Rock Pools at Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast, QLD © Tourism Australia

Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast, Queensland © Tourism Australia

Australia’s best family-friendly beaches

If you’re looking for beautiful beaches with quiet waters, then look no further than Sydney’s harbour. Balmoral Beach, located on Sydney’s north shore, is a favourite for tiny tots. With calm waters, an enclosed playground, rock pools, and even an island, it’s more of a children's utopia than a beach. Further north in Manly sits the secluded Shelly Beach. Perched just a stone’s throw from the town’s centre, Shelly’s still, iridescent water is the perfect cool-off spot for little ones. But for families who prefer options, Bronte Beach leaves you spoilt for choice. The Bogey Hole rock pool’s safe and shallow waters has been many locals’ introduction to the ocean. Meanwhile, just metres away, the ocean pool invites families to splash the day away.

Known as the finale to the iconic Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, Coogee Beach offers the best of both worlds. Its ocean is more protected than its neighbours, offering beginner-friendly waves and plenty of safe swimming opportunities between the ocean and its surrounding rock pools. Three hours north of Sydney you’ll find Seal Rocks, a peaceful village lined with breathtaking beaches including Number One Beach, where shallow waters and gentle waves make a safe haven for family fun.

Older families can’t visit Sydney without spending a day on the iconic sands of Bondi Beach, where crystal-clear waters and epic surf meet beach-side cafés, shops and skate parks. Nearby, Sydney’s Cronulla and Palm Beach are popular for older families looking to escape the city. But for a real getaway, drive just 1.5 hours north to Port Stephens. The waves at the town’s One Mile Beach are ideal for beginner surfers, while its giant sandhill attracts the daredevils among us – sandboarding anyone?

Port Willunga, Fleurieu Peninsula, SA © South Australian Tourism Commission

Port Willunga, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia © South Australian Tourism Commission

Located in the city of Adelaide, the bustling Glenelg Beach has everything a family needs for a day at the beach. Spend quality time with your little ones on the soft sand or seek shade in the multitude of shops, restaurants and side streets. If you’ve got older kids in tow, they’ll love the Foreshore playground and Mosley Square activities. The charming seaside village Port Noarlunga has a similar appeal and makes a great stop along the coast towards McLaren Vale.

The beach meets fun-fair at Adelaide’s Semaphore. Kids can go wild on the beach's foreshore, complete with waterslides, Ferris wheels, mini-golf and even a steam train. The excitement continues at the beach itself with fun gentle waves to swim, jump or body board in. Further south of the city, Port Willunga is a picture-perfect stretch of white sand lined with dramatic cliffs, iridescent waters and enchanting caves; a dream for families seeking wide-open space to explore, play and swim in peace.

Family fun won’t go amiss on Kangaroo Island, especially if you’re seeking a beach day with a difference. For families who find sitting still a challenge, Stokes Bay will keep you entertained. Wander through the natural rock tunnel (the secret entrance to the beach), dip in rock pools, spot native wildlife and explore ancient rock formations. Don’t forget about the beach itself which features a sheltered swimming area while beyond the rocks you’ll find exciting waves fit for surfing, body boarding and snorkelling.

The charismatic Palm Cove is perennially popular with families. Its picturesque beaches are primed for sandcastles, while safety nets in the gentle waters keep parents' minds at ease when it’s time to cool-off. If you’re in Cairns, head to Trinity Beach for a splash between the protected nets and a family BBQ under the shaded coconut trees.

Known as the beating heart of Port DouglasFour Mile Beach is up there as one of Australia’s best beaches. Located just metres from an array of restaurants, cafés and child-friendly activities, you can have everything on your doorstep while enjoying its patrolled swimming area and golden sands. Further south, just 15 minutes outside of Cairns, is Holloways Beach. Between the beach-side playground, calm waters, casual eateries and the weekend Holloways Beach Market, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained.

If you’ve ever wanted to meet a whole family of kangaroos on the beach, Cape Hillsborough, a 50-minute drive from Mackay, is the beach for your family. Rise for dawn and watch as friendly kangaroos and wallabies bounce along the sands. While you’re there check out the Cape Hillsborough National Park’s walking tracks to spot colorful birds and butterflies. Back in Port Douglas, kids can turn the energy up a notch while quad biking or windsurfing at the hidden gem, Yorkeys Knob.

The Basin, Rottnest Island, WA © Rottnest Island Authority

The Basin, Rottnest Island, Western Australia © Rottnest Island Authority

Western Australia’s coastline is as breathtaking as it gets with wild waves, dramatic cliffs and beguiling marine life. But amidst the excitement are an abundance of serene rock pools, including Yeppoon Lagoon, Rottnest Island’s Basin and Perth’s Mettams. All boasting crystal-clear, safe waters to paddle around in, they’re nature’s answers to a toddler’s pool.

Cottesloe Beach is one of Perth’s most popular family beaches – for good reason. Its sparkling white sands can be enjoyed through endless activities, from swimming and snorkelling to learning to surf and cycling along the esplanade. In the neighbouring town of Fremantle is Leighton Beach; an accessible spot with shallow, child-friendly waters offering kids a great introduction to snorkelling.

