11 Top-Rated Beaches in Australia
Rimmed by more than 60,000 kilometers of sun-soaked coastline, Australia is famous for its spectacular beaches. Many of these gleaming beauties grace lists of the best beaches in the world, and with more than 10,000 beaches in Australia to choose from, you're sure to find the perfect stretch of coast for your favorite activity, whether it's surfing, snorkeling, swimming, or sunbathing.
Nature lovers find nirvana on pristine stretches of sand and sea tucked deep in the wilderness. Surfers seek out glistening green-barrel breaks, and city slickers love a beautiful beach with easy access to restaurants, shops, and attractions. From coral-fringed bays in Western Australia and blonde-bombshell beaches in New South Wales and Queensland to a curvaceous cove in Tasmania, and even a tropical island fantasy in the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Australia has an alluring stretch of sand and sea to dazzle even the most jaded beach lovers.
1 Whitehaven Beach, Queensland
Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands along the Great Barrier Reef is not just one of Australia's top stretches of coast, it often scores a place on lists of the best beaches in the world. The seven-kilometer arc of powdery white sand here is actually silica, a silky-soft substance that creates a striking contrast with the tropical turquoise sea and emerald headlands. Best of all, the beach lies in a national park on Whitsunday Island, ensuring that it remains protected and pristine, despite the many day-trippers who land on these shores.
Tongue Bay is a popular anchorage for bareboats, and from Tongue Point, you can take a 10- to 15-minute hike up to the lookout for breathtaking views over Hill Inlet, where striking hues of turquoise and blue mingle with the snow-white sands, creating a marbled mosaic as the tides shift. Camping is permitted on the southern end of the beach.
If you're short on time, hop aboard a seaplane and soar over the swirling seascape on a plane. Most tourists visit the beach on day trips from Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour, or one of the Whitsunday Island resorts.
Hamilton Island makes a great base for exploring Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef. The island offers a wide range of accommodation, from luxury resorts like Beach Club and Qualia to the mid-range Whitsunday Apartments.
2 Turquoise Bay, Western Australia
One of the most ravishing beaches in Western Australia, pristine Turquoise Bay, about 60 kilometers south of Exmouth in Cape Range National Park, is true to its name, with luminous blue-green water. It's also one of the few mainland beaches where you can snorkel on colorful coral reefs right from shore. World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, Australia's largest fringing reef, lies steps from the sand, with more than 250 species of coral and 500 different species of fish, including stingrays, sea turtles, and whale sharks. One of the popular things to do here is drift snorkeling. You can swim out to the reef at the southern end of the beach and ride the current north to a shallow sandbar. The vivid turquoise waters and soft, white sand also make this a beautiful spot to bask on the shore and soak up all the views. It's a good idea to bring shade protection, snacks, and drinks, as there are no facilities except restrooms.
3 Cossies Beach, Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Imagine an idyllic South Pacific Islands beach: coconut palms bristling above a bone-white sliver of sand and luminous aqua water lapping softly on shore. This is the delicious stretch of sand on Direction Island in the Cocos (Keeling) islands. This remote Australian Territory of two atolls and 27 coral islands lies about a 4.5-hour flight from Perth. In 2016, with permission from the locals, beach expert and author Brad Farmer christened this sublime slice of coast "Cossies," after Australia's 26th Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove.
Bordered by lush coconut palms, the ravishing beach curves seductively out into the tropical turquoise sea, and you can snorkel among coral gardens and diverse marine life in the crystal-clear waters. Eco toilets, wood-fired barbecues, and walking trails are the only signs of development. The beach is a popular anchorage for visiting boaters, and camping is allowed on the beach, but you need to bring all your own equipment and drinking water. Yes, it's difficult to access this remote cluster of islands, but that only adds to its unspoiled beauty and allure.
