Australia is the largest island continent in the world, so it figures that beaches form part of our national identity. Whether they’re placid bayside beaches that can be still as glass, or angry swelling shorelines that hint at stories of treacherous coastal drama, Australia has these and everything in-between.
We have lazy, chilled-out beaches flanked by coastal country town strips and locals taking it easy.
We have world heritage beaches that might only be accessible via foot or water craft.
We have beaches framed by dramatic cliff drops, with surfers who look like faraway specks bobbing atop of white-peaked waves, waiting for the ride in.
We have beaches with profound Indigenous significance; country that carries far deeper value than an unforgettable view.
We have beaches that spill onto pristine rainforests or tough-as-nails bushland, providing a remarkable setting for natives like kangaroos, dingoes and spectacular birds who call it home.
We have beaches that are hustle-and-bustle – recognised the world around as a must-visit destination to watch iconic Aussie surf life savers in action, or the place to go with fellow ‘travel orphans’ for an Aussie Christmas barbie.
Yes – when it comes to beaches, we really do have the lot Down Under, which is why we’re bringing to you a series of Best Beaches. We’ll drop into all the coastline states and territories to share with you our opinion on the ultimate strip of sand and surf for your summer pleasure.
We start the series with humble Victoria; not necessarily the first state you’d think of when you think classic Aussie beaches. Yet as we’ll see, she can punch above her assumed weight… Enjoy, and be sure to let us know which beaches we have missed and why you think they should have been top of our list!
Who doesn’t love a bushranger story and who doesn’t love tidal pools? The peninsula’s Bushrangers Bay offers both, but that’s not reason alone for it making our top list. Surrounded by basalt cliffs, this sandy beach is full of drama – think crashing waves and sharp rocky outcrops. Some here when Mother Nature’s in a bad mood and you can be guaranteed some sensational moody, brooding, angry scenes. The beach doesn’t just have to be a fair weather friend to seduce! The Bushrangers Bay Trail walk, which is just under 3km and takes you to Cape Schanck, provides some of the most sweeping and spectacular coastal views you could expect to enjoy in the state.
Melbourne Bayside offers plenty of options for lovely beaches, but we’ve singled out Mt Martha for a few reasons. Firstly – the water quality. This is a short drive (or ride, if you want to do as the locals do and jump on your bike for a big spin down Beach Rd) from Melbourne yet the perceived water quality is a vast improvement on conditions closer to the big smoke (which, to be fair, are really not very bad at all unless it’s been raining). The community here is tight-knit and the local surf life saving club is a thriving part of it. Indeed, we reckon their major annual fundraiser – an Australia Day swim of varying distances – has got to be one of the loveliest ways to spend a national holiday.
Pea Soup Beach
OK you’re forgiven for thinking we’re choosing most beaches because they just have the coolest names. Port Fairy’s Pea Soup Beach is clearly no exception. The beaches here are bordered by low-lying basalt ridges, which just work to create such a dramatic and mesmerising scene. You’ve also got shallow lagoons that lie among the reefs, making it a super popular destination for families who want to go exploring.
Oh we came so close to opting for nearby Bells Beach instead. It’s so hard to resist! Victoria isn’t known for its plethora of world-class surfing destinations but boyoboy does Bells Beach go a long way in addressing the imbalance. Still – we’ve gone instead with Jan Juc. Firstly – the name alone is so cool for school. There’s a bit of contention on that point, with one school suggesting it has Indigenous roots and could be linked to milk or Ironbark (the native tree), and another speculating that it may in fact have derived from German. Err – that’s a fairly extreme offering! Either way, we’re putting it in the mix because it’s just such a great beach. It’s got flags out in summer and is great for surfers. There’s a bird rock that all the kids jump off and it’s very clean and well looked after.
Hardly off the beaten track – this seemingly sleepy little inlet town and beach lie bang on the Great Ocean Road. It’s a stunning coastal world-class drive from point-to-point, and really we could nominate most beaches along the way as deserved contenders for this list. But we’re going with Wye because it blends Aussie coastline with hilly, fecund landscape further inland. It’s chock-a-block full of friendly natives – from colourful parrots and cockies that’ll sing you a wake-up song, to wombats and wallabies. It’s not without a funky edge to it, either. As more people have cottoned on to just what a special place this is, aging dilapidated beach huts have made way for urban design masterpieces. The juxtaposition of land and country and of disrepair and ultra-modern makes for an interesting visit. Once you’ve sampled the local fresh pastries and bread on offer at the beachside café, or taken the family to a hearty meal at the pub, then you’re unlikely to want to leave any time soon. Take your time, take a chill pill and enjoy this slice of Great Ocean Road paradise. Special mention also to Kennett River, just 5km down the road and equally good for surfing, reef fishing and taking that chill pill, especially when school holidays are over!