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My list of favourite Queensland beaches has grown over the years with each visit to the sunshine state, but is still far from complete.
With the Queensland coast stretching over 7,400 kilometres, there are many beaches I’ve yet to set foot on, but with summer fast approaching I thought I’d share my current recommendations in case a Queensland holiday is on your horizon.
Queensland’s beaches rank not only among the best in Australia but in the world in many different categories, but for me what categorizes a great beach has changed over the years now that we have young kids.
Whilst I still seek those remote, isolated patches of sand with crystal clear water gently lapping ashore and a hammock strung from a palm tree, the days of relaxing for hours on end are long gone for us. Now it’s finding a balance between isolated paradise and family friendly urban beaches that offer nearby playgrounds, BBQ facilities, cafes, and easy access.
And you can find all that and more in Queensland.
From the surf breaks of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, to the island hideaways in The Whitsundays, to the coral cays of the Great Barrier Reef, to the tropical paradise of Cape Tribulation, there’s a beach with your name on it.
So if you fancy a bit of beach time and Queensland sun, add some of these to your list.
1. Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast
Burleigh Heads is an all-time family favourite of ours and a beach we always return to on any trip to the Goldy!
I love to start the day by watching the magnificent sunrise and the surfers taking on the world-class surf break on the point. It’s a magical spot as the colours in the sky light up in pinks and reds as the waves roll in. Grab an early morning takeaway coffee from Nook Espresso and sit on the hill and enjoy mother nature, and the surfers.
Back on the beach, Burleigh is a great swimming spot for kids, plus there’s a playground on the grass area and the cafe underneath the surf club makes nice burgers with uninterrupted ocean views.
Whilst in town check out the hip bars, boutique shops, funky cafes (Paleo Cafe is a fave) and you must do the coastal walk in Burleigh National Park.
2. Coolangatta Beach, Gold Coast
Cooly is a special place for us. Back in 2001 I took Caz on a surprise weekend getaway and during a sunset walk along the beach, proposed to her. Luckily she said yes.
The beach is golden, the water is great for body surfing (and solid waves for the surfers out there) and a morning walk or run along the sand or the pedestrain footpath makes for a great start to any day.
For the families like us there’s two playgrounds for the kids and the surf club does great meals with spectacular views and people watching. Across the road is our fave Raw Energy Cafe or for a pizza you can’t go past Crust.
We love the southern part of the Gold Coast and Coolangatta is where we like to base ourselves on any trip. Check out the Mantra Apartments which has amazing views all the way up to the Surfers Paradise skyline. You’ll love the sunsets!
3. Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast
Next door to Coolanagtta and you have Greenmount, which is basically the same stretch of beach. The corner section is perfect for swimming with kids and there’s also an excellent wave coming off the point for the surfers to enjoy.
There’s an elevated walkway around Greenmount Headland,which gives you top views back over Coolangatta, Surfers Paradise and the guys riding the waves. And the surf club is another good spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
4. Rainbow Bay, Gold Coast
Walk around the headland from Greenmount and you’ll find yourself at Rainbow Bay.
Maybe the Gold Coast’s best kept secret to travelers, but not to surfers. This beach is famous for the surf break of “Snapper Rocks,” which is known as one of the world’s longest and most consistent point breaks and holds the annual Quiksilver Pro World Surfing Event.
Another excellent family beach owing to its protected location and usually low waves, BBQ areas, a playground and lots of grass area for a picnic.
Step inside Rainbow Bay Surf Club which offers great views over Snapper Rocks and all the way to Surfers Paradise. I highly recommend a sunset drink here, and the $10 meal specials are great value too!
5. Seventy Five Mile Beach, Fraser Island
I’m not usually a fan of long, open and pounding surf beaches but 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, is special.
75 Mile Beach is actually classed as part of the Bruce Highway with strict road rules and cops around ready to nab those who speed or drink drive. You need a serious 4wd vehicle to take on Fraser and be mindful of the tides so you don’t get cut off.
Highlights of driving along this beach include Eli Creek, the Maheno shipwreck, seeing wild dingos roaming and taking a scenic flight to get a great perspective of the beach and the island from the air.
6. Mooloolaba Beach, Sunshine Coast
We lived in Mooloolaba for 18 months and have fond memories of our time there. It’s almost the perfect beach town with a great beach complimented by a strip of lovely cafes, BBQ areas and kids playgrounds.
