Aussies flock to these favourite summer spots to savour their bright, breezy delights and sun-drenched days. Here’s the scoop and some secrets too.
Summer is calling and we challenge you to try to resist the allure of these Aussie hotspots.
1. Sunshine Coast, Qld
Whether it’s summer or not, the Sunshine Coast is a perennial hotspot, a year-round escape that attracts southern dwellers with its seemingly endless sunny disposition. From Noosa to Mooloolaba and Caloundra, Gympie and Coolum Beach, the warm, Windex-coloured waters beckon families, surfers and van-life wanderers alike.
The sun-drenched Sunshine Coast. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
North enough to be beautifully warm, yet south enough not to be beset by jellyfish and crocs, this Queensland stretch is the sweet spot.
Tour the ‘craft beer capital of Australia’. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Where is it? An easy hour-and-a-half drive north of Brisbane.
What’s it all about? Sunshine, actually. The Sunshine Coast has about 300 days of sunshine per year, so the chances of barrelling into a rainy holiday are low.
Summer secrets: While the coast offers summer spoils, those volcanic-forged guardians, the Glass House Mountains, offer hikes, swimming holes and elevation where you can escape the heat.
Hot tip: As the self-proclaimed ‘craft beer capital of Australia’, there are, indeed, a near-excessive number of breweries at which to sink a cold one.
2. Gold Coast, Qld
A place like no other on the east coast, this elongated city stretch has often copped flack for showing its tackier side. From meter maids to schoolies and a penchant for overt enhancements, both cosmetic and architectural, the GC has historically modelled itself on an LA kind of style.
Stay golden on the glittering Gold Coast
These days, though, it feels more low-key; with a vibe that embraces its bawdier side, while moving in a more understated direction. This is a fun, family-friendly and wildly entertaining place to go with long beaches, sky-high resorts and plenty to do from the sand to the hinterland.
Soak up front-row sea views at Rick Shores, Burleigh Heads. (Image: Mathilde Bouby)
Where is it? Just one hour south of Brisbane, but with its own airport, it’s a brief and direct flight from most capital cities.
What’s it all about? The GC is a corridor of holiday vibes wedged between the ocean and national parks. As a destination, it ticks all the boxes from theme parks and beaches to nightlife, dining and arts.
Summer secrets: SoGo, or the southern Gold Coast, comprises the most up-and-coming suburbs, which includes Coolangatta and Currumbin.
Hot tip: Burleigh Heads is the undeniable culinary hotspot on the Gold Coast, from fine diners Labart Restaurant and Rick Shores to casual corner bakery Tarte and a string of cool wine bars.
3. North Coast, NSW
Holiday-happy towns perched to watch the Pacific are clustered along NSW’s north coast. You can make your way up this stretch from Sydney to the Gold Coast over about nine ambitious hours.
But dipping in and out of places such as Port Macquarie, Seal Rocks, Coffs Harbour, Yamba, Byron Bay and the Tweed turns the drive into a journey of lazy beach sessions, increasing subtropical landscapes and sun-drenched days.
Make a splash in Yamba.
Where is it? The north coast extends from Newcastle, about two hours north of Sydney, all the way to Tweed Heads on the Queensland border.
What’s it all about? Vast beaches, bush-bound bays, sandy toes and salty skin.
Summer secrets: Yamba is a thrumming town come summer. But you can find a quieter enclave for a more bare-bones escape across the water at Iluka.
Hot tip: The hinterland towns of Bellingen, Bangalow, Burringbar and Murwillumbah are total charmers.
4. South Coast, NSW
An expansive ribbon of coast edged by crystalline waters that both gently lap soft-edged shores and pummel craggy cliffs, the South Coast is ripe for road-tripping.
Go barefoot on Murrays Beach, Jervis Bay. (Image: Destination NSW)
From city thrills in Wollongong to Kiama’s horizon-gazing town and the scattering of Shoalhaven’s exquisite coves – such as Jervis Bay, Lake Conjola and Vincentia – the south-east of NSW unfurls in one idyllic locale after the other.
Stay at Motel Molly in Mollymook.
Slurp briny oysters at shacks in Merimbula, ogle the animals at Mogo Wildlife Park and discover Eden’s killer whale trail.
Slurp oysters on the Sapphire Coast. (Image: Destination NSW)
Where is it? The South Coast essentially starts from Wollongong in the north, a 90-minute drive from Sydney, and from Wonboyn on the Sapphire Coast in the south, which is about six and a half hours from Melbourne.
What’s it all about? Sweeping cliffside coastlines, white sands and adorable towns that can feel wonderfully secluded and off-the-beaten-track.
Summer secrets: The Bermagui Blue Pool is the place to grab your Instagram money shot.
Hot tip: Try Bannisters by the Sea in Mollymook, a renowned restaurant with rooms. Or Motel Molly, which is a cool retro update on a classic surf motel.
5. Great Ocean Road, Vic
Yes, it’s conceivable to drive the Great Ocean Road in a single day. But to do the theatrical beauty of this seascape and its connected townships any real justice, you must dedicate at least four days to see what can be discovered here.
Follow the Great Ocean Road. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Your route may cling to the coastline or zigzag between beach and bush, but you’ll most certainly stop at the 12 Apostles in Port Campbell National Park, take in the Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet and slip into Port Fairy for a pint at the Oak & Anchor. The rainforest-cloaked Otways is also a draw for its waterfalls, treetop walkways and wildlife wonders.
Reach for the Sky Pods in Cape Otway, Victoria. (Image: Tofu Studio)
Where is it? The Great Ocean Road begins in Torquay, which is a little over an hour south of Melbourne.
What’s it all about? It’s 243 kilometres of beautiful, drama-filled coastlines.
Summer secrets: Avoid the crowds at the 12 Apostles and delight in the natural limestone plinths at the lesser-known and smaller-scale Childers Cove.
Hot tip: For road trips sans kids, check into the eco-luxe Sky Pods, where you can wake to views over the incredible Cape Otway landscape in a glass-walled cabin.
6. Margaret River Region, WA
Shouldered by forested national parks and punctuated by cool, artful townships where surfers watch the waves from beachside cafes, the Margaret River Region is a laid-back destination that rightfully deserves top billing on summer holiday hit lists. United by those exquisitely clear waters are the townships of Margaret River, Busselton, Yallingup, Dunsborough, Augusta, Cowaramup and Gracetown.
Stay in a luxury chalet at 8 Paddocks in the Margaret River Wine Region.
The region is a draw for diverse activities and attractions that range from surfing glassy waves to enjoying incredible produce and visiting world-renowned wineries. It’s also known for its magical Karri forests, enigmatic caves and some of the best hikes on the continent. While thrilling surf breaks roll into the wilder shorelines, there are also plenty of frolic-friendly spots, such as the protected, pool-like Meelup Beach.
Cut loose at The Goose in Busselton, WA. (Image: Taj Kempe Photography)
Where is it? A smidge over three hours by car from Perth. Or fly into Busselton Margaret River Airport.
What’s it all about? Surfing, wining and dining and stunning beaches.
Summer secrets: After a fire demolished Busselton’s iconic restaurant The Goose in 2021, it has returned to the glimmering foreshore overlooking Geographe Bay.
Hot tip: 8 Paddocks is a new luxe cabin experience just outside of Cowaramup.