Surfing guide to Australia
Discover why Australia is a must-visit country for surfers.
By Leah Dobihal
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 a few beaches known for their beauty as well as their breaks.
Sydney is home to some incredible beaches, and few are more iconic than Bondi. With its picture-postcard sweep of golden sand and sparkling water, Bondi Beach attracts visitors from all over the world, and many hope to make Bondi the first place they ride a surfboard. Experienced surfers can dive into the water at South Bondi, where southerly swells spill over as powerful right-handers. Surfboard hire is available on the beach, but the best way for beginners to ride the waves is with a lesson. Sign up for a private beginner's class or small group lessons with Let’s Go Surfing, where you’ll learn not only technique but also safety and surfing etiquette. Let’s Go Surfing also offers lessons at Maroubra, an offbeat surf beach just 12 minutes from Sydney’s city centre.
"As surfers we’re always trying to find the most amazing waves with no one else around. A lot of the time that means you just follow your own path, looking for waves that not necessarily everyone’s going to find."
Sydney’s suburb of Manly is known for its laid-back surfing culture, so there’s no better place to seek out an incredible surf. Manly Beach, with its pretty shoreline shaded by Norfolk pines, is renowned for its consistent breaks. 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. Freshwater Beach, just a short walk north from Manly Beach, is prime surfing real estate; it’s the spot where surfboard riding was popularised in Australia by Hawaiian 'Duke' Kahanamoku. Reliable sandbanks and consistent waves keep 'Freshie' at the top of the list for many local surfers.
This trendy coastal town is a popular hangout for hippies, hipsters, and surfers. The main beach in Byron Bay is an excellent place to start your Aussie surf experience with beginner lessons from Let's Go Surfing. Sign up for a private or group lesson to learn the basics. Women can also join a female-only class. Other great surf beaches in Byron include Tallow Beach and Wategos Beach. After you’ve braved the waves, discover more aquatic adventures; you can kayak with dolphins, snorkel with sea turtles or trot along Seven Mile Beach on horseback.
Bells Beach, a 90-minute drive from Melbourne along 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 year in March or April. The beach is fringed by rock cliffs that make an excellent vantage point for watching the action. Enrol in a surf lesson with Go Ride a Wave surf school, which operates from four nearby locations along the Great Ocean Road – Torquay, Lorne, Ocean Grove and Anglesea.
Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island
Just a 90-minute drive south of Melbourne, Phillip Island has it all – nature, wildlife, and of course, great waves. Cape Woolamai is the island’s highest point and is known for offering some of the best surfing in Victoria. In fact, it’s one of Chris Hemsworth’s favourite beaches. You won’t find any lessons here, just the rolling waves, so this beach is best for experienced surfers and spectators (though beginners can take a class on nearby Smiths Beach). Cape Woolamai is a great place to start your Phillip Island adventure, too. After catching a wave, visit some of the local wildlife at the Koala Conservation Centre and the famed Penguin Parade.
Just off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island is perhaps most famous for its furry resident quokkas, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook its enticing surf spots. The island has over 60 beaches to choose from, but a few surf breaks stand out from the rest. Strickland Bay, Salmon Bay and Stark Bay have well-known breaks, and there are numerous reef breaks on both sides of the island too. Don’t forget to use the designated paths on your way to the beach to help protect fragile dune vegetation. Return to Perth via a tranquil ferry, or stay the night in eco-friendly glamping tents nestled behind the sand dunes.
Queensland’s Gold Coast, just a one-hour drive from Brisbane, boasts some of Australia’s most exhilarating surfing. It’s home to the Superbank, a large, man-made sandbank that creates one of the longest wave rides in the world. The barrelling wave peels the entire way from Snapper to Greenmount Beach, making this break a must-do for serious surfers. Surfing here can be busy during peak times, so if you’re just starting out, it’s best to take a lesson. The Cheyne Horan School of Surf, in the heart of the Gold Coast, guarantees you'll get on your feet during the first lesson. Alternatively, head to the coast’s other spectacular surf spots, including the aptly-named Surfers Paradise.
Noosa Heads, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is renowned for its expansive beaches, and stylish shops, restaurants and accommodation. First-time surfers should stick to the gentle waves at Noosa Main Beach. You can hire surfboards from Noosa Longboards, or take advantage of the local knowledge with a surf lesson. Noosa Surf Lessons, Learn to Surf Noosa and Go Ride a Wave all offer both private and group lessons. You can reach Noosa by plane, or better yet, with a road trip along the subtropical Great Sunshine Way.