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Top 10 beaches in Australia
Australia’s spectacular coastline stretches for nearly 37,000 km and includes 11,761 named beaches – more than any other nation. We head Down Under to discover the top 10 sun-kissed sandy playgrounds for sun, sea and surf.
10. Bondi Beach
Where: Located seven kilometres east of Sydney’s central business district.
What: The closest ocean beach to the centre of Sydney, this infamous one-kilometre crescent-shaped stretch of golden sand is home to the Bondi Surf Bathers, one of the world’s oldest surf lifesaving clubs. The vibe at this people-watcher’s paradise is both eccentric and exciting; watch surfers, skateboarders, backpackers and serious sun-worshippers parade their bronzed-to-perfection bodies along the sandy catwalk. The six-kilometre Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, one of the great urban coastal walks, starts at the south end of the beach and takes around two hours to complete.
See and do: Once known as the Playground of the Pacific, the biggest thrill is the ocean. Enjoy a gelato at Bondi Pavilion, an elegant 1920’s building right on the beachfront complete with a theatre, gallery and music studios, and enjoy a quintessential Bondi surf lesson – a one-hour private lesson with Let’s Go Surfing costs from £94. Browse for vintage and designer gear at the Bondi markets, chill out at an outdoor café along Campbell Parade and take a dip in the Bondi Icebergs, a rock swimming pool with restaurant and bar facilities overlooking the entire beach.
Further reading: Sydney beach holidays
9. Cottesloe Beach
Where: Halfway between Perth’s central business district and the port of Fremantle.
What: Known by the locals as Cottes, this shimmering crescent of powder-soft sand offers beach-based pursuits such as swimming, snorkelling and surfing. Daytrippers can enjoy a game of beach cricket, soak up splendid ocean sunsets with a refreshing beer and watch surfers crash the waves. During the summer these swathes of sand are patrolled by the Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club.
See and do: Towering Norfolk pines line a boulevard that tempts with stylish restaurants, trendy cafes and laid-back bars. For ultra-fashionable dining, head to the colonial-style Indiana Tea House – a historic pit-stop dating back to 1910 that serves its own specially-brewed, beach-driven tap beers and offers an all-day bistro menu from 11.30am until late. To delight art lovers visiting in March, Sculpture by the Sea is a free annual public exhibition where the beachfront is creatively transformed into a beautiful sculpture park.
8. Horseshoe Bay
Where: On Magnetic Island in Queensland, a short ferry ride from Townsville.
What: This enchanting bay is the largest on Magnetic Island, a World Heritage-listed island named by Captain Cook whose compass went ‘off course’ when sailing past here in 1770. It was later discovered that the only magnetism the island possessed was its natural beauty. This beach is perfect for watersports fans keen to engage in everything from jet-skiing to reef cruising. Nature lovers can spot birds including the Jabira, Brolga, and the Nankeen Night-heron at the Horseshoe Bay Lagoon and cuddle cute koalas at Bungalow Bay Koala Village.
See and do: Aside from pleasure diving, lazing on golden sands and swimming in the crystalline waters of the Coral Sea, the main attraction is enjoying the wildlife, beach, lagoon and hinterland from horseback as you ride through the bush. At the beachfront, take the fantastic opportunity to unsaddle your horse and ride bareback into the ocean. Open daily, Horseshoe Bay Ranch offers two-hour rides at 9am and 3pm costing £67 per person.
7. Hyams Beach
Where: At Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales, south of Sydney.
What: With a listing in the Guinness Book of Records for ‘the whitest sand in the world’, Hyams Beach is set on the sheltered southern shores of Jervis Bay, the second most popular dive spot in Australia after the Great Barrier Reef. Surrounded by National and Marine Parks, this two-kilometre beach appeals to snorkellers, divers and sunbathers. These gorgeous sands back onto Booderee National Park, so best be prepared to share sand space with a few kangaroos or wallabies.
See and do: There are plenty of water and land-based activities on offer; from snorkelling the rocky platform at the northern end of the beach to jet skiing in the pristine waters of Jervis Bay. Nature-lovers can follow bushwalks through the surrounding wetlands, cliffs and forests or rent a bike to explore the region’s cycleways. There are picnic areas, BBQ facilities, a small playground and a general store-cum-café just a few minutes walk from the exquisite sands.
6. Bells Beach
Where: In Surf Coast Shire in Victoria, south-west of Melbourne.
What: With its monster crashing waves, Bells Beach is often hailed as the spiritual home of Australian surfing. Located between Anglesea and Torquay on the Great Ocean Road, this is home to the Rip Curl Pro, the world’s longest-running surfing competition that officially dates back to 1962. Every Easter, internationally top-ranked surfers flock here to carve up the waves and compete for the coveted trophy. The two-day festival draws crowds of thousands to these scalloped bays and dramatic sandstone cliffs and also showcases some of Australia’s best musical talent.
