The coastline of the Australian mainland stretches more than 30,000 km. With the addition of all the coastal islands this amounts to more than 47,000 km. The coastal landscape ranges from broad sandy beaches to rocky cliffs and mangrove swamps. According to the Coastal Studies Unit at the University of Sydney, there are 10,685 beaches in Australia. Most of Australia’s population lives close to the coastline and the beach has long occupied a special place in the Australian identity.
Australians make use of the coast as a destination for relaxation and fun. Many people live close enough to a beach to visit regularly, and others use the beach for annual holidays. Popular destinations range from crowded city beaches and popular holiday spots, to quieter beaches located in coastal national parks.
Langford Island, Qld
Though small in size, Langford Island is a sparkling jewel of the Whitsunday Islands chain. Found in the northwestern corner of the Whitsunday Islands National Park, just a stone s throw from Haymen Island, this pristine little getaway destination can be reached by tour boat or private vessel. One of the island s most endearing features is its long spit. Despite being inundated by the surrounding sea at high-tide, the spit is perfect for beach picnicking, swimming and sunbathing. It stretches for several hundred metres at low-tide. Unlike other nearby islands, Langford s reef is only relatively small, but it does contain a huge number of small fish species.
Stretching over nine kilometres, this pristine expanse of pure white silica sand fringed by brilliant blue water and lush tropical island, is recognised as one of the jewels of the Whitsunday Islands. Promoted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and rightly so, Whitehaven Beach is an integral part of the unique beauty of the Whitsundays. No visit to the Whitsundays is complete without a trip to Whitehaven Beach. It is serviced by modern Ferries, cruising yachts, seaplanes and helicopters. A variety of companies offer day trips and/or overnight charters to Whitehaven Beach from both the Islands, Shute Harbour and Airlie Beach.
Coolangatta Beach symbolises the terminus of Queensland’s Gold Coast and the long strip of beach that begins at Main Beach forty kilometres to the north. The headland itself is an important landmark and tourist destination. The beach and later the town were named after the schooner Coolangatta which was wrecked there in 1846. Coolangatta and its immediate neighbouring “Twin Town” Tweed Heads in New South Wales have a shared economy. The Tweed River supports a thriving fishing fleet, and the seafood is a local specialty offered in the restaurants and clubs of the holiday and retirement region on both sides of the state border. The Gold Coast renowned for its sunny subtropical climate, world-class beaches, waterfront properties, wide array of tourist attractions and long, high-rise-dominated skyline.
One of the main beaches of the Gold Coast region of south eastern Queensland, it name was coined by Brisbane hotelier Jim Cavill who opened the Surfers Paradise Hotel in 1925. Located between the ferry jetty and the white surf beach just off the South Coast Road, it became a popular spot and various shops and services sprang up around it. The Gold Coast boom of the 1950s and 1960s was largely centred on this area and the first of the tall apartment buildings that now characterise the skyline were constructed in the decades that followed. The Esplanade road is now very much a focus of activity in this part of the Gold Coast. Promenading and people-watching takes place in this area where land use encourages not only residential activity but tourism with supporting shops and restaurants.
Located 100 km north of Brisbane, Mooloolaba Beach is bounded on the east by the Coral Sea, on the south by the Mooloolah River, on the north by Alexandra Headland. The town of Mooloolaba has become a tourist resort and the business centre of the Sunshine Coast region in Queensland. Mooloolaba harbour (actually the mouth of the Mooloolah River) is the home of a large fleet of fishing vessels, as well as the northern base for the pilot vessels that control shipping through Moreton Bay and the Port of Brisbane. The Esplanade facing Mooloolaba beach is a centre for tourist activity, containing the UnderWater World Marine Park, as well as many souvenir and clothing shops, galleries and restaurants. Behind the apartments facing the beach are camping grounds, backpacker hostels and canal villas.
