12 HOT Australian Coastal and Beach Holiday Destinations – Part 1

Last Updated on May 4, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

Griffiths Island Lighthouse, Port Fairy, Victoria
Griffiths Island Lighthouse, Port Fairy, Victoria

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?

Yambuk, near Port Fairy, Victoria, 10 Budget Travel Tips
The AWESOME dune slide near the caravan park at Yambuk, near Port Fairy, Victoria

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!

1.  Port Fairy, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

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).  There’s also 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!

Williamstown Jetty, Port Philip Bay, Melbourne
Williamstown Jetty, Port Philip Bay, Melbourne

2. Port Philip Bay, Victoria

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.  Not to mention visiting the many National Parks, gardens, lighthouses, historic sites and cultural hot spots.  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.

Geelong Foreshore, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria
Geelong Foreshore, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria

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.  If all else fails, just chill out on one of the many beaches and soak up the coastal culture!

3. South West Rocks, New South Wales

View from Smoky Cape Lighthouse, South West Rocks, New South Wales
Unspoiled Beaches and Coastal Scenery from Smoky Cape Lighthouse, South West Rocks, New South Wales

We were horrified to hear that the 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.

Its array of attractions include Macleay River fishing, the staggering scenery from Smoky Cape Lighthouse, hiking trails, a superb bakery, hinterland and nearby towns to explore.  There’s Trial Bay Gaol, and Hat Head, Stuarts Point and Scotts Head (all with GREAT beaches).  So 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’!

4.  Broken Head, New South Wales

The amazing Northern Rivers region of NSW has (arguably) some of the best beaches and coastal scenery in Australia.  The coast also includes the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse on Australia’s most easterly point.

Beach in Ballina, North Coast, New South Wales
Beach in Ballina, North Coast, New South Wales

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. It’s also easy to access the amazing beaches and other attractions in the whole region.

You might need more reason to visit than the magnificent stretch of rainforest-lined unspoiled beach that curves all the way round to Cape Byron.  If so, 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 …

Looking south from Broken Head Coastal Reserve Walk, New South Wales
Looking south from Broken Head Coastal Reserve Walk, New South Wales

On a good day, it’s pretty hard to beat!

5. Mon Repos, via Bundaberg, Queensland

Red with Turtle, Mon Repos, Bundaberg
Red with Turtle, Mon Repos, Bundaberg

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.  That makes it an interesting beach holiday destination.

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, 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!

6.  Cooktown, Queensland

It’s quite possible that every visitor to Cooktown has a photo of the 1885 Grassy Hill Lighthouse. Not to mention the killer view along the wild and heavily-rainforested coastline.

Grassy Hill Lighthouse in 1998, Cooktown, Queensland
Grassy Hill Lighthouse in 1998, Cooktown, Queensland

Its colonial history includes a visit of several weeks by Captain Cook (yes, THAT one) while repairing the Endeavour.  There was also a busy port that serviced the nearby Palmer River goldfields.

Tropical Scenery along the coast, Cooktown, Queensland, Australia
Tropical Scenery along the coast, Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

Now a popular winter fishing destination, it’s also a jumping off point for one of the most iconic of Australian road-trips. Yes, you guessed right—the trek to the most northerly point in Australia, Cape York!

7.  Darwin, Northern Territory

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.

Sunset at the Mindil Beach markets, Darwin, Northern Territory
Sunset at the Mindil Beach markets, Darwin, Northern Territory

Fair-weather tourists like me who venture this far north during the ‘Dry’ are rewarded with 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!

Across the bay by ferry, holiday town Mandorah is a taste of the tropics at their best.

Mandorah, via Darwin, Northern Territory
Mandorah, via Darwin, Northern Territory

I don’t know if I’ll ever visit Darwin during the Wet. But its a sure thing I’ll be back there one day to experience it’s Aussie Winter 30ºC (86º F) temperatures again!


8.  Broome, Western Australia

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.  Don’t forget those 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.

Broome has some of the most amazing coastal scenery – and highest tides – in Australia. It’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.There’s also the swirling tidal patterns of Willie Creek – also home to a pearl farm!

Rocks at twilight, Gantheaume Point, Broome, Western Australia
Rocks at twilight, Gantheaume Point, Broome, Western Australia

An interesting array of cultures makes the regular outdoor markets on ‘Staircase’ nights a must-do.  As is exploring dinosaur footprints and the lighthouse at nearby Gantheaume Point.  Broome is best enjoyed as a beach holiday destination during the milder Aussie winter (June-August).

