With more than 10,000 beaches around its shores, Australia leads the way when it comes to incredible sand and surf. Some beaches are playgrounds for marine and other wildlife, and the most beautiful beaches are so expansive or remote that you don't have to fight for towel space. Here's an at-a-glance – but by no means exhaustive – list of some of Australia's top beaches, exceptional for their surfing, swimming, wildlife and beauty.
Cable Beach – Western Australia
Best beach for warm waters and riding camels (yes, really)
Cable Beach is world-renowned for its looooong stretch of sand (14 miles in total) and bathwater tub-style ocean temperatures. Sheer bliss.
The beach is also synonymous with camels (the animals were first imported by the European settlers of Australia), and sunset rides are a highlight for many visitors.
Bondi Beach – New South Wales
Best beach near Sydney
Definitively Sydney, Bondi is one of the world’s great beaches. It’s the closest ocean beach to the city center (5 miles/8km away), has consistently good (though crowded) waves, and is great for a rough-and-tumble swim (the average water temperature is a considerate 70℉/21℃). If the sea’s angry, try the child-friendly saltwater sea baths at either end of the beach, both of which received an upgrade in 2019. Free beach-friendly wheelchairs (adult or child) can be booked through the Bondi Pavilion.
Surfers carve up sandbar breaks at either end of the beach; it’s a good place for learners, too. Changing rooms and lockers (small/medium $4/6) can be found at Bondi Pavilion.
Bells Beach – Victoria
Best beach for epic surfing
Bells Beach is the spiritual center of surfing and renowned for its epic swells. Bells is the top surfing beach for experienced surfers. However, it's dangerous to swim here; for safer swimming conditions, head to the nearby surf beach at Torquay.
Torquay itself is the longstanding capital of Australia's surfing scene, original home to Rip Curl and it's where you'll find many outlets of top surf brands.
Noosa Main Beach – Queensland
Best beach for families and novice surfers
Noosa is a favorite, if popular, spot. While surfers hit the Point – where longboards are particularly popular – swimmers can catch their share of decent waves on Noosa Main Beach. It's one of the east coast's few north-facing beaches, offering gentle to moderate waves ideal for families and rookie surfers.
After that, you can join the glitterati in one of the town's chi-chi cafes. (Hot tip: for those who love getting their gear off for the all-over tan, Alexandria Bay in Noosa National Park is the area's nudie spot. You won't hear about it much; it's the local “secret” and a short trek away. The surf's pretty hot there, too).
Read more: Australia's 6 best nudist beaches
Rockingham Beach – Western Australia
Best beach for observing bottlenose dolphins and other wildlife
An hour from Perth, the region hosts a group of around 150-plus bottlenose dolphins in its clear waters. Organized tours to swim with dolphins depart from the Rockingham jetty, but swimming with wild dolphins is considered a stressful and intrusive experience for the animals. Stick to shore and observe from a distance, or join a kayak trip to see penguins and sea lions instead.
Read more: How to be a responsible wildlife tourist
Four Mile Beach – Queensland
Best beach for clear blue waters and golden sand
This broad stretch of squeaky sand wraps around the eastern side of the peninsula in a near-perfect arc of sand and swaying palms – access is off the eastern end of Macrossan St, the town's main thoroughfare, and various points south. There's a patrolled swimming area in front of the surf life-saving club (with a stinger net in summer) and sunloungers available for hire.
Hyams Beach – New South Wales
Best beach for white sand
Hyams Beach holds the honor in the Guinness Book of Records for comprising the whitest sand in the world. Located south of Sydney in the Jervis Bay area, it is by no means remote (it's a popular destination for cashed-up Sydneysiders), but is one of the most stunning stretches around.
Read more: Australia's best snorkeling and diving spots
Whitehaven Beach – Queensland
Best beach for accessible solitude
This pearl of remote – yet accessible – beaches hugs one of the deserted islands of the Whitsundays. Whitehaven is renowned for its squeaky, clean white sand. Boat, luxury yachts or ferry tours depart from all the Whitsunday Islands, including the mainland Airlie Beach.
Seven Mile Beach – New South Wales
Best beach for massive vistas
This superlative crescent of sand, stretching south from Gerroa to Shoalhaven Heads, is one of the South Coast's most memorable beaches thanks to its pale-golden sand and sheer size. Gazetted as a national park, Seven Mile Beach has picnic areas, shaded walking tracks and miles of bright foam lashing the shore, making it almost impossible not to kick off your shoes and jump in.
Bremer Bay – Western Australia
Best beach for families and spotting whales
Bremer Bay about 112 miles (180km) east of Albany, is a favorite spot for Southern right whales to calve (July to October). You can watch parents and babies lolling in calm waters just yards from the shore.
Squeaky Beach – Victoria
Best beach for squeaky sand
Squeaky Beach is named for obvious reasons. And – you guessed it – every step is accompanied by a high-pitch squeak. To get here, you head along a track through stunning bushland. Massive granite boulders frame the beach.
Tallow Beach – New South Wales
Best beach for crowd-free sand
Tallow Beach is a deserted sandy stretch that extends for 4.3 miles (7km) south from Cape Byron. This is the place to flee the crowds: much of the beach is backed by Arakwal National Park. The suburb of Suffolk Park sprawls along back from the sand near its southern end.
Cape Tribulation – Queensland
Best beach for tropical scenery
Cape Tribulation is surrounded by tropical rainforest and is the beach Paradise with a capital P, at least for the scenery. Beware: saltwater crocodiles also love this place, so check the season before you visit.
Sawyers Beach – Tasmania
Best beach for having the view all to yourself
Located near the main village of Whitemark, this lesser-known favorite is as postcard-perfect as you can get: white sand, gin-clear water, pretty boulders to snorkel around, zero people... you get the picture.
Manly Beach – New South Wales
Best beach for taking surf lessons
Sydney's second most famous beach is a magnificent strand that stretches for nearly one golden mile, lined by Norfolk Island pines and midrise apartment blocks. The southern end of the beach, nearest the Corso, is known as South Steyne, with North Steyne in the centre and Queenscliff at the northern end; each has its own surf lifesaving club.
The beach is also famous for being the site of the world's first surfing contest in 1964. Area surf schools like Manly Surf School carry on that totally rad heritage.