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11 of Australia’s most popular surfing beaches

Discover why Australia is a must-visit country for surfers. 

By Ellie Schneider

With waves for beginners as well as seasoned surfers, some of the world's best surf spots are right here in Australia. From the east to the west coast, here are 11 beaches known for their beauty as well as their breaks.

Incredible surf spots in Australia

Cabarita Beach, New South Wales

A 30 minute drive north of Byron Bay, in the north of New South Wales near the Queensland border, Cabarita Beach is a stretch of sand revered by Australian surfers. The break at Cabarita is one of the few places along the Tweed Coast that is sheltered from northerly winds and protected from large swells, which makes it a great spot for beginners. Luxury boutique hotel Halcyon House enjoys prime position on the beachfront, and can arrange private surf lessons with Australian pro surfer Joel Parkinson, followed by a relaxed poolside lunch at the sophisticated hotel restaurant Paper Daisy. 

Manly, New South Wales

Sydney's Manly Beach can be easily reached via a ferry ride across Sydney Harbour from Circular Quay in Sydney's city centre. The wide surf zone produces good breaks the length of the beach, and this is one of the few Sydney beaches that handles southerly winds well. Manly Surf School offers group and individual lessons for beginners, while avid surfers can get their thrills near Queenscliff headland at the northern end of the beach. When you're done, there are dozens of beachside cafés: try Barefoot Coffee Traders and Belgrave Cartel for a high quality coffee fix.  

Pambula River, New South Wales

On the far South Coast of New South Wales, six hours drive from Sydney, lies the Pambula River. The surf is erratic but exhilarating and popular when the conditions are just right, especially among seasoned surfers. The beach is surrounded by national parks where you can spot kangaroos, especially at dawn and dusk. After your surf, watch oysters being opened (and then indulge) at the nearby award-winning oyster farm, Broadwater Oysters.  

North Narrabeen, New South Wales

Just 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) north of Sydney's centre, North Narrabeen is loved by local surfers. This area has been declared a National Surfing Reserve and spans more than one kilometre (0.6 miles) of coastline. There are more than five breaks on offer including the Point, the Alley (a sand-covered rock shelf offering both left- and right-handers) and the Bombie (a break to the south, renowned for its separate waves in big swells). Head to the friendly beachside Mexicano for a post-surf burrito and a margarita.  

Lennox Head, New South Wales

A seaside village in the north of New South Wales, Lennox, as the locals call it, sits between the popular tourist towns of Byron Bay and Ballina. Once a sleepy town, the area is now popular with holidaymakers and surfers, and the break offers a great right-hander. If you're visiting in July, watch as the best junior surfers in Australia compete in the Skullcandy Oz Grom Open. Feeling inspired? Book a lesson with World Champion Surfer Cheyne Horan for some pointers.

Bondi Beach, New South Wales

You've heard of this one, right? Sydney's world-famous Bondi Beach is 30 minutes drive from the city, and caters for all surfing levels. Eager surfers flock to the south side for its powerful right-handers, while novices enrol in one-on-one or small group lessons with Let’s Go Surfing. There are lots of popular cafés up Hall Street once you're done surfing. At Gertrude & Alice Café you can grab books with your bites.  

Noosa Heads, Queensland

Noosa Heads, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is renowned for its expansive beaches, and many Australians make the annual pilgrimage to the town over Christmas. There are five surfing points in the Noosa National Park, including local favourites Tea Tree Bay and Granite Bay. First-time surfers should stick to the gentle waves at Noosa Main Beach. Parallel to the beach, Hastings Street is packed with shops, restaurants and accommodation. Insider tip: watch the sun go down over drinks at the Noosa Surf Club on the beach.  

Snapper Rocks, Queensland

Snapper Rocks, on Queensland's Gold Coast, is home to Australia's surfing crown jewel, the Superbank. The barrelling wave peels the entire way from Snapper to Greenmount Beach, making this break a must-do for serious surfers. Many surfers stay in and around the town of Surfers Paradise so they can experience the breaks between there and Snapper Rocks, a 45 minute drive south. If you're just starting out, the 1st Wave Surf School offers private or group lessons, with surfboard and wetsuits provided.  

Bells Beach, Victoria

Bells Beach, on the Great Ocean Road, attracts the world's finest professional surfers, and is the arena for the well-known surf competition, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, held each Easter (March/April). The beach is fringed by rock cliffs that make an excellent vantage point for watching the action. The swell is at its best during autumn (March to May), but bring your wetsuit as the waters of the Southern Ocean can be cold.

Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Hop on the ferry at Fremantle, near Perth, for the 25 minute ride to tranquil Rottnest Island. Rent a bike, put your board on your back, and ride to one of the island's 63 beaches. Strickland Bay, Salmon Bay and Stark Bay have well known breaks and there are numerous reef breaks on both sides of the island. Enjoy fresh seafood at Aristos restaurant before heading back to Perth, or stay the night in one of the heritage-listed cottages on the island.  

Margaret River, Western Australia

The Margaret River region, three hours drive south of Perth, may be internationally renowned for its wine, but it also boasts 135 kilometres (84 miles) of coastline, and 75 breaks to choose from. The breaks at Cape Naturaliste, such as the Farm and Boneyards, are protected from the winds and have a slow take-off so they're great for beginners. Further down the coast is Yallingup Beach, known for its left- and right-handers, and Smiths Beach, which attracts surfing's elite. Both Margaret River Surf School and Yallingup Surf School provide lessons for all ages and abilities.