Breaking down ten of Australia's most gorgeous stretches of sand.
All around the world, Australia is renowned for its beaches, and it isn’t hard to see why. With some of the longest stretches of sand-covered coastline in the world, Oz's beaches are not only plentiful but also of an almost universally high quality.
Aussies take care of and take pride in our beaches, keeping them generally clean and pollution-free, but with so many to choose from, how can you determine which beaches are a cut above the rest?
Here's our list based on a detailed survey of the Australian public.
Location Bondi, Sydney NSW
We can see you rolling your eyes through the screen right now, however, bear with us. Bondi makes the list simply because no Aussie beach countdown is complete without having it on board. Less about the actual quality of the beach itself and more about the surroundings, atmosphere, history and people watching, like it or not, Sydney‘s famous stretch of sand at Bondi is a long-time fixture and also something of an icon in Aussie beach culture.
Image: Wise Monkeys Abroad
The beach is the home of the world’s first Surf Life Saving club (founded over 100 years ago) and played a key role in the development of several safety techniques and equipment that are still in use today. Bondi was also the focal point of a series of bathing suit protests in the early 1900’s, helping pave the way for the bikini to become the commonly accepted piece of beach-going attire that it is today.
These days, Bondi is almost universally crowded except in the coldest months of the year, with its relatively clean shores coupling with extremely easy access from the centre of Australia’s largest city making it a popular destination to relax and eat. The beach’s popularity has lead to a huge number of dining options such as cafes and restaurants springing up nearby as a result, meaning it’s quite possible to spend a full day lazing away in the sunshine while having a decent place to eat. It's important to note that visitors should expect to pay “tourist prices” for any and all purchases, with parking fees, in particular, bordering on the ridiculous.
Nonetheless, if you’re visiting Australia from overseas or simply an Aussie travelling to Sydney for the first time, Bondi’s cultural relevance and status make it a must-visit, if only once.
Location Near Cairns, Far North Queensland
The entire Great Barrier Reef in general offers a cavalcade of amazing spectacles, not the least of which are beaches. However, two destinations, in particular, stand out among the many choices as far as we are concerned (another of which you’ll come across later on this list). In terms of islands, you’d be hard pressed to find a higher concentration of great beaches-per-square-metre than on the stunning Lizard Island, which boasts 23 separate stunning white beaches over the relatively small area of just over 1000 hectares.
Image: Erik Williamson
Lizard island sits on the eastern side of the Great Barrier Reef and is a picture-perfect example of an amazing island getaway. There’s only one thing standing in the way, however, as one of the most exclusive beach destinations in the country, you’ll have to have deep wallets if you want to spend time here.
With only one accommodation facility on the island; the aptly-named Lizard Island Resort, you can expect to pay a starting price of around $1,400 per night (minimum 2 nights stay) for the entry level Anchor Bay Room.
So what do you get for your money? Your own private villa and access to some of the most secluded beaches in the country with amazing diving and snorkelling spots right off shore. If you’re amongst the lucky few who are looking to travel to Lizard Island, your best bet is to fly to Cairns and then take a 1-hour hinterland flight transfer, which are held twice daily. Once you arrive, all you'll need to do is set back, relax, and brag about this incredible destination to us unlucky folk at home.
Location Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba
Byron has come a long way in terms of development from its early days as merely a quaint hippy town. Modern cafes and bars have been popping up over the years along with increasing interest from property developers, however, one thing that has remained unchanged is the quality of its beaches.
Image: Super Cool Beaches
Sporting a long, typically uncrowded stretch of coastline that is reached with a short trip from the Gold Coast and various other Northern New South Wales destinations, Main Beach has been a large contributing factor in the continued growth of Byron Bay‘s popularity.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Byron’s main selling point for tourists is that it’s the easternmost point of mainland Australia. On top of that, its location makes the majority of its beaches conducive to some great surf breaks drawing surfers from all over the globe. As an added bonus, those looking to bring their pets for some exercise can visit the dog-friendly Belongil Beach and Tallow Beach. The lovely powder-like sand of the beaches makes for a great day out for those visiting interstate or simply hopping across the border for a less-crowded alternative.
On the tour you'll also visit the popular destination of Maleny, which is known for its delicious produce including cheese and yoghurt. Throughout the day you'll be treated to spectacular views over the hinterland which will make your proximity to the beach almost unbelievable. Great for visitors looking to see more of the Sunshine Coast than the sun-soaked beaches, restaurants and nightlife, the hinterland side of the coast is a mecca to explore and something that should definitely be nearing the top of your list for your next visit.
Location Mandalay Beach Road, Walpole
When compared to the East Coast, Western Australia is often overlooked for travellers exploring interstate. A prime example of this is WA’s Mandalay Beach, situated to the south of Perth, and located around 30 minutes from the town of Walpole.