See and do: It’s all about surfing at Bells and there are plenty of outlets selling surf paraphernalia. The waters here are cold and strictly for experienced board riders, but there are plenty of fabulous lookout points dotted along the cliff for those who want to admire young wave riders and seasoned pros. The bay lends itself to a broad range of swells that can break up to 15 feet, obviously depending on the strength of the wind and the length of its fetch and duration.
5. Ninety Mile Beach
Where: In the Gippsland region, 260km from Melbourne.
What: This ocean-facing expanse of golden sands stretches 90 miles from Sale to the east of the Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria, Australia’s garden state. This fabled strip is made up of long slender sandy dunes that divide the Ocean of Bass Strait from the Gippsland Lakes – the largest inland waterway systems in the Southern Hemisphere. The vistas from one side of the beach to the other are postcard-perfect, validating its claim as ‘the world’s longest uninterrupted natural beach’.
See and do: A myriad of activities await the adventurous; from swimming and sailing to dolphin-spotting and diving. Explore the calmer Gippsland Lakes that shelter behind the beach’s backing dunes or take the Ninety Mile Beach Wildlife Trail to see emus, kangaroos and echidnas. There is also plenty here to satisfy the seasoned surf angler, especially the Ninety Mile Beach Surf Fishing Competition. Australia’s largest surf fishing competition is a five-day extravaganza held here annually in January when hundreds of anglers surf cast from the beach in the hope of catching the biggest snapper.
4. Wineglass Bay
Where: On the rugged Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast.
What: This moon-shaped crescent of pure white sand within Freycinet National Park is framed by The Hazards, a mountain range made up of five distinctive towering pink and grey granite peaks. Set against a backdrop of sapphire-coloured waters and dramatic bushland, Tassie’s most iconic spot is indeed shaped like a wineglass. In the 1800’s whalers would set up their shore bases here and set out in boats to harpoon whales; after towing the carcasses back to shore they would extract oil which was exported to Britain. During this time the bay’s water was dyed with blood, resembling a rich red wine.
See and do: There are two ways of getting to this uniquely-shaped beach; by boat or by foot. The steep uphill climb through The Hazards can take up to three hours, but is well worth the effort to spot wallabies, wombats, white-bellied sea-eagles and Tasmanian devils. Waterfront fun includes taking a scenic cruise to see pods of migrating whales and taking a dip in the bay’s inviting waters.
3. Cable Beach
Where: An eight-minute drive or bus trip from Broome, Australia’s pearling capital.
What: Named after the telegraph cable that was laid between Broome and Java in 1889 connecting Australia’s North West with the world, this blissful beach boasts 22km of white silica sun-kissed sand fringed by the tropical turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The sunsets here are spectacular and the crystalline waters are ideal for swimming but best avoided between November to April when they are filled with marine stingers and box jellyfish.
See and do: Watching strings of camels sway along the water’s edge is a brochure cliché – but irresistible. A one-hour Sunset Ride through the beach’s surrounding sand dunes with Red Sun Camels costs £40 for adults, £26 for children aged 5-15 and £7 for the under-fours. For those who fancy paddling around Broome’s stunning waters, there are plenty of kayak rentals at Turtle Bay, located at the south end of Cable Beach.
2. Turquoise Bay
Where: Approximately 60km south of the coastal town of Exmouth in Western Australia.
What: Located in the emerald lagoons of Ningaloo Marine Park – one of the largest fringing reefs in the world – the aptly-named Turquoise Bay is a curving 600-metre stretch of blindingly white sand lapped by calm crystal-clear waters. Safe and shallow enough for even the most inexperienced snorkellers, the underwater world boasts around 500 fish species and plenty of coral gardens.
See and do: Wade in the water with flippers, mask and snorkel to spot dolphins, manta rays, turtles, dugong and more. Experienced swimmers should try the ever-popular ‘Drift Snorkel’; simply swim out to the reef on the southern end of the beach and let the current take you along in a northerly direction over the coral. Be sure to exit before the sand bar as this area is prone to strong currents. Those seeking more conventional beachside activities can take a glass bottom boat excursion to the outer reef or simply soak up paradise on the sparkling sands.
1. Whitehaven Beach
Where: On Whitsunday Island, surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
What: This award-winning expanse of pristine pure-white silica sand is fringed by brilliant aquamarine and emerald waters. Stretching seven kilometres along the uninhabited Whitsunday Island – the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays archipelago – this is Australia’s most photographed beach. At its northern end is Hill Inlet, a stunning cove where the tide shifts the sand and water to form a fusion of swirling rainbow colours. The view of this overwhelmingly striking landscape is best experienced from the lookout at Tongue Point, a 20-minute walk from the beach.
See and do: This iconic beach is famed for its ultra-fine white sand which is composed from 99 per cent quartz; it does not retain heat unlike regular sand making it comfortable to walk barefoot in the sizzling sunshine. Easily reached on a day-trip from Airlie Beach via boat or float plane, there is little to do here other than spot brightly-tropical fish and baby sharks, join in the beach volleyball and unwind on the dazzling sands.