Looking for somewhere summery that has it all – from good food and accommodation to a perfect beach? Our panel chooses some of Australia’s best beach towns for summer holidaymakers.
Don’t agree with their assessments? Add your suggestions in the comments below.
A long crescent of perfect patrolled beach, wild waterfall-filled hinterland, great restaurants, a cinema, cute boutiques and spectacular beach houses with dress-circle sea views make Lorne the south’s answer to Noosa.
The beach is big enough that you can get away from the mob, and a lovely sea-front promenade makes it a favourite picnic spot and an appealing base for exploring the Great Ocean Road.
Port Fairy, Victoria
Golfers probably won’t notice much past the stunning 18-hole links course with its Southern Ocean views, but Port Fairy is a relaxed, historic town with good food and wine, beautiful walks, some lovely 1800s streetscapes, an array of brisk-watered beaches and one of Victoria’s busiest and most picturesque fishing ports.
An acclaimed folk festival, one of the country’s largest music festivals, brings the crowds in March.
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Byron Bay, NSW
Whether you’re seeking a haven from Hollywood (like Chris Hemsworth) or a change of pace from city life (like chef Shannon Bennett), Byron has something for everyone. Three stellar beaches (Tallow, Wategos, main beach), great accommodation (resort or rental), good dining and a uniquely laid-back but stylish Australian vibe.
Come for the Easter Bluesfest, held annually.
Sydney-siders have been making the nine-hour trek to Yamba, at the mouth of the Clarence River, for years. They’ve loved it for its celebrated seafood (especially prawns), its laid-back atmosphere that smacks of boomers’ childhood beach holidays (though the fibro shacks of old are disappearing fast) and its many beaches, which face enough different directions that there’s almost always somewhere sheltered.
Nearby Angourie has been described as one of the best right-hand point breaks in the world by Mark Richards, former world surfing champion.
Noosa Heads, Queensland
It’s posh and pricey, but that’s part of what makes Noosa’s Hastings Street one of the most exclusive coastal addresses in the country.
The family-friendly north-facing main beach, one of the few on the east coast of Australia, makes it perennially popular. The adjoining national park, with its bijou coves and lovely hiking, adds to the allure.
Boutiques and fine dining round out the package. Accommodation ranges from five-star hotels with pool cabanas, to old-school holiday rental flats and campgrounds.
Burleigh Heads, Queensland
Not too much high-rise, a long, lovely crescent of patrolled beach, a laid-back vibe and some of Queensland’s best eating and drinking make Burleigh the Gold Coast destination for people who don’t think they like the Gold Coast.
Make eye contact with the surfers from your table while you lunch at Rick Shores (yes, they’re that close), or grab a coffee and walk the stunning seafront path around the Burleigh headland before breakfast, like a local.
Port Elliott, South Australia
There’s a family-friendly village feeling, good accommodation options and safe beaches for children, such as Horseshoe Bay. Its bakery is renowned as one of Australia’s best (Toblerone doughnut, anyone?).
There are beaches for surfers nearby, and it’s a good base for whale watching.
Robe, South Australia
A real getaway from the city, the Limestone coast town is four hours’ drive from Adelaide, and has been a favourite for South Australian and Victorian families for generations.
The main beach is called Long Beach and is just that – 12 kilometres of very white sand. With a strong fishing heritage, Robe is renowned for its lobsters. There are great caravan parks and old pubs.
Port Willunga, South Australia
A trendy but historic beachside hamlet on the edge of the McLaren Vale wine region with an interesting emerging food scene, Port Willunga is only 45 minutes from Adelaide, with a pristine beach that has become an SA tourist icon.
One of the state’s best restaurants, Star of Greece, is perched on the cliff that overlooks the beach.
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Coral Bay, Western Australia
Yes, it’s as pure and simple as it sounds. Coral Bay is the sort of town where you can walk around in bare feet and travel end-to-end in about five minutes.
Most people, understandably, wander direct to the beach, an expanse of flour-fine granules and gentle, flat water that’s part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Coast.
A good 50-metre freestyle will get you to the reef’s edge, which is rife with tropical fish, pastel-hued coral and, further out, really playful manta rays. Locals are as sunny as the weather, and Bill’s Bar, across from the caravan park, is the pub to hit.
Dunsborough, Margaret River
Dunsborough has upmarket shopping and an impressive number of chic cafes, cool bars and excellent restaurants, including the standout, Yarri, which reflects the local Noongar people’s six-season calendar.
But best of all, it’s a short drive from the white sands and lagoon-like bay of Meelup Beach. There are few beaches where the bush meets the sea; fewer still where the water is so glassy and pale blue, it resembles a Bombay Sapphire bottle. The yawning native trees provide shady nooks, some free-use barbecues and picnic tables.
Adventure-seekers should follow the coastal walking track and, from September to December, watch the horizon for breaching whales.
Thomson Bay, Rottnest Island
Perth’s holiday island, just 19 kilometres off the WA capital’s beach-lined coast, bears more than its fair share of beaches. There are 63 sandy smiles, to be exact, and ample bays dotted with yachts, making it the city’s preferred playground.
If we had to pick – and it’s difficult – we’d choose an afternoon at Little Parakeet, an idyllic little beach edged with limestone rock formations, just off the cycling path.
It’s a 15 to 20-minute ride from the island’s main settlement, Thomson Bay – a bustling zone of bike riders and pedestrians, seagulls, peacocks, and quokkas that cluster beside the bakery and in Hotel Rottnest’s beer garden. It’s characterised by its century-old cottages and laid-back vibe, despite the many million dollar yachts bobbing in the harbour.
Panel: Janne Apelgren is contributing travel editor for The New Daily; Fleur Bainger is a travel writer and Lonely Planet destination expert for WA; Paul Hamra is managing director of The New Daily