Best Beaches In Australia
IF we were to compose a list of the things that define Australia it would be beaches and lazy sun-seeking days on the sand that ranks right up there with football, meat pies, kangaroos, and Holden cars.
After all, the world’s largest island and smallest continent does boast 34,000km of coastline – and that’s not counting the assortment of off-shore islands – and a sun-loving culture that sees thousands of people flocking to the shore every weekend to worship the gods of sun, sea, surf and salt.
But, with literally thousands of beaches to choose from, which are this country’s very best? The team at AAT Kings has come up with a list of our favourites, from the parched Kimberley coast to Tasmania’s rugged eastern edge and all points in between.
Australia's Sunshine State is tops when it comes to seaside, with 7000km of coastline and agreeably warm weather combining to put strips of sand from Palm Beach to Palm Cove on the best-beaches list.
GREEN ISLAND, TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND
Swimming from the coast is discouraged in the top third of Queensland, thanks to the prehistoric apex predators that lurk below the salty surface, but there are a handful of islands that provide a safe haven to play in the warm Great Barrier Reef blue.
While Fitzroy Island's Nudey Beach and any stretch of sand on the Frankland Islands could take the title of Far North Queensland's best beach, this prestigious prize goes to Green Island.
Reinfern Beach, on the north side of the 15ha plot inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park World Heritage Area, is a sanctuary of serenity even on the busiest day with metres of sand making it easy for every visitor to find a place to stretch out a towel.
TALLEBUDGERA CREEK, GOLD COAST
Queensland's iconic Gold Coast – home to Meter Maids, high-rise hotels, and a shoal of surfers bobbing in the breakers – stretches from Coolangatta on the New South Wales border to Sanctuary Cove and boasts dozens of sandy destinations eligible to take this title.
Surfers Paradise is the most famous, Mermaid Beach is a local favourite, Currumbin has a small-town feel, Snapper Rocks is popular with wave riders, and Burleigh is a bohemian enclave with a Byron Bay vibe.
But it's Tallebudgera Creek that wins the prize with this pond, that divides Burleigh in the north and Palm Beach to the south, a tranquil pool of turquoise water that's reliably calm making it ideal for every age from toddlers to those with a few decades under their belt.
NOOSA HEADS, SUNSHINE COAST
The Sunshine Coast is south-east Queensland's other holiday hotspot, with travellers from around Australia drawn to the chilled beachside villages between Caloundra and Noosa Heads.
And, while it could be considered uncreative to name the coast's most famous beach as the area's top spot for swimming and strolling, the title has to go to Main Beach in downtown Noosa.
Lifeguards patrol all-year round, it's only steps to the eateries lining Hastings Street, there are waves but the swell is generally gentle enough to avoid being dumped by a menacing breaker, and the settlement has retained that small-town vibe to make it a welcoming place to vacay.
WHITEHAVEN BEACH, WHITSUNDAYS
When it comes to award-winning beaches, you can't go past Whitehaven deep in the heart of the holiday haven that is Queensland's Whitsundays.
Whitehaven Beach stretches 7km kilometres on the sunrise side of Whitsunday Island – the largest of the district's 74 islands – and boasts pristine white silica sand that's so fine it's ranked amongst the purest in the world and squeaks underfoot.
There's no better way to visit than a day-tripping cruise from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island, with tourist boats dropping anchor close to the shore and visitors jumping from the bow to wade ashore in Coral Sea water that's tempting all year round and sweeps through shades of brilliant blue and vivid green as the sun moves across the sky.
BEST BEACHES IN QUEENSLAND WITH AAT KINGS
AAT Kings boasts more than a dozen guided adventures exploring Australia’s Sunshine State, but Tropical Beaches & Reef is one of the best for beachcombing. This carefree jaunt starts in Cairns, finishes on the Gold Coast nine days later, and swings past the Whitsundays with the opportunity for a Whitehaven Beach detour.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA BEACHES
The state that covers a third of the continent is credited with 12,000km of coastline, from the Great Australian Bight to Timor Sea, with the dramatic and diverse landscapes between the South Australian and Northern Territory borders delivering dozens of beaches that tempt for the title of Australia's very best.