If you’re a wildlife lover you won’t go wrong in Western Australia, especially if your visit includes the phenomenal Lucky Bay, situated in the Cape Le Grand National Park. The scenery is special in its own right, but when you add laid-back kangaroos and migrating whales (between June and October) to the equation, there’s little that can beat it; it's bound to be one in the family memory book. Wildlife adventures of a different kind continue up north at Broome’s Cable Beach where the whole family can hitch a ride on the back of a camel during sunset.

Canberra may not be located by the ocean, but the Australian Capital Territory has been awarded a dazzling slice of beachside land around Jervis Bay, just a three-hour drive from the capital. Jervis might be a small town, but it’s certainly made a mark on the big map with its calm, aqua blue waters and sparkling white sands. Families with small children can bask in the bay’s beaches, from the iconic Hyams to the lesser-known Honeymoon Bay, complete with picnic tables and toilet facilities. Further down south the charming Ulladulla Harbour Outer Beach and Sea Pool has everything a young family needs for a memorable day at the beach.

Shoalhaven’s Palm Beach is bursting with activities for the whole family. From fishing, kayaking, SUP and swimming, this gorgeous beach is an ideal training ground for kids ready to get stuck into watersports. Another spot worth adding to your list is the beloved Moona Moona Beach where protected ocean swims, BBQs and playground fun leave big smiles on everyone’s faces.

Jervis Bay’s Marine Park is bursting with incredible species, and for young snorkellers, there’s no better place to learn the ropes than at Green Patch Beach located in the Booderee National Park. Underwater you can spot octopus, squid and colourful fish, while on land, it’s not unusual to see wallabies, parrots and echidnas roaming the beach. Wildlife spotting opportunities only get better at Pebbly Beach, two hours south; if there’s ever a place to watch kangaroos roam on a New South Wales beach, it’s here.

Tallebudgera Creek, Gold Coast, QLD © Destination Gold Coast

Tallebudgera Creek, Gold Coast, Queensland © Destination Gold Coast

Aqua blue waves, natural paddling pools and beaches enveloped by shaded national park; there’s little wonder families flock to the shores of northern New South Wales’ Byron Bay every summer. With plenty of safe paddling opportunities in calm and shallow waters, The Pass Beach is practically designed for small children. Yamba, another family locale just south of the Gold Coast, is home to Whiting Beach. Known as the most sheltered Beach in the Clarence Valley and with facilities galore, it’s an ideal place to introduce your little ones to the ocean. Or if you're looking for a beach on the Sunshine Coast, be sure to check out Kings Beach where water fountains, a protected swimming area and child-friendly facilities are at your fingertips.

The city feels like a distant memory on laid-back North Stradbroke Island (or ‘Straddie’ to the locals). Make a weekend of it at one of the island’s campsites or hop over for a day to hang out at Cylinder Beach. Here, kids can learn how to surf the gentle waves while parents can relax knowing the beach is highly patrolled (365 days of the year!). On Bribie Island, north of Brisbane, kids can burn off some energy along the wide-open beaches and enjoy the waves on the patrolled Woorim Beach. For those who prefer calm waters, Bongaree’s gentle swimming area and playground will keep the family entertained for hours. Back on mainland, Lower Moora Park and Beach is an easy place to settle in for the day with shaded trees, rock pools, picnic areas and a unique playground for imaginative minds.

The Gold Coast’s sun-drenched shoreline is bursting with epic beaches. Older families can have some fun kayaking and stand up paddling boarding at Currumbin Beach and Tallebudgera Creek, while Burleigh Heads serves up fun waves for the whole family. Further north, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Noosa where surfing, walking trails and secret beaches await.

Lorne, VIC © Visit Victoria

Lorne, Victoria © Visit Victoria

Port Melbourne Beach has everything a parent can ask for: safe water, refreshments and plenty of shade. Grab a coffee, take a dip with your little one and soak in the picture-perfect views. Another great spot for tiny tots sits just outside of Melbourne. Facing the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay are the family-friendly Indented Head and Portarlington beaches.

For a family fun day in the sunshine, look no further than Geelong’s Eastern Beach Reserve. Much more than just a beach, it’s diving towers, children’s pool, floating islands and playgrounds makes you feel like you’re at a water park, but it’s free! If a theme park on the beach is what you’re looking for, Melbourne has that too. At the city’s St Kilda Beach you can hop between cycling, roller blading, snacking, and swimming, or if you’re really up for a thrill, check out nearby Luna Park theme park.

Perched along the Great Ocean Road is Lorne, a nature-lovers paradise and an epic getaway for families with older children. Head to Lorne’s patrolled surf beach to hit the waves or wander along to Shelly Beach to explore its rock pools. If your kids are keen on spotting marine life, you’ll want to head in the opposite direction to Portsea. Known as one of Australia’s best diving sites, here kids can learn to snorkel and dive in a safe environment just metres away from the beach.