Looking for a new summer holiday destination to get your surf fix? These 12 surf breaks have you covered.
Some of the best surf breaks in the world are right here in Australia. In fact, there are some Australian towns that may not have been established were it not for the presence of barrelling waves and the surfers who travel far and wide to find a magical break. Here’s our guide on the top 12 best surf breaks around Australia, be it in a thick neoprene wettie, or boardies and bikinis.
1. Noosa, Queensland
No guide to Australia’s best surf breaks is complete without including Noosa, which became the 10th World Surf Reserve in 2020.
There she is, made up in green eye shadow, giving surfers the ‘come hither’ with her voluptuous curves that wrap around five kilometres of coastline from the mouth of the Noosa River to North Sunshine Beach.
All up, Noosa offers five world-class point breaks and three consistent beach breaks that everyone from learners to champions are comfortable with.
Sit by the sea and spectate or sign up to compete in The Noosa Festival of Surfing which scores extra points for offsetting more than 100 per cent of the carbon emissions produced as a result of the 10-day event held annually in March.
Noosa offers five world-class point breaks and three consistent beach breaks. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
2. Agnes Water
Agnes Water is not on most surfers’ radars, which makes it appealing for beginners and those who want to surf waves that are rarely crowded. It’s probably most well known for being the most northerly beach on the East Coast of Australia to attract swell served up by the Tasman Sea.
The best season to surf at the exposed point break in Agnes Water is summer and autumn when the wind direction is from the southwest. Forgo the wetsuit as the warm water makes surfing in boardies and bikinis doable.
Like the waves in Agnes Water, the pace of the place is slow, which means you can simply enjoy taking in Kellys Beach and Rules Beach along this stunning stretch of coastline, located on the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef.
The best season to surf at the exposed point break in Agnes Water is summer and autumn. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
3. Shipstern Bluff, near Nubeena
This heavy break is for experienced surfers only. Named after the headland that towers above it like the prow of a ship, its remote location ensures that the crowds are kept to a minimum. Which is just how Tassie local Shaun Wallbank and his mates like it.
For decades, the wave he describes in Lonely Planet’s Epic Surf Breaks of the World (Lonely Planet, $44.99) as a man-eating leviathan, seemed more of a myth than a reality to mainlander Australians.
That all changed on a big southwest swell, on a low tide when Tracks magazine turned up with a photographer in tow and put the hellish righthander on the radar of surfers from around the world. Although the wave’s location, southeast of Hobart, was never disclosed, the secret was out attracting intrepid surfers to the ‘wave at the end of the world’ ever since.
The most defining feature of Shippies, according to Wallbank, is the ‘step’ which is what usually brings surfers undone as they try to take the drop.
Shipstern Bluff is for experienced surfers only. (Image: Stu Gibson)
4. Martha Lavinia, near Currie, on King Island
Surfing doesn’t get any more scenic than while riding the coast of King Island, Tasmania, in the Bass Strait. This perfect A-frame wave is one of the best surf breaks in Australia and is formed as the swell wraps around both sides of the island, like curved parentheses.
This beautiful beach break is named in honour of the 52-tonne schooner, Martha Lavinia, which was wrecked on the reef in 1871.
Surfers seek out this stretch of coastline. (Image: Stu Gibson)
Surfers seek out this stretch of coastline as much for its natural beauty as its barrelling beachie. The island is a drone photographer’s dream inlaid with the jewel that is Pennys Lagoon, one of the only perched lakes in the world. Book your flight to King Island when there’s a south-westerly on its way and camp on the beach under the stars. BYO 4/3 wetsuit and booties as it’s pretty close to Antarctica, the coldest continent on Earth.
Surfers seek out this stretch of coastline. (Image: Stu Gibson)
5. Black Rock (Aussie Pipe), Jervis Bay
Wreck Bay, also known as Black Rock, Summercloud Bay and Aussie Pipe, is featured in the book, The Pilgrimage: 50 Places to Surf Before You Die. While most surfers would probably avoid a book that had both ‘surf’ and ‘die’ in the title, this is somewhat of a bible for big-wave surfers from around the world.
Wreck Bay, located on the rugged edges of Booderee National Park, is where you will find Aussie Pipe which, when it’s firing, challenges even the most experienced surfers. Hands down one of the best surf breaks in the state.
The beachside haven is run by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council in Booderee National Park and the surrounding landscape remains very sacred to its Traditional Owners. Booderee means ‘bay of plenty’ and there are certainly waves aplenty here in the autumn and spring.
This is for experienced surfers only when the barrelling waves are at their best but if you hit a flat spell, there’s plenty more to do on the NSW South Coast.
Wreck Bay is challenging for even the most experienced surfers. (Image: Dee Kramer)
6. Gaire Beach, near Heathcote
Garies is an exposed beach and reef break that is a swell magnet for much of the year. Located next to the town of Helensburgh, north of Wollongong and south of Cronulla, the break is popular with Shire locals, some of whom are lucky enough to have quirky holiday cabins at Little Garie, just around the headland. Head here when the winds are from the north northwest to get Garie at its best.
Garie Beach is a bit of a gem in the Royal National Park and is also popular with Sydneysiders who want to swim and fish, as well as surf. If you hike along the coastal track, you will discover lots of sandy outposts to stop at and picnic post-surf.
