The Most Charming Beach Towns in Australia

A wooden walkway leading down to a sheltered beach on the northern side of Byron Bay (Photo: David McKelvey via Flickr)

We invited 50 travel writers, photographers and selected professionals to name the resorts in Australia that they consider the most appealing. Those surveyed were asked to pick their three favourites, in no particular order, and we then took these results to compile the Top 10.

So what do we know about the vast expanse of Australian coast? What is undeniably impressive is the sheer diversity of natural and man-made landscapes that can be found all around it, from the more developed eastern seaboard to the dazzling Indian Ocean sunsets found in the west.

But whichever part of Australian coast you visit, you’re guaranteed to find miles of sun, sand and surf, lazy beach towns and a wealth of top class dining options, whether it’s rustic beach shacks serving fresh-from-the-sea fish to fine dining establishments offering imaginative gourmet cuisine.

And so without further adieu, here, in alphabetical order, you will find what many consider Australia’s most charming beach towns.

Aireys Inlet, Victoria

Nestled between the bush and the beach, this gorgeous hamlet sums up the enduring attraction of the rugged south-east Australian coast. The juxtaposition of diverse natural landscapes with picture-postcard landmarks and pristine white sandy shores are a sight to behold and attract large numbers of visitors each year. Visually, the town’s most prominent attraction is the Split Point Lighthouse and there are numerous walking tracks to enjoy close by, as well as many more spectacular trails taking you through the Great Otway National Park. The local creeks and beaches are great for fishing, too.

Airlie Beach, Queensland

For most visitors to Airlie Beach, their time here is a foretaste of the main event – a trip to the nearby Whitsunday Islands. Nevertheless, its position in our survey’s top ten is no surprise. The town has a delightful, laid-back tropical atmosphere that makes it ideal for acclimatising before your island adventures. The lush, green rainforest of the Whitsunday Coast imbues everyone who comes here with a sense of serene calm, while the quaint boutiques, cafes and shops of the town’s main drag achieve a similar effect. Set aide time to relax at the Airlie Beach Lagoon, too.

Apollo Bay, Victoria

Whichever way you turn, there’s no escaping the sheer beauty of Apollo Bay. Situated in the foothills of the Otways National Park, it is positively teeming with waterfalls, ferns and crystal clear streams. It is, in short, a mecca for lovers of the great outdoors. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of man-made attractions too, including gift shops, galleries and teahouses along with numerous culinary delights to choose from. There’s also a vibrant weekend market selling local crafts, artworks, curios and fresh produce – all helping Apollo Bay secure a place in many our voters’ hearts.

Broome, Western Australia

With its remote feel, multi-cultural population and classic Outback hospitality, Broome offers far more than just a conventional beach holiday. That’s not to say that beach lovers won’t enjoy every second here, with its pristine, uncrowded shores creating a sense of solitude that is a rare privilege across Western Australian’s bustling coastline. But it would be a true shame to visit Broome without also delving under the surface of its rich cultural heritage, with numerous Aboriginal monuments and places of interest dotted around the town. If you find yourself drawn back to the water, you can witness first-hand how Broome became the pearling capital of Australia by embarking on a cruise to a local pearl farm.

Byron Bay, New South Wales

A relaxed, hip vibe with a dash of luxury is a fair summation of this charming seaside town nestled on the north coast of New South Wales. It features some of the region’s finest beaches, spectacular coastal trails and amazing marine life, while surfing, snorkelling, kayaking and reef diving are just some of the popular activities enjoyed here. For a bird’s-eye view you can hop aboard a hot-air balloon, or real adrenaline junkie might prefer the thought of tandem skydiving and hand-gliding.

Eden, New South Wales

When you go by the name of “Eden”, expectations demand that you’re pretty special, and this beach town doesn’t disappoint. Awash with rugged coastline, golden sand dunes and ancient forests, it’s a nature lover’s paradise, while wildlife fans also enjoy the ample whale and bird watching opportunities. In fact, this is one of the best spots in Australia for catching a glimpse of humpback whales if you happen to visit during migration season. Eden is also home to one of the deepest natural harbours in the Southern Hemisphere, with the conveyer belt of pleasure boats and cruise liners creating a bustling atmosphere that adds to its charm.

Lorne, Victoria

A relaxed Mediterranean-style atmosphere is probably the best way to differentiate Lorne from its counterparts voted for on this list. The town’s distinct feel, aided and abetted by its buzzing arts community, has helped make it one of Australia’s most popular beach resorts. The first port of call for many visitors is Lorne surf beach, while keen anglers will often head straight to Lorne Pier which is a great place to cast a line. Kids, meanwhile, love exploring the rock pools at Shelley Beach. If you can drag yourself away from the coast, take a stroll inland and wander down Lorne’s main shopping strip that’s dotted with boutique gift stores, cellars, eateries and galleries.

Port Douglas, Queensland

There’s no doubting the centre piece attraction in Port Douglas – the aptly named Four Mile Beach, a pristine strip of palm-fringed white sand that attracts beach lovers from far and wide. But there’s plenty more to this quaint, well-heeled fishing village than its idyllic shoreline. There’s also numerous shopping, wining and dining opportunities, and for yacht-spotting you can head to the Dickson Inlet and Reef Marina where lavish gin palaces are moored. Port Douglas. For a great excursion, the outer parameters of the Great Barrier Reef and less than an hour offshore.

Port Fairy, Victoria

The last destination on Victoria’s famous Shipwreck Coast, dotted with pretty 19th century cottages and old stone churches, this small fishing village positively oozes charm. While one might expect a certain sleepiness, it doesn’t take long to discover a surprising buzz, owing in large part to the village’s thriving cultural scene. Step away from the shoreline and into the built-up centre and you’ll find several antique shops and arts and crafts stores, while Port Fairy also hosts one of Australia’s largest music festivals, the Port Fairy Folk Festival, each year. As for pursuits more geological in type, don’t be surprised to see surfer dudes or paddle borders milling around either, as the village is a popular spot for water sports enthusiasts who regularly descend on its three main sandy beach areas.

Wye River, Victoria

“The journey, not the destination matters”, said the famous British poet T.S. Eliot, and rarely is this truer than in the case of Wye River. Nestled along one of the most spectacular sections of the Great Ocean Road that runs along the south-eastern coast of Australia, this small coastal town provides a superb end point to one of the world’s great road trips. Once here, you’ll find the landscape is a scenic mix of rugged cliffs and verdant mountain foliage while the main sandy beach is surrounded by rock pols and reefs that attract fishing lovers and intrepid explorers all year round.

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