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island stretching around 120km from north to south and 15km from east to west, covering a total of 160,000 hectares. It was formed during the ice age by strong winds which blew sand from New South Wales to where Fraser Island now stands off of the coast of Queensland. Being a sand island, it is not surprising that Fraser Island is surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches that give the appearance of going on forever. The longest, Seventy Five Mile Beach is as the name suggests, seventy-five miles (120.7 km) of unbroken beach. Situated on the island’s Pacific Ocean (east) side, Seventy-Five Mile Beach is an actual highway that runs up the surf side of the island. Four-wheel-drives share the highway with planes making joy flights. Sand tracks cross the island linking lakes and rainforests. The Beach gives easy access to its mighty sand blows, coloured sands, fast-flowing Eli Creek spilling into the ocean, the Maheno shipwreck (above right) and Indian Head and the Champagne Pools.
Australia’s only beach in the middle of the city, Streets Beach is one of South Bank’s most popular attractions. A unique, man-made swimming beach, Streets Beach overlooks the brilliant Brisbane River and Central Business District. Conceived as a major piece of landscape, Streets Beach has a crystal clear lagoon with enough water to fill five Olympic swimming pools. You’ll always find sparkling clean, white sand beaches, palm trees, rocky creeks and shady shallows surrounded by sub-tropical trees and exotic plantings. There are no waves or dangerous rips like on coastal beaches and you can be assured that Streets Beach is patrolled by experienced, professional lifeguards seven days a week, 365 days a year. The lagoon contains chlorinated fresh water that is recirculated every six hours at up to 125 litres per second. Water for Streets Beach is pumped through two large sand filters and chemically treated before being pumped back into the pools. Dredge pump and self-propelled sifting machines clean the adjoining pools.
Located north of Cairns, just 15 minutes from the airport and is referred to as The Northern Beaches of Cairns, Trinity Beach stretches for approximately 26 kms along a Sunny Coastline commencing at the northern fringe of the city. The Northern Beaches incorporates the localities of Machan’s Beach, Holloways Beach, Yorkey’s Knob, Trinity Beach, Kewarra, Clifton, Palm Cove and Ellis Beaches. Each is a small, separate township with it’s own distinctive characters and charm. Trinity Beach is safely nestled between two headlands, providing an ideal bay in which to enjoy relaxing pursuits along its palm-fringed shores.
Located between Towsville and Cairns, Mission Beach could appear on any postcard requiring a long sandy beach lined with palm trees. An impressive Dunk Island sits off the coast just to make the picture even more perfect. In 1914 the Queensland Government established an Aboriginal Mission to house local people, hence the name. Tourism has rapidly become the main industry in and around the Mission Beach area. There is also quite a lot of farming of tropical fruits and vegetables, crayfish and prawn farming and of course sugar cane. Mission Beach is spread over a 14km coastal stretch and encompasses a number of beachside communities including Bingil Bay, Wongaling Beach, South Mission Beach and Garners Beach. There is no real centre to the region however Mission Beach itself has a few shops, restaurants and a travel agency. Tam O’Shanter National Park is quite unusual as it is rainforest predominantly filled with Fan Palms. If there is a chance of seeing a Cassowary, Mission Beach is the place where it will happen.
A popular beach in the Sydney suburb of Bondi, Bondi Beach is known the world over for its crescent of sand, excellent surf and legendary beach culture. Situated in the Eastern Suburbs, roughly 7 km from the centre of the city, Bondi Beach attracts large numbers of tourists throughout the year, and many Irish and British tourists spend Christmas Day there. Bondi Beach hosted the beach volleyball competition at the 2000 Summer Olympics. A temporary 10,000-seat stadium, a much smaller stadium, 2 warm-up courts, and 3 training courts were set up to host the tournament. Other annual activities at Bondi Beach include Flickerfest, Australia’s premier international short film festival in January, World Environment Day in June, and Sculpture By The Sea in November. It is also the end point of the City to Surf Fun Run which is held each year in August. Though it is on Australia’s east coast, Bondi Beach has an almost southerly aspect.