Image: Steve Backart
The isolated location of the beach only helps contribute to its beauty, as the rugged, untouched nature of the coast with its rocky headlands and untamed wilderness make for a different and impressive beach location that largely differs from many of the other beaches on this list. The beach itself inherits its name from the wreck of the Mandalay, a Norwegian shipwreck from 1911, that is at times visible during low tide.
One of the highlights of Mandalay Beach is the nearby Chatham Island. Sitting just a few miles off the coast the island’s greenery contrasts the crashing white crests of the waves at high tide and forms a picturesque scene. If you’re looking to make the hike to Mandalay Beach, you’re going to have to work for it as the closest major settlement is Walpole.
Mandalay Beach has only two entry points that are suitable for regular vehicles as well, but if you’re looking for one of the unique beach experiences in Australia (as well as bragging rights), it’s well worth it.
Location Freycinet National Park
Talk about photogenic! While Tasmania probably isn’t the first state that springs to mind when you’re trying to conjure up images of beautiful Aussie beaches (as it’s definitely more widely known for its greenery reminiscent of England and Wales), there are definitely exceptions. One of the most impressive Tassie beaches is the spectacular Wineglass Bay within Freycinet National Park. Reached an approximate 2-hour drive from Launceston and 3 hour trip from Hobart, the beach is a fair hike but, oh boy, is it worth the effort.
Wineglass Bay serves as one of Tasmania's favourite poster-boys; if you’ve seen any kind of promotional material showcasing the state, you’ve no doubt come across a photo of this picturesque destination. The image of the sand contrasting the surrounding pink granite peaks and lapping turquoise waters in a location that is wonderfully sheltered goes a long way to making the beach unique. The clam-shaped shoreline on Tasmania’s east coast is relatively isolated and remains fairly untouched despite its growing popularity.
Combine the beauty of the beach with the range of things to see and do including snorkelling, kayaking, wildlife spotting, and hiking, and you have one of the most well-rounded beach spots in the country.
Wineglass Bay itself can best be viewed from the dedicated lookout, which is roughly a 1-hour return hike up a well constructed and maintained (yet steep and rather challenging) path. The beach itself can also be accessed by a downhill portion of track (takes about 20 minutes at a steady pace), and taking a walk along its shores is one of the true must-do nature-based experiences in Australia’s southernmost state.
Location Fraser Island QLD
It’s only fitting that the largest sand island in the world should also play host to one of Australia’s best beaches. 75 Mile Beach does a great job of carrying the card while serving as the unofficial face of Queensland’s Fraser Island. As you might expect, the beach gets its name from its approximate length, and the number ’75’ should tell you all you need to know about just how expansive this huge stretch of coastline truly is.
Image: Eurong Beach Resort
75 Mile has much more going for it than simply its size as its various stretches of multi-coloured sands form a vivid mosaic of white to hues of bright oranges to ochre tones. The waters of the beach are less of an attraction than one might think, with the relatively large number of Tiger Sharks that inhabit the shallows leading many to instead look inland from the beach for their cooling off and swimming experiences.
It’s on this front that 75 Mile Beach truly shines, with a myriad of crystal-clear freshwater lakes that lie within walking distance of the shoreline. One section, in particular, the Champagne Pools, is exceptionally popular with visitors and adds a truly unique atmosphere to the swimming experience.
Perhaps the easiest way to get to 75 Mile Beach and Fraser Island in general is to depart from nearby Hervey Bay and, depending on if you’re planning to bring your vehicle or not, either take one of the barges that make the trip from the Bay (takes around half an hour) or hop aboard a light plane and fly in.
Location Noosa, Sunshine Coast QLD
Noosa Main Beach is the standout option of the many quality beaches on the Sunshine Coast and is pretty much the perfect showcase of what the Sunny Coast has to offer. It is a picture-perfect setting with golden sand, pristine waters, waves that are ideal for swimming, is well-patrolled, easily accessible, and rich in both marine and shore-dwelling wildlife. Pods of dolphins frequent the waters just off the beach’s main strip, and whales can even be spotted during their annual migration season. The beach also boasts outstanding surfing conditions around the Noosa Park headland, serving as the home of the yearly Noosa Festival of Surfing each March.
Noosa Main Beach’s north-facing direction means that conditions are far more sheltered than many other beaches on the coast, helping take the sting out of the breeze in the colder months and making it basically a viable year-round option for those looking for some beach-going fun.
Fisherman also love this place, as it’s not necessary to venture far offshore to end the day with a decent haul here; flathead, bream, dart, whiting and many other popular species are just waiting for the bait.
An added bonus that Noosa Main Beach has over other popular Aussie beach destinations like Bondi or Surfers Paradise is its large, FREE all-day parking that makes getting a decent spot without having to pay through the nose a viable option, assuming you arrive early enough. Once you’ve successfully parked, it’s a very feasible proposition to spend an entire day in the area as there are plenty of cafes, stores and restaurants located close to the beach.
