Melbourne may not have the pedigree of Sydney or Perth when it comes to beaches, but there are some beautiful stretches of sand to lay your towel in and around the city, if you know where to look. From 19th-century seaside resorts to quiet swathes of sand away from the crowds, here’s our pick of Melbourne’s best beaches.

Williamstown Beach in Melbourne. A vast segment of white sand curving round the headland.
Williamstown Beach is one of the best spots for a dip in Melbourne © jax10289 / Getty Images

Williamstown Beach

This pleasant lopsided grin of coarse, golden sand at Williamstown – a suburb in the west of the city with a historic, salty seafaring atmosphere and terrific views across the water to the Melbourne skyline – is one of the most appealing spots for a dip within Melbourne. It has its own surf-lifesaving club, a swimming pool at one end and a Spanish coast-inspired restaurant, Sebastian, at the other (the deck of which is a spectacular spot for a drink and nibble).

Sunset at St. Kilda Pier with swans.
St Kilda Pier dates back to the 19th century, and has been rebuilt several times © John W Banagan / Getty Images

St Kilda Foreshore

St Kilda is Melbourne's tattered bohemian heart. It’s a neighborhood that has played many roles through the ages, transforming from a 19th-century seaside resort to post-war Jewish enclave to red-light district to punk-rocker hub. Today, the area’s beachfront probably won’t win any awards for its looks, despite the appealing palm-fringed promenades and golden stretch of sand, but it still offers bags of charm, emanating from its long, historic pier that boasts knockout panoramas of the city center – it’s also home to a little penguin colony at its tip.

An aerial view of coastline beaches near Elwood with Melbourne CBD skyscrapers in the distance on bright sunny day.
Surrounded by parkland, Elwood Beach can be quite serene if you arrive at a quiet time © tsvibrav / Getty Images

Elwood Beach

A little way south along the coast from St Kilda, Elwood Beach is usually less windswept than its big-time neighbour to the north, but almost just as popular, with locals flinging frisbees and tossing footballs across the golden sands most days during the summer months. The beach is surrounded by leafy Elwood Park, giving it a tranquil feel during non-peak hours, and there are playgrounds, kiosks and a couple of cafes close to the sand, making it a hit with families.

Couple sitting on sand of Port Melbourne beach watching departing cruise ship on Port Philip Bay.
Port Melbourne Beach is the city's most central stretch of sand © James Braund / Getty Images

Port Melbourne Beach

Melbourne’s most central stretch of sand, Port Melbourne Beach spans the coastline of Port Melbourne, South Melbourne and Albert Park, a well-heeled trio of suburbs that are leafy and sedate. You'll spot ladies lunching with prams, AFL stars shopping for new threads and Porsches pulled up beside Victorian terraces and grandiose bayside condos.

The beach is popular for jogging and impromptu games of volleyball, as well as toasting the sunset, with a number of great bars and kiosks to choose from. You’ll also spy tourists kicking back on the sand after perusing the stalls of nearby South Melbourne Market.

Aerial view of Sorrento in Victoria, Australia. A pier splinters out from the sandy headland into calm blue ocean waters.
Sorrento Front Beach offers calm, clear waters to visitors © Peter Harrison / Getty Images

Sorrento Front Beach

Located just to the south of Melbourne, on the Mornington Peninsula, the town of Sorrento is as charming as its namesake on the Italian Riviera, and notable for its historic limestone buildings. It's also a place of great natural beauty, with ocean and bay beaches, stands of Norfolk pines and a pretty-as-a-picture jetty.

The calm bay-facing Front Beach is good for families and you can hire paddle boards on the foreshore. At low tide, the rock pool at the back beach is a safe spot for adults and children to swim and snorkel, and the surf beach is patrolled in summer. The 10-minute climb up to Coppins Lookout offers good views over the whole area.

A man with a surf board walks towards the beach at Fairhaven Beach, Australia. The water is knee high and it's just after dawn.
Fairhaven Beach is popular with surfers © Elke Meitzel / Getty Images

Fairhaven Beach

This attractive wide expanse of surf is the longest beach along the Great Ocean Road, and is roughly one and a half hours by car from central Melbourne. With the white sun-baked sand stretching for 10km from Split Point Lighthouse to Eastern View, you won’t struggle to find a spot to lay your towel even in the busy summer months.

Besides a surf life-saving club, which is staffed daily during the summer holidays and at weekends till Easter, facilities are scarce, which adds to the beach’s rustic appeal. The beach can also be reached from Melbourne by train and bus via the city of Geelong.

Families on the beach in Venus Bay in South Gippsland. In the distance, waves roll in towards the sandy golden shoreline.
Venus Bay is home to a number of beautiful swimming beaches © Nils Versemann / Getty Images

Venus Bay

Home to some of South Gippsland's loveliest beaches, the 26km-long sandy crescent of Venus Bay makes for a relaxed destination, though it gets packed over summer. It has beautiful swimming beaches (Beach 1 has a surf life-saving club), bushwalks and a tiny township comprising a general store, a cafe and takeaway food. Venus Bay is roughly two hours away from Melbourne by car.

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