The southernmost of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Manly Beach is highly popular with tourists and locals alike; a popularity rivalled only by the famous Bondi Beach south of the harbour. There are three main sections known as Queenscliff, North Steyne, and South Steyne, from North to South. Within a short walk of Manly Beach is Fairy Bower and Shelley Beach. Also adjacent to Sydney Harbour National Park, Fairy Bower is one of the few large wave surfing spots in Sydney and produces a long right hand wave breaking over a reef. Shelley Beach (and the surrounding Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve) is a popular place for scuba (NSW) diving, and is the only beach on Australia’s east coast which faces inland. Manly is blessed by having Sydney Harbour – a short 300 metre walk down The Corso – on its western side with calm water, harbour beaches, ferry wharf, swimming area, aquarium, sailing and yacht clubs.
This tiny triangle of beach on Lavender Bay is not only the smallest beach in the Sydney metropolitan area but also the smallest beach in Australia. This ribbon of sand in one of the bays of Sydney Harbour once extended the full length of the bay’s foreshore, but industry and then the development of wharves, boat moorings and seawalls has seen it shrink to its present miniscule size. The beach has a unique place in Australian history as it was here that Australia’s only convict prison hulk was moored. Though commonly used in England to supplement prison accommodation, hulks in Australia’s prison history are not so well known. The prison hulk the Phoenix was anchored off the shores of Lavender Bay for eleven years from 1826. In the early hours of June 1837, she started taking water. Although sinking was avoided it spelt the beginning of the end and the following year the Phoenix was decommissioned and sold for scrap. She was the first and last hulk to house prisoners in Australia.
When one thinks of beaches, a long ribbon of sand with waves of the sea breaking on it is usually what comes to mind. What is generally forgotten is that beaches can also occur on the banks of rivers, particularly on river bends when silt and other sediments that have been picked up by a fast flowing river are deposited. Such a beach occurs at Moama, on the opposite bank of the Murray River to the historic river port of Echuca. The beach is alongside the old Murray Bridge, an old iron bridge that was built in 1878 and until recently carried both rail and road traffic. Markers at the beach direct walkers through the tree canopy to the road to the Moama Slipway. The Slipway, which is still in use has been refurbished and has proved a necessary service to river craft for over 100 years. Near the top of the slipway follow the markers to view the magnificent Echuca Wharf on the far bank of the river.Inland from the river the opportunity exists to explore the beautiful wetlands area of Horseshoe Lagoon Bicentennial Park.
Situated to the north of the industrial city of Newcastle, Stockton Beach is backed by a 32-kilometre stretch of massive dunes, forest and ocean and contains the last great sand dune system in New South Wales. The dunes along the bight are wind swept and devoid of vegetation and create a sand mass that is in constant movement. The dunes are currently moving inland at a rate of 10m/year, encroaching the forest area behind the dunes. Whereas once it was a traditional source of food for the Maaiangal Clan of the Worimi Aboriginal people, Stockton Beach is today considered a lucrative source of sand, mining and extraction of sand having occurred on the Bight for decades. Part of the Stockton Bight was a military testing range during World War II and there are still unexploded ordinance littered across the area.
Once a whaling station, the town of Byron Bay is now home to people from all social levels and is a world class holiday resort. Known as much for its alternative lifestyle as its idyllic geographic location, Byron is equally famous for its trademark lighthouse on Cape Byron, which is Australia’s most easterly point. Surrounding the town are lush rainforests and kilometre after kilometre of pristine beaches. Stretching between headlands, many of these beaches are sheltered from the southerlies and offer great surf breaks. Clean and undeveloped, they are not overcrowded with high-rises, or in fact with buildings of any sort, though those close to town can become crowded with beautiful people enjoying the good life.
