South & West Coast Beaches, Australia

Hellfire Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park, Western Australia

Hellfire Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park, Western Australia. Photo by Cookaa.

Australian beaches on the south coast

The most famous strands are on the east coast – possibly because most of the tourists are there. As usual we have limited ourselves to some of the more outstanding or popular locations.

This page starts on the south coast with Melbourne, then heads west to Adelaide, Perth and Broome.

In Western Australia they don’t even know how to make that vital piece of sailing-boat equipment, the gin and tonic. O’Rourke, P. J. Holidays in Hell (Picador)

Melbourne (south coast) Best November – February

One of Australia’s more conservative cities, Melbourne is more about urban life than beaches, but 20 minutes by tram still gets you to spacious, calm and sandy***St Kilda, near Luna Park. Unusually surf free, the pretty beach is protected by a large bay and backed by gardens and a promenade lined with some outstanding yet reasonably priced restaurants. And not too far way is monstrous 90 mile beach if that’s too small. . .

Adelaide (south coast) Best September-November, February-May

Glenelg beach, Adelaide, Southern Australia

Glenelg beach, Adelaide, Southern Australia

Glenelg: a 20 minute tram ride from Adelaide brings you easily to Glenelg’s sandy strip, with plenty of pleasant cafés and activities. In season, however, it tends to become loud, overcrowded and untidy – unlike Australia’s best beaches which specialise in space and tranquility – well, so long as you consider pounding surf to be tranquil.

For a little stylish yet animated solitude the best option is to take a tour, fly or hire some wheels – 4WD not necessary and drive through countryside to Cape Jervis (1. 5 hrs/180kms) and onto a car ferry bound for park packed, 96 mile long ***Kangaroo Island (45m).
This large island – with no public transport – has a small human population that is way outnumbered by animals; kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, penguins, seals, sea lions, dolphins and even the elusive platypus all reside here, enjoying the expansive national parks, wonderful stretches of white sand and thrashing blue water. The best beaches are Stokes Bay, Antechamber Bay and Pennington Bay. Surfing is good and swimming is fine but the water is not nearly as warm as that of other coasts. Accommodation and camping sites are abundant.

Perth (SW coast) Best September-November, March-May

Nearer to Bali than Sydney, Perth and its environs have a lot to offer. Outside the skyscrapers and 19th century façades tourists will find a land of sand. Inland sand for camel safaris, sand scattered with bizarre pinnacles and coastal sand for ‘sandgropers’ – residents of Western Australia.
The city has nineteen beaches, mostly wide and white, with an occasional cove for interest. An easy bus ride takes you, for example, to calm protected Peppermint Grove or Crawley Beach on the Swan River, while surfers and gourmets will head for Scarborough, and nudists for Swanbourne.

Eight mile Rottnest Island, 30 minutes by ferry from Perth’s Fremantle suburb, is a popular holiday destination, not only due to the rampaging wallabies (quokkas) but also the many great beaches for swimming (e. g. Longreach Bay and Geordie Bay), fishing (e. g. Narrow Neck and Salmon Bay), surfing (e. g. Strickland Bay), and snorkelling (e. g. Parker Point). Lovely breezy cliffs at West End have excellent whale and dolphin views.

Monkey Mia, dolphin visiting time, Shark Bay, Western Australia. Picture by Nachoman.

Shark Bay (central west coast) Best May-October

Twelve hours north of Perth Monkey Mia is where dolphins come to play with humans. Bottlenose dolphins swim freely right up to the beach, but human animals are tightly controlled, need to buy a pass and can enter the water only at specified times. Some love the experience, others find it too strictly supervised to be enjoyable.

Exmouth (central west coast) Best May-October

This is a typical, thongs and tank-top Oz town, as relaxed as they come and gateway to Ningaloo Reef, a barrier reef Marine Park that successfully competes with the Great one on the east side of the country for style and content, if not in length.
Ningaloo Reef is a pristine 156 miles (250 km) long, much of it only 100m off shore. The truly exceptional experience available here is the chance to dive with 12 metre whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, along with dugongs, manta rays and other lesser sharks.
Turquoise Bay is a nearby, uncrowded, whiter-than-white beach lined with minimalist dunes that is a great snorkelling point for the reef, with guaranteed big-time marine lifeforms flitting by.

Broome (NW coast) Best April-October

On the edge of the massive, almost-desert of The Kimberley, Broome has two main attractions; camel safaris and Cable Beach. The clear blue Indian Ocean washes onto 22 kilometres of superb white sand, and the sunsets are spectacular. There are plenty of marine activities and accommodation on offer, and nightlife is good.