Additionally, the Surf Life Saving Club that serves as home to the many dedicated lifeguards on the beach also offers reasonably-priced lunches for those looking for a good value meal. About the only negative is for those looking for big waves will want to look for other options, as Noosa Main Beach is by far more of a swimming beach than a surfing beach.
Location Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast QLD
G>iven its nature as a beach destination, it’s only reasonable to expect the Gold Coast to have a fairly big range of contenders in the best beach category. However increasing crowds and the gaudy tourist atmosphere of some of its stretches of coastline takes some of the charm away from what are otherwise beautiful beach areas. One quite amazing exception to this, however, is Burleigh Heads beach, which combines a stunning outlook, outstanding surf conditions, and numerous winding walking tracks along great stretches of headland into a single wonderful beach package.
Image: Tourism Queensland
It’s fairly incredible that such a beautiful area sits basically alongside a major highway yet still remains relatively clean and unpolluted. Burleigh Beach’s tropical sands look just as untouched as you might expect from an island resort, a reflection on the respect that locals have always had for the area.
Multiple heavily patrolled swimming sections by vigilant lifeguards make taking a dip a pleasant option on most days. On the other hand, surfers will be in their element as it’s the site for numerous annual surfing competitions drawing some of the biggest names in the world.
A large, family-friendly and facility-rich parkland area rounds out the location making for a great day out either alone or with the kids (with plenty of dining and takeaway options nearby too). Those wanting to take a stroll along the 4-kilometre stretch will also get the chance to catch a glimpse of the many types of wildlife that inhabit both the land and sea, including the likes of brush turkeys, sea eagles, pods of dolphins and even whales during their migratory season.
Location Broome WA
Now we get to the end of the proceedings, with little separating the top two other than which style of beach you’d prefer. In second place sits Broome‘s Cable Beach in Western Australia. “Postcard perfect”, “unforgettable”, “no words to describe its beauty” are just some of the terms used to describe Cable Beach by first-time visitors, and upon stepping onto its shores, it’s not hard to see why.
Image: Red Sun Camels
Although slowly gaining in commercialism due to the rave reviews it receives, Cable Beach is still basically an untouched stretch of shoreline that is especially famous for one particular reason; its sunsets. Being that, unlike many of the other beaches on this list, it sits on the Indian Ocean rather than the Pacific, the sunsets often appear as a bright red-orange ball in the sky that has been the subject of numerous skilled photographers’ works.
The locals, obviously, are aware of its beauty, as two of the most popular ways to take advantage of the sunsets are provided by the both the Sunset Bar that allows visitors to kick back and enjoy a drink as the sun goes down, and the popular sunset camel rides. It’s a common sight to see a long line of camels carrying their excited tourists along the beach trying to grab the best possible photo of this amazing natural phenomenon. It’s hard to blame them, however, as it’s truly a wonderful spectacle especially if you happen to be there between the months of March and October when the Staircase to the Moon spectacle is at its best.
Lastly, the beach is within walking distance from Broome, so if you’re wanting to visit you’ll have various accommodation and activity options. All in all, Cable Beach is truly a bucket list item for Aussies despite its distance from most of the cities on the East Coast.
Location Whitsunday Island, Whitsundays QLD
If you have a reasonable knowledge of Australia's beaches and noticed you hadn’t seen Whitehaven yet on this list, then you probably knew it was coming. While by now it’s probably bordering on the predictable, if you’ve ever actually seen Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays then you’d be hard pressed to come up with a reason why anyone should argue against it being the Most Beautiful Beach in Australia. The sand is without a doubt the highlight here, although the stunning water and reef surroundings are certainly no slouch, either.
Image: Ocean Rafting
You’ll often see in brochures for Whitehaven Beach that marketers go out of their way to mention its silica sand, which is all well and good, but to someone who’s never visited, what does it actually mean? Silica is a substance that is contained in an extremely high-purity form of sand, with extremely fine grains that make it very soft to the touch and also prevents it from getting too hot underfoot. Coupled with the endless sunshine, the colour of the sand is an almost pure-white colour that forms an amazing contrast to the vivid blue of the waters that lap at the beach and contributes to sheer magic of Whitehaven.
Whitehaven Beach stretches over 7km along the coast of its host, Whitsunday Island, meaning that even in peak seasons it will rarely be crowded enough to ruin the atmosphere. The myriad of coves, lagoons, and inlets that dot its surrounds only serve to add to the mystique and exploration options, with low tide being the best time for overall viewing experiences.
As the country’s most photographed beach, it’s also no surprise that Whitehaven is the target destination of numerous tour and cruise operators who aim to bring eager guests to catch a glimpse of its offerings, the majority of which depart from the relatively close by Airlie Beach. With issues such as climate change and overuse possible factors in the deterioration of its perfection in the future, it’s highly recommended to visit Whitehaven as soon in the near future as you possibly can.