Australia is flush with beautiful landscapes, amazing wildlife, and vibrant cities. It also happens to have some of the world's prettiest beaches. Ringed by the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, there's almost too much coastline to choose from -- over 37,000 miles of it, in fact. Since criss-crossing this continent isn't cheap, and since some beaches are too dangerous to swim in (read: saltwater crocodiles and box jellyfish), it takes a little expertise to plan an Australian beach adventure. With that in mind, we've found some of the most awesome beaches down under -- though keep in mind that there are hundreds more to explore.
The Whitsundays consist of over 70 different islands, but only a few are inhabited. And the truth is that there are untouched beaches to be found throughout the archipelago (with plenty of tour companies offering boat trips to reach them). However, when it comes to the most beautiful beaches, it’s Whitehaven Beach that tops most travelers’ and experts’ lists. The setting is gorgeous — tucked amid a placid bay ringed by green jungle, blue seas, and white sand. In fact, it’s that sand that gives the beach its extra-special status, as it’s composed of almost pure silica, making it especially powdery and keeping it cool to the touch despite the region’s often soaring temperatures.
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While the Kimberley region isn’t a beach, per se, if you have the wherewithal to make your way here, the rewards are beyond words. While the wild inland landscapes are a marvel on their own, the Kimberley’s coastline is an exercise in superlatives. You have your pick of hundreds of miles of undeveloped and pristine shores to choose from here, depending on what you find most appealing. If you don’t want to trek too far from civilization, Cable Beach is the best option, as it’s closest to Broome (the major town in the region). However, you’ll be sharing the beach with plenty of others. If you fancy off-roading and navigating with a four-wheel drive vehicle, opt for the Dampier Peninsula. This region’s signature red rocks are lit up at sunset while waves lap at the shore. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pack supplies, like gas and water, if you’re heading to the Dampier Peninsula, and that it’s a 136-mile drive from Broome over often unpaved roads. Alternatively, plenty of companies organize tours of the region that range from rustic to luxe.
Australia isn’t all back-to-nature beaches. In fact, with most of its major cities hugging the nation’s coasts, urban beaches are something of a legend here. While Bondi Beach will certainly have its detractors, the truth is that this is one of the most famous beaches in the world. The name alone is almost instantly recognizable and is something of a brand in its own right, signifying all things laid-back and surfer-friendly. The beach is backed by a street art-covered wall that speaks volumes about the vibe in Bondi. This slice of sand attracts a mix of tourists and locals — young and old, topless and more covered up — and the neighborhood is packed with cafes, bars, and shops. It’s also famous as the location of the Bondi Baths pool, a sea-adjacent lap pool, plus the stunning Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.
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Western Australia doesn’t get the same attention as the eastern part of the country, though in-the-know travelers are quickly being turned on to this massive state’s appeal. While the Kimberley region — in the state’s north — is an escapist’s dream of rugged landscapes, the Esperance area also has its share of dazzling natural wonders. Closer to town is gorgeous Twilight Beach, which is a postcard-worthy stretch of windswept sand dunes, vivid blue water, and picture-perfect rock formations. However, for something that feels miles away from everyday life, rent a car and head 90 minutes east into Cape Le Grand National Park. This vast territory has tons of beaches that boggle the mind with their perfect shorelines, rocky outcroppings, aquamarine seascapes, and wildlife all around. We like Cape Le Grand Beach or Hellfire Beach (pictured above) for their truly spectacular scenery.
Beaches don’t always have to be about hot days, refreshing swims, and getting a tan. In fact, Australia’s beaches are often magnets for a dizzying array of wildlife (some found nowhere else on earth). While you can spot penguins all around the country, Phillip Island — an easy day trip from Melbourne — offers prime viewing of colonies of little penguins (the species is also known as blue or fairy penguins). Every night at sunset, the penguins make their way back to their nests on the beach after spending the day fishing at sea. And while there are justifiably concerns about the impacts of human viewing on this nightly ritual, the area is heavily regulated by the Phillip Island Reserve staff to ensure that minimal human intrusion occurs. The reserve is only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne’s CBD.
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Looking for an Aussie beach destination that combines amazing wildlife, a buzzing little town, solid surfing, and swimmable water? Then Byron Beach might just be for you. You’ll be able to indulge in all things spiritually centered (including plenty of yoga studios and the like) while ending your night at the town’s boozy pubs. However you spend your days, though, the beach culture here is undeniably strong. Sunrise and sunset views are spectacular (the former from Tallow Beach and the latter from the east end of Byron Beach or Wategos Beach). Surfers should head to Tallow Beach for the best breaks — it’s a popular morning surf destination — while swimmers wanting more tranquil water are better off at Byron Beach. If you’re here from June through October, thousands of humpback whales pass by the town on migration routes, making it a great home base for encountering this majestic creature.
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While many Australian readers might balk at our exclusion of St. Kilda Beach near Melbourne, or any one of the thousands of stunning strips of sand that line almost the entirety of the Western Australian coast, it’s tough not to round out this list with Manly Beach. Sydney is where the majority of tourists visiting Australia land — and with good reason. It’s a cosmopolitan, multicultural place that happens to have a stretch of coastline that’s studded with picture-perfect urban beaches. And that’s especially true in Manly. In fact, many Sydney residents vastly prefer the beaches of Manly over the more famous shoreline at Bondi. For starters, it’s easier to access. A scenic ferry ride through Sydney’s iconic harbor drops you off just a 10-minute walk from Manly Beach. Along the way are all manner of posh cafes and restaurants, and a buzzing weekend market if you time it right. Manly Beach proper is packed with sunbathers, swimmers, and surfers, and Shelly Beach, to the south, is a quieter cove-like alternative that has its own small reef for snorkeling.
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