Explore


The best surf beaches around Australia.

17 December 2020

From the rugged coastline of Margaret River to Bells Beach’s iconic peaks, these are the breaks on every surfer’s bucket list. 

Explore


The best surf beaches around Australia.

17 December 2020

From the rugged coastline of Margaret River to Bells Beach’s iconic peaks, these are the breaks on every surfer’s bucket list. 

A surfer with the Mercedes-Benz GLA

Summer is here and the surf is up around the country. Image: Sue Stubbs.

Summer is here and the surf is up around Australia. But how do you find the right beach to catch the perfect wave? Stuart Nettle is an experienced surfer and editor of wave forecasting website Swellnet and spends his days hunting for the best breaks. His top tip? Look for a short beach or tuck yourself into a corner to catch the best conditions. "Long beaches generally have poorly-shaped sandbanks for surfing, with the exception being the ends of the beach where sand builds up next to the headlands,” explains Nettle. “Often the corner will also provide protection from the summer sea breeze.”

Dawn is usually the best time to paddle out, but if you’re hitting the surf after mid-morning, Nettle suggests finding a spot with adequate protection from the wind, which changes direction depending on where you are in the country. The breeze blows northerly in Queensland and northern New South Wales, north-easterly along New South Wales’ east coast, easterly on Victoria's east and west coasts, south-east across much of South Australia, and south-west around Perth.

Another thing to look out for – those infamous Aussie rips. "Experienced surfers use rips to help them paddle out as they can be an expressway to the line-up, Nettle says. ‘However, if you don't know how to use rips then it's best to avoid them.” Make sure you familiarise yourself with the tell-tale signs of a rip – including darker coloured water, or a rippled surface surrounded by smooth water – before heading out.

And if you’re ever stuck finding your next big break, Nettle has some sage advice. “There's a famous saying in surfing: ‘I wonder what the surf's like around the next headland?’,” he says. “It’s the foundation for surf discovery, and it still holds true today."

Need a jumping off point? Pack up the car and head to one of these five breaks that every surfer must tick off their bucket list.

The Pass, Byron Bay, NSW

The Pass in Byron Bay

Byron has always been a mecca for surfers thanks to breaks like The Pass. Image: iStock.

Instagram influencers and Hollywood stars might have infiltrated Australia’s coolest coastal destination, but Byron remains a mecca for surfers thanks to breaks like The Pass, a popular stretch located at the end of Clarkes Beach. Mastered The Pass? Try Broken Head Beach, an underrated right-hand break 10 minutes’ south of Byron.

Noosa Heads, QLD

Surfer carrying a yellow longboard into the water at Noosa in Queensland

Noosa Heads is a series of five separate breaks that will suit every level of experience. Image: iStock.

Centred around the spectacular Noosa National Park, Noosa Heads is a series of five separate breaks that will suit every level of experience. The closer you are to the glamorous main drag of Hastings Street, the more crowded the water will be. Keep following the coast into the National Park for a bit more room to move.

Turned The Heads? Check out Point Cartwright in nearby Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast for a more hardcore surfing scene.

Caves, Cactus Beach, SA

It’s not easy to get to, being more than 800 kilometres west of Adelaide on the Great Australian Bite, but surfers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the remote Cactus Beach for its thundering left and right-handed breaks. Its three most popular surf spots – Cactus, Caves and Castles – are suitable for advanced surfers only, especially in the winter months.

Captured the Caves? The Fleurieu Peninsula is home to some of South Australia’s best breaks, with Waitpinga Beach and Parsons Beach at the top of the list for any experienced surfer.

Bells Beach, Torquay, VIC

Surfer Courtney Conlogue competes at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Bells Beach is known for hosting the Rip Curl Pro, where US surfer Courtney Conlogue took out the women’s final in 2019. Image: iStock.

Immortalised in the 1991 film Point Break (though it was never actually filmed there), Bells Beach has earned icon status as the home of the annual Rip Curl Pro, which has been running since 1962. Those in-the-know paddle out to Winkipop at the northern end of the beach for the best waves.Rung Bells? Tackle the fierce swells at the rugged Gunnamatta Beach located in the Mornington Peninsula National Park. 

Surfers Point, Prevelly, Margaret River, WA

Surfer at Surfers Point Beach in Prevelly Western Australia

Surfers Point Beach in Prevelly is known for one of the best breaks in Western Australia’s Margaret River. Image: iStock.

‘Margs’ is now a top surfing destination on the international circuit, known for its monster 18-metre waves. The coastal town of Prevelly is home to one of the top breaks at Surfers Point Beach and is the ideal base for exploring the region’s surf culture (and award-winning wineries).

Prevailed at Prevelly? There are plenty of fabled surf spots in this corner of the country, from The Box to Rabbits, Boranup to Injidup. But be warned, they’re not for beginners.

By Michael Harry