LITTLE PARAKEET BAY, ROTTNEST ISLAND
With an inventory of 63 beaches and 20 bays, boasting sand the colour of icing sugar and water so clear it takes on a whimsical aquamarine hue, there's no doubt Perth's Rottnest Island is a beach-lovers paradise only 19km across the Indian Ocean waves from the West Australian capital's coastline.
The coves on the island's western edge are not suited to swimming or snorkelling, thanks to the wild winds and precarious currents that frequent the zone, but a network of marked trails sweep across this corner of the island to connect picturesque plots like Eagle Bay and Mabel Cove.
Pinky Beach, The Basin, Geordie Bay, and Longreach Bay are all sites that see the most visitors when the sun is shining and the mercury climbs high enough to wade into the water – making them all contenders for the Rotto best-beach title – but the trophy goes to Little Parakeet Bay.
This secluded sanctuary is tucked between a row of coastal dunes and submerged coral reef, making it both pleasantly pretty and safe for swimming.
PENDER BAY, THE KIMBERLEY
Australia's burnt north-west coast, the vast expanse of ochre dirt and rusty rocks that encompass the Pilbara and Kimberley, is famous for cavernous gorges and jagged mountains formed millions of years ago.
The region is becoming renowned for an immense coastline that entices travellers with whale watching, pearl farms, tagalong tours with the First Nation custodians, and one enchanting sunset after another.
Broome's Cable Beach is the region's most famous, accumulating international acclaim thanks to the camel trains that lope along the beach when the sun is low to throw long shadows on the sand and spectacular sunsets best enjoyed from a deckchair placed by the waterline.
But it's peaceful Pender Bay that prevails, thanks to the shallow water that is the colour of precious gems and touches a stretch of white sand in the shadows of stumpy red rocks.
The bay's safe and shallow water is a popular nursery and resting ground for the humpback whales that migrate north from Antarctica every year, with visitors to this restful retreat occupied by regenerative activities like resting and reading.
GREENS POOLS, DENMARK
The wild corner of the continent between Cape Le Grand National Park, a stone's throw to the east of Esperance, and Margaret River a few hours’ drive south from Perth wraps around the location where the Indian and Southern oceans touch at Cape Leeuwin.
A remarkable register of beaches is ready to take the title in Western Australia's deep south, from Esperance's Hellfire Bay and Misery Beach near Torndirrup to Prevelly just west of the sleepy Margaret River settlement.
Greens Pool – which took 4th place in TripAdvisor's 2022 list of the South Pacific's best beaches – gets the gong, with batches of boulders smoothed during the centuries by wind and waves standing like sentries in the shallow water to add swimming to the list of reasons to visit this attractive address.
BEST BEACHES IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA WITH AAT KINGS
The wild Southern Ocean coastline between Esperance and Albany is a focus on South Western Escape, the AAT Kings outing that dedicates 11 days to drifting Australia’s scenic south-west corner. Day four is devoted to seeing Cape Le Grand National Park, during the drive south from Kalgoorlie, while day seven promises a visit to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse.
NORTHERN TERRITORY BEACHES
Australia's Northern Territory is not a place celebrated for beaches, thanks to the saltwater crocodiles and stinging maritime critters that lurk below the surface in the Top End, but there are still some spots worth browsing when exploring the country's highest latitudes.
MINDIL BEACH, DARWIN
There are only two contenders for this title in the Top End capital, with the sand surrounding the safe artificial swimming lagoon in the shadows of the apartment blocks dotted around the city's Waterfront Precinct taking second prize.
Mindil Beach, home to the famous Mindil Beach Markets during the balmy dry-season evening, takes the top spot because it is the place to settle into the sand and watch the sky cascade through the colours of a tropical sunset before darkness descends to reveal a sky marked by millions of twinkling stars.
GALARU, ARNHEM LAND
Travellers enticed by an off-road adventure, exploring a destination far from the tourist trail, will love the eastern edge of Arnhem Land.
