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.

White-sand beach, clear, turquoise water, and people and boats in the background, Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Queensland.
  • Jetstar
  • 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.

Kings Beach, Caloundra, busy with people on the sand and in the water.
Kings Beach, Caloundra

New South Wales

Sydney: Make a splash at sheltered Shelly Beach, Manly, and the ocean pools at Bondi, Bronte and Coogee.

Main ocean pool at Bondi Icebergs Club, with Bondi Beach in the background.
Icebergs ocean pool, Bondi Beach, Sydney

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.

Surfers riding waves at sunset in Byron Bay, with hinterland in background.
Sunset surfing at Byron Bay


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.

Two surfers riding at wave at Kirra on the Gold Coast.
Surfers at Kirra, Gold Coast

Western Australia

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.

South Australia

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.

Lone surfer riding a wave at Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island, with rock formations in the background.
Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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.

Person snorkelling in clear, turquoise water off Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island, with islands in the background.
Snorkelling at Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island

New South Wales

Sydney: Discover surprising city-beach snorkelling at protected Shelly Beach, Manly, part of the Cabbage Tree Aquatic Reserve.

Western Australia

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.

South Australia

Adelaide: Earn your snorkelling stripes spotting zebrafish around aquatic reserve Port Noarlunga Reef, an easy swim from the beach or jetty.

People swimming and snorkelling in large rock pools off the beach at Rottnest Island.
Snorkelling at Rottnest Island

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.

White sand beach and turquoise water with rainforest in the background at Cape Tribulation.
Cape Tribulation


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.

Granite boulders on white sand beach with turquoise water and trees in the background, Bay of Fires.
Bay of Fires

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.

People on the sand and in the water at Bondi Beach, with buildings in the background.
Bondi Beach