9.  Quobba Blowholes, Western Australia

Quobba Blowholes, via Carnarvon, Western Australia
Quobba Blowholes, via Carnarvon, Western Australia

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.

Island Rock, Kalbarri
Island Rock, Kalbarri, Western Australia

10.  Kalbarri, Western Australia

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. Just up the road is the World Heritage area of Shark Bay, another beach holiday destination.

Nature's Window, Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia
Another cliché shot of Nature’s Window, Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia

But who needs other attractions when all roads lead to the stupendous cliffs?!

11.  Head of Bight, South Australia

Whale and Calf at Head of Bight, South Australia
Whale and Calf at Head of Bight, South Australia

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.  It’s also the longest continuous line of sea cliffs in the world.

But the whales are the main attraction, and they’re 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!

12. Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Daly Head, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
Daly Head, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

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 beach holiday destination, it’s also got some great hiking trails, including ‘Walk the Yorke’ around the whole peninsula.  There are also lighthouses, shipwreck sites and great scenic drives along the rugged coast. Then there’s the dolphin and seal spotting.  AND the fishing …

Troubridge Scenic Drive, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
Troubridge Scenic Drive, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

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!

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  1. thanks for providing valueble information about Austrelian Beaches , i am feel comfort by reading your article,keep it up. once again Thank you REDZaustralia !!!!

  2. You had me at dune slide! That looks ohhhhh so much fun! And how I love the Great Ocean Road, so I have no idea how I could have missed this. I totally must agree with you that the Northern NSW coastline is some of the most beautiful coastlines in Australia. It is truly one of my favourites – and Broken Head is so beautiful. I do love Byron Bay, but it is starting to get quite crowded so I prefer heading further down south to explore more isolated parts of the coastline.

    1. Haha, everyone loves a good slide and this one’s a beauty!! SO agree with you about Byron – the last time I was there I could hardly move. Now I love Lennox Head, Skennars Head, Ballina and Evans Head further south – but every time I go there I find a great new place to check out!

  3. I’m going to do the Great Ocean Road with my friend in December! I have no idea yet what I’m doing since it’s actually kinda a (long) ‘layover’ from my main Chile trip. So being fed with good tips is fantastic!

    1. Glad it’s useful, Teja! There’s a lot to see and do on the Great Ocean Road – this is just a very small part of it. It’ll be interesting to compare it with Chile – hope you have a great trip 😀

  4. All of these coastal spots are beautiful. I would have really hard time picking one over the other. I particularly loved the views of Island Rock, Kalbarri, Western Australia

  5. I’ve just realized that I have twelve more things to do on my bucket list… How could I miss Port Fairy when we travelled the Great Ocean Road??? Bugger…
    Thanks for so much inspiration!

  6. What an amazing country you live in. As someone who likes to walk the HOT bit doesn’t appeal so much but the coastal scenery is truly beautiful.

    1. Haha, the HOT doesn’t really appeal to me either, John 😀 Maybe my next post will be about how to escape the heat, haha!! Surprisingly, there’s a few places to go to beat the heat – that’s generally where you’ll find me in summer!!

  7. Wow, who would ever think there was such diversity in our countryside in Australia? We caravan at Broken Head nearly every Christmas and it is one of my favourite hot spots. From our recent trip Kalbarri and Quobba were both stand outs. Did you travel further north to Red Bluff (near Quobba)? That was magical as well. I gave you a mention in my blog yesterday. You have inspired me!

    1. Thank you Kathy! You’re WAY too kind!! Broken Head is a killer hot spot – there are just too many to count, yes?! We’ve got a whole lot more detail to explore along the WA coastline … RED Bluff sounds right up my alley!!!

  8. It’s a dangerous thing, this blog of yours, Red. And, the “warning” at the top should be well heeded by those like me.
    Blustery blow holes, delightful lighthouses, wonderful denizens of the deep and the bright, beautiful blue-greens have me yearning to get back into a camper and just drive.
    And, If I looked half as good as you at 3am, patting that gorgeous turtle, well, I wouldn’t mind a bit! Wouldn’t mind having lovely golden tan skin like yours either 🙂

    Thanks for the coastal tour that makes my heart pine. One day.
    Your blog is a handy travel reference – there’s none better!

    1. Hahaha … I have no sympathy! Just DO IT!!! Tragically, I was nearly 16 years younger in that turtle shot … Happy New Year – hope to see you on the road somewhere!!

  9. Between your photos and some I’ve seen on Flickr and the scenes I saw in that movie a few years ago called “The Boys Are Back” I’d have to say that Australia has the most beautiful beaches and coastal areas in the world. You are so right, this post has me pricing airline tickets.

