With nearly 60,000km of coastline, Australia has some of the best surfing in the world. But how do you narrow down those thousands of kilometres to find the surf towns that are truly, unequivocally the best? Well, we combed through over 300,000 social media posts—from July 2016 to July 2017—to find out what locals had to say. We found the locations that were generating the most buzz and created this definitive list of Australia’s best surf towns, from the tip of Cape Range to the east coast of Tassie.
These are the places with the most hype: they’ve got awesome waves, laid-back beach bars, and last but certainly not least, passionate locals. Some of the classics definitely made the list, but others may surprise you. Whether you’re looking for wild waves and incredible stories, or just want to stand up on a board without wiping out, we’ve got the beach for you.
1. Central Coast, NSW
Its location halfway between Sydney and Newcastle is convenient for day-trippers, but that’s not the only reason Central Coast is one of Australia’s most popular surf destinations. Check out these beaches for reliable waves for all experience levels.
Avalon Beach. Just 45km north of Sydney, this beach has waves from beginner to expert level, and longboarders love it, too. It’s also produced champions like Ben Player—no big deal.
- Fuel up: The Kiosk at Avalon on the Beach opens at 7am to feed the dawn patrol.
- Wind down: The Surf Lounge at Avalon Beach RSL Club is open ‘til 2am on weekends.
Copacabana Beach. Save this one for the pros—this beach’s ledge breaks form powerful, hollow waves that really rip. Head to the Bonnie Lookout if you just want to watch.
- Fuel up: Allagai Bay Café serves up hearty brekkies like croissant French toast.
- Wind down: Sundowners Bar & Grill has the only tap beer in the area—enough said.
2. Exmouth, WA
Exmouth may be best known for Ningaloo Reef and swimming with whales, but surfers know it for its beautiful coastline and gnarly waves. It’s a great home base for exploring legendary spots like The Bommie, a left-handed ride on the peninsula’s northern tip. Beginners can hook up with Exmouth Surf Centre and head to Wobiri Access Beach for lessons.
- Fuel up: Get your protein on with a breakfast wrap from Ningaloo Bakehouse & Café.
- Wind down: Live tunes and cold brews flow at Froth Craft Restaurant in the evenings.
3. Yamba, NSW
A stay in picturesque Yamba puts you in perfect proximity to some world-famous breaks. At Turners Beach, Mother Nature provides both left-hand breaks at the northern end, and rights at the southern end, while Yamba-Angourie Surf School provides the lessons for those just starting out. Nearby Angourie Point is a well-known right-hand point break, made famous by legend Nat Young.
- Fuel up: Order the Big Breakfast at Pippi’s Café, and you’ll be set for the day.
- Wind down: Keep the ocean theme going with oysters or salmon at Pacific Bistro.
4. Kiama, NSW
First things first—stop in to see the friendly folks at Zink Surf to gear up and get some advice from a local. They might tell you to go north to The Farm in Killalea State Park, designated a National Surfing Reserve in 2009. Or, hit Werri Beach to the south for fun, clean breaks, good longboarding waves, and of course, the famous Werri Beach Fish Shop.
- Fuel up: The Hungry Monkey was awarded “Most Outstanding Café” by the local business association.
- Wind down: El Corazon’s specials, like $3 tacos and tequila shots on Tuesdays, make it a popular spot.
5. Bicheno, TAS
Tasmania’s Surf Coast runs from Bicheno to St. Helens Point, but you can just stick around Bicheno and shred the gnar. Example: 42 South Surf School does lessons right at Redbill Beach. Denison Beach is the place to go to get away from the crowds. It’s got a carpark, but the amenities end there. Bring a buddy and get ready to go wild.
- Fuel up: Blue Edge Bakery has handmade pastries and strong coffee ready to go at 6am.
- Wind down: Sip and swirl local wines at The Farm Shed East Coast Wine Centre.
