As the world’s largest island country, with more than 59,000km of coastline, it’s no surprise that Australia is home to more white-sand beaches than any other place on earth. We have famous beaches (Bondi), remote beaches (Lizard Island), croc-infested beaches (hello, NT), and all those nostalgic favourites dear to each one of us. Selecting five of our best is bound to stir controversy, but here goes…
After long, dusty days behind the wheel, Broome’s big blue looms large, beckoning travellers who park their 4WDs on Cable Beach, tumble into the sea, and sit back with something chilled to watch the sun slip west. This far-flung destination routinely rates as one of the best in the world: 22 gorgeous kilometres of silvery sand fringed by a cerulean sea.
Drawing in locals and travellers alike, and popular with swimmers and paddlers, camel riders and cocktail sippers, this simply stunning beach takes its name from the Broome to Java Submarine Telegraph Cable, laid off the beach in 1889. It’s a big part of what lures people to laidback Broome, a favourite frontier town that retains a rich authenticity and a wonderful, end-of-the-earth ambience despite the wintertime influx of tourists.
While Broome doesn’t rate highly with travelling dog-owners who are banished to the town’s outskirts, everyone else seems happy to squeeze their rigs in the town’s convivial caravan parks and spend time beachside. Low tide at Cable Beach reveals a voluminous expanse of shimmering sand where sun worshippers stretch out by day, and crowds gather at day’s end to watch Broome’s famous camel trains pass on by, silhouetted against the setting sun.
Location – Follow the coast more than 2300km north of Perth.
Camping: Visit www.visitbroome.com.au for a full list of caravan parks at Cable Beach and Roebuck Bay.
Visit: May to September.
Don’t miss: Shinju Matsuri – Festival of the Pearl (September), Taste of Broome (May), and Broome Cup Day (August).
Byron Bay, NSW
Of all the famously white beaches that stretch 30km on either side of Byron Bay, Clarkes remains a favourite: a protected arc of sand with small waves that are kind to beginner surfers.
You’ll find it between Main Beach and the Pass, where a caravan park provides a convenient base camp for daily swims and more strenuous walks to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Wategoes Beach and the seemingly endless stretch of sand from Tallow Beach to distant Broken Heads.
The crowds that congregate at Clarkes on weekends and school holidays are absent in the early morning when you are likely to share the swell with just a handful of surfers. Away from the beach, the Cape Byron Walking Track climbs through coastal rainforest thick with Bangalow palms and banksias in Cape Byron State Conservation Area to reach Byron Bay’s historic lighthouse (3.7km, 1-3 hours).
Set out early from Clarkes Beach to catch sunrise from Australia’s most easterly point and watch the bottlenose dolphins far below and migrating whales from July to October.
Location – 170km south of Brisbane and 800km north of Sydney.
Camping: Try the North Coast Holiday Park at Clarkes Beach or visit www.byron-bay.com for a full list of campgrounds.
Visit: Year round.
Don’t miss: Byron Bay’s Weekly Farmers’ Markets (Thursday from 8-11am)
Lincoln National Park, Eyre Peninsula, SA
At the very end of the Eyre Peninsula, where wild seas wrap around windswept Lincoln National Park, anglers, hikers and paddlers converge on a rugged coastline of monstrous sand hills, limestone lookouts and long, white-sand beaches.
Tucked in the lee of Taylor Island on the peninsula’s sheltered eastern edge, the calm, see-through sea off Taylor’s Landing is an idyllic swimming spot. Lolling about in the shallows on a recent visit, a couple of whiskered heads bobbed to the surface and we came face-to-face with two cute and curious Australian sea lions.
Taylor’s gorgeous white-sand beach is within easy reach of four comfortable campgrounds, all suitable for caravanners. Join the walking trail from MacLaren Point or drive to Taylors with your kayak on board to enjoy a calm-water paddle. Exploring south, a sealed, scenic drive leads to the edge of the enormous Wanna Dunes.
Campgrounds at Surfleet Cove, September Beach, Taylor’s Landing and Fisherman’s Point offer just the basics, but the park is easily explored as a daytrip from nearby Port Lincoln, too.
Location – Travel 13km south-west of Port Lincoln via Proper Bay Road.
Camping: $12 per vehicle per night (up to eight people); pay the park entry fee upon arrival ($11 per vehicle or $9 concession).
Facilities: Toilets, picnic shelters, non-potable water (BYO drinking water), campfires are permitted (except at Surfleet Cove) but you’ll need to BYO wood.
Visit: Summer for water sports; winter and spring for bushwalking and wildflower watching.
Contact: Eyre Penisnula
90km north of Cairns, FNQ
This distinctly tropical strip of coconut-fringed coast between the Daintree River and Port Douglas is a dream destination for beach-walkers and barramundi anglers. Surrounded by top-rated fishing spots, it’s nirvana for anyone travelling with a tinnie, and the local caravan park’s beachfront location is impossibly idyllic.
From Wonga Beach you can launch a boat straight off the sand for the quick run out to Snapper Island, one of the most accessible tropical isles in Queensland’s far north. On a calm day, the glassy seas off this unspoiled, unpopulated national-park island reveal immense gardens of colourful corals, but its location at the mouth of the Daintree River makes snorkelling a risky endeavour.
I love this destination for its energising early morning beach strolls and the astounding reefs revealed by extreme low tides. Wonga Beach Caravan Park makes a great base for exploring nearby Port Douglas (30km south), the cool pools and walking trails at Mossman Gorge (a 15-minute drive away), and Daintree Village is just 19km up the road. The presence of estuarine crocodiles means you can’t swim at Wonga Beach but you can enjoy freshwater dips at nearby Mossman Gorge.
Location – 17km north of Mossman (a 30-minute drive north of Port Douglas).
Camping: Wonga Beach Caravan Park charges $37/$32 for powered/unpowered campsites (no pets).
Visit: During winter.
Contact: Book campsites by phoning (07) 4098 7514 and for fishing informatio visit Fishing Port Douglas
Freycinet National Park, Tas
On Tassie’s blissfully blue east coast, no destination attracts travellers like Freycinet National Park. Most flock to Wineglass Bay to glimpse that famous, arcing ribbon of squeaky white sand that splits the shimmering sea from towering granite peaks.
But equally bewitching scenes are found a short drive away at the Friendly Beaches where waterfront camps tucked into the coastal heath are offered for free at Isaac Point. Accommodating all kinds of self-sufficient rigs, this gorgeous camp overlooks a seemingly endless stretch of coastline dotted with fiery lichen-covered boulders that tumble away into translucent seas alive with great gardens of thick kelp swaying in the swell.
There’s plenty to enjoy from this rustic beach camp: brave the chilly surf swell, beachcomb south towards the Cape Tourville Lighthouse, and poke through great piles of cowrie shells trapped against tessellated rock pavements. With our rig parked to make the most of awesome beach views, we spent the hours before dusk watching Bennett’s wallabies and pademelons feeding on the grassy foreshore and sipping champagne as we clicked off ever-improving images of the setting sun.
There is plenty of birdlife to enjoy here too. Don’t miss the great flocks of black swans and other waterfowl that gather on Saltwater Lagoon, an easy 20-minute walk behind the Friendly Beaches.
Location – Take the sign-posted turn off Coles Bay Road, 18km north of town, and continue for 4.5km along a groomed gravel road.
Camping: Bush sites are free but national park entry fees apply ($24 per vehicle per day).
Facilities: Pit toilets, BYO drinking water, no fires or pets.
Contact: Parks TAS
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