A local’s guide to Brisbane’s best beaches
Think Brisbane is all big city lights and skyscrapers? Guess again.
There’s really no other capital city like it in Australia: there’s the high-culture and top-notch food and shopping that’s expected, but flip over to the other side of the coin and you’ll find a tonne of un-city-like experiences.
Take its beach scene (yep, there’s actually a scene), which is as diverse in location as it is in experience.
From smack-bang in the middle of the city to an island coast just a half-hour ferry ride from the mainland, Brisbane – surprisingly – has all ends of the salty spectrum covered.
If you’ve got the kids in tow
SUTTONS BEACH, REDCLIFFE
The M1 doesn’t always make a beach day from Brisbane an easy one – let alone with a bunch of “are we there yet’s” coming from the back seat. So if you want to bypass the motorway, try Suttons Beach in Redcliffe.
This northern ‘burb provides one of the best beaches within reach; the perfect combo of sand, sea and sun for your little ones. Think gentle waves at the patrolled beach, plenty of parking, shady grassy areas to picnic and run about in, free BBQs, and a fort-style playground where they can let their sea-side imaginations run wild.
While you can always rely on this patch of coast for its calm conditions, if you want to up the safety factor, just head 450m north to the Settlement Cove Lagoon – a free sea-front pool fringed by towering palms with a lizard-squirting, mushroom-fountain wading pool for youngins. (Plus, there’s a playground!)
Eats nearby: While you can’t go wrong with classic takeaway-style fish ‘n’ chips from the local convenience store opposite Suttons Beach, if you want to go all out we suggest starting your day with homemade pancakes at Oasis On the Esplanade followed by a seafood basket from Yabbey Road for lunch (parentals, grab yo’ selves a beer while you’re there).
Planning to stick around the lagoon for most of the day? The kiosk has your hot food and ice-cream needs sorted.
WESTERN BEACHES OF BRIBIE ISLAND
As the only island in Queensland connected to the mainland by bridge, it comes as a no-brainer why Bribie is a top contender when it comes to family beach breaks ’round these parts.
Head to the western side of the island where the placid waters of the Pumicestone Passage allow for safe swimming all along the foreshore, with sheltered picnic and BBQ facilities, playgrounds and easy shore fishing.
Starting from the north, sleepy Banksia Beach is perfect for eager water babies to splash about in while dad casts off in his dinghy from the sand boat ramp to catch a fresh seafood lunch.
Sylvan Beach is another popular spot for beach-loving broods, with its sheltered waters and family-friendly amenities.
If you’re travelling with slightly older munchkins, set your sights on Bongaree Beach in the south where they can bomb-dive and fish straight off the jetty.
Tip: Bring the bikes and beach-hop along the scenic foreshore trail, with a stop at the Seaside Museum to school-up on the local history.
Eats nearby: Pack the rods and reels – and a few snags while you’re at it – and make good use of the picnic and BBQ facilities at each beach.
Can’t be stuffed with DIY? Grab fresh local-caught seafood from Savige’s Seafood near the Bongaree Jetty, or dine-in at Happy’s Cafe and Arcade and order one of their burgers on steroids (there’s also a decent range of vegetarian options available plus two ’80s arcade game tables to keep the kids, well, happy!).
Coffee and croissants are taken care of by Evolve Espresso Bar, but if you want something a little more fancy, opt for the stylin’ deck of Kai Cafe and Restaurant overlooking the Passage (their menu is like a Kinder Surprise, ever-changing to suit the season).
If you want foodie and shopping options
STREETS BEACH, SOUTH BANK
A destination in itself, Streets Beach is unlike any other salty haven you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Sitting Insta-ready amongst the lush parklands of South Bank, you’ll almost forget you’re in the heart of the city as you lap up the glassy conditions of the lagoon and the soft white sands and sub-tropical plants surrounding it.
That is, until you gaze out and spot the CBD’s highrises.