If you are passing through the Batemans Bay area and want a swim, it is diffucult to know which one to stop at because they are all excellent in their own way. The beaches south of Batemans Bay are typically small and sheltered, cupped between headlands where the waves crash over splintered fingers of dark rocks. Pebbly is the best known of all these beaches, as it is here that kangaroos not only graze on the grass above the beach and around the cabins, they often jump into the surf and splash around. Pebbly Beach is in Murramarang National Park
One of the more accessible beaches of Wilsons Promontory, the pure whjite rounded grains of quartz on Squeaky Beach make a squeaking sound when you walk in the dry sand &endash; hence its name. The beach was once known as the “singing sands” because of the sound made when walking on it. The access track from the Squeaky Beach car park to the Squeaky Beach offers great coastal views and passes through a range of coast and heathland vegetation. The rock formations at the north end of the beach create a maze of passages for exploration.
Internationally famous in the surfing community, Bells Beach is located 100 km south-west of Melbourne, on the Great Ocean Road near the towns of Torquay and Jan Juc. The beach was ‘featured’ in the final scene of the film Point Break, however the scene was not filmed there. Bells Beach is a straight stretch and the beach in the film is a cove with pine trees atop a hill. The actual location used in the film was Indian Beach, in Ecola State Park, located in Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA. Bells Beach’s main break is known as the Bells Bowl or Bowl section. It is a reef break and works through all tides depending on the size of the swell. It is surfable from 2′ up to 15′, and a north-west to west wind is optimal wind direction. Nearby surf breaks include ‘Southside’, ‘Centreside’, ‘Rincon’, ‘Winki Pop’ (Uppers and Lowers), Boobs and Steps. Although Bells is known internationally as one of the best breaks in Victoria, ‘Winki Pop’ often works better under more diverse conditions than the other nearby breaks.
At just over 151 kilometres (94 Miles) and running northeastward from a spit near Port Albert to the man-made channel at Lakes Entrance, passing the coastal towns of Woodside, Seaspray, Golden Beach, and Loch Sport, Ninety Mile Beach is a sandy stretch of south-eastern coastline of Victoria which separates the Gippsland Lakes region from Bass Strait. It is believed to be the second longest uninterrupted beach in the world, behind Padre Island on the US Gulf Coast. For the northern part of its route the beach runs along a sandbar on what amounts to a series of tidal islands and behind which are several large lakes and numerous shallow littoral lagoons. The area comprises the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park. The beach’s length ensures that the waves break too close to the beach for good surfing, and there are strong rip currents and cross-currents making the conditions somewhat hazardous for the inexperienced swimmer.
Home of the renowned Brighton bathing boxes, Brighton is one of Melbourne’s safest and sandiest swimming beaches. Like all of Melbourne’s suburban beaches, Bighton Beach is on Port Phillip Bay, so there is no surf but plenty of sand and calm water – for surf, Melbournians travel south to the Mornington Peninsula. At this popular beach is the Middle Brighton Pier, historic gardens and the historic Middle Brighton Sea Baths not to mention the city views across the bay and Brighton’s many galleries, antique shops, and seaside restaurants.
Cable Beach is a 22km-long stretch of purest white beach where Broome meets the Indian Ocean. The stunning colours of Cable Beach – aqua blue against the white sand and bright red-orange soil inspire photographers from dawn till dusk daily and tourist to take the now famous camel ride across its sands. The beach is punctuated with rock pools where octopus and other creatures wait for the tide to take them back to the deep. At this time, vehicles are still permitted to drive onto the northern side of Cable Beach, and a blind eye is turned to those who choose to sunbath au naturelle in that part of the beach. Cable Beach is washed clean everyday by the massive tides that ebb and flow into Broome. Beachcombers can find beautiful shells and many a piece of flotsam and jetsam washed ashore. Whales and dolphins can also been offshore in season. Cable Beach was named because it was the terminus of the original cable used to send telegraphs between Java and Broome.