The region’s natural beauty is preserved here in Australia’s first national park, just a 20-minute drive from Bundeena, one of our best summer beach towns, where you will find pristine pools, rocky white cliffs, canyons and caves.
Garie Beach is a gem in the Royal National Park. (Image: Adam Krowitz)
7. Red Bluff, near Beagle Bay, WA
Surfers in southwestern WA are known to drive for up to six and half hours from Perth to Red Bluff when they see a weather front forecast to roll in. And arriving here as the sun puts a marigold light over the rugged red cliffs and the sea is creased with horizontal wrinkles is 100 per cent worth the epic road trip, considered one of the best in WA.
Red Bluff is a perfect lefthander, a wave that was pioneered by surfers from Margaret River in the 70s and remains the preserve of experienced surfers only. The wave starts breaking at about 4ft and holds up to a meaty 10ft as it thunders along a stretch of reef in the Indian Ocean.
The dramatic coastal cliffs around Red Bluff and the fact it’s located on a stretch of coast dubbed the humpback highway add to the allure of this sought-after surf spot.
The dramatic coastal cliffs around Red Bluff add to the allure of this sought-after surf spot. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
8. Margaret River
This hippie town has been drawing discerning surfers to Australia’s Wild West for decades. Most of the surfers in the line-up are long-term locals who surf gnarly waves, and commune in the car park to shoot the breeze, before and after the dawn patrol. There’s also a sprinkling of salty-haired crypto bros, and #vanlifers road-testing their digital nomad fantasies.
It’s like a composite scene, collaged together from Tik Tok stills and old surf mags.
There are wineries to visit and humpback whales to watch out for in the season in seas that appear to have been lacquered blue.
Located 290 kilometres south of Perth, Margies is the affectionate local term for Margaret River Main Break and is for experienced surfers only. Bring a quiver of surfboards to tackle Surfers Point Beach, where walls of water can reach 25ft.
Margies is the affectionate local term for Margaret River Main Break. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
9. Ocean Grove, The Bellarine
Get in the surf groove at Ocean Grove, located in Greater Geelong & The Bellarine, located just over an hour southwest of Melbourne via the Princes Highway. If you’ve got non-surfers in the family and want another reason to visit Ocean Grove beyond the surf, you’ll find the popular beachside town surrounded by world-class wineries, pristine beaches and golf courses.
Book a lesson with an instructor at the local learn-to-surf school, Surf Sessions, who can be heard cheering on their students against the rumble and roar of the ocean at Ocean Grove main beach, where conditions are more often than not ideal for surfing lessons.
Check out the webcam on Magic Seaweed to see the swell and wind forecast before choosing a local break such as Thirteenth Beach, Quarantines and Point Londsdale.
Book a lesson with the local learn-to-surf school at Ocean Grove.
10. Bells Beach, near Torquay
Pack your thruster. You’re gonna need it when Bells is firing. You’ll find the best conditions for this iconic right-hand reef break, made famous thanks to world-class events such as the Rip Curl Pro are found between April to September when low-pressure Southern Ocean storms start rolling toward the coast. Best wind directions range from the northwest to northeast, with low tides generally best.
Bells was a bucket-list wave well before it was referenced by Patrick Swayze’s character Bodhi in the climactic scene in Point Break where he paddled to his demise while chasing the famed 50-year swell. Fun fact: it wasn’t even filmed there.
But Bells was well known by the Traditional Owners of the land, the Wathaurong people, who are actively involved in the Australian Indigenous Surfing Titles, which are held here every year. When it’s working, Bells is one of the best surf breaks on the land. But it’s known for being inconsistent; if it’s not breaking, there are plenty of other attractions along the Surf Coast.
Bells Beach is a bucket list surf spot.
11. Cactus Beach, near Penong
Head to Cactus Beach for dusk, when the sun is like a piece of polished amber, and you’ll likely find a few prickly locals making the most of the onshore conditions. The waters of the Southern Ocean off the Eyre Peninsula are brisk, to say the least, so bring an extra-thick wetsuit and a few extra blankets to build a nest in the sand post-surf.
Cactus is on the east side of the Great Australian Bight, some 870km northwest of Adelaide, and is a dream when the wind is funnelling in from the east-northeast.
While this is considered a special place for surfers, it’s a sacred place to the Wirangu Aboriginal people, who are the Traditional Owners of the land.
The area was declared a national surfing reserve in 2012. What better way to break up a road trip across the Nullabor Plain than to score a few waves at Cactus, Caves and Castles?
Cactus Beach is a sacred place to the Wirangu Aboriginal people. (Image: Michael Waterhouse Photography)
12. Kangaroo Island
Kangaroos outnumber humans on Kangaroo Island, which is just one of many reasons it’s a popular spot for tourists. And while the food and wine scene is the main draw for visitors, KI is also known for its killer surf.
The south coast of the island gets hammered by swell year-round, but it’s so isolated it appeals to adrenalin-seekers only.
A flanno counts as formal wear on KI and it’s worth heading to one of the wineries, pubs, cafes or restaurants to make friends with locals who can steer you toward the best surf breaks and keep you company in the line-up.
Hanson Place is the holy grail for surfing, renowned as much for its epic swells as its rips and undertows. BYO Sharkbanz.
The south coast of Kangaroo Island gets hammered by swell year-round. (Image Isaac Forman)