Queensland is blessed with over 7000km of mainland coastline, so it comes as no surprise that the self-proclaimed Sunshine State has some of the best beaches in Australia. Within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which stretches from Bundaberg in the south to Torres Strait in the north, there’s over 900 islands, creating even more beach-going opportunities. South of the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, South and North Stradbroke Islands, along with a plethora of islands within the inshore waterway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast offer more alternatives. If you can’t find a gorgeous Queensland beach kissed by sunshine, lapped by sparkling water, you’re really not trying.
The Gold Coast has almost 18km of crunchy white sand cleansed by the emerald waters of the Coral Sea. It’s one of Australia’s most famous beaches, stretching from Main Beach to Coolangatta. At the southern end, Norfolk Pine-shaded Coolangatta Beach is protected from onshore swell by Point Danger. Despite the name it’s generally a safe family beach, unlike further north, where dangerous rips and currents necessitate extreme caution. Surfers Paradise is beach party central, with shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs in abundance on the beachside strip. For something a little more refined, Main Beach’s Tedder Avenue has a terrific selection of restaurants, cafes and retail boutiques..
The Sunshine Coast is just as stunning as the Gold Coast though with less crowds and high rise beachfront apartments. Mooloolaba and Noosa both have surf beaches as well as tranquil riverfront beaches. Surfers, stand up paddle boarders, kayakers and fishermen can all find something to float their boat on the Sunshine Coast. Both towns have plenty of shady beachfront grasslands perfect for family picnics beachside.
The largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island, has a multitude of options for beach lovers to dip their toes in. The wild and rugged east coast is perfect for surfing and beach fishing or idle beach combing. Long stretches of compact sand make it a popular 4WD destination too. The west coast is far more benign, making it suitable for kayaking. Humpback whales use the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay as a sort of training ground for young calves. The town of Hervey Bay offers whale watch cruises in season between May and September.
Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island is one of Queensland’s most popular beaches for good reasons. Soft powder-like sand, turquoise water and year round sunshine, Whitehaven is accessible by boat, seaplane or helicopter from Airlie Beach. Hayman Island has both a perfect white sand beach and a coral beach that offers terrific snorkelling right off the beach
But if you’re seeking year round beachside fun in the sun, you’ll need to head further north where the temperatures remain balmy even through the winter months. The pace slows with each kilometre travelled north of Brisbane. But beware, life is pretty laid back in Far North Queensland.
Magnetic Island is 20 minutes by ferry from Townsville but may as well be another world away. Surrounded by World Heritage listed marine park, wildlife has right of way on the one 10km long road that links four beachside villages. Horseshoe Bay is ideal for relaxing beneath the palm trees, though you could also hire a kayak, jet ski or paddle boat. Intimate and secluded Balding Bay across the headland is accessible only by foot from Horseshoe Bay unless you have your own boat. It’s also unofficially ‘swimsuit optional’ if you’re looking to secure an all over suntan. Stinger nets are located in season at Horseshoe and Picnic Bays
Cairns beaches are nothing to write home about (with the exception of Palm Cove and Ellis Beach), though a stunning manmade waterfront lagoon, complete with beach, shady parkland and sun-drenched timber decks in the middle of the CBD is a splendid alternative. Palm Cove, 20km north of Cairns does however have a good beach. Ancient melaleuca trees and coconut palms jostle for space on the narrow strip of landscaped beachfront. Palm Cove does laid back beach style with an elegant twist. Luxury boutique resorts, alfresco restaurants and cafes make Palm Cove the kind of place you’ll not want to leave. Kayaks and bicycles are available for hire. There's a stinger net in place during the wet season and lifeguards on patrol.
But for me, one of the best beaches in Australia is 4 Mile Beach at Port Douglas. Bathed in balmy sunshine year round, scented with frangipani blooms that drop onto the beach from gardens of a handful of low rise resorts tucked behind the rainforest, 4 Mile Beach is perfect for early morning beach walkers. Compact sand, gentle cooling trade winds and a rising tropical sun create the perfect start to any day. There's a stinger net in place during the wet season and lifeguards patrolling year round.
Does the Australian beach lifestyle get any better than that? No, I don’t think so either.