Australia is renowned as one of the world’s premier surfing destinations. Its 37,000km coastline is blessed with beach, reef and point breaks to challenge the most experienced board-rider, and plenty of easy-rolling swells that beginners can paddle onto safely and with confidence. Your own magic surfing experience could happen just about anywhere, but for the best of the best of Aussie waves, these are leading contenders.
Northern Beaches (NSW)
Beginning at Manly Beach and running 20km north to Palm Beach, Sydney’s northern peninsula offers a succession of surf beaches unmatched by a city environment anywhere else on earth. Manly itself has playful beach breaks and punchy barrels, plus the offshore Queenscliff “Bommie” (bombora), joy for big wave riders. Neighbouring Freshwater Beach is much loved by bodysurfers and youngsters on body-boards; this is also where surfboard-riding was first introduced to Australia by Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, on 15 January 1915. Continuing north, the 6km coastal corridor between Dee Why Beach and North Narrabeen is widely considered Sydney’s blue-ribbon surfing belt, with the legendary Long Reef bombora (known locally as “Butter-box”) situated smack in the middle. The surfing tribes of Mona Vale Beach, Newport Beach, Whale Beach and Avalon Beach can all make a good case for choosing their own local breaks over their neighbours’, or you could try all four beaches in a lazy half-day. Finally, the distinctive burnt-orange sands of Palm Beach mark the end of the peninsula, its 1.5km procession of beach breaks offering thrills and spills for surfers, body-boarders and wave-ski paddlers.
Seal Rocks & Pacific Palms (NSW)
Lighthouse Beach and Treachery Beach at Seal Rocks are south-facing and known for generating epic waves when a south swell rolls in. Just 22km up the road at Pacific Palms, Boomerang Beach and Bluey’s Beach are blessed with their own postcard waves shaped by prominent headlands, and often visited by cheeky dolphins that love showing the rest of us how surfing should really be done. This part of the NSW coast has remained miraculously undeveloped too; there’s nary a high-rise, nightclub or casino in sight, making it the perfect place for a true ‘soul surfer’ experience.
Crescent Head (NSW)
The coastline beginning just north of Port Macquarie through to Crescent Head is accessed via Point Plomer Road, which ribbons the coast for 25kms. Along this route are four perfect right-hand point-breaks, tailor-made for long-board riders, grommets and beginners and capable of generating miracle rides of 200 metres. The point break at Crescent Head itself is revered by long-boarders the world over, and some of the sport’s best have been filmed here “Hanging Ten” or cross-stepping the length of their 10-foot planks. Halfway between Crescent Head and Point Plomer is the brilliantly named Delicate Nobby, a wedge-shaped rock formation that starts just off the beach and spears out into the Pacific, creating beach breaks on either side.
North Coast – Angourie to Byron Bay (NSW)
When the surfing counter-culture took hold in Australia in the late 1960s, the NSW north coast quickly became the promised land for anyone with a board and a hankering for an alternative lifestyle communing with the waves. “Discovered” in the early 1970s, the point break at Angourie remained relatively unheralded for the next two decades, but it’s world famous nowadays as home break of Aussie surfing legend Nat Young. Endlessly filmed and fawned over, the right-hand point-break at Lennox Head rates a mention in any discussion of Australia’s best wave.
Whether your preferred spot is Tallow Beach, Watego’s, Main Beach, the wreck at Belongil or elsewhere along the Byron Bay coast, the compelling factor here has always been the vibe. Kombi vans, dreadlocks, hippie gatherings, communal drumming and a collective feeling that there’s nothing to do tomorrow but get up and do it all again, belong at Byron as nowhere else.
Noosa – Point Break (Queensland)
One of the best and most photogenic long-board breaks in the world, the point at Noosa is capable of producing a genuine 200 metre ride on its best days. In a decent swell especially there’s always a big crew of locals riding it who really know how to “walk the plank”, but when it’s smaller it’s perfect for beginners – a long, easy-rolling cruise.
Torquay – Bells Beach (Victoria)
Historically and spiritually, Bells Beach is the home of Australian surfing and today is still the site of the country’s oldest and most prestigious professional surfing event; nowadays named the Rip Curl Pro, the winner still receives the traditional clanging bell trophy. Swells from the Southern Ocean slow down and steepen over the shallow reefs to produce outstanding surf that can rise to five metres or more, so when it gets big, most of us are best advised to think of surfing Bells as a spectator sport.
Margaret River – Yallingup & Prevelly Park (Western Australia)
260km south of Perth, the tiny resort village of Yallingup marks the beginning of the famed Margaret River winery region, where wine enthusiasts and ‘waxheads’ (board-riders) have long converged in equal numbers. With several breaks that range from mild to monstrous depending on the swell, Yallingup is considered the best all-round surfing destination on Australia’s west coast.
Further south, Prevelly Park is the heart of serious Margaret River surfing territory, where swells up to six metres get spun into perfect barrels across the treacherous offshore reef. No place for beginners or the faint-of-heart, “Surfers Point” at Prevelly even attracts the big-name big-wave lunatics from the US and Hawaii, and it’s one of the few places in Australia where board-riders wear helmets and nobody laughs at them.
Snapper Rocks (Queensland)
Snapper Rocks is a sand bottom point break considered as a world renowned surfing spot on the Gold Coast. Snapper, located at Rainbow Bay, is home to the world-famous ‘Super Bank’, regarded in surfing circles as the longest, most consistent and most hollow wave in the world. The swell here often reaches six to eight feet, and one good, clean wave can transport you from Snapper to Kirra, a distance of almost two kilometres. Snapper Rocks hosts elite international surfing events such as the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro, Rip Curl Masters, and MP Classic. It is also a favourite surfing spot of local world champs, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore, who enjoy nothing more than surfing their own ‘local’ break when they’re at home.
There are Surfing Australia accredited surf schools that operate at or near all of these magical surf locations, so learn-to-surfers can experience them too.
Author: Cameron Wilson on behalf of Tourism Australia. This article is copyright free and may be reproduced.