4 Wineglass Bay, Tasmania
On a clear day, it's hard to beat the beauty of Wineglass Bay in Tasmania's Freycinet National Park, about a 2.5-hour drive north of Hobart. Lay eyes on this luscious jewel from the lookout, with its curving bush-fringed shoreline, stark-white sand, and sapphire waters, and you'll be spoilt forever. After soaking up the views, take the 20-minute walk from the lookout to the southern end of the beach, where you can gaze up at the Hazards, the pink-tinged granite peaks punctuating one end of the bay. Sea kayaking, sailing, and fishing are favorite pastimes here, and bushwalking is especially popular - Wineglass Bay lies on the Freycinet Experience Walk, a four-day trek along the entire peninsula that is one of the top hikes in Australia. The surrounding wilderness is home to wallabies, wombats, quolls, and even Tasmanian devils. Try to visit Wineglass Bay during the warmer months, from December through April.
The nearby beach resort of Coles Bay makes a great base to explore Wineglass Bay, with accommodation ranging from campsites to the luxury all-inclusive eco-resort Saffire Freycinet, with floor-to-ceiling windows that drink in all the views.
5 Cable Beach, Western Australia
If you've ever seen a photo of people riding camels silhouetted against a fiery sunset on an Aussie Beach, you can bet it's Cable Beach. It's one of the most popular things to do along this 22-kilometer stretch of creamy white sand and turquoise sea, which skirts the coast of Broome in Western Australia. It was named for the communications cable laid between here and Java across the Indian Ocean in 1889. You can drive 4WD vehicles along the shore and stake out your own private patch of sand, but it's a good idea to bring shade protection if you're planning to visit during the heat of the day.
From November to May, dangerous irukandji jellyfish swim in these waters, but you can paddle along the shore at other times of the year. You'll find plenty of restaurants right near the sand, and many people bring picnics to enjoy. Make sure you visit at least once at sunset for beautiful views of the blazing sun sinking slowly into the Indian Ocean.
If you want to stay as close as possible to this iconic stretch of sand, the luxury Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa, with studios, bungalows, villas, and suites, overlooks this famous beach.
6 Noosa Main Beach, Queensland
Fringed by palms, pandanus, and casuarina pines, Noosa Main Beach, about two hours north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast, is an Aussie favorite. This clean stretch of golden sand and blue-green water boasts a beautiful setting between Noosa National Park and the chic shops and cafes of Hastings Street, and its sheltered and sunny north-facing aspect makes it popular year-round. At the eastern end of the shoreline, the national park cloaks the headland, and if you hike up the hill into the park, you can often spot koalas in the trees. Swimmers love the clean, clear waters, and surfers love to ride the long waves paralleling the headland at the famous First Point. The Noosa Festival of Surfing takes place here each March. Children and adults alike love to ferret among the rockpools at the eastern end of the beach, and the boardwalk along the beach is a popular place for a sunset stroll. The beach is patrolled throughout the year.
When you need a break from the sun, Hastings Street (Noosa's main drag) is steps away from the sand, with gourmet restaurants, cafes, shops, and galleries. During summer and school holidays, city slickers from Sydney and Melbourne flock to Noosa Heads for their vacation, so parking in the little beach lot can be a challenge, but other lots are nearby. Better still, you can forget about finding a parking spot and stay at Netanya Noosa right on the beachfront in a spacious apartment with a full kitchen.
7 Twilight Beach, Western Australia
About seven kilometers from the little beach town of Esperance, Twilight Beach is Australia's version of the boulder-strewn beaches in the Seychelles. You won't find rustling palm trees here, but you will find crystal-clear turquoise water, a gorgeous slice of blinding white sand flanked by smooth granite boulders, and typically safe conditions for swimming and surfing. The broad, flat shoreline and shallow sandbar make this an ideal spot for families with small children, and many visitors like to swim out to the large granite rocks, climb to the top for fabulous views, and jump into the impossibly blue sea. Lifeguards patrol during summer. Restrooms and showers are available here, but you should bring shade protection as well as water and snacks.
About 70 kilometers from Twilight Beach in Cape le Grand National Park, Lucky Beach is another beautiful slice of coast and one of Australia's whitest stretches of sand. Kangaroos often lounge on its shores, posing for quintessential Aussie photo ops, and you can drive 4WD vehicles along the shore. Snorkeling, surfing, swimming, and fishing are all popular things to do along this wild stretch of coast.