The beach is lovely for a morning walk or run, and the water beckons swimmers, surfers, and body boarders. Another activity we loved was walking the pathway which runs parallel to the beach around to the rock wall and point and watching the sun set back over the town.
7. Noosa Main Beach, Sunshine Coast
Noosa has been rated in the top three beaches in the South Pacific by the folks over at TripAdvisor, and hosts surfers from around the world at the annual Noosa Festival of Surfing.
One of the few beaches along Australia’s coastline that faces north, Noosa is a great family beach or for those not that confident in the ocean due to its gentle waves and surf lifesavers on patrol. If you want to take a surf lesson, Noosa is deal for beginners.
Whilst in town, don’t miss the spectacular coastal walk through Noosa Heads National Park, and fashionable Hastings street which runs parallel to the beach is filled with trendy cafes and boutique shopping. Grab a bite to eat at the Surf Club right on the beach, and the Mantra French Quarter has a great location for sleeping one block away.
8. Agnes Water Beach – Central Queensland
Located 60km off the main highway between Brisbane and Cairns, Agnes Water doesn’t get the high concentration of visitors that many other Queensland beaches get, and this sleepy beach town was a great discovery on our road trip up the Queensland coast.
Conveniently we were staying at the Agnes Water Caravan Park at the southern end of the beach and the moment we walked onto the sand we knew we’d found a match. Lovely natural looking beach with gentle waves for our kids and famous amongst surfers as being the most northerly beach on the east coast to regularly receive surf.
Don’t miss the spectacular sunsets and breakfast at Agnes Beach Cafe!
9. That beach on Lady Musgrave Island
It was a rough 90 minute ferry ride out to Lady Musgrave Island from the Town of 1770 and we didn’t get a lot of time to spend on this beautiful beach, I don’t even know if this beach has a name, but let’s just call it paradise. The crystal clear water, the pure white sand, the coral, and the national park as a backdrop made for a postcard setting.
Lady Musgrave Island is a coral cay and the second island in the Great Barrier Reef chain of islands after Lady Elliot Island. You can even camp here, no power or water supply, and the nearby snorkeling in the lagoon is brilliant.
10. Airlie Beach – Whitsunday Islands
I’m adding Airlie Beach to the mix not because the actual beach itself is out of this world, it’s still a picturesque beach to relax on, but Airlie Beach the town has a lot going for it as a destination I can see us returning to time and time again.
When you can’t swim in the beach due to stinger season (November to May) there’s an awesome man-made lagoon on the foreshore perfect for families, plus with nearby playgrounds and plenty of cafes, bars and pubs lining the strip and a ton of accommodation choices from backpackers to 5 star it offers the complete package.
Airlie is the main hub for the amazing Whitsunday Islands and one of many departure points for the Great Barrier Reef.
11. Whitehaven Beach – Whitsunday Islands
The isolation, the pure white silica sand, the turquoise water, the National Park back drop, the fusion of swirling colours seen from Hill Inlet lookout, I think I’ll just let the photos do the talking.
12. Huntingfield Bay – Magnetic Island
Postcard perfect Huntingfield Beach is one of five beaches on the north side of Magnetic Island only accessible by boat, and it’s that remoteness that adds to the beauty of this beach.
We anchored just offshore during our snorkeling tour around Maggie, stopping for a BBQ lunch and then dived off the boat and swam ashore to be all alone strolling the shore collecting shells.
Adding to the scene are large granite boulders that fringe the back and sides of the beach, with a back drop of scrub and rocky slopes rising steeply to over 300m. When you visit Maggie, don’t miss Huntingfield.
13. Cape Tribulation Beach – Daintree National Park
When you have a setting that involves two World Heritage Listed areas colliding, where the oldest living rainforest in the world meets the Great Barrier Reef, you can only imagine what it’s like to set foot on the sands that divide these two natural wonders.
Cape Trib beach is on the north side of the cape and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been stranded on an island, not still connected to the Australian mainland. You can swim at this beach, outside of stinger season (box jelly fish are around from May to November) and one of my happiest moments was a kayaking tour I did chasing turtles, stingrays and dugongs, and the fringing reef is a great place to explore at low tide.
Take a walk and then pick your spot on the sand and take in the moment, just avoid sitting under a coconut tree in case of falling coconuts, and avoid the middle of the day trippers.
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Have you visited any Queensland beaches?Which ones would you add to this list?