Surfing around Australia - surfing destinations for backpackers

Australia has some of the best beaches in the world, thanks to its endless coastline, beautiful white sand and magnificent waves.  But just because Australia is an island, doesn’t mean you can surf all the way around it!  Your best bet is the east coast, because it offers the most choices, but there are also some great spots down south and to the west.

Two tips:

  • don’t go looking for surf up north, or you’ll be doing it with crocodiles and stingers

  • beware of the crowds in peak seasons

East Coast

If you’re working your way from top to bottom, then Queensland, the Sunshine State, is your first stop.  Waves are usually the best here during the cyclone season (summer) and the water temperature is warm.  Fraser Island is a good place to start, with its long sandy beaches.  Once you get back to the mainland, the Sunshine Coast offers a good mix of beginner and expert surf spots (such as Noosa Heads, Caloundra and Mooloolaba), as does the Gold Coast, just south of Brisbane, with its legendary Burleigh Heads and Kirra beaches.  Keep driving from here, and you’ll cross the state border into New South Wales, bringing you to Byron Bay. 

Next stop is Coffs Harbour, which has plenty of beach breaks.  From there, the north coast of NSW is home to popular spots such as Yamba, Crescent Head and Lennox, but head further south and you’ll find some less congested areas.  The Central Coast (southwards of Newcastle) has scores of reef and beach breaks, but once you hit Sydney everything gets very crowded: Manly, Bondi, Narrabeen and Cronulla have giant waves accompanied by giant crowds.  For the expert, thrill-seeking surfer, head to the NSW’s south coast, where the undeveloped coastline offers “hidden” surf spots, as well as classic areas such as Kiama, Sandon Point and Shellharbour.

South Coast

Victoria offers plenty of surfing areas along the Great Ocean Road, and in the Torquay region, both beginners and experts are at home.  Those coming from Melbourne tend to head south-west to Queenscliff for a surf, and from there the coastline flows south to the epic Bells Beach (where the neighbouring region is just as good, if not better).  South Australia also has good spots around the Adelaide region and along its west coast (e.g. Cactus and inside Castles).  Waves are generally best in the Autumn to early Spring months, and spots have been known to hold waves of more than 20 foot.  But beware – the sea temperature down south is freezing all year round.

West Coast

The Margaret River region catches great waves, and once you head north, expect to find metro beach breaks around the Perth region.  The Geraldton area scores some expert spots (such as Hell’s Gates and Jakes), and be sure to make the trip over to Rottnest Island for beginner through to expert surfing areas.  Keep heading up the coast, and you’ll find empty beaches and great surf conditions.  May to August catches the most consistent waves here.