Any backpacker who has been to Australia will be familiar with the east coast. A well-worn tourist trail carves its way along the coastline from far north Queensland, through New South Wales, and down to Victoria in the south. When people say they’re going to an Australian beach, they mean they’re going to one on its east coast.
And it makes sense. Compared to the rest of Australia, the east coast is almost dense. The seaside towns and cities are closely dotted together and feature solid tourist infrastructure — hostels are a dime a dozen, and getting from A to B is a piece of cake. On top of that, the coastline is stunning, with opportunities to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, tour Sydney Harbour by bicycle, take a day trip from Melbourne, and catch a wave at Bondi Beach (as just a handful of the headliners).
But with over 10,000 known beaches making up this nation’s particularly wet border, to visit Australia and ignore everything but the east coast is to do yourself a serious disservice. It’s like buying a cake but only eating the icing. Sure, it’s delicious, but there’s so much more to be enjoyed.
So where, you might ask, should I be heading? Well, having lived there all my life, I feel like I’m pretty well-placed to let you know. Here, in no particular order, are four non-touristy beaches that I guarantee will beat anything served up by the east.
Found at the southern tip of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, the township of Coffin Bay is, during the working week at least, a sleepy oyster-shucking village of 600 or so. But with Coffin Bay National Park, and in particular, Almonta Beach, just a short drive away, the population often triples on warm and sunny weekends.
Apart from the well-worn path carved out by visiting vehicles, Almonta Beach remains one of the last of the perfectly untouched Australian beaches. Throw a stone around here and you’re likely to hit some form of wildlife (so put down the pebbles), from the dolphins playing in the crystal clear water to the kangaroos that bound down the sand. This is a favourite haunt of surfers too, with imposing breaks pumping in from the Southern Ocean. Almonta faces directly towards Antarctica, so, while it’s admittedly a fair way away, don’t be surprised if the water’s a little brisk.
When a telegraph cable was laid between the Western Australian outpost of Broome and the Indonesian island of Java in 1889, the piece of sand that formed its beginning (or its end, I’m not a cable expert) was named after the mega infrastructure effort, resulting in an underwhelming name for an overwhelming place. They really should’ve run with Holy Sh*t Beach or Are You Seeing What I’m F***ing Seeing Bay. It was a more restrained time, I suppose.
Cable Beach is 22 km — almost 14 miles — of white sandy Australian beach goodness. If you get from one end to the other, congrats, you’ve officially completed a half marathon. Gantheaume Point, at the beach’s southern tip, is a non-stop wildlife-fest of dolphins, migrating whales, and freakin’ dinosaur footprints hidden in rocks exposed at low tide. Throw your leg over a camel at sunrise or sunset, and bask in Mother Nature’s handiwork.
Be aware that no less than 17 km (10.5 mi) of beach is clothing optional, and if you do choose to let it all hang out, it’s wise to keep your more precious bits away from the water during stinger season — box jellyfish rule these waters from November to April. Happily, this is also wet season and most visitors come during the other, sunnier half of the year.
Of all Australia’s untamed wildernesses, Tasmania serves up some of the rawest — the type that slaps you in the face and doesn’t apologise (and you sort of like it?). And nowhere is Tassie’s natural beauty more BDSM than Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park.
Freycinet is a mountainous, rocky, tree-covered delight found on the east coast of Tassie. Halfway down this peninsula, the aggressive pink granite coastline collapses away into seemingly nothing. But on closer inspection, this nothing isn’t nothing at all. In fact, it’s quite something.
Wineglass Bay is a perfectly protected Australian beach filled with tranquil waters of piercing blue. Where the gentle waves lap the shore your eyes are met by a stunning crescent of pure white sand, sandwiched between the turquoise of the ocean and the emerald of the surrounding scrub. Here you’ll find wildlife too; wallabies (the smaller, cuter version of a kangaroo) laze in the sun, and the water is brimming with action. Remember that this is Australia’s southernmost state, which means that it’s the coldest, so swimmers should be prepared for icy pain most of the year. But this is Tasmania, so maybe you like it that way.
Any Australian beach has a one in 10,000 chance of being the best. Not great odds. But according to a recent poll, that’s the exact title that Cape Le Grand, a seemingly endless stretch of white on Western Australia’s southern coastline, currently holds.
As soon as you arrive, there’ll be no doubt as to why. An Australian beach so long you can’t see its beginning, middle, or end? Check. White sand so pure that it squeaks when you walk? Yes sir. Friendly wildlife including grey kangaroos and pygmy possums (the world’s cutest possum, hands down)? Tick. The whole place to yourself? Thanks to its rather remote location, you betcha.
Cape Le Grand is everything a beach should be and then some. It’s like Mother Nature’s magnum opus — she cherry picked her best work from all her other beaches and threw it all down on the Western Australian coast. Sure, it’s more than eight hours from the nearest capital city, but that’s exactly what makes it so special — if it were anywhere else, it wouldn’t be half as good.
So east coast, shmeast coast, am I right? If you’re a beach bum about to book your Aussie escape, don’t limit yourself to a tiny fraction of the land down under. The north, south, and west are more than worthy of your attention too.