6. Victor Harbor, SA
Photo via Flickr/reggie35
It’s no secret to the city dwellers of Adelaide—85km south lies Victor Harbor, a stretch of coastline that just about anyone can love. North of town, you’ll find intense waves on Knights Beach, home of the Pro Bodyboarding Competition. To the south, experts can head to Waitpinga Beach, aka Waits, for consistently huge 3m waves. This beach can be isolated, so grab a friend, and stop by local favourite The Surf Shop for some supplies and advice.
- Fuel up: Café Bavaria near the Esplanade in town has a full menu available all day.
- Wind down: The Original Fish Shop has the best fish and chips this side of Kangaroo Island.
7. Wonthaggi, VIC
Past the penguins of Phillip Island is the laid-back town of Wonthaggi, the perfect place to stay for surfing south of Melbourne. Hit up Vortex Surf for a new wetsuit, then head to the Eagles Nest. You’ll find a point break so consistent, you’ll wonder why there aren’t more people around. Grommets will have a good time at Inverloch Surf Beach, with its sheltered beach, flat sandbar, and lessons from Offshore Surf School.
- Fuel up: Get in the regional spirit at Mega Bites Café, which uses locally sourced ingredients.
- Wind down: The sports bar at The Caledonian Hotel, aka “The Cally”, has live music ‘til 3am on Saturdays.
8. Kalbarri, WA
Photo via Flickr/Kristina D.C. Hoeppner
In the vastness of Western Australia, 6 hours is a pretty short road trip—and that’s how long it takes to get from Perth to Jakes Point, in Kalbarri. This storied left-hand wave breaks for up to 200m and frequently reaches 5m high … so it goes without saying that this one is for the pros. The experts at Kalbarri Jetty Surf can get you kitted out with all the latest gear.
- Fuel up: Bean Drifting café is right on Jakes Point, with all the sweet views you’d expect.
- Wind down: Head into Kalbarri for dinner at Dirt Dust N Diesels Outback Restaurant.
9. Ulladulla, NSW
If it weren’t for a smattering of guest houses, no one would know that Rennies Beach, Ulladulla, even existed. With consistent lefts and rights that break in almost any conditions, this beach is definitely a hidden gem—and that’s just the way the locals like it. Check the conditions or stop in to Southern Man Surf Shop for some advice—on good days the waves can reach 5m high and 3m wide, with perfect hollow barrels.
- Fuel up: Just a few blocks off the beach, Hayden’s Pies opens at 6am for the early birds.
- Wind down: The verandah at Elizans Wine & Mezze Bar is especially relaxing after a long day.
10. Sunshine Coast, QLD
Sunshine Coast isn’t just for families with ankle biters looking to splash around—those in search of serious rips can travel here from Brisbane in just over an hour. Here are just a couple of its amazing beaches.
Caloundra. Near Caloundra, Dicky Beach is popular with families and beginners, thanks to its great facilities and active surf lifesaving club. Moffat Beach, aside from being a pristine point break, is also home to the Ma and Pa Bendall Classic, the country’s oldest surf competition.
- Fuel up: The delish brekkie at Café by the Beach involves fresh made muffins and buttermilk waffles.
- Wind down: Dicky Beach Surf Club serves dinner until 8:30pm and drinks at the bar until whenever people go home!
Peregian Beach. Head north past the crowds of Coolum Beach and you’ll find total serenity on Peregian. High tide brings fast and fun beach breaks to both the left and right, and this chilled out beach town has plenty of amenities.
- Fuel up: Start the day with cheese and bacon pie at Peregian Beach Bakery—you won’t regret it.
- Wind down: The bar at Peregian Beach Hotel is the place to be after the sun sets.
11. Batemans Bay, NSW
Photo via Flickr/Andrew
If you’re a surfer who lives in Canberra, Batemans Bay is for you. About 150km east of the capital, you can settle into your digs and reach multiple awesome breaks in just a few minutes. Broulee Beach features easy-breaking waves that provide a cruisey ride for longboarders, while Depot Beach has consistently awesome surf, but has remained under-the-radar.
