Your guide to which beach to visit for any coastal activity.
Australia’s South West is home to a flourishing wine industry, some of Western Australia’s finest eateries, and dense native forests. But, most famously, it’s home to an impressive coastline peppered with beaches fit for any coastal activity. From calm, shallow bays and thundering surf to white stretches of sand and dramatic cliffs, the south west caters for those family-friendly beach days, epic mornings out on the surf, relaxing SUP sessions, and much, much more.
To know where to go for what, follow our guide to the best beaches to suit your favourite beachside activity.
When you’ve got little ones in tow, the size and severity of the waves, the nearby amenities, and the presence of any additional attractions all factor into your choice of beach destination. Luckily, the south west boasts plenty of beaches with more than just family-friendly waters.
If you’re Bunbury way, pack the bucket and spade and head down to Koombana Bay. Not only is this long stretch of waveless beach a great spot to catch a glimpse of the resident bottlenose dolphin pod, but there’s also a brand new, state-of-the-art playground for the kids to run amok on; think slides, climbing nets, and a flying fox. There are a handful of free barbecues dotted around by the playground and a kiosk selling beachside treats for when the tummies start to rumble. If you’re after more entertainment still, call into the Dolphin Discovery Centre to explore the tanks full of fish and starfish laden touch pools.
Head 45 minutes further south to Busselton and you’ll find a similar set-up on Geographe Bay. There’s an adventure playground on the foreshore that will keep the kids entertained for hours, and another smaller playground at the beachside Shelter Brewing Co, should parents get thirsty and need a reprieve from all the beach and playground action. At the beach, there’s a ‘shark smart’ swimming enclosure off the shore for safe swimming, and a kiosk dishing out icecreams, coffee, and hot chips. If the kids still have energy to burn by the end of the day, a walk to the end of the Busselton Jetty to visit the underwater observatory is a great way to expend it (there’s a train too for when little legs get tired).
Though they’re a little less reliant on infrastructure for fun, beaches like Meelup, just out of Dunsborough, and Greens Pool in Denmark are fantastic places to take the kids. Both beaches are protected and have shallow, calm, turquoise waters for the little ones to splash around in. Older kids can pop on a snorkel and have some fun exploring the sealife around the giant boulders of Greens Pool, or swimming along the rocky natural groynes at either end of Meelup beach.
Australia’s South West is synonymous with surf. With over 100 breaks along the coast, there are waves to suit every surfer and their relevant experience. The most experienced can give Surfer’s Point in Prevelly a crack. Known worldwide for its sizeable swells, this consistent reef break is also one of 12 stops on the World Surf League circuit. Those not brave enough to tackle the swell can sit and watch, fish and chips in hand, from the grassy knoll above the sand and waves.
Cowaramup Bay’s ‘North Point’ is up there with Surfers Point as being one of the finer breaks in the region but, again, not one for beginners. This powerful break is known for its hollow barrels that can easily push the 3m mark on a good day. Smaller surf can be found at Conto’s Beach, though the speed of these long waves and the reef beneath still render this spot one for the more experienced.
Grommets and beginners alike can find their footing in the sport on a friendlier break like that at Ocean Beach in Denmark. Not only does Denmark’s ‘home’ beach boast a more gentle wave, but there’s far less reef to contend with if you come off your board. On a smaller day, the reef break at Smiths Beach just south of Yallingup is also suitable for those just starting out. But, catch it when the swell is up and you’ve got a great challenge for the more initiated.
A calm bay is an ideal location for a day out on the SUP board, and Australia’s South West has plenty of spots that fit the bill.
Just out of Dunsborough and below the eastern tip of Cape Naturaliste, you’ll find the azure waters of Meelup Beach and Eagle Bay. Paddle along the shoreline from bay’s edge to bay’s edge or, for a more challenging adventure, manoeuvre yourself around the rocky headland and into Bunker Bay. Further south of the cape in Prevelly, the protected Gnarabup Beach offers pristine SUP-ing conditions. Enjoy a gentle paddle around the shallows or take your board out to the small reef break to test your balance and wave riding skills.
Along the southern coast, keen SUPers can make their way east of Albany to Little Beach, where the water is as calm as it is clear and blue. Confident SUPers can attempt to board around the headland and into the equally aesthetic Waterfall Beach, otherwise, it’s recommended beginners remain within the turquoise shallows. A little closer to town is Middleton Beach, arguably Albany’s most popular stretch of sand. At 5km long, there’s plenty of length to board with little to nil swell thanks to the protection of Michaelmas and Breaksea Islands in King George Sound.
Don a snorkel and get up close and personal with the marine creatures of Australia’s South West at the Yallingup Aquarium; a natural rockpool that lies halfway between Smiths Beach and Canal Rocks. Protected from the outside ocean by a granite rock island, this protected pool is a great spot to cut your teeth snorkelling. Ogle at the different varieties of seagrass and seaweed growing on the rocks, and follow the flitting fish for a show.
Larger marine life calls the south west coastline home too, with friendly fevers of smooth stingrays, black stingrays, and eagle rays inhabiting the shallow waters of Hamelin Bay. They can be seen from the shore as they gently glide across the ocean floor, looking for a crustacean and mollusc feed. Further north, in Bunbury, you can witness the daily dolphin swim-by at Koombana Bay. Join the volunteers from the Dolphin Discovery Centre to see them from a safe distance in the shallows, or book in advance to jump on a dolphin swim further out in the bay.
Keen anglers don’t always need a boat to get their feed of fish along the south west coast. Throw a line in from the shores of Yallingup Beach and, with a bit of luck, you could be frying up a few skippies, tailor, and some Australian salmon (seasonally) for dinner. The best spot to cast from along the bay is at Granny’s Pool, just north of the main car park. Head south towards Windy Harbour and the catch of the day changes slightly, with the likes of herring, King George whiting, and Australian Salmon all on the menu.