Free to use and patrolled year-round, it’s perfect for those craving a beach trip with the pros of #citylyf… aka a plethora of food and shopping options on the side.
And that you have here, folks, with plenty of choices stretching from the parklands and foodie strips along Little Stanley Street and Grey Street, even across the river to the bustling Queen Street Mall which is a quick ferry ride or 20-minute walk.
Eats nearby: Where do we even start?
You’re guaranteed to find something to suit all tastes here, from authentic Italian at Popolo and humble Greek street food at Zeus, to the dumpling gods at Harajuku Gyoza or pub-style feasting at the Southbank Beer Garden overlooking the lagoon.
Our recommendation? Decide on what food-mood you’re in – pub, cafe, fine-dining, bar, dessert – and go from there.
If you want great surf
WOORIM BEACH, BRIBIE ISLAND
Brisbane’s closest patrolled surf beach, Woorim, on the ocean-facing side of Bribie Island is serving – or should we say surfing – up ideal conditions for those keen to learn.
Sheltered by southernly swells courtesy of Moreton Island, you’ll find small rolling waves and sand-bottomed beach breaks perfect for honing the fundamental basics of surfing. (Need a little guidance? The Bribie Island Surf School has got you covered.)
Like its western beaches mentioned above, Woorim is also super family-friendly, with a skate park and playground nearby plus a heap of BBQ and picnic spots to set yourselves up for the day.
Eats nearby: Start the day right with a fresh fruit bowl with acai sorbet or a roasted vegetable and haloumi stack at Benny’s Cafe. For lunch, you can’t beat the iconic Birbie Island Surf Club for the top-notch pub-grub and epic views overlooking the beach.
CYLINDER BEACH, NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
Want to up the surf stakes? Turn your day trip into a weekend rendezvous and jet over to North Stradbroke Island.
Straddie – the second largest sand island in the world after good ol’ Fraser – is the go-to island escape for Brisbanites, taking a zippy 25 minutes for foot passengers on the water taxi or 45 minutes on the vehicle ferry if you want to bring your wheels along (hit up Stradbroke Island Ferries).
But back to what you’re really after – the epic surf you’re going to find here.
Cylinder Beach is a great choice for beginners, with its gentle peeling waves and generally consistent, mellow right-handers. And if you’re still green to the sport, the team over at North Stradbroke Island Surf School will help you skill up.
Aside from its prime surf appeal, Cylinder is still one of the most popular beaches on the island, being fully patrolled, easily accessible, and looking oh-so-pretty tucked between the Cylinder and Home Beach headlands.
Eats nearby: Take a leaf from Joe Jonas with some cake by the ocean at Coffee in Cylinder’s, who are pouring their golden brew and stuffing you with tasty treats from their vintage coffee trailer under the paperbarks on the beach foreshore.
If you need something a little more hearty to fuel you up, head to Point Lookout for American-style burgers and hot dogs at Sisco’s Philly Cheez or grab a fish ‘n’ chip combo pack from Fishes Cafe.
And of course, you can’t leave until you’ve grabbed a scoop or two (definitely make it two) of homemade ice-cream from Oceanic Gelato.
MAIN BEACH, NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
Another Straddie stunner, Main Beach should only be tackled by experienced surfers who live for big swells.
Offering 32-glorious-kilometres of unspoilt sand and surf, you’ve got plenty of room to play with and less crowds, but if you want to add some snorkelling and scuba diving to the mix, stick close to the north wall.
Heads up – if you’re just admiring from the headland, keep an eye out for dolphins and whales amongst the surfing action!
Eats nearby: You won’t find much along this strip, so either head back to Point Lookout or pack some lunch if you’re keen to spend a full day out here.
If you want to bring your pooch
Two-legged folk aren’t the only ones who love a good salty sesh.
If you want to treat your fur babies to a beach day, let them roam free at these off-leash beaches:
NUDGEE BEACH, NUDGEE
But it’s Tuckeroo Park and the tidal section of the beach that are the true stars here, giving your pooches both a fenced adventure park obstacle course plus their very own patch of sand and sea to splash about in.
