12 HOT Australian Coastal and Beach Holiday Destinations – Part 1
Long Coastline, HUGE Landmass, Low Population.
Our amazing unspoiled coastline, stunning natural attractions give us a fantastic array of AMAZING Australian coastal and beach holiday destinations!
So how do you choose one?
I’ve made it easy with my two-part virtual tour – so sit back, slip on your sunnies*, sip something soothing, and get set for a stunning scenic All-Around-Australia tour of 12 coastal destinations to inspire YOUR next holiday! And look out for Part Two coming SOON!
For more information, click each heading below!
Choosing a vacation base along the 400 km (~248 mile) long Great Ocean Road trail starting at the South Australian border and stretching nearly to Melbourne is WAY too hard. It’s got (almost) too many surf beaches, shipwreck sites, holiday towns, hiking tracks, National Parks, cafés and historic points of interest.
But you have to start somewhere. So for a cross-section of what the Great Ocean Road has to offer, base yourself at Port Fairy. It’s a 2-bakery teaser with historic Griffiths Island and lighthouse (photo above), a Short-tailed Shearwater nesting spot, site of the Bonney Upwelling phenomenon, and a rich maritime heritage with magnificent coastal scenery.
Plus access to a LOT of other attractions at nearby towns Portland and Warrnambool!
Bird watchers like me just don’t understand why most visitors to Melbourne don’t want to visit the sewage ponds at the Western Treatment Plant – one of the best birding hotspots in OZ.
Weirdly, many non-birding visitors seem to prefer water sports, sailing, swimming, fishing, cruising and hiking; and visiting the many National Parks, gardens, lighthouses, historic sites and cultural hot spots. And they’d probably agree that Melbourne exists merely as accommodation while they indulge in the amazing variety of water- and beach-based activities in, on and around Port Philip Bay.
35 times larger than Sydney Harbour and home of Australia’s biggest cargo port, finding enough things to do on your seaside holiday won’t be a problem. And if all else fails, just chill out on one of the many beaches and soak up the coastal culture!
Horrified to hear that the wonderfully unspoiled fishing village of South West Rocks we’d ‘discovered’ in the 1990s was a favourite of Ray Martin, one-time Aussie TV ‘personality’, it took a temporary dive in our estimation.
But with its array of attractions like Macleay River fishing, the staggering scenery from Smoky Cape Lighthouse, hiking trails, a superb bakery, hinterland and nearby towns to explore, Trial Bay Gaol, and Hat Head, Stuarts Point and Scotts Head (all with GREAT beaches), it made a speedy recovery and it’s still one of our all-time favourite NSW coastal spots.
We haven’t yet spotted Ray there … but who knows? You might get ‘lucky’!
The amazing Northern Rivers region of NSW has (arguably) some of the best beaches and coastal scenery in Australia, including the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse on Australia’s most easterly point.
But wilder and less crowded is the little hamlet of Broken Head just a short distance south of Byron Bay with the best of both worlds. It’s an awesome coastal holiday destination in its own right AND its easy to access the amazing beaches and other attractions in the whole region.
If you need more reason to visit than the magnificent stretch of rainforest-lined unspoiled beach that curves all the way round to Cape Byron, then stop dodging the scrub-turkeys in the car park and dodge the surfers and fishermen instead on the coastal walk south across the Head to the beaches and wilderness beyond. Interpretive signs explain historic and cultural points of interest, and the view goes on forever …
On a good day, it’s pretty hard to beat!
There’s a lot more to do in the coastal town of Bundaberg than see turtles, but nearby Mon Repos Conservation Park is one of the largest turtle rookeries in Australia.
At night during laying season (Nov to Jan), female turtles lay their eggs on the beach – and a few lucky people, supervised by the interpretive centre, are privileged to watch.
If you’re thinking I look a bit rough in this November 1998 photo, it’s because it’s about 3:00 am – the turtles don’t perform on demand!
This is an extraordinary opportunity to see something amazing – and a must-do for your coastal vacation bucket list!
If turtles aren’t your thing, then maybe a tasting trip to the Bundaberg Rum factory – it also makes a killer Ginger Beer and selection of fruit-flavoured soft drinks – might do the trick!
It’s quite possible that every visitor to Cooktown has a photo of the 1885 Grassy Hill Lighthouse – and the killer view along the wild and heavily-rainforested coastline.
Its colonial history includes a visit of several weeks by Captain Cook (yes, THAT one) while repairing the Endeavour, and a busy port that serviced the nearby Palmer River goldfields.
Now a popular winter fishing destination, it’s also a jumping off point for one of the most iconic of Australian road-trips – the trek to the most northerly point in Australia, Cape York!
Australia’s most northerly major city, Darwin isn’t for the fainthearted. The town was virtually destroyed by bombings during the 2nd World War and again by Tropical Cyclone Tracey on Christmas Day, 1974. Regularly lashed by tropical storms and isolated by floods during the annual ‘Wet’ season (Nov-March), its tropical waters contain crocodiles and stingers.
