Surfers Paradise on Australia's famous Gold Coast is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the continent. The "Paradise" part of the beach town's name is pretty on the mark (there are almost two miles of golden sand and loads of places to eat, drink, and shop against the glittering Pacific Ocean), but "Surfers Paradise" is actually a bit of a misnomer, as swell and wind consistency here are not the best for surfing. Good thing Australia has more than 30,000 other miles of coastline, where countless beaches and bays offer ideal surfing conditions for those who want to hang ten. Below, we rounded up a few awesome surf spots down under, where factors like long barreling waves and dependable offshore winds pull in wave-riders from all over the world. Note that some of these beaches are great for newbie paddlers, but others require deep experience and advanced skills. And no matter your level or location, surfing anywhere in Australia requires a lot of respect for the locals and constant mindfulness of rip currents, rocks, and other dangers.
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1. Bells Beach
About an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Melbourne, Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is an iconic surf destination. The famous surf beach, surrounded by limestone cliffs, hosts the annual Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. First mounted in 1962 (then called the Bells Easter Classic), the tournament is the longest continuously running surfing competition in existence. Extreme big-wave hunters go to adjacent Winkipop (one of the many nearby surf breaks), which is legendary for its long barrels rushing to the shore at breakneck speed.
The Margaret River Region spans 80-plus miles of Indian Ocean shoreline along Australia’s southwestern tip. About three hours south of Perth, the area offers nearly 100 surf breaks suitable for a range of levels. Conto’s Beach is a great spot, where waves break over a reef all year and on all tides. To the north, line after line of (generally) gentle waves roll in at gorgeous Moses Rock. And a bit further up the coast, the surf town of Yallingup is known for its high curling waves and picturesque rocky coastline (note that rip currents can be strong here). Newcomers should skip the Box, a powerful right-breaking wave prized by locals and pros.
3. Burleigh Heads
Burleigh Heads is the place that perhaps should have been designated Surfers Paradise. Just a 20-minute drive from the actual Surfers Paradise, Burleigh Heads is a northeast-facing, basalt-bluffs-protected beach on the Coral Sea that is renowned for its prime surfing conditions for all levels. Burleigh Heads’ four areas — Sharkies, Rockbreak, the Cove, and the Point — are all conducive to spiraling tubes, and the beach is home to several surf competitions throughout the year.
The Gold Coast's Superbank
Drive a short distance south of Burleigh Heads to hit what may be the longest wave on the planet — the Superbank. This man-made mile-long stretch of excellent surf starts with the epic point break Snapper Rocks and extends north to the adjacent beaches of Kirra and Coolangatta (adorably known as “Cooly” to locals). The white-sand Kirra Beach is smaller than it used to be, but it’s still one of the Gold Coast’s most prominent surf spots, with waves that are appropriate for barneys (inexperienced surfers) and expert rippers alike. Many of Cooly’s consistently rideable waves form hollow tubes before they break. Quiksilver even chose Cooly for its annual Pro Gold Coast surf event. During the rest of the year, Superbank surfers should be prepared to share the wave with hundreds of fellow aspiring riders.
Queensland has a lock down on tantalizingly named coastal regions; the state’s Sunshine Coast is about two hours north of the Gold Coast. With white sand and mellow teal waters, the beach town of Noosa Heads has been a tourist destination on the Sunshine Coast for more than a century. It is a dream for rookie surfers, too, with surf schools, small coves, and beginner-friendly peaks. Noosa is no secret, so expect it to be crowded with both surfing hopefuls and those who have long mastered the waves. Mooloolaba and Coolum are other great Sunshine Coast surf spots.
South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula
South of Adelaide on Australia’s southern coast, Fleurieu Peninsula offers two coasts of beaches with waves ranging from ankle-grazers (good for learners) to big bommies (reef breaks best for experienced surfers). Novice surfers can practice paddling with an instructor at Middleton Beach, where gentle waves break over one of Australia’s largest sandbars. Super-skilled surfers looking for a far more demanding experience could try Waitpinga Beach, where Southern Ocean swells have considerably more size, speed, and power. Waitpinga Beach’s rips are no joke, so consider yourself warned.
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