5 Must Do Beaches on Self Drive Holiday in Australia

Australia Beaches

Australia is blessed with beaches both golden sandy coloured and pure white sand beaches and they make for an amazing summer holiday. Some destinations you can stay for two weeks at while other destinations you are happy to only stop a few days when travelling past. There are many beach towns along Australia’s east coach that worth visiting for a few days just to experience there beach life style.

One of the most popular holidays for international travellers to Australia is to rent a campervan and drive a portion of the east coast. A drive from Brisbane to Sydney will expose you to some very interesting beach towns.

Nelson Bay

Nelson Bay is one of the townships located in Port Stephens some 3 hours north of Sydney. Port Stephens is a sunken river that has formed into a natural bay area. The Bay itself is home to the Great Lakes Marine Park and to also the township of Nelson Bay.

The entire bay provides for some great water activities to be enjoyed including stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, diving and swimming. From the Nelson Bay marina you can also take a tour of the bay, a dolphin spotting tour or a sunset cruise. You can find a fishing charter or a diving trip from the marina.


Inside the bay there are multiple sandy beaches to enjoy where the waters are calm and family friendly. Outside the bay there are multiple ocean facing beaches where you can enjoy surfing or swimming in ocean. From the Nelson Bay there is walkway that runs along the water front and then up to the lighthouse. This track is great for a short walk and from the lighthouse you can get some great views back over the bay and along the coast line, both north and south. The light house cottage has been converted into a cafe and is a great spot for a short stop.

South West Rocks

Located 6 hours north of Sydney on the coast is the beach township of South West Rocks. You need to leave the main highway and drive out to South West Rocks, but in doing so you find it is well worth the effort to stop here.

South West Rocks’ is located at the mouth of the Macleay River and the town sits on a tiny headland behind the crescent shaped beach of Trial Bay. The bay is a perfect white sand beach and is a very family friendly beach to enjoy.  South West Rocks also has several open ocean beaches that provide for a more traditional surf beach experience.

Just off the coast is Fish Rock Cave that is a well known dive spot with a 25 metre long swim through cave. Dive and Fishing charters all leave from the Macleay River which provides a natural harbour and easy access for boats and vessels to the open ocean.  South West Rocks provides for plenty of marine activities including: stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, diving, kayaking, swimming and surfing.

Just south of the town you can find the Smokey Cape Lighthouse which provides greats views up and down the coast line.

Byron Bay

Located 1.5 Hours south of Brisbane is the tourist spot of Byron Bay. Cape Byron is the most easterly point on the continent of Australia and the Lighthouse at the Headlands is a great spot to look over the local town and the coastline. Cape Byron is also a wonderful place to spot passing whales as they migrate from the cold waters of Antarctica to Hervey Bay to give birth to their young.

Australia Beaches

Byron is a small town which has become quite trendy over the last 20 years or so. The local shops reflect this trend with many interesting little shops to explore and restaurants and cafes to eat at. The outlook from the town is straight over the bay and Julian Rocks on the north side of Cape Byron headlands.  The bay is a long crescent shape that has the surf just rolling along the beach. Byron has long been a popular spot for surfers.

Byron is a popular spot for many water activities including: diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming and fishing. You can also indulge in white water rafting and sky diving from Byron Bay. 

Gold Coast

Only 30 minutes north of Byron is the Gold Coast with its golden sand beaches and multiple rocky headlands and the broad water all providing a holiday hot spot. The Gold Coast has long been a popular spot for holiday makers to enjoy each year and as such has become very busy with many high rise apartment towers and city population to match.

The Gold Coast is popular for good reason as it has so much for the holiday maker to do and enjoy. The beaches are the main attraction and surfing is very popular on the Gold Coast, but there are all sorts of water activities to enjoy including: swimming, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, and diving, kayaking and jet skiing. There are also multiple charters and boat tours to enjoy like the duck tour of the broad waters.


The Gold Coast is home to Sea World while Dream World, Movie World, Outback Adventure and Wet & Wild are all close by. The hinterlands of the Gold Coast are an oasis of tropical rainforests with national parks providing many walking and hiking opportunities. The nightlife on the Gold Coast is much busier than small coastal towns with its own, many night clubs and shows, along with a huge selection of restaurants and cafes.


Located north of Brisbane some 2.5 hours is the township of Noosa which is located on the south bank of the Noosa River. The river also connects multiple lakes close to the river mouth and provides a natural waterway system that town has grown around. The main street of the town is Hasting Street which is full of shops, restaurants and cafes. Hasting street also has access out to the main beach area of Noosa.

The Noosa beach is a north facing beach which is quite unique and provides a very family friendly environment to enjoy the ocean from.  The Noosa headlands are a national park with walking trails over it that links together the various little beaches around the headland. The walks around the headland are well worth the effort as they are not long and provide great views out to sea and along the coast line.

The Noosa River also provides access to many water activities to enjoy including; jet skiing, diving, paddle boarding, sailing, fishing, kayaking and swimming. You can hire a boat to drive around the water ways and enjoy Noosa from the water; these can be easily hired from the river.

Airlie Beach

Located a few hours drive from Brisbane is the town of Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is the well-known mainland hub of tropical The Whitsundays. It is one of those coastal towns you’ll be able to stay for a while as there’s so much to do and see in and around Airlie Beach. The main street of the town is Shute Harbour Rd which is full of shops, restaurants and cafes. Hasting street also has access out to the main beach area and the ports.

While Airlie Beach itself is a great family friendly holiday location, it is also the main port for tours and trips out to The Whitsunday Islands and even to the Great Barrier Reef. If you want bareboat charter Whitsundays, you’ll need to stop off at Airlie Beach! The Whitsundays is made up of 74 individual tropical islands that are famous for their white sand beach, turquoise waters and rainforests.

Day trips, or even multiple days, to The Whitsundays can be arranged by a number of businesses in Airlie Beach. When there you can enjoy secluded beach, snorkel the reefs and go hiking amongst the rainforests. However, a lot of the islands are uninhabited and protected meaning camping and accommodation options may be limited. But as they’re so close to Airlie Beach, there’s no need to worry.


There are many great beaches to enjoy on the Australian east coast and the above mentioned ones provide a nice selection of different types of towns and beach environments that will appeal for differing reasons. The best way to sample these towns is with a road trip and the road trip can be expanded to match what time you have available.

One thought on “5 Must Do Beaches on Self Drive Holiday in Australia”

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