The most beautiful beaches in Queensland
If your idea of nirvana takes the form of salty seas and radiant sands, then you couldn’t be in a more perfect place right now.
While you can’t go wrong with 6,973 km of stunner coastline, there are some Queensland beaches that shine just a little brighter; boasting quirks and jaw-dropping vistas that will have you pinching yourself.
Are you ready for this (Queensland) jelly?
1. Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
Lined with towering palm trees and centuries-old paperbarks, this patch of coast north of Cairns has been dubbed by some as the Mediterranean of the tropics. Why? Cue warm weather and waters year-round, ‘laxed local vibes, and alfresco dining and boutique shopping stalking the beachfront promenade.
2. Cape Hillsborough, Mackay
Iconic Australian backdrops don’t get better than those at Cape Hillsborough, also known as Casuarina Beach. Like clockwork, troops of roos and wallabies come out at both dawn and dusk to where the national park meets the sea; feeding, playing (sometimes brawling), and of course, to pose it up for visitors who’ve come to watch the spectacle.
3. Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island
While the name might have you believe this is a nakation hot spot, legally, you can’t actually go starkers at Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island* (for the most part it’s fairly G-rated, so you don’t have to worry about leaving the youngins behind).
However, if you do make the short trek through the rainforest, past the huge granite boulders and coastal woodlands, to reach this island beach, and FORGET TO PACK YOUR SNORKEL GEAR, then that would be the true crime here, because fringing reefs are within a fins flip of the shore that’s made up by a mesmerising blend of sand and loose dead white coral.
*Eds note: Queensland has no legal nude beaches.
4. Noosa Main Beach, Sunshine Coast
What makes this beach one of the most beautiful largely has to do with the feel of the place just as much as the visual and physical delight.
Picture this: sunshine hitting you with some much-needed Vitamin D as you sunbathe at the forefront of Noosa Heads, admiring the national park headlands edging out on your right; calm, soothing waters lapping at the shore (being one of the only north-facing beaches on the east coast of Australia, tranquil conditions are pretty much a given), and behind you the famous Hastings Street tempting you with its delicious offerings and trendy shops awaiting your perusal.
Oh, and onsite beach massage therapists. You feelin’ what I’m puttin’ out?
5. Basil Bay, Keswick Island
Pray tell, is this not some of the clearest water you’ve ever laid online eyes on?
This is a place where expectation meets (and exceeds) reality; a beach giving the term ‘crystal’ an almost literal meaning. You’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard of it sooner, but the protected waters of Basil Bay are relatively unknown, even though it’s the most popular swimming spot on the island.
But with no big island chains or resorts at home here, it might have been easy to let this understated paradise slip under the radar.
6. Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast
Because when the sun sets behind that Gold Coast skyline… *sigh*.
Nestled between the glitz of the north and laid-back vibes of the south, the beach at Burleigh Heads offers the best of both worlds: protected waters at the main beach and world-class surf breaks around the headlands.
But what stands out most are the killer views walking down from the foreshore (fringed by giant pine trees, mind you). Catching your eye almost immediately when you reach the water’s edge are the misty skyscrapers lining the coast from Broadbeach to Surfers Paradise. Not too shabby, Burleigh.
7. Lover’s Cove, Daydream Island
What it lacks in size, Lover’s Cove sure makes up for in its good looks.
Frequented by those getting hitched and visitors to Daydream Island, the beauty of this small (and totally dreamy) inlet really hits you in the feels once you’ve stepped off the sand and immersed yourself in its turquoise blues.
Within a breath, you’ll be surrounded by coral gardens and an abundance of tropical marine life in an au naturale Great Barrier Reef aquarium.
8. Radical Bay, Magnetic Island
It wasn’t easy picking just one of the 23 bays and beaches of Magnetic Island, but with a name like Radical Bay, you’d expect a scene that matches this so-called rad factor. And let me tell you, it does.
Going snap-crazy is a given here, with its hoop-pine and boulder-strewn headlands, sky-high coconut palms, fringing reefs, and its most distinguishing feature, an abandoned stage and piano on the beach.
9. Rainbow Beach, Sunshine Coast
Rainbow Beach might be the gateway to the largest sand island in the world, but the coastal beach town is packin’ some pretty bad-ass natural wonders of its own.
Walking south along the main beach you’ll find the Coloured Sands, a mass of sandy cliffs reaching up to 200 metres high, sprinkled by a palette of over 72 different colours of sand. Aboriginal legend tells that Yiningie, the spirit of the gods, often took the form of a rainbow, and when he was killed in a fight over a young woman, he crashed into the cliffs and his spirit coloured these sands.
Then, there’s the moonscape of the Carlo Sand Blow – a unique sand mass covering over 15 hectares overlooking the towers of Coloured Sands, with 360-degree views stretching out to Double Island Point and Tin Can Bay. (Hot tip: Get yourself up here at sunset or sunrise. Pure magic, I tell ya.)
10. Mon Repos Beach, Bundaberg
What could be more beautiful than watching the miracle of life unfold before your very eyes?
Each year from November to late March, Mon Repos Beach turns into a scene straight out of an Attenborough doco when thousands of teeny tiny loggerhead turtles hatch and make their sandy trek across the beach into their home on the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
11. Punsand Bay Beach, Cape York
Punsand Bay Beach is about as far north in Australia as you can get, and is one of the only places in Queensland where you can watch the sun set AND rise from the same beach!
Standing at the edge of the Cape York coast, you’re basically in a sea sandwich where two (underwater) worlds meet: the Coral Sea to your left and Arafura Sea to your right.
If you find yourself one of the fortunate few who make the pilgrimage to the tip each year, make sure you do Punsand Bay right, and take a beer and some pizza and plonk yourself on the soft sand to watch the sun go down. #nowthat’slivinbarry
12. Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island
I know it’s got the word ‘lake’ in it, but this beauty still counts as an inland beach, with white silica sands that melt into a perched pot of sparkling freshwater.
I’m talking soft sand, no sea critters, and water clarity mimicking that of streak-free Windexed glass. Enough said. *mic drop*
13. Whitehaven Beach, The Whitsundays
You didn’t think we’d leave out the best beach in Australia, did you?
Taking the crown for the fourth year in a row in Tripadvisor’s 2016 Travellers’ Choice Awards, Whitehaven Beach continues to top the charts as a true pageant contender when it comes to beach aesthetics.