Australia’s top 10 beaches

By Carly Cassella 5 December 2016
Reading Time: 6 Minutes Print this page
Australia’s best beach has been announced – but it had to be named first.

Australia’s number one beach expert, Brad Farmer, announced his ranking of our country’s best beaches.

Brad has spent the past 30 years researching and writing about beaches, and this weekend he and coastal geomorphologist, Professor Andy Short from the University of Sydney, released a book entitled 101 Best Beaches 2017.

Australians are the foremost beach-going nation in the world, but no one is more dedicated to finding the perfect beach than Brad and Andy. Between the two of them, they have seen all 11,761 beaches along Australia’s 60,000km coastline.

When identifying Australia’s best beaches, Brad and Andy looked at a variety of criteria, including a beach’s natural and visual features, the potential to engage with the aquatic environment, and the beach’s sense of rawness and uniqueness.

“But when it comes down to layman’s terms it becomes just a beach you would recommend to a friend,” said Brad.

cocos keeling islands cossies beach
Australia is a nation of beach-lovers, but many Aussies won’t have heard of this remote beach, ranked number one in a new list. Image credit: Rik Soderlund

So what are the 10 best Aussie beaches that Brad and Andy would recommend to their friends? Not exactly what you would expect. 

Their list features two beaches from remote island territories off the coast of Western Australia: the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island.

“We had heard there were excellent beaches on both of these outlying Australian territories, so I took it upon myself to inspect them,” said Brad.

Remarkably, it was an unnamed beach in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands that came out on top. 

1. Cossies Beach, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean

Australia's best beaches
Cossies Beach, Cocos Islands. Image credit: Vandyke

Australia’s best beach for 2017 is also the nation’s most remote. Before Brad uncovered this idyllic, 300m stretch of white sand, it didn’t even have a name. On Saturday 3 December, Brad announced Cossies as Australia’s number one beach, and named it in honour of Sir Peter Cosgrove, Australia’s 26th Governor-General.

Cossies beach can be found on Direction Island, a remote paradise nestled in the Cocos (Keeling) islands, a distant Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Direction Island is one of 27 islands in a remote atoll, rising out of the Java Trench. Closer to Indonesia than mainland Australia, Cossies beach is certainly not the easiest to reach, but Brad assures us it is well worth the 4.5-hour flight from Perth. 

“It is for the aquatic and coastal purist,” said Brad.

Charles Darwin certainly agreed, declaring the beach “heavenly” when he landed The Beagle there in 1836.

2. Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island, Far North QLD

Australia's best beaches
Nudey Beach, Queensland. Image credit: James Vodka

Nudey Beach lies just off the coast of Cairns on Fitzroy Island. The island is 95 per cent rainforest and is surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef. Access to Nudey beach takes visitors along a 15-minute walking trail to the south-west side of Fitzroy Island. It offers views of the Cairns hinterland, which is only 45 minutes away by boat. Once a quarantine for Chinese gold prospectors, it is now a haven for beach lovers.

3. Moonee Beach, Coffs Coast, NSW

Australia's best beaches
Moonee Beach, New South Wales. Image credit: supplied

Moonee Beach is located 20 minutes north of Coffs Harbour. This relatively untouched coastline lies in a marine sanctuary and nature reserve home to kangaroos, koalas, dolphins and sea eagles. The beach perfect for camping, diving, surfing, canoeing and exploring. “It has everything – and then some,” said Brad.

4. Turquoise Bay, Coral Coast, WA

Australia's best beaches
Turquoise Bay, Western Australia. Image credit: Nathan Wills

Turquoise Bay is located in the Cape Range National Park near Exmouth, more than a 12-hour drive from Perth. The beach lies in the shallows of the Ningaloo Marine Park and boasts crystal-clear waters and living corals. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, the Ningaloo Reef is easily accessible just 50m-100m offshore, making the spot ideal for snorkelling.

5. Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast, QLD

Australia's best beaches
Burleigh Heads, Queensland. Image credit: supplied

Burleigh Heads lies halfway along the 40km Gold Coast and is a National Surfing Reserve and National Park rolled into one. The Burleigh Heads National Park offers walking trails with spectacular views for whale watching. It is home to abundant rainforest, pandanus, mangrove and marine life. 

6. Maslin Beach, Adelaide, SA

Australia's best beaches
Maslin Beach, South Australia. Image credit: supplied.

Maslin Beach is 40km south of Adelaide, facing Gulf St Vincent, and is renowned for being the first ‘legal’ nude beach in Australia. The 1.5km beach, lined with limestone cliffs, is famous for holding the Nude Olympics and the Annual Best Beach Bum awards.

7. Dolly Beach, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean

Australia's best beaches
Dolly Beach, Christmas Island. Image credit: Chris Bray Photography

Dolly Beach is located on the lower east side of Christmas Island and is only accessible by 4WD. It is Australia’s largest rain forested island and is located on the great Java Trench. Brad describes it as “a beach out of Robinson Crusoe”, an undiscovered gem with bountiful marine life. The migration of the iconic red crab is described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the top 10 animal migrations in the world’.

Like its neighbour, Cossies, Dolly Beach is remote and untouched. Brad said he wouldn’t have been so curious to visit it had it not been for an Australian Geographic article that revealed the untouched beauty of the island.

“It is simply stunning, from the jungles to the beaches to its depths,” said Brad, adding that he is optimistic about the island’s future in eco-tourism.

8. Shelly Beach, Nambucca Coast, NSW

Australia's best beaches
Shelly Beach, New South Wales. Image credit: supplied

Shelly Beach shares its name with 50 other beaches in Australia, but it is truly one of a kind. Shelly is located halfway between Sydney and the Queensland border, offering a refreshing break for many road-trippers. Its views, perfect waves and short walking trails attract many artists, photographers, surfers and weary travellers to the secluded beach. Signposts bearing the stories of the Baga Baga Indigenous clan, or ‘Ocean Peoples’, reveal the rich Indigenous history of the area.

9. Boat Harbour Beach, North West Coast, TAS

Australia's best beaches
Boat Harbour Beach, Tasmania. Image credit: supplied

Boat Harbour Beach is located on Tasmania’s Nature Isle coast. Boat Harbour is a quiet town, 30 minutes from Burnie on Tasmania’s north coast. To the west of Boat Harbour Beach is the Rocky Cape National Park. The beach is popular for its diving and snorkelling. 

10. Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road, VIC

Australia's best beaches
Apollo Bay, Victoria. Image credit: supplied

Apollo Bay is situated at the western end of the Great Ocean Road, just a few hours from Melbourne. The 3km-long beach is popular for swimming and fishing, and is located near the Otway Ranges.