Surfing in Australia: 10 great spots to catch a wave this summer
By Sophie Colvin
Are you are a seasoned surfer who feels at home in the ocean or someone just dipping their toes in the water in search of some gentle waves?
With more than 35,000 kilometres of coastline, it is no surprise that Australia is home to some of the best breaks in the world.
So just in time for the warmer months, the ABC Open audience has shared some spectacular photos of their favourite spots.
Our list is in no way exhaustive, but it’s got a mix of bigger waves that will test you, through to the gentle breaks that are perfect for learning.
Byron Bay, NSW
This laidback town is regarded as a surfing mecca, and with good reason — the region is home to more than 10 beaches.
But Belongil Beach is one of our standout audience favourites. Sitting about a kilometre north of Main Beach, it is good for all levels of surfing ability.
Waves are at their best when there is a south-easterly swell with an offshore southerly or south-westerly wind.
Belongil is also quieter than some other Byron beaches, which makes it appealing for beginners when the waves are small.
But watch out for strong rip currents when the swells are larger.
“There’s nothing like the feeling you get when surfing the perfect barrel at Byron,” Wade Tusk said.
Currumbin Alley, Queensland
If you’re looking for a place to longboard, Currumbin Alley is favourable all year round, with the first six months of the year, according to our audience, being truly ideal.
This right-hand break is enjoyed by beginners and seasoned pros alike — you’ll find easier waves towards the creek and more challenging right-handers closer to the point rocks, and conditions are best when the wind is a south-westerly.
The alley can get crowded, so if you’re looking for a quiet spot to surf, head further along the stretch of white sand to Palm Beach.
Palm Beach, NSW
Not to be confused with the glitter strip’s Palm Beach …
The Barrenjoey Headland end of Palm Beach often provides the best waves for surfers, and in a southerly wind can produce fast barrelling waves.
The other end of the beach is more sheltered and you’ll be able to find some gentle breakers if the wind is coming from the south.
Be aware, this area is popular with surf instructors teaching children.
Trigg Beach, WA
Trigg Beach, north of Perth, is arguably the city’s most consistent surf beach, providing strong, surfable waves even if it is calm at other spots along the coastline.
A west-south-west swell provides optimal surf waves, but the beach can get very crowded, particularly in summer.
“He was down there with his dad and must have been learning how to surf. He started to nail it the longer he was in the water,” Jon Corpus said of his snap (above).
Bells Beach, Victoria
The first light of the morning hits the water at Bells. (ABC Open contributor romyphotographer)
Located at the start of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Bells Beach is described by some as the national surfing capital.
Experienced surfers will enjoy the large swells that come in from the Southern Ocean that are protected by the large cliffs surrounding the beach.
Producing a point-break wave, surf is best when there is a north-north-west wind.
Head to Bells between March and October for the best waves.
There are two breaks at Bells Beach; Rincon and The Bowl — The Bowl is more popular and is suitable for a more diverse range of conditions.
The Bowl is best surfed at low tide, while Rincon is better at high tide.
“A surf break that will really test your skills. It’s worth going to Bells just to watch the pros surf,” Riley Thom said.
Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania
Ship Stern Bluff boasts some of the biggest waves in the world. (ABC Open contributor Tyler Hollmer-Cross)
Ship Stern Bluff isn’t for the faint hearted, but it often does produce a world-class wave, especially when a northerly is blowing.
The presence of a reef shelf offshore creates large, powerful waves that at times have been some of the biggest in the world.
“It’s satisfying when you get to stand in barrels like this,” Tyler Hollmer-Cross said.
This is a right-hand, point-break wave not for beginners and access isn’t easy.
But while Ship Stern Bluff is the most renowned, there are plenty of other great surf spots dotted around the peninsula.
Snapper Rocks, Queensland
There were plenty of waves to be had at Snapper Rocks during the first cyclone swell of 2018. (ABC Open contributor David A. King)
This famed surfing spot is known as a world-class wave.
Point Danger sees the starting point of a two-kilometre sandbank, meaning that in the right conditions a wave here can be ridden for hundreds of metres.
Champion surfers can be seen out in the water alongside recreational wave riders looking for a challenge — and it can get very crowded.
There is a strict surfing etiquette on Aussie beaches, and Snapper Rocks is no exception, so it’s important to become familiar with it before getting wet.
Fleurieu Peninsula, SA
Fleurieu Peninsula offers breaks for surfers of all skills. (ABC Open contributor Libby Tozer)
Just 45 minutes’ drive from Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula is a perfect weekend getaway surf spot.
The mid-coast beaches of Christies, Southport, Seaford, Moana and Sellicks offer good spots for both beginner and experienced surfers alike.
If you’re after larger swells, head south to Waitpinga or Parsons beaches, though be mindful of the strong rips that can develop when the swell is up.
Phillip Island, Victoria
Enjoying gentle surfing waves off the coast of Phillip Island. (ABC Open contributor Simon Rohrbach)
Phillip Island has many consistent surf spots in close proximity, and depending on the swell size, you can usually find a sheltered break in any wind.
At 4.2 kilometres, Woolamai Beach is the longest and most exposed beach on the island and is the site of its only surf lifesaving club.
A popular spot for more experienced surfers, Woolamai breaks are best with northerly winds.
“Great surfing beach with lifesavers watching out. The waves are generally only suited to experienced surfers and swimmers,” Pete Winder said.
Stradbroke Island, Queensland
Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island looks sublime at sunrise. (ABC Open contributor Stradbroke Island Photography)
Stradbroke Island is home to surf beaches suitable for many wind directions.
To the west, Straddie faces the calm waters of Moreton Bay, and the open waters of the Pacific Ocean to the east, and locals insist that they have some of the best waves in the Sunshine State.
Though there are beaches all around the island, Main Beach is the most popular.
Stretching for a huge 34 kilometres, the swells are generally large and it is perfect for a left-hand, point-break wave.
The conditions at Main Beach are at their best when it’s a south-westerly or westerly wind.
Never surf alone and always check where lifeguards are patrolling. (ABC Open contributor Kayla Ellis)
The ocean can be a dangerous and unforgiving place, so it is important you research conditions prior to entering the water.
Never surf alone and always familiarise yourself with coast guard and/or lifeguard availability and their patrolled areas.
We also know that Australia’s surfing community are passionate about their waves; everyone has a favourite, and many like to keep secret surf spots closely guarded, but if you want to share your best break with the ABC, use #ABCmyphoto on Instagram.
And don’t forget to include your location.