Take some time to enjoy the soft sand between your toes when you spend the day at one of Australia’s beautiful sheltered beaches.
By Allie Metz
With more than 10,000 beaches fringing our shores, it’s easy to see why beach culture is ingrained in Australia’s national identity. Aussies will jump at any chance to spend a day outdoors either surfing, kayaking, snorkelling or just bobbing in the gently rolling waves of their favourite beach.
Kick off your shoes, pack a picnic and join the locals by staking the perfect spot in the sand. Here are just a few of our favourite beaches where you can enjoy a sunrise swim, barefoot beach walk or full day of safe splashing in beautiful waters.
After exploring the mainland of Queensland, head to the shores of Moreton Island (a 90-minute ferry ride from Brisbane). You will be rewarded with stretches of white sand edging toward crystal blue waters. Cool off at Honeymoon Bay at the island’s North Point, which is wedged between spectacular rocky cliffs rising upwards of 15 metres (49 feet). If you seek more than swimming, you can bushwalk, picnic and whale watch at the beautiful Moreton Island National Park - all in one afternoon. As Moreton Island is a sand island, you'll need a 4WD to reach North Point.
Crystal clear waters attract many visitors to Stokes Bay on the north coast of Kangaroo Island. The calm inlet is perfect for those who like to have a paddle as the rocks have been arranged to create a giant natural pool, protecting swimmers from the waves. There is also plenty to see on the shoreline with wild kangaroos, many native bird species and little penguin colonies. Make a weekend of it by booking a seaside cottage, such as Stokes Bay Beach House, or set up camp at one of Kangaroo Island's many camping grounds.
Tucked beneath the beautiful mansions of the Mornington Peninsula (a 1.5-hour drive south of Melbourne) lie the two hidden beaches of Point King. Follow the path at the end of Point King Road to reach calm, turquoise waters, which you’ll share with kayakers and divers exploring the reef. Hikers can traverse the cliff-top track, pausing at the white trig station and monument commemorating the first hoisting of the Union Jack in 1802, when Britain took possession of what is now Port Phillip Bay.
Catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly to swim at Shelly Beach, a protected marine reserve with clear, shallow waters. Apart from being popular with families, it also attracts scuba divers and snorkellers for its large variety of marine life. You can explore the calm waters alone, or on a tour with EcoTreasures. Post-swim, take the winding track up the headland for a scenic view of North Head and neighbouring beaches. Afterwards, still in your swimming costume, enjoy a casual breakfast or lunch at The Boathouse Shelly Beach.
Just 20 minutes from the centre of Hobart, this long crescent of sand is the ideal spot to let the ocean lap your feet on a leisurely stroll, before taking a dip on its western end. Later, you can bushwalk through the wilderness at the headland or have a picnic while you enjoy spectacular views across Frederick Henry Bay, a popular whale watching spot from May to July.
While many of the beaches in the Northern Territory aren’t recommended for swimming due to their dangerous marine life, in the capital of Darwin you'll find a beautiful man-made, saltwater lake at East Point Reserve. Spend the day swimming on the lake's pastel blue waters or relaxing under the palm trees. There is also a paved nature walk along the coastal cliff top nearby and military artefacts to explore, including old gun turrets from World War II.
There are several sheltered beaches to be found in King George Sound, on the south coast of Western Australia, which lies just under a five-hour drive from Perth, all boasting the area’s well-known white sand and turquoise waters. Less than 10 minutes drive, Middleton Beach is the closest to the centre of Albany and, with its small waves, it is ideal for swimming and snorkelling. There’s even a pontoon at Ellen Cove for jumping straight into the water. Visitors may just be lucky enough to spot seals or dolphins, or even a whale from July to September.
While many flock to the Gold Coast for its aptly named Surfers Paradise, there are plenty of other beaches where locals like to wet their toes. Currumbin Beach is a beautiful inlet where you can safely swim in the warmer Queensland waters, or test your balance with stand-up paddleboarding, available to hire from the Currumbin Boatshed. Once you've worked up an appetite, sit down for a classic Australian breakfast at the Elephant Rock Cafe, overlooking the beach. Every September, over-sized artwork dots the shore for the Swell Sculpture Festival.
Adelaide’s Henley Beach is popular with both locals and tourists and, when you get your first glimpse of the white sand, it’s easy to see why. The gentle surf makes the beach ideal for swimming, but the long jetty is also great for a walk or a spot of fishing for salmon, trout, tommy ruff and mulloway. Insider tip: Great wines from local wine producing regions such as the Barossa, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale can also be sampled at bars along the shore.
Less than a two-hour drive south of Sydney is Wollongong, where the idyllic little Coalcliff beach is surrounded by rocks and cliffs. There's an impressive salty rock pool at the southern tip for swimming, plus plenty more on offer including fishing (it’s a great spot for snapper and bream) and surfing. Five minutes down the road you'll find the Scarborough Hotel, a famous cliff-top beer garden with uninterrupted ocean views.