With endless stretches of coastline, and more than 10,000 beaches, Australia has no shortage of ridiculously stunning places to swim, wander, surf, or spread your towel out on for the day. There are so many popular beaches in Queensland that everyone seems to know so we picked three that take a bit of effort to get to because they're all on islands.
Burleigh Heads is a mecca for surfers, famous for its not so friendly silver-haired locals out on the waves because why wouldn’t you spend your silver-haired days on the Gold Coast? But it’s also one fine place to take a dip - in Tallebudgera Creek. Framed by Burleigh Heads National Park on one side and Palm Beach on the other this estuary is more like a tropical fantasy of a creek. With white sand, and the bluest of blue water you’ll lose a day here. Claim your spot on the sand and watch the endless stream of surfers file to Echo Beach. There’s also beach showers, gas BBQs and a surf club for a cold one at the end of the day.
Forget salt and sand, sometimes on a stinking hot day the best way to cool down is a deep swimming hole in a nice chilled river. Wappa Falls are not gigantic but there is enough gushing water to keep the natural swimming hole permanently full, and the falls are high enough that a jump from the top will pump some adrenalin into your system. The rocks above the falls get mighty slippery so be careful on your take off.
Wappa is on the Maroochy River and is a local fav, but it does get busy on the weekends. If there are too many people then head downstream to find some pools of your own to paddle about it. You car park is very close to the falls but there’s nothing else at Wappa so take everything in (and out).
It’s a highway, an air strip and a fisherman’s paradise but don’t expect to swim in the ocean along Fraser Island’s 75 Mile Beach. Due to the strong rips and abundance of sharks, swimming is not recommended along this vast stretch of sand. Luckily there’s the champagne pools where you can spend a day bathing in salt water. If you’re wondering why they’re called Champagne Pool, it’s because of the waves that crash over the rocks, creating foam on the water that fills the natural pools.
Another highlight and popular photo spot is the shipwreck of the Maheno. Bound for a wrecking yard in Japan, the Maheno was struck by a cyclone and beached in 1935. Nestled in its golden-sand grave, the rusty-colour wrecked contrasts beautifully with the turquoise ocean.
There are some strange names around this swimming hole. First off it’s called Polly McQuinns (who, rumour has it, was a bloke who couldn’t grow a beard back in the day) and it’s located on Seven Creeks but is actually a reservoir, weir, bridge and swimming hole on one creek. The creek was dammed on the northern side in the 1920s with a three sided weir so the water spills over the weir wall, goes under a bridge, over large exposed granite boulders, across a natural spillway, through a tunnel and down into a deep, cool, fantastic pool. All for your swimming pleasure on a sweltering day. Actually we were kidding about the tunnel but everything else is true. Well nearly. Rumour has it that Polly McGuinn’s ghost haunts this swimming hole because one night, when driving his horse and jinker home, he missed the bridge, fell in and drowned. But rumour also has it that the waterhole has no bottom, which explains why poor Polly, or his horse, where ever found. Perhaps he just drive his horse and jinker out of the narrow minded town that cared so much about his lack of beard.
Stretching over 7km of Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven Beach is the most photographed beach in the country and often voted the best beach in Australia. It’s not hard to see why photographers and tourists can’t get enough. With its crystal-clear tropical waters, and impossibly pure white silica sand, all framed by lush green bush, it’s a true tropical paradise. There’s great snorkelling just off the beach - the island is located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef after all - and plenty of space to spread out a picnic and play a game of cricket even during peak holiday times. We recommend exploring the northern end of the beach where you’ll find Hill Inlet. Here the water and swirling sand create a dazzling array of colour and shadows unlike anything you’ve seen before. Walk up to Tongue Point to get the best view of the inlet.
Whitehaven Beach is a 30 minute boat trip from Hamilton Island or you can get there via helicopter or seaplane.
If you can’t dunk yourself in the ocean at Dunk Island then it needs a name change. This tropical island, which is also a national park, is such an easy day trip from Mission Beach and is surrounded by very swimmable, dunkable beaches. Being a park there are loads of hiking tracks all over the island, wonderful and weird wildlife, and a peak to climb to the top of, Mt Kootaloo – to make that dunk at the end even better. The swimming at Muggy Muggy and The Spit are always reliable and if you’re lucky you might be swimming alongside a pelican. If not, certainly plenty of fish (also of great interest to the pelicans)
There’s a derelict resort on Dunk that was totally annihilated after Cyclone Yasi, in 2011, which makes for some very sad photos. But on the bright side, the café by the jetty is open and reliably good.
The green pool at the base of Millaa Millaa Creek Falls became famous when it appeared in a Herbal Essences commercial, promising to do beautiful things to your hair. We can’t promise it will do anything to your hair, other than make it wet, but the pool is certainly beautiful surrounded by tropical ferns and bright flowers, with jungly lush rainforest in the backdrop behind. The waterfall is 18 metres high and the first stop of three falls in a walking track but it’s understandable if you end up at the first pool for a few hours with its BBQ and picnic facilities, or walk to all three then come back to the pool for a long cool swim. Late afternoon often sees the odd platypus going for a dip too. You get to Millaa Millaa falls off the Palmerston Highway, five minutes from Millaa Millaa.
The small stretch of sand known as Nudey Beach is not easy to get to. You’ll need to catch a 45 minute ferry from Cairns then it’s a 15 minute walk through lush rainforest and coastal woodlands to get there. For your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful coral beach that boasts some epic snorkelling just off the shoreline, and was named the best beach in Australia in 2017. It’s located in Great Barrier Reef so you can expect to see colourful coral and a diverse array of tropical fish in the warm, tropical waters. Lay out a towel on the beach and take in the stunning views of the Cairns Hinterland. Behind you, large granite boulders and protected tropical rainforest will make you feel like you’re on a deserted island.
Despite its name, Nudey Beach is a family beach so bring your cozzie!