Main Beach and Mooloolaba, and the ocean pool at Kings Beach, Caloundra.
Gold Coast: Vie for a spot at popular Burleigh Heads or take the family to Currumbin Beach and Creek.
New South Wales
Sydney: Make a splash at sheltered Shelly Beach, Manly, and the ocean pools at Bondi, Bronte and Coogee.
Best beaches for surfing
Swells and breaks for budding and experienced surfers, from Surfers Paradise to Margaret River.
New South Wales
Byron Bay: Take your board and your pick: Main, Clarkes, Wategos or Tallow beaches. Slightly further south, make for Lennox Head, a National Surf Reserve.
Sydney: Hit the northern beaches, from Manly to Palm Beach, taking in Dee Why, Curl Curl and Narrabeen.
Gold Coast: Find your Surfers Paradise at Kirra, Burleigh Heads, Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks, Coolangatta and Narrowneck.
Sunshine Coast: Get in early to secure your spot at renowned point breaks at Noosa Heads, a World Surfing Reserve.
Busselton and Margaret River region: Find huge swells at Surfers Point, Prevelly and Smiths Beach, Yallingup.
Perth: Join the crowds at famed Cottesloe Beach, find a consistent break at Trigg Beach, or for bigger swells, make your way to Rottnest Island.
Adelaide: Make your way to mid-coast beaches Southport, Christies, Seaford, Moana and Sellicks. Head further south for bigger swells at Waitpinga and Parsons beaches.
Melbourne: Make like Bodhi at Bells Beach, Torquay, home of the Rip Curl Pro, or Cape Woolamai at Phillip Island, a National Surfing Reserve.
Best beaches for snorkelling
It’s fins for the win at coral reefs and beach rockpools.
Cairns: Explore coral reefs and tropical fish from white-sand beaches at Green Island and Fitzroy Island.
Whitsunday Coast: Nemo seekers, snorkel off island beaches and explore the Great Barrier Reef. Whitehaven Beach is a must.
Townsville: Make like a self-guided snorkelling trailblazer at Geoffrey or Nelly bays, Magnetic Island.
New South Wales
Sydney: Discover surprising city-beach snorkelling at protected Shelly Beach, Manly, part of the Cabbage Tree Aquatic Reserve.
Busselton and Margaret River region: Dive in to see the hundreds of different marine species who’ve made their home at the artificial reef at Busselton Jetty.
Perth: A short ferry trip from the city, take your fins to Rottnest Island and explore The Basin, Little Salmon Bay, Parker Point, and Parakeet Bay.
Adelaide: Earn your snorkelling stripes spotting zebrafish around aquatic reserve Port Noarlunga Reef, an easy swim from the beach or jetty.
Best beaches for wilderness escapes
Remote, wild beaches for hiking, swimming, snorkelling, even four-wheel driving.
Cairns: Get two natural wonders for one at remote Cape Tribulation Beach, where the stunning, lush Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.
Sunshine Coast: Pack your sense of adventure to drive the sand highway and explore the Maheno Shipwreck on Fraser Island’s 75 Mile Beach.
Launceston: Explore the East Coast: hike to Wineglass Bay at Freycinet National Park, or wander, swim or snorkel the secluded beaches of Bay of Fires lined with granite boulders.
Best beaches for people watching
See and be seen at crowd-worthy beaches.
Sydney: Surfers, sand-lazers and Icebergers: Sydney’s sandy icon is a top spot for people watching year-round.
Byron Bay: Celebrity spotters, this is your playground. Don your sunglasses and casually watch for famous faces at Main, Wategos and Broken Head beaches.
Cairns and Port Douglas: Keep a sly eye out for A-listers at palm-fringed Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas and Palm Cove Beach.