Bondi Icebergs, Bondi Beach, New South Wales © Destination NSW
Australia’s top 10 epic sunrises
From majestic mountains to epic surf spots and ancient rock formations; catch Australia’s landscapes at first light for an energising start to your day.
By Amy Fraser
Here in Australia we rise early. Mornings are for piping hot coffee, catch ups with friends, ocean dips and time among nature, all while soaking up a spectacular sunrise. And it’s not just us who bask in the morning light – sunrise is often the best time of day to say G’day to our furry friends and underwater neighbours, and if there’s any action you don’t want to miss, it’s them. Experience Australia’s early morning culture and witness the country’s most extraordinary sunrises for yourself. Here are the top 10 places to watch sunrise.
1. Australia’s spiritual heart
Visiting the spiritual heart of Australia is special in itself, but to stand before the glowing Uluru – a giant sandstone monolith of over 550 million years old – as the sunrise creates a scene of ever-changing colours, is a memory that will never leave you.
How to experience it: Soak up a 360-degree view of Uluru and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park at the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku viewing area, or for a really unique experience, ride around this natural wonder on the back of a camel.
2. Sydney’s iconic beaches
Coffee is an important part of the morning in Australia. But do you want to know a secret? It tastes even better after an invigorating dip in the ocean, especially when the water’s glowing with the warming reflection of the sunrise. At Sydney’s wellness hub, Bondi Beach, there’s a special buzz around dawn, with locals participating in activities galore; from beach yoga and volleyball to surfing and ocean swimming. Join this lively bunch for the first light of the day and notice a rejuvenating energy wash over you.
How to experience it: Make use of Bondi Iceberg’s beautiful blue lanes and swim a couple of laps, watch the surfers (and sometimes dolphins) ride the waves, or sit back and simply watch as the sun glistens over the cyan-blue horizon. Does the morning get any better?
3. Over majestic mountains
Victoria’s Grampians are an adventurer’s playground, with majestic mountains steeped in Aboriginal history and diverse wildlife. Among the many outdoor adventures the Grampians offer – fishing, wildlife spotting, canoeing – nothing beats catching the glimpse of a new day as the sun rises beneath the peaceful mountain tops.
How to experience it: The Boroka Lookout offers panoramic views of Halls Gap, Lake Bellfield, Fyans Valley and Mt William mountain ranges. The easy one-minute walk from the car park to the sunrise viewing spot makes it popular for families to enjoy a magical morning together.
4. The most easterly point of mainland Australia
Read any Byron Bay bucket list and you’ll no doubt find a sunrise walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, and for good reason. Located on the most easterly point of mainland Australia, this early morning attraction isn’t just the finish line to an epic coastal walk, it’s the first place the sun rises in the whole country. Reach the top and be the first to celebrate the new day while feasting your eyes on a sweeping coastline where kangaroos, dolphins and in season, whales, will frolic under the cotton candy sky.
How to experience it: Follow the coastal path to the lighthouse, passing famous surf spots, The Pass and Wategos Beach, or take the cooler route on the Tallow Ridge Track through the verdant-green Arakwal National Park. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a coffee at The Pass café on your way back to town.
5. From the snowy caps of Tasmania
Where: The summit of kunanyi/Mount Wellington, a 30-minute drive from Hobart.
Hiking to the summit of Tasmania’s kunanyi/Mount Wellington is a must when visiting Hobart. The 1,271-metre (4,169-feet) high mountain serves up awe-inspiring views of Hobart and Southern Tasmania – add a picturesque sunrise to the equation and you’ve got quite the spectacle. As well as beautiful views, Mount Wellington is home to incredibly diverse flora, fauna and wildlife. From temperate rainforest to snow-capped peaks and sub-alpine flora – the ever-changing environment makes for a nature lover’s dream and an unforgettable start to the day.
How to experience it: Make your way through the winding walking tracks, stopping for a brew at Bentwood Coffee before settling down for the show. Be sure to bring clothing for all weather and a suitable pair of shoes.
6. With wild wallabies on the beach
Where: Cape Hillsborough National Park, a 40-minute drive from Mackay in Queensland.
Cape Hillsborough National Park is a popular spot to watch the sunrise, but not just for us. Every dawn and dusk, clusters of friendly kangaroos and wallabies gather on the beach to feed by the water’s edge. It’s the perfect opportunity to combine a beautiful sunrise with meeting one of Australia’s most iconic animals.
How to experience it: Sleep metres away from the action overnight at Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, where lush rainforest meets the beach. In the morning, join the Sunrise with the Wallabies Tour and watch nature’s wonders unfold around you. Have your camera at the ready – you won’t want to miss this.
7. Queensland’s sun-kissed capital
Where: Brisbane Lookout Mount Coot-tha, a 20-minute drive from Brisbane’s city centre.
There’s something particularly energising about watching the day break over a city skyline. From Brisbane’s Lookout Mount Coot-tha, 287 metres (941-feet) above sea level, you can do just that. Watch as the sun emerges from the blanket of fog, filling the epic panorama with enchanting silhouettes of the city. On a clear morning, you might even see all the way out to Moreton Bay.
How to experience it: Drive up to the summit or for a lively start to the day, venture up the 45-minute walking track. The cafés won’t be open at this time so bring a picnic and enjoy breakfast with a view.
8. Beside the ancient Remarkable Rocks
Where: The Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island.
In the wildlife abundant Flinders Chase National Park, you’ll find the Remarkable Rocks; a collection of unusually shaped granite boulders sprinkled with orange lichen. This impressive natural wonder is said to have formed millions of years ago as a result of the supercontinent Gondwanaland splitting. Laying your eyes on the intriguing shapes created by years of waves and wind is fascinating, but visit during sunrise and your early alarm will be rewarded with a mesmerising display of colour as the Remarkable Rocks glow with a golden hue.
How to experience it: Follow the wooden boardwalk that leads to the Remarkable Rocks, looking out for native wildlife including tammar wallabies and the elusive platypus on your way.
9. The capital’s water playground
Where: Lake Burley Griffin in the heart of Canberra.
Australia’s capital is well known for its cultural flair, but it’s also home to a plethora of beautiful green spaces, best enjoyed with a glowing sunrise. A favourite among the city’s parks and gardens is the magnificent Lake Burley Griffin, known for its calm early morning waters that offer a dazzling mirrored reflection of the sunrise.
How to experience it: Join the locals for a morning stroll, run or cycle around the water’s edge. Or start your day on a high with Balloon Aloft and drift over the lake through the blush-tinged sky.
10. Surfing Australia's epic waves
Where: Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast, a 45-minute drive from Surfers Paradise.
One of the best things about rising early in Australia is that you’ll know for a fact you won’t be the only one up before the sun. At the epic surf spot, Snapper Rocks, there’ll no doubt be at least a couple of mates riding the Superbank’s (the man-made surf break) gnarly barrels before the sun’s even risen. You’d think watching the pros ride wave after wave would be enough entertainment, but wait for ‘golden hour’ to hit and you’ll be rewarded with a sky bursting with colour, creating a beautiful morning mist as the sun reflects off the salty sea spray.
How to experience it: Catch the action with a coffee in hand by the shore, hit the waves with your mates, or take a surf lesson with Cheyne Horan Surf School.