Eighty-Mile Beach, between Broome and Port Hedland, marks the end of the Pilbara coast and the start of the Kimberley coast of Western Australia. Though situated in a remote part of the state, it is a magnet for tourists making the trek north from Perth to Broome and beyond and it is not unusual for the endless, deeply patterned sand flats around the Eighty-Mile Beach Caravan Park to echo with the voices of dozens of people. Quite often at sunset there can be people everywhere, some collecting shells, others strolling along the beach, children playing or couples just simply standing looking out at the ocean and soaking up the magic of the moment. Fishermen are in their element here; there are plenty of treadfin salmon right through the season, which are best caught an hour either side of the high tide. The Eighty-Mile Beach Caravan Park, situated 245km north of Port Hedland or 365km south of Broome, was originally part of Wallal Downs Station.
One of the most unusual beaches in Australia is Shell Beach, located in the Shark Bay World Heritage area on the central west coast of Australia. The millions of small white shells which have accumulated to form Shell Beach are the bivalve Cardiid Cockle (Fragrum erugatum). This species live in the coastal waters between Dampier and the Abrolhos Islands in Western Australia. Cockles of this species from Shark Bay differ from others in their shape and smaller size. The high water salinity (salt concentration) levels in this area have resulted in the proliferation of this particular species, and lead to the accumulation of millions of these tiny shells along the shore of Lharidon Bight and Hamelin Pool.
Lucky Bay, in Cape Le Grand National Park, is one of the most stunning and unique bays in Australia. It stretches for over five kilometres, offering a magnificent stretch of beach and sparkling clear blue water. Here, seaweed accumulates in deep spongy masses and provides the interesting spectacle of the local kangaroos descending to the beach of an evening to dine on fresh seaweed and afterwards laze around on the sand.
Glenelg is Adelaide’s most popular beach resort. It is 20 minutes drive away from the city centre; Adelaide’s last tram service operates from Victoria Square to Glenelg beach. This service has recently undergone a AU$56 million upgrade in which new tram-cars have replaced the H-type’s of 1929. At Glenelg there is a replica of the first European settlers ship, HMS Buffalo, which landed at Holdfast Bay in 1836; the colony of South Australia was proclaimed beside an Old Gum Tree. This tree is a short drive/walk away, off Anzac Highway. It was from Glenelg Beach on Australia Day, 1966, that the Beaumont children – Jane (9), Arnna (7) and Grant (4) – disappeared after a morning of swimming and playing on the beach. No trace of them has ever been found. Their disappearance is one of Australia’s most famous and puzzling unsolved mysteries that became a potent symbol of Australia’s supposed end of innocence.
A popular beach to the south of Adelaide, Aldinga is very accessible for both people and vehicles, and popular during summer. It has some surf, but remains relatively safe under normal conditions. Aldinga Beach and adjoining Snapper Point is a 1.5 km long, narrow, crenulate high tide sand beach fronted by 300 to 400 m wide intertidal rock flats, that extend further offshore as reefs. The whole point and reef area is an aquatic reserve. Aldinga township backs the bluffs, with a bluff-top road paralleling the back of the beach and providing both views of and access to the beach and fronting platforms. The main beach is moderately safe for swimming, particularly on the attached inner bar. Aldinga Beach is unsuitable for swimming owing to the rocky reef flats. There is also reef fishing at high tide. however the Snapper Point area is an aquatic reserve. Mr Felix de Caux (1822-1877), an early settler in the district said that Aldinga was a corruption of an Aboriginal word meaning ‘much water’, while other sources suggest it means ‘good place for meat’, ‘open, wide plain’ or ‘tree district’.
Of all the beauty spots on Flinders Island, the views from Trousers Point must be the most photographed. Here there is a tiny cove sheltered between headlands of apricot-coloured granite. The crescent of beach is of finest white sand trends east and south, where clear waters of aquamarine, intensifying to sapphire, surge onto an often untrodden shore. Behind the wooded sand dunes rise the granite faces interspersed with shrubbery of the Strzelecki massif. Across the waters of Franklin Sound, like pictures framed in the soft branches of the she-oaks, are the pale blue mountains of Cape Barren Island. Here, as elsewhere on the Island shores, rocks carry wide bands of orange lichen. Enormous striped limpets cling to rocks between the tide lines and tiny mussels cluster in small groups along cracks like black hieroglyphics. On the north-western side of the point, on Fotheringate Bay, limestones overlying the granite have been water-sculptured into fantastic shapes – a Melbourne Cup, a Hippopotamus Rock.
