10 of Australia’s best swimming beaches
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 and Carly Spek
With more than 11,000 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 surfing, kayaking, snorkelling or just bobbing in the gently rolling waves of their favourite beach. Join the locals by staking the perfect spot in the sand at one of these great swimming beaches.
North Point, Moreton Island
Known for: Stunning rocky cliffs and beach camping
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 15m (49ft). If you seek more than swimming, you can bushwalk, picnic and whale watch in Moreton Island National Park – all in one afternoon.
Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island
Known for: Wildlife and calm swimming conditions
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.
Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road
Known for: Sheltered swimming and rolling green hills
Apollo Bay is a much loved destination along the famous Great Ocean Road. The southern end of the 3km (1.8mi) long beach is sheltered by Point Bunbury and patrolled by lifeguards in the warm summer months, creating an ideal spot for a relaxed ocean swim with the lush green hills of the Otways behind you. For more adventurous beach-goers, the rolling waves of the beach’s northern end offer the perfect swell for diving beneath the waves.
Shelly Beach, Sydney
Known for: Snorkelling and marine life
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.
Waubs Bay Beach, Bicheno
Known for: Beach walk and granite outcrops
Located in the resort town of Bicheno, Waubs Bay Beach is the perfect swimming spot for the whole family. A favourite among Tasmanian locals for its gentle waves and relaxed walking track, the quaint area is often dotted with sailboats and paddlers. Bordering the beach on both sides are rounded granite rocks – prime position for a beachside picnic with your feet hanging in the clear blue waters.
East Point Reserve, Darwin
Known for: Shaded shores and paved nature walk
While many of the beaches in the Northern Territory aren’t recommended for swimming, 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.
Middleton Beach, Albany
Known for: Turquoise waters and picnic facilities
There are several sheltered beaches to be found in King George Sound, on the south coast of Western Australia, boasting the area’s well-known white sand and turquoise waters. Less than a 10-minute 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.
Currumbin Beach, Gold Coast
Known for: Surfing and Elephant Rock Lookout
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. Once you've worked up an appetite, sit down for a classic Australian breakfast overlooking the beach. Every September, over-sized artwork dots the shore for the Swell Sculpture Festival.
Henley Beach, Adelaide
Known for: Henley Square eateries and jetty
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. 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.
Murrays Beach, Jervis Bay
Known for: Views of Bowen Island and the surrounding national park
Located in Jervis Bay’s Booderee National Park, Murrays Beach is a quiet oasis of lush greenery, soft white sand and tranquil blue waters. Enjoy a leisurely swim while surrounded by spectacular views of the tree-lined shore and Bowen Island, which is home to a local colony of penguins. Entry fees apply to Booderee National Park, but you’ll be rewarded with quieter crowds.