This unexplored corner of the country is off-limits to all but those with a permit issued by the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation, and travellers need a local guide and four-wheel-drive transport to navigate the pristine and precious beaches between Birritjimi Beach and Turtle Beach/Ngumuya.
There's a collection of impressive beaches around the Gove Peninsula, a place where the red dirt of Arnhem Land kisses water so clear it morphs through remarkable shades of blue and green, with Little Bondi/Baringura and Macassan Beach/Garanhan nominees for the nod.
The winner in this tight race is East Woody Beach/Garalu, a 3km drive from Nhulunbuy, and while it's close to the region's most significant settlement it's still so remote that it's possible to spend the day sitting on the sand without seeing more than a couple of cars.
BEST BEACHES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY WITH AAT KINGS
Those exploring Australia’s magical Top End should take the opportunity to jump across the Beagle Gulf on a day-tripping adventure to the Tiwi Island. AAT Kings’ Tiwi Islands Aboriginal Cultural Tour discovers Melville and Bathurst islands, two delightful plots of property in the Timor Sea that boast some of the country’s most spectacular secret beaches.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA BEACHES
Adjectives from quaint and cute to wild and weather-beaten describe South Australia's allocation of the mainland's 60,000km of coastline, with this southern state's selection of beaches best described as hidden gems rather than famous places.
SEMAPHORE BEACH, ADELAIDE
The best thing about Adelaide's many beaches is their proximity to the city centre, with a short drive from city hotels to the seaside meaning it takes those seeking some sun and sea under an hour to be stretched out on a towel with feet in the sand.
While Glenelg is the most popular of the metro beaches, and both Brighton and Henley equally attractive when it comes to eating and drinking, it's Semaphore that ranks first thanks to the preserved Art Deco buildings lining the foreshore boulevards and the family-friendly water that makes it an inviting retreat on scorching summer evenings.
DOLPHIN BAY, YORKE PENINSULA
The Eyre and Yorke peninsulas feature long kilometres of coastline that deliver lovely locations to clock up some beach time, with Almonta Beach inside the Coffin Bay National Park and Hardwicke Bay on Spencer Gulf vying to take top honours in this part of the state.
But it's Dolphin Bay, inside the Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park at the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula, that's a scenic oasis when the weather is warm with sun lovers occasionally sharing space on the white sand beyond the lichen-covered boulders with a napping kangaroo.
BEST BEACHES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA WITH AAT KINGS
AAT Kings added South Australia Eyre Peninsula Escape to its register of South Australian expeditions to show guests this pristine corner of the country. The agreeable week-long adventure, which starts and finishes in Adelaide, drifts along the state’s coast between Streaky Bay and Port Lincoln to pause at incredible Coffin Bay.
Kilometres of easily accessible coastline, complimented by baking mid-summer temperatures that boost the mercury into the low 40s and roaring Southern Ocean storms that push long lines of swell towards the coast during winter, make the mainland's south-eastern state a scenic spot for beachcombing.
FAIRHAVEN BEACH, GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Victoria's Great Ocean Road is one of the world's ultimate driving circuits, appearing on every list of top road-tripping routes, with the 250km of coastline flanking the asphalt between Torquay and Allansford also boasting some of the country's best beaches.
Johanna Beach is a wild outpost ready for wrapping up in the warmest woollies to stroll the sand during winter when the weather is beautifully blustery, Bells Beach is home to the world's longest-running professional surfing event, and the slither of sand at Loch Ard Gorge provides a perch to appreciate a significant event in the coast's colourful history.
Lorne is a holiday haven during the long and lazy days of summer when the sand right in front of the main drag draws families during school holidays, and Wye River is a petite pocket at the base of a hamlet built into the bush of the Otway Range mountains.
Fairhaven Beach takes the trophy in this part of the country, with Visit Victoria describing the address as a "long cinematic sweep of sand" that's "arguably the most photographic beach" in one of the state's most photogenic locations.