  10. We live in a lovely country. Love your scenery photos. Turtles are many. Stairway to the moon, didn’t bother going to see that but good to see your photo of it. Whales are wonderful to see and they do come quite close down there.

    1. There’s so much variety … but I guess there would be in a country as big as Europe or the US!! But the more we see, the more we find to see … Happy New Year!!

  11. G’day Red, this was a fabulous hot spot post! Love those lighthouses! I have a real thing for them.
    Happy travels and happy new year to you and Pilchard.

    1. Hahaha, one day I’ll make all your fantasies come true and do a whole post on lighthouses!!! Happy New Year to you too! I hope this means your internet problems are sorted 🙂

  12. Wow, I really like to go there some day.., but it is so far away.
    Great post and pictures!
    My best wishes to you for this new year!

    1. Whenever you want to see it, just visit my blog! There are a LOT of places left to show you!! Happy New Year to you too!!

  13. Lol–that Grassy Hill didn’t look so grassy to me! Maybe it is just my old eyes and this tiny phone. But wow! You got to see the turtles. One of the things on my bucket list!

    1. Hahaha, well spotted … but I’m sure it’s different in the WET season which I haven’t experienced! And not only did I SEE turtles, but I TOUCHED one!! AWESOME!!!

    1. Sorry 🙁 I bet your postcard is WAY better than my mediocre photo of Staircase to the Moon!! Happy New Year!

  14. Red, thanks for sharing your coastal compilation – I am happy to be able to confirm that I have also done several of these, but unfortunately my WA experience is limited! I will get there one day…

    1. My WA experience was limited until 2012 – now I can’t wait to get back there!! Happy New Year – maybe we’ll meet up on the road somewhere!!

    1. Stick around … I’ve got LOTS more to show you!! And maybe we’ll see you on the road somewhere!! Happy New Year – well it WILL be if you’ve retired, right?!?!

  15. If I could I’d book a flight right now and I live in Florida, where the weather isn’t all that bad this time of year; can only image how much the people “up North” here in the US who read this while experiencing blizzards and snowed-in conditions wish they could.

    We love coastal areas, but aren’t ‘lie-out-on-the-beach’ type of people, so the coastal scenes you feature here would be right up our alley. Love those blowholes! Couple of areas like that on the Oregon coast, but not where you can walk so easily.

    Beautiful and definitely tempting post!!

    1. I SO don’t understand what it’s like to experience a blizzard or be snowed in … but somehow, I don’t think I’m going to offer to swap places!! Be tempted, my friend … and Happy New Year!!

  16. oh it looks like a wonderful place to visit, you have shared some beautiful images. the landscapes are just breathtaking and the light house so unusual!!

  17. lucky aren’t we? I haven’t seen a lot of eastern-sider coastal spots – but I can tell you WA has some of the best beaches in Australia. I had to take a second look at your scenic toilet at West Cape Beach. Have you been into the one at Sceale Bay in SA? – the one with the window looking out at the beach? I must say I thought of you Red when I took a pic from inside looking out!

    1. I just like making people jealous!! And it looks like I’m succeeding … I’m yet to enjoy the delights of Sceale Bay … send me your pic, I’d LOVE to see it!!! The east and west coasts are quite different – but each spectacular in their own way! Happy New Year!!!

    1. That can’t be right, surely!! Although, now I come to think of it … maybe I do!! Welcome back and Happy New Year!!

  18. Discerning readers MAY feel an uncontrollable urge to contact a travel agent after reading!!

    It is much too late for me. Of course the only issue stopping me is money. If that is ever solved the issue will be me having to leave.

  19. Discerning readers MAY feel an uncontrollable urge to contact a travel agent after reading!! (Click each heading for more information)

    It is much too late for me. The only issue is, of course, money. If that ever clears up I can honestly say leaving such a beautiful country might be impossible.

    1. I guess I can’t take credit for Australia’s beauty … I just hold the camera up and shoot!!! Stay tuned – there’s WAY more I have to show you!! Happy New Year!

  20. Now you’ve brought me to a place like home – this post made me feel like I was right here on the bay with the lighthouses, the rocky beaches, the white sand, the water n waves, whales n dune grass. Thank you Red for this lovely post.

    1. Happy New Year, my friend! I’m surprised by some of the similarities between our two very different countries! Weird, huh?! We’ll have to do a house swap one day!!

    1. Happy New Year, my friend! But I think I can give you even WARMER greetings from Australia – it’s midsummer down here!

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