Whatever the weather, nothing quite compares to the sound of waves, the feel of sand in your toes, the smell of salty air and spectacular views of vast blue ocean.
The South Coast region, only a short drive from Canberra, is home to hundreds of wonderful beaches. It’s worth packing the car and grabbing your beach towel for an adventure surrounded by stunning scenery. If you’re planning a day trip or holidaying, you’ll want to choose the best beach for your needs, whether that’s in Shoalhaven or Eurobodalla Shire.
In this article, we’ll outline the qualities to consider when choosing a beach, and share where to find the best on the South Coast.
What makes a great beach?
Choosing the right beach can make or break your day. If you’re a family, for example, you might want a beach that’s calm so the kids can play safely. Serious surfers will want mega waves. Beach walkers might be keen on a super long beach with soft sand. If you’re a couple on a get-away, you may want a smaller beach where you can enjoy a quiet dip.
You might also want a beach that offers picnic spots, shade and amenities like toilets, showers, bbqs and picnic tables. If you have pets, you’ll want a pet-friendly beach. You might also want parking close by.
It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a great beach.
- Swimming, surfing, safety. If you want large waves, head to a surf beach. If you just want to dip your toes in the water, find a calmer beach. If swimming between the flags is important, go to a patrolled beach.
- Scenery. Think about type of scenery when choosing a beach. Perhaps you like rugged headlines or long stretches of white sand.
- Facilities. Not all beaches have full facilities, like showers, change rooms, toilets, or picnic areas. Check online to see what beaches offer.
- Food and drink. If you’re going to be on the beach for a short time, you might not need food and drink facilities. But if you’re making a day of it, you might want to add to your experience with hot and fresh fish and chips or a cool ice-cream. Check online to see what offerings are nearby.
- Parking and distance. If you’re driving to the beach, you’ll want convenient parking. Some beaches have a small number of parking spaces. Some many more. Also bear in mind the walking distance from the parking area to the actual beach.
The best beaches near Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Barlings is like a little taste of Thailand in our own backyard. Clear blue water, islands on the horizon and great snorkeling. The curving kilometre-long sand beach faces due south between Barlings Island and Melville Point. The eastern corner provides a sheltered spot perfect for stand-up paddling and water sports, with tiny waves and no rips. Toward the centre and the south the wave height increases to average 1.5 m against Melville Point. Keep an eye out for rips here, although it's a popular spot for surfers.
Once a hidden gem, McKenzies Beach is a small, beautiful, undeveloped beach, popular with locals and visitors alike. It is a great spot for surfing or body boarding but watch for rips. Located just south of the main surf beach at Malua Bay, it has no amenities but a stunning outlook. In the off-season you might even have it to yourself. Watch for the turn off from George Bass Drive as it is not signposted. Access to the beach is via a carpark next to the beach. When it's busy, don't be tempted to park along the highway or your day out could come with a fine attached.
Depot Beach, surrounded by Murramarang National Park in Shoalhaven, features a towering spotted gum forest, scenic walks and abundant wildlife. It’s a beautiful surf beach with great fishing and plenty of wildlife. Eastern grey kangaroos and amazing birdlife live along the beach. Depot Beach is 600 metres long with snow white sand. The views are amazing, including from the Depot Beach picnic area. Tourists and visitors love exploring surrounding bushland, including on the Rock Platform and Depot Beach Rainforest walks.
Broulee Beach, Eurobodalla Shire, is a long-time favourite and ideal for families. The scenery is spectacular, the water crystal clear and marine life abundant and colourful. This long beach, with its relaxed vibe, is great for diving, surfing, snorkelling, kayaking and fishing. The southern end is the starting point for the four-kilometre Broulee Islands Reserve Walk, with outstanding views along the coast. The beach has plenty of amenities. This includes a surf club, bathrooms and showers.
Located in the area of Bawley Point, Shoalhaven, Bawley Beach is surrounded by stunning natural beauty and is a haven for swimming, surfing, fishing and bushwalking. The sand and water are pristine. Bawley Point Beach is a relaxed, slightly curving 270 metre-long beach that provides some protection from southerly waves. It’s a beautiful family beach and a favorite for sports lovers too. The area features more than a dozen beaches, all accessible from Murramarang Road.
Surrounded by the luscious greenery of Murramarang National Park, Pretty Beach in Shoalhaven lives up to its name. Kangaroos and wildlife are a common sight, and the idyllic waters are perfect for swimming. Pretty Beach is also renowned for its stunning sunsets. The picnic area offers dramatic coastal views, a tree-shaded picnic and barbecue spot. Fishing is great and so are the walks around the area. This southeast-facing pocket beach is 250 metres in length. It’s not patrolled.
Murramarang Beach is one of the longer beaches in the Bawley Point area (Shoalhaven). It’s great for walking and playing beach games. The beach has beautifully soft sand and the scenery is second to none. This picture-perfect, secluded beach is close to several coastal walks. This includes a fascinating walk around the Murramurang Aboriginal Area. Explore the southern headland and look for migrating whales and sea eagles. The beach often has strong rips and isn’t patrolled.
Kioloa Beach in Shoalhaven offers great nature-based activities and attractions. Kioloa is surrounded by pristine water and bushland. It’s protected from the Pacific Ocean by Belowla Island, making it a favourite swimming spot with families. Local kangaroos like to veg out near the beach, snacking on grass. There are plenty of nature-based activities and attractions, including nature walks. Ocean front camping is available. A lookout, which is wheelchair accessible, is a great place to spot migrating whales and other wildlife.
If you’re looking for more information on commercial litigation in Canberra, you might like our articles on 10 things to do on the New South Wales South Coast, the best hotels and resorts and the best restaurant and bars that the South Coast has to offer.
Your experience with beaches along the South Coast
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the beaches listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for when choosing a South Coast beach?
You can consider many factors when choosing a South Coast beach. Check if the beach is great for diving, surfing, snorkelling. Or if it’s great for kayaking and fishing. You might need to check if the beach is family friendly (or dog friendly) and if it’s patrolled. You may want parking close by and amenities such as bathrooms and showers. Some beach goers want to be close to places they can buy food and drink, including good old fish and chips.
Are all South Coast beaches patrolled?
Not all South Coast beaches are patrolled. Some are for certain hours. It’s best to check the Shoalhaven or Eurobodalla tourism websites for information on beach safety. You can also visit beachsafe.org.au and download the Beachsafe app.
How do I know if a beach is safe to swim in?
Patrolled beaches are the safest beaches to swim in. You need to beware of rip currents, a top hazard on Australian beaches. You’ll want to watch out for marine creatures, like bluebottles, which can harm you. Head to beachsafe.org.au for local conditions, lifesaving services, safety advice and other information. You can also download the Beachsafe app.
Are all beaches family friendly along the South Coast?
With children, it’s wise to use a patrolled beach and swim between the flags. Some beaches have amenities and picnic areas. You might need to check how far it is to walk to the beach, especially with little ones in tow. Many families favour protected and calm beaches or beaches with playgrounds, benches and picnic tables.
Are all South Coast beaches pet friendly?
Not all South Coast beaches allow pets. Some do with restricted areas and certain times. It’s best to check the Shoalhaven or Eurobodalla tourism websites for rules on taking pets to the beach.