8 Hyams Beach, New South Wales
About a 2.5-hour drive south of Sydney fringing the Jervis Bay Marine Park, Hyams Beach is famous for its snowy white, squeaky-fine sand. Swimming, snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding, and fishing are popular pursuits in the clear, blue waters, and it's a beautiful spot to bask on the powder-soft sands.
Scenic bushwalking trails lace the national park, including Hyams Beach Trail, also known as the Bird Spotter's walk, where you can look for colorful crimson rosellas and honeyeaters; interpretative signs help you identify the species. White Sands Walk takes you along the powdery shores of this sublime stretch of coast. Whales migrate along here from May to November, and bottlenose dolphins are also frequently spotted. A little cafe serves snacks and drinks. On weekends and holidays, parking can be difficult, but plenty of other beautiful beaches are nearby, including Murrays Beach on a sheltered bay in Booderee National Park (with a fee to enter), Seamans, and Chinamans beaches.
9 Vivonne Bay, South Australia
Vivonne Bay, on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, is an unspoiled stretch of bright, white sand and azure sea, where you can sometimes spot seals bobbing in the cool, clear water. The waves here are often perfect for surfing and boogie boarding, but you need to take care as the beach is not patrolled. Swimming is best in the summer, when the water warms up. Other popular things to do include picnics, sunbathing, fishing, and watching the fresh crayfish catch arrive at the jetty. Picnic and barbecue areas are available near the jetty, but you should bring your own food and refreshments.
East of Vivonne Bay is the Seal Bay Conservation Area, with Australia's third largest colony of sea lions, and not far from the beach, you can surf down the sand dunes at Little Sahara.
10 Surfers Paradise Beach
Backed by high-rise apartments, but still managing to impress with its beauty, this broad three-kilometer stretch of squeaky, white sand and surf-laced sea on the Gold Coast is one of Queensland's most famous beaches. Not surprisingly, this is a fantastic place for beginner surfers to catch some gentle waves. Swimming, sunbathing, and strolling along the soft sands or beachfront promenade are all equally satisfying here, and despite the crowds, the beach is surprisingly clean. Lifeguards patrol 365 days a year.
After a relaxing day soaking up the sun on the beach, you can hop across to fabulous shops, cafes, and restaurants only steps away from the sand. Shoppers also come here Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights to the Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets, with more than 120 stalls selling everything from photographs and fashion to souvenirs and jewelry. For convenient beachfront accommodation, Peppers Soul Surfers Paradise, with one-, two-, and three-bedroom luxury apartments and gorgeous sea views, sits right across from the beach.
11 Bondi Beach
It might not be the most beautiful beach in Australia, but for pure iconic status, cosmopolitan color, and proximity to a world-class city, this Australian Heritage Landmark scores a well-deserved place on this list. A mere 15 minutes by car or bus from Sydney's CBD, this curvy one-kilometer strand of blond sand and clear, blue sea is one of the most famous beaches in Sydney. It's so famous that it stars in its own Aussie reality TV show, Bondi Rescue. The beach is home to the country's first documented surf life saving club, dating from 1907.
In safe conditions, this is a beautiful spot to swim or surf, but it's important to stay between the flags here, as dangerous rip tides can sweep unsuspecting swimmers out to sea. Bondi comes from an aboriginal word meaning "noise of water breaking over rocks, an apt description of the sometimes dangerous surf that rolls in here - especially after a storm.
Bondi Beach is also a prime people-watching spot, where you can brush shoulders with backpackers from around the world, latte-sipping locals, and business people taking a quick beach break from work. Skateboarders love the beachfront skate park, and you can also take a dip in the oceanfront pool, or browse the trendy shops and cafes just across the street. The famous Bondi Icebergs Club here is a popular place to enjoy lunch or dinner, with spectacular beach views, and if you're looking for beachside accommodations, QT Bondi sits right across the street with bright, modern apartments.
From Bondi Beach, you can soak up some picturesque scenery along the beautiful Bondi to Bronte coastal walk. It begins at the southern end of the beach and skirts the coastline for six kilometers along the sandstone cliffs.