Blessed with almost 26,000km of coastline, Australian families long ago discovered prime water’s edge playgrounds that were so idyllic we made them into our most popular holiday spots. Compiling a true list of every family-friendly coastal holiday destination in the country would be an impossible task, so we’ve cherry-picked some of our favourites to bring you the BIG list of 20 Aussie coastal holidays!
Yes, Australia has sensational islands – from Tasmania, Lord Howe in NSW and Queensland’s fabulous Fitzroy, Daydream, Hamilton, Heron and Lizard Islands (and the ultra luxury of One&Only Hayman Island) – to beautiful Norfolk Island which, you no longer need a passport or visa to visit!
2. Sydney’s northern beaches
Right on Sydney’s doorstep are some of the city’s most beautiful, and popular, beaches – all perfect for day trips, including Newport, Mona Vale, Palm Beach, Whale Beach, Freshwater, Collaroy and Avalon. But Manly still holds the crown as the #1 stay and play family holiday fun spot in the area.
3. Central Coast NSW
So close to Sydney and Newcastle yet worlds away in lifestyle, families flock to the NSW Central Coast during the holidays and for weekend getaways – from Terrigal and Avoca to Budgewoi, Norah Head and The Entrance and Lake Macquarie – for sand, surf, sun, boating, fishing, camping and relaxing family escapes.
4. Port Stephens NSW
Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay, Anna Bay, Fingal Bay, Tanilba Bay, Soldiers Point, Salamander Bay or Lemon Tree Passage – take your pick of any, or all, of Port Stephens’ glorious family holiday destinations, just over two hours north of Sydney.
5. Port Macquarie NSW
‘Port’ is one of the jewels of the mid North Coast and a year-round drawcard for families, perfectly located midway between Sydney and Brisbane. Family-friendly attractions abound – many blessed by nature and others specifically created for fun! The region is also known for its incredible koala population, so a visit to the famous Koala Hospital and to Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park are a must on any family holiday itinerary.
6. Coffs Harbour NSW
‘Coffs’ is cool! The region boasts holiday towns including Nambucca Heads, Urunga and Bellingen and Coffs Harbour itself and offers all of the must-haves for a great family holiday on the coast. Beaches aplenty, adventure, action, attractions and a laid-back vibe permeate here!
7. Macleay Valley Coast NSW
South West Rocks, Hat Head and Crescent Head have been welcoming families for decades. Surf’s up, the water is clear and the sun always shines in this naturally awesome part of the NSW North Coast.
8. Ballina and Byron Bay NSW
Byron’s beaches are legendary – and sparkling – and Main Beach is a family favourite. Likewise, Ballina and Lennox Head beaches beckon – try Lighthouse Beach and Lennox Head Beach – but be sure to explore beyond the golden sands into the rainforest and the Byron Bay hinterland! Fly into Ballina or drive north on The Legendary Pacific Coast that runs all the way to Brisbane from Sydney, and pit stop at beautiful coastal towns, including family favourites Yamba and Evans Head.
9. South Coast, NSW
Where to start with the multitude of coastal holiday destinations that dot the stretch from The Royal National Park just south of Sydney to the border of Victoria? Much-loved towns like Kiama, Gerringong, Jervis Bay, Nowra, Mollymook, Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, Moruya, Mogo, Bega, Pambula, Merimbula, Eden and Tathra await – what a smorgasbord!
10. Phillip Island VIC
Home of the little penguins and renowned for the nightly beach parade of these gorgeous creatures, Phillip Island really is a playground destination for families. The famous Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is here plus the Antarctic Journey at The Nobbies Centre, the crazy Amaze’N Things, the Chocolate Factory and, of course, Penguins on Parade, and all under 2 hours’ drive from Melbourne!
11. Great Ocean Road VIC
A spectacular scenic drive leads to fam-tastic coastal towns and beaches in south-west Victoria – from Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, to Barwon Heads and Queenscliff, and Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay. This is one of the most popular family-friendly holiday regions in the state – look out for the world-famous 12 Apostles near Port Campbell!
12. Gippsland VIC
One of the longest uninterrupted beaches in the world– Ninety Mile Beach – stretches all the way from Port Albert, two hours out of Melbourne, north to the famous seaside holiday destination of Lakes Entrance. The beach is actually a 94 mile spread of golden sand as far as the eye can see, separating the Gippsland Lakes from Bass Strait. Gippsland is also home to Wilsons Promontory National Park … affectionately known as ‘The Prom’, it is one of the state’s best-loved parks.
13. Gold Coast QLD
It’s consistently at the very top of the pile when it comes to favourite Aussie family holiday destinations, and while Gold Coast beaches (Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Miami and Burleigh Heads to name just a handful) are inducement enough, the extra lure comes from the Gold Coast’s deserved reputation as the ‘Theme Park Capital of Australia’ with Sea World, Dreamworld, Movie World and Wet ‘n’ Wild all must-visits on any Gold Coast family holiday!
14. Sunshine Coast QLD
Beautiful one day… beautiful the next … they don’t call it the Sunshine Coast for nothing! Stretching along the Coral Sea are the premium coastal holiday towns of Noosa, Coolum, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba and Caloundra. You want beaches? You’ll run out of fingers and toes to count them on – all the way to the multi-coloured sands of the aptly named Rainbow Beach.
15. Tropical North Queensland QLD
You’re in Great Barrier Reef territory when you arrive in this exotic part of Queensland, where reef meets rainforest – Cairns, Mission Beach, Palm Cove and Port Douglas – and where the locals greet you with ‘Welcome to Paradise!’
16. Limestone Coast SA
Spectacular coastlines and beautiful beaches are hallmarks of South Australia’s Limestone Coast. Holiday here and explore picturesque seaside villages like Robe, Beachport, Southend and Port MacDonnell.
17. Eyre Peninsula SA
Right at the Spencer Gulf, this stunning region is a marine-lover’s paradise and the natural habitat for bottlenose dolphins, Australian sea lions and whales. You can see all this– and more – from one of the state’s most iconic national parks, Coffin Bay.
18. Coral Coast WA
Over 1000kms of white sandy beaches hug this incredible stretch of coastline in Western Australia. Shark Bay World Heritage Area and the clear turquoise waters of Shark Bay, the friendly dolphins of Monkey Mia and the gateways to the incredible Ningaloo Marine Park – Coral Bay and Exmouth – make the WA Coral Coast one of the most exciting coastal family holiday destinations in Australia.
19. Kimberley Coast WA
Adventure-loving families are drawn to explore the stunning and remote Kimberley Coast. A region of rugged natural beauty covering nearly 13,000km of coastline, the Kimberley coast also boasts more than 2,633 largely uninhabited islands, fringed by reefs, and is definitely a destination to place on the family wishlist!
20. East Coast TAS
Pristine and peaceful, this beautiful coastal part of Tasmania is famous for Bay of Fires, one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 regions in the world, and the stunning white beaches and crystal clear sea of Freycinet National Park. Families love making their holiday base at the beach at Bicheno and in the lovely township of St Helens, and venturing out for fun from there!