But fair-weather tourists like me who venture this far north during the ‘Dry’ are rewarded by magnificent tropical scenery, milder temperatures and the most laid-back lifestyle in OZ.
If you like your coastal holidays served up with a dash of adventure – think fishing in crocodile-infested waters and or even bird watching in a crocodile infested dam – then head to the beaches of Darwin. But give the swimming a miss!
And across the bay by ferry, holiday town Mandorah is a taste of the tropics at their best.
I don’t know if I’ll ever visit Darwin during the Wet. But its a fairly sure thing I’ll be back there one day to experience it’s Aussie Winter 30ºC (86º F) temperatures again!
Likely the worst photo you’ll ever see of Broome’s famous ‘Staircase to the Moon’, this shot is a wordless warning to anyone attempting low light photography without pre-requisites a) tripod; b) shutter release cable; and c) skill!
Sceptical of its ‘uniqueness’ – it’s just the moon rising over water and mud for goodness sake, and that happens in LOTS of places – seeing the real thing’s actual resemblance to a staircase (don’t look for this in my poor pic) changed my mind.
Luckily, there’s plenty more to do in the coastal pearling town of Broome if moonlight and mudflats don’t quite do it for you.
Some of the most amazing coastal scenery – and highest tides -in Australia, Broome’s colours are a perfect backdrop to exploring the rugged coastline and amazing beaches like world-famous Cable Beach, and other gems like often-almost-deserted Coconut Wells beach, and the swirling tidal patterns of Willie Creek – also home to a pearl farm!
An interesting array of cultures makes the regular outdoor markets on ‘Staircase’ nights a must-do, along with exploring dinosaur footprints and the lighthouse at nearby Gantheaume Point. Broome is best enjoyed during the milder Aussie winter (June-August) – but it’s SO worth a visit!
Never turn your back on an active blowhole – if you want to stay dry, that is!! By a happy coincidence, the tides were perfect for optimum blowhole performance, and some dodging and weaving around the rocks ensured we didn’t get too wet. Not that it would have mattered – the perfection of a fine, warm and sunny winter’s day on Western Australia’s Outback Coast means we would have dried out pretty quickly!
But high-pressure sea spray bursting through rockholes isn’t the only kind of blowhole on offer below the impressive Quobba lighthouse and beautiful bay – whales are also sighted along this stretch of coastline.
For a different perspective, try blowhole-spotting from the vantage point high above at the lighthouse – it’s easier than it looks as the white spray stands out perfectly against the deep, deep blue of the sea!
There’s a campground near the blowholes, but there’s also plenty of things to do at nearby Carnarvon – a coastal town known for its produce, and a well known winter holiday destination for those escaping the southern cold.
With one of the most distinctive coastlines in OZ, the layered sandstone of Kalbarri’s 100 metre high cliffs can sometimes overshadow its other main attraction – the 500+ wildflower species for which the area is renowned!
But a series of cliff top walks atop sheer drops right down into the wild and whale-ridden waters of the Indian Ocean make the high concentration of shipwrecks – such as the Batavia in 1629 – unsurprising.
If you can tear yourself away from the cliffs, the impressive Murchison River, after carving its way through the sandstone from 80 km inland, enters the sea at Kalbarri in the shadow of the magnificent Red Bluff. The Kalbarri National Park – full of birds, wildlife and wildflowers – surrounds the town. And just up the road is the World Heritage area of Shark Bay.
But who needs other attractions when all roads lead to the stupendous cliffs?!
Its pretty hard to just drop in to Head of Bight – at the very top of the Great Australian Bight stretching across much of southern Australia’s coastline.
It’s at least a couple of days drive along the Eyre Highway from the closest major town in any direction.
But if you’re driving Australia’s best known road trip across the Nullarbor from June to October, you’ll find a southern right whale nursery under the unbroken 200 km line of the fabulous Bunda cliffs that mark where the world’s largest karst limestone formation meets the Great Southern Ocean.
But the whales are the main attraction – easily seen from the viewing platform below the cliffs, they’ll make spending your vacation on that long drive across the middle of nowhere worthwhile!
The long coastline around the Yorke Peninsula, a narrow neck of land a couple of hours from Adelaide, virtually guarantees one of the highest concentrations of amazing beaches (often deserted), spectacular natural attractions AND coastal Scenic Public Toilets in Australia!
The perfect place for a beach holiday, it’s also got some great hiking trails (including ‘Walk the Yorke’ around the whole peninsula), lighthouses, shipwreck sites and great scenic drives along the rugged coast. Then there’s the dolphin and seal spotting. AND the fishing …
Well, that’s Part One done! Stay tuned for Part Two with another 12 of Australia’s best coastal and beach holiday destinations – and another virtual tour of the whole coastline!
PS Seen this post before? It first appeared in 2014, but I’ve fully updated it with new information and extra photos. It’s now the first part of your guide to 24 of the best coastal and beach places to visit in Australia. Enjoy!