BRIGHTON BEACH, MELBOURNE
The Victorian capital crowns Port Phillip Bay – which forms an almost-complete circle between Queenscliff on the western side of The Heads and Portsea to the east – with generations of Victorians spending school holidays camping in the council caravan parks alongside the sand reaching from the Melbourne CBD.
Brighton's Dendy Street Beach makes the grade as the metropolis' best, but it's not the salt water and sand that helps it take the title. It's the historic, colourful and instantly recognisable bathing boxes that make this address 13km from the city centre so famously photogenic.
The orderly row of 82 weatherboard boxes was constructed more than a century ago, as a "response to very Victorian ideas of morality and seaside bathing", and have become such hot property that each quaint structure now costs as much as a small suburban house to purchase.
POINT KING, MORNINGTON PENINSULA
Victoria's Mornington Peninsula – the parcel of property bounded by Port Phillip and Western Port bays an hour's drive from the city – is not only home to one of the state's stellar wine regions and an army of artisan food producers but dozens of idyllic beaches that feel a million miles away from the big-city bustle.
It's Rosebud, Rye, The Pillars, Mother's Beach, Safety Beach, Blairgowrie, Sorrento Front Beach, and Balnarring that are the finest on both bays while Sorrento Ocean Beach, Flinders, Shoreham, and Point Leo that are contenders for the best-beach title on the Bass Strait side.
Point King grabs the gong in this category, with this address hiding at the end of a concealed path below a line of million-dollar mansions inside the Portsea postcode that is simply too spectacular to ignore.
This dot on the map also plays a part in the history of European settlement, with the Union Jack first hoisted here in 1802 when British explorers set foot on the Country of the Wurrung/Bunurong people.
REFUGE COVE, WILSONS PROMONTORY
Victoria's Wilsons Promontory, the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, isn't a destination that immediately drops into most sightseeing schedules.
But it's worth embarking upon the journey to this magnificent stretch of coastline – home to Wilsons Promontory National Park and the state's largest marine national park – to tramp the trails leading to isolated locations like Whisky Bay and Fairy Cove.
While Sealers Cove is always in the running to take the title of Wilsons Prom's best beach, it's neighbouring Refuge Cove that wins. This wild and remote bay, that's only big enough for a few boats to anchor at once, boasts perfect cerulean water and a crescent of golden sand.
BEST BEACHES IN VICTORIA WITH AAT KINGS
Great Ocean Road & Kangaroo Island Escape is the AAT Kings itinerary for travellers set on seeing the spectacular coastline between Melbourne and Adelaide. The seven-day adventure drives the Great Ocean Road, then jumps across the border to explore Kangaroo Island before arriving in the South Australian capital.
NEW SOUTH WALES BEACHES
There are so many magnificent beaches spread across the New South Wales coast, from hidden coves deep inside national parks to world-famous locations in the shadows of Sydney's salubrious eastern suburbs, that travellers could dedicate a day to enjoying each one and be occupied with beachcombing for the better part of a year.
HYAMS BEACH, JERVIS BAY
Jervis Bay, on the New South Wales peaceful and picturesque south coast inside the Shoalhaven region, is one of Australia's true hidden gems that those in the know describe as "a slice of paradise".
Dolphin pods call the location home 52 weeks a year, whales visit as they complete the annual migration between Antarctica and Australia's warmer northern waters, abundant water sports are on offer, and two national parks guarantee a wealth of walking trails.
Murrays Beach inside Booderee National Park is sensational for swimming and snorkelling, Blenheim Beach not only forms part of the delightful White Sand Walk but boasts an abundance of marine life just below the waves to make this another place for underwater exploring, and Greenfield Beach is a family-friendly location for lazy days.
But it's Hyams Beach – a local favourite with sand the colour of refined sugar and crystal-clear water – that's too perfect to take anything but the top prize. This address on the southern shores of the Jervis Bay Marine Park is also home to a year-round population of bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and little penguins as well as the humpback and southern right whales that linger during their journey along the NSW coast in the months between summer and winter.
BONDI BEACH, SYDNEY
The coast stretching a handful of kilometres north and south from Sydney Heads is cluttered with beaches that visitors travel from the far points of the planet to tick from their travel to-do list.