Tasmania’s Bruny Island is made up of two parts, North Bruny Island and South Bruny Island. The two parts are connected by an isthmus and it is here, on the east side of that narrow neck of land, that The Neck Beach is found.
The bay was first sighted by Abel Tasman in 1642 when exploring for the great south land south of the then known world because of gale force winds, he was unable to make a landing. James Cook in HMS “Resolution” and Captain Tobias Furneaux in HMS “Adventure” left England in 1772 also to explore the South Seas. Furneaux followed Tasman’s chart and in 1773 found the bay, naming it Adventure Bay. He replenished his water and wood supplies and sailed on to New Zealand. Cook landed at Adventure Bay in 1777 aboard HMS Resolution with William Bligh as sailing master. Bligh revisited Adventure Bay in 1788 with botanist Nelson planted a number of fruit trees on the east side of the bay which he brought from the Cape of Good Hope. When he returned in 1792 he found that one apple tree was still growing.
Midway on Tasmania’s East Coast, the Freycinet National Park features dramatic coastal scenery of rugged red and pink granite outcrops and mountain peaks amidst sparkling white sands and crystal clear water. The Freycinet Peninsula is popular with walkers and some of the best walks are to the Friendly Beaches, the Wineglass Bay Lookout, and Wineglass Bay, Hazards Beach and the Friendly Beaches. The Hazards Beach is a long ribbon of sand near the picturesque Hazards Range of Mountains. Both the Freycinet Peninsula and Maria Island are detours from the highway. Each provides an exceptional experience not to be missed. Ideally spend a day for each. Neither can be properly appreciated in under four hours.
The Bay of Fires, a beautiful piece of wilderness coastline in the north-east corner of Tasmania, is characterised by stunning blue water, fishing lagoons, spotless white sandy beaches and orange lichen covered granite boulders, the area is often mentioned internationally in lists of the world’s top beaches. A place of tranquil beauty and one of Tasmania’s most popular tourist destinations, this 29-kilometre ribbon of sea, surf and sand is renowned for its island beach culture, cosy cottages and nature walks, not to mention its natural beauty.
Mindil Beach on Fannie Bay is Darwin’s most popular spot for ocean swimming. Situated near the Skycity Casino resort, it starts about 2km from the city centre and is in fact the closest beach of good quality to the central part of Darwin. Mindil is perhaps the home to the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. The seasonal markets run from the last Thursday in April to the last Thursday in October and are renowned for their wide range of take-away foods which are traditionally eaten on the beach watching the sun set of the sea. The sunsets here are some of the best you could ever wish to see. Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta is held by the Darwin Lions Club once a year at Mindil Beach.
A relaxed coastal town and popular fishing spot 120 km south-west of Darwin, Dundee Beach is a favourite weekender and holiday destination for increasing numbers of people, mainly from Darwin but also from as far away as Alice Springs and Western Australia. Dundee Beach and Bynoe Haven also host several fishing competitions during the dry season and the fishing is great year round. Dundee featured prominently in many episodes of the fishing show “Fishing North Australia” by Alex Julius. Fishing, boating and long walks along the beach at sunset among the activities to enjoy.
Wagait Beach is a small but growing community on the opposite side of Darwin Harbour to the Territory’s capital. It is understood Wagait Beach was named after the group of aboriginal people who lived on the coast between the mouth of the Daly River and Darwin Harbour. It has been suggested that “Worgait” in Aboriginal language meant “Beach”. Wagait Beach is 4km away from Mandorah, which overlooks Darwin Harbour. Mandorah is a popular place for day trips out of Darwin.