If you’ve got a pup or haven’t yet taken your dog to the beach before, this is the perfect introduction to the salty seas, with easy-roaming flat sand banks and consistently calm water conditions (no dumping waves here!).
*To preserve this unique ecosystem make sure you keep your dogs from venturing into the wetlands.
Eats nearby: It might be the only cafe in Nudgee, but even if it weren’t, Pam’s Cafe would still be the pick of the day with their classic Aussie takaway dishes like hamburger, steak sangas and fisn ‘n’ chips.
Grab your feast to-go and take a seat at one of the picnic tables near the park.
RED BEACH, BRIBIE ISLAND
Never heard of Red Beach? Well, it’s time you and your pooch got acquainted with this unknown hot spot real fast.
Pawfect for adventuresome four-legged friends (and owners who don’t mind running after them for a couple of k’s), this off-leash beach on Bribie is basically one giant mass of wild exploration for dogs, with an endless strip of white sand and vine-covered dunes rounding to Woody Bay in the east and to the Woorim off-leash dog section in the west.
Heads up, there are no amenities at this beach, so make sure you’ve got a couple of poop bags on hand and don’t forget to take all your rubbish with you.
Eats nearby: Bribie is a dog-loving island, so there are a few choices where you can both sit-down and relax.
In Bongaree, you can grab a burger from Happy’s Cafe and Arcade or enjoy some fresh seafood at Blue Anchorage, where the kind folks are happy to provide your dog with some fresh water while you dine at one of the outdoor tables.
The bakery here is also partial to a little fur-loving if you’re in the mood for pastries and coffee.
RABY BAY FORESHORE PARK, CLEVELAND
Over on Brisbane’s south side, Raby Bay Foreshore Park on the Cleveland coast is the epitome of beach freedom for your dog.
We’re talking one large unfenced off-leash area with grass, sand, and surf for them to socialise and run amuck.
Follow Masthead Drive where you’ll find the sign for this all dawgy-dawg designated section just before Sentinel Court near the roundabout.
Eats nearby: Jump in the car and head up to the fish ‘n’ chip takeaway kiosk at the Lighthouse for a seaside dinner and ice-cream – you can take a seat near the cafe or under the giant Moreton Bay Figs of the Cleveland Point Reserve across the road.
If you want calm waters
SOUTH GORGE BEACH, NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
Taking the crown as one of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland, South Gorge Beach is a must for anyone visiting Straddie (whether you like waves or not).
Sandwiched between the Surf Life Saving Club at Point Lookout and North Gorge Headlands, it’s guarded by the island’s massive cliff faces and protected from most winds, meaning calm inshore waters ’round the clock.
Earn your dip by working up a sweat along the North Gorge Walk beforehand, keeping your eyes peeled for dolphins and giant turtles riding the waves below (no joke).
Eats nearby: Head back to the main strip on Mooloomba Road where you’ll find a range of eats from bakery delights to fresh seafood, casual cafe dining and gelato.
Just after a cold one? The surf club’s bar is open every weekend from 3pm serving icy bevies and Pacific Ocean views to match.
AMITY POINT, NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
Turning over to Straddie’s more restful side, Amity Point on the north western front is ideal for those seeking a more ‘laxed island experience.
Rocking a low-key seaside village feel, you’ll find the calm bay waters of the netted swimming enclosure to the side of the jetty a safe retreat from dumping waves (hallelujah!).
Speaking of the famous jetty, it’s the place to be on the island if you want to spot dolphins – they’re regular visitors here at sunset and at night!
While it’s standard to bring the fishing gear to cast off at the jetty, make sure you also pack some snorkel gear as the rock walls on either side are teeming with marine life for your aquatic viewing pleasure.
Eats nearby: If you can’t be bothered catching your own fish, drop into local favourite Rufus King Seafood and pick up some freshness straight off the trawlers (FYI, it would be a sin not to grab a kilo of their huge Straddie prawns).