- Fuel up: Protein brownies from Nourish on North will definitely give you energy for the day.
- Wind down: The huge menu at JJ’s at the Marina can satisfy any post-surf craving.
12. Gold Coast, QLD
Photo by Lauren Bath via Trover
No place in Australia is as famous as the Gold Coast when it comes to surfing, and for good reason. Of course, there’s Surfers Paradise, but that’s really a surf beach in name only. For the really good stuff, you’ve gotta head south.
Duranbah and Snapper Rocks. D-bah is actually the northernmost beach in NSW—in the summer, you can walk just a few metres north and find yourself in a different time zone in Queensland. Also to the north you’ll find Snapper Rocks, the home break of champions like Mick Fanning. Grab a new rashie and leggie at HSD Kirra and get going.
- Fuel up: Do some whale-spotting along with your coffee at Café DBar in Coolangatta.
- Wind down: Recount the day’s tales over small plates and sips at Bin 72.
Burleigh Heads. This one is in the running for Australia’s greatest surf break, period. First of all, it’s beautiful: the Gold Coast skyline in the distance, the water that’s practically neon blue. Second, The Point, at the southern end of the beach, creates long, spinning tubes that are out of this world.
- Fuel up: Nook Espresso is so close to The Point, you can practically smell the fresh brewed coffee.
- Wind down: Stop into Burleigh Heads Hotel and see what’s on—it’s probably live music!
13. Merimbula, NSW
Photo via Flikr/Percita
It’s always a good idea to explore the Sapphire Coast, and staying in Merimbula is really genius. The surrounding coastline is perfect for beginners, whether you pick up the gentle breaks of Tathra Beach and ride them straight into the sandy banks, or head south to Pambula Beach for a bit more of a challenge.
- Fuel up: Toasty sourdough from Waterfront Café provides the foundation on which a great day of surfing is built.
- Wind down: Dinner in a garden with live music sounds like a great way to end the day, right? Dulcie’s Cottage has you covered.
14. Esperance, WA
Esperance is well-known to a certain kind of surfer: its relatively isolated location and incredibly scenic, rugged coastline definitely attract adventurous types. West Beach is fairly tame for the area, with consistent beach breaks that are better at low tide. Twilight Beach, however, is one for experts only. It’s got strong, permanent rips with high waves that will have noobs bailing out in record time.
- Fuel up: Every day is breakfast pie day at Aurelia’s Ice Creamery & Café.
- Wind down: Have a chat—and a pint—with the friendly bartenders at Loose Goose Bar & Restaurant.
15. Streaky Bay, SA
Streaky Bay is a local’s sort of place. Just friendly people, hanging out the pub, trading tales about fishing, hiking, and of course, surfing. Nearby Sceale Bay offers both beach and reef breaks, and as a bonus, it’s one of Australia’s cleanest beaches! Further south, Back Beach is about as secluded as it gets—that is, if you can find it.
- Fuel up: A coffee and a scone from Elliott’s Bakery & Café will put you in the Streaky Bay state of mind.
- Wind down: The bar at Streaky Bay Hotel is just “Streaky Pub” to the locals, so get it right.
16. Forster-Tuncurry, NSW
Yes, there really are this many amazing surf spots in New South Wales. In Forster-Tuncurry, the Tuncurry Breakwall’s clean barrels and big swells will definitely impress you—and have you wondering why this spot hasn’t blown up yet. Better get here before it does! Forgot your surf leash? The friendly folks at Jungle Surf can help you out with that.
- Fuel up: Rockpool Café is your classic pre-surf kiosk—grab a coffee and watch the sun rise.
- Wind down: After your day of dropping in is done, head into town for a schooner and a laugh at Reef Bar & Grill.
If you made it all the way to the end of this without grabbing your board and packing up your steamer for a road trip, we’re proud of you. But now that you’ve got some new ideas in your head, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start perfecting your cutback!