To the south there's Coogee, Clovelly, Bronte, and Tamarama which are all linked by one of Australia's finest curated coastal walking routes while above Sydney Harbour National Park it's Dee Why, Narrabeen, Mona Vale and Avalon that make the capital's famed Northern Beaches a mecca for surfing and beach-side living.
But when selecting Sydney's best beaches, it's hard to go past the bona fide megastar that is Bondi. International tourists often make this their very first stop after stepping from overseas flights, public holidays during the warm season see the sand swarming with sun-lovers hailing from all points of the compass, and the cafes steps from the water's edge are always busy.
Bondi played a big part in defining Aussie beach culture – it was home to the country's first surf life saving club and the place where protests at the start of the last century saw bathing suits becoming briefer – and Bondi Icebergs is undoubtedly one of the world's most perfectly positioned swimming pools.
WATEGOS BEACH, BYRON BAY
Byron Bay's credentials as a holiday hotspot need no explanation thanks to that internationally famous combination of a bohemian vibe and classic Aussie beach culture mixing with a celebrated culinary culture, artisan arts community, and average annual maximum temperature of 26°C.
Main Beach is closest to town – which makes it ideal for seeing and being seen in an address that consistently delivers good people watching – and, with lifeguard stations crewed around the calendar, it's safe for families and inexperienced swimmers looking for an appropriate place to paddle.
Destinations from The Pass and Clarkes Beach and Tallow Beach to Belongil all throw their hat into the ring to take the title, but it's Wategos that comes up trumps with this picturesque cove close to Cape Bryon accommodating a long list of casual beach activities.
It's best in the morning, with its location below the lighthouse that stands on Australia's most easterly location promising those up before dawn the opportunity of being the first in the country to witness the sun climb above the horizon to start a new day.
BEST BEACHES IN NEW SOUTH WALES WITH AAT KINGS
Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour – as well as the Whitsundays and Fraser Island – are spots on the schedule for travellers joining AAT Kings’ East Coast Islands & Rainforests. The 12-day journey follows the coast between Sydney and Cairns to pass some of the country’s best beaches, with a pre-departure stay providing time to stroll the Bondi sand.
The Apple Isle's beaches are more about scenic views and sightseeing than swimming, with Southern Ocean swells bringing chilly temperatures that make it a mission to submerge in the salt.
WINEGLASS BAY, FREYCINET PENINSULA
This curved crescent of sand, christened because it reminded early explorers of the glasses from which they sipped their favourite vino variety, isn't just one of the island state's best beaches but a world-famous destination that attracted more than 300,000 visitors every year before the pandemic.
The beach sits in the shadows of The Hazards – the five majestic granite peaks that crown the Freycinet Peninsula in the Freycinet National Park – with most travellers taking in an elevated view of Wineglass Bay after making the short but steep scramble uphill to the lookout high in the pink-shaded summits.
LAKE PEDDER, SOUTH-WEST TASMANIA
Not all of Australia's most incredible beaches line the continent's outer edge. Lake Pedder, deep in Tasmania's wild south-west quarter, is just one of the country's mountain ponds spectacular enough to be placed on this list beside the most scenic sections of shoreline.
Lake Pedder, and neighbouring Lake Gordon, are surrounded by craggy peaks that adopt an almost-menacing appearance and form Australia's most extensive inland freshwater storage that covers 500km/sq to hold more than 37 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.
The glacier-wash lake is deep and cold, mixing with tannin from the alpine heath to give the water a dramatic almost-black tone. The sweeping thin ribbon of white sand flanks the water on two sides and is best appreciated from the hiking tracks lining the surrounding summits.
BEST BEACHES IN TASMANIA WITH AAT KINGS
The Freycinet Peninsula and beautiful Wineglass Bay are highlights of AAT Kings’ Perfect Tasmania, with this carefully curated itinerary spending 13 days completing a clockwise round-trip loop of the Apple Isle from Hobart. This hosted holiday also takes in famous places like Port Arthur, the Gordon River, Cradle Mountain, and the Tamar Valley.