Prefer to leave the cooking to someone else? Drop in to Seashells for a solid brekkie, lunch or dinner.
Don’t fret if you miss the ice-cream van doing his rounds, because the general store can satisfy your sweet desires and hot food takeaway needs.
BULWER BEACH, MORETON ISLAND
It may be sitting a good 40kms or so off the coast of Brisbane, but boy, is Bulwer Beach worth the journey.
If you haven’t yet experienced the charms of Moreton Island beyond Tangalooma – which let’s be honest is still epic as we point out in the next section – then you’re in for a treat, friends.
(Take a squiz of this 48-hour itinerary to see what we’re talking ’bout.)
Aside from the fact Bulwer has it’s very own shallow shipwreck to snorkel about (fishing from here is pretty good too), you’ll also find calm conditions and a white sandy beach with water so blue that it physically pains you just how perfect it is.
Getting here might be a bit of a mission, but 4WDing along the coastal and inland tracks is definitely half the fun of this beach.
Eats nearby: Castaways Store and Cafe is where it’s at in Bulwer.
Relaxed dining is taken literally here, where shoes are optional while you dine-in for brekkie, a lazy lunch (their seafood basket is the cheapest we’ve ever laid eyes on, coming with chips and salad for just 19 bucks!), or dinner (get the Reef and Beef because #islandlyf).
The general store has got all your island essentials from food staples to hire gear and fuel.
If you want snorkelling and diving
TANGALOOMA BEACH, MORETON ISLAND
Swim. Snorkel. Dive. Repeat.
Yep, that’s basically the deal going down at Tangalooma Beach thanks to the island’s famous Wrecks on Moreton Island, 17 vessels which were deliberately sunk just off shore to form a breakwall for small boats and create an exciting wreck dive and snorkel site.
Don’t forget the GoPro and selfie stick because you’ll want to snap the crap out of this colourful underwater world as you go hull-to-hull exploring the abundance of marine life and tropical fish who call this home.
If you’ve got your own boat to get here, then what the heck are you waiting for?!
If not, the MICAT passenger ferry runs day trips dropping you off right at the wrecks, where you can swim straight from the beach and into this real life aquarium (make sure you pay attention to tide times and currents).
Eats nearby: Tangalooma Island Resort‘s got you covered with an array of dining choices from the exotic and spicy flavours of the Asian-fusion Fire and Stone Restaurant, to token hot food classics at the Beach Cafe and or the newly opened meat lovers heaven, Copper Grill.
If you want the sand and seas all to yourself
DEADMAN’S BEACH, NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
Steal yourself away from the island’s main drags with a trip to Deadman’s Beach, sitting snug between the North Gorge headlands and Cylinder Beach.
Don’t let the name scare you because this beach is b-e-a-utiful. Accessed via a walking track along East Coast Road at Point Lookout, it’s mostly secluded thanks to the bum-burning workout of the tonne of stairs it takes to get there and back.
But alas, it pays off to have this beauty all to yourself, and although it’s not patrolled (best to keep water activities to the main beaches mentioned above), it’s nice to just escape the crowds and do a little beach-combing and rock-hopping in peace (keep watch for small fish, shells and crabs as you explore the rock pools).
Eats nearby: Before heading down grab some goodies from Point Lookout for a private beach picnic.
HONEYMOON BAY, MORETON ISLAND
With a name like that, you just know you’re in for one good lookin’ beach.
The picturesque half-moon shaped Honeymoon Bay is located right at the tip of Moreton Island in between Cape Moreton and North Point, and while swimming is not advised (rough waters + no patrol = not ideal), it’s still worth checking out on your island travels because you’re nearly guaranteed to have the spot all to yourself (and it’s so pretty!).
Since you’re heading that way, you may as well tie in a trip to the lighthouse and Champagne Pools to really grasp Moreton’s magic.
Eats nearby: This part of the island is quite remote, so you can either pack your own food or pop into Castaways Store and Cafe in Bulwer along the way.