The most beautiful beaches in Queensland
As a state with 6,973 km of coastline, it’s safe to say, we have no shortage of Queensland beaches for you to explore.
What our beaches share in common – sun, salt and sand – are also worlds apart in their differences. From the surf breaks of the Sunshine Coast, to the dining scene of the Gold Coast to island hopping the Whitsundays, Queensland beaches offer more variety than an Allen’s party mix.
Get to know our most beautiful beaches, with this guide to your next adventure.
1. Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
The former crowned winner of ‘Australia’s cleanest beach’, Palm Cove Beach, lives up to its title.
Lined with towering palm trees and centuries-old paperbarks, this patch of coast, 20 minutes north of Cairns brings Mediterranean vibes to Tropical North Queensland. Don’t believe us? We’ve got 10 reasons why, here.
Toss down a towel, bob in Palm Cove’s calm water, before retreating to one of the cafes or restaurants along the esplanade for an apres-beach brunch.
While most of the cafes keep things relaxed, you’ll want to hop out of your swimmers for NuNu, the award-winning restaurant led by chef Nick Holloway which fuses Asian flavours with fresh local produce. Pineapple and turmeric curry of ginger braised pork, young coconut, Thai basil & crackle, anybody?
2. Cape Hillsborough, Mackay
Sunrise doesn’t get more iconic in Australia than the one caught at Cape Hillsborough National Park’s Casuarina Beach.
Every morning a mob of ‘roos and wallabies come out at dawn to fossick for seed pods and other delicious snacks that washed up the night before. It’s a natural performance you can set your watch to and seriously, you’ll want to because you need to get down to the beach before sunrise.
To find it, simply point your bonnet towards Mackay’s Hibiscus Coast, home to the second-largest national park in the region, Cape Hillsborough National Park.
Be mindful these are wild creatures who retreat when frightened. For the enjoyment of other guests, we remind all beachgoers to keep a distance and save selfies for domesticated pets at home.
3. Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island
Don’t worry, you won’t need to get your kit off to visit Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island. The name is nothing but false advertising, unless its reference to nudes points to its raw, rugged and natural appeal.
To get there, join Fitzroy Island Fast Cat for either a day trip or overnight adventure to this island paradise.
Once you’re island side, to find this beach, make the short trek through the rainforest, past the huge granite boulders and coastal woodlands.
Swimmers and snorkelling gear are essential elements for exploring this beach, whose fringing reef is just a fins-flip from the shore.
After seeing turtles in the wild, pay a visit to Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (on the island) to learn what goes into the recovery of sick and injured turtles. For more information about how to save our turtle-friends, float over here.
4. Noosa Main Beach, Sunshine Coast
It’s not just us who think Noosa Main Beach is one of the most beautiful Queensland beaches. Noosa records over 2.36 million visitors each year, all lured to its triple threat of beach, national park and a dining scene that makes playing here pure bliss.
Being one of the only north-facing beaches on the east coast of Australia, tranquil conditions are almost always the surf report here.
When you’re done with sun, sand and salt water for the day, you can retreat to the famous boutiques of Hastings Street or wine and dine at one of Noosa’s award-winning restaurants like Noosa Beach House, Sails or Wasabi.
Sure Noosa can be done in a day trip. But really, if you want to pick up the relaxed vibes this coastal town puts down, check into Noosa for at least 48 hours.
5. Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast
When a destination has 57km of beach, it’s hard to stand out, but Burleigh Heads sure does a good job of making its mark on the Gold Coast.
Nestled between 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.
When you’re tired of seeing it from towel-level, Burleigh delivers a bar and dining scene including big names like Fish House, Rick Shores and Burleigh Pavilion, each with even bigger reputations for good food, wines and views.
Like where this is going? Why not spend 48 hours beaching it in Burleigh with this guide?
6. Radical Bay, Magnetic Island
Magnetic by name, magnetic by nature – and you’ll see what we’re talking about with a visit to Radical Bay, one of the 23 bays and beaches of Magnetic Island.
Few Queensland beaches look like ‘Maggie’ with its hoop-pine and boulder-strewn headlands, sky-high coconut palms and fringing reefs.
Be sure to pack or hire snorkelling equipment for your Maggie visit. This island 13.9km off the shore of Townsville even has a self-guided snorkel trail which starts at Nelly Bay.
It’s perfect for beginners, with the first site starting 100 metres off the beach, building up to the remains of a shipwreck, the SS Moltke, and part of a World War II fighter plane. Swing over to this post to find out why it’s one of the best snorkel spots in Queensland.
For more information about this island, which, rumour has it, stopped James Cook in his tracks, check out:
- Why Magnetic Island is perfect for kids
- These things to do on Maggie
- How to spend 48 hours on this island paradise
- How to see Magnetic Island from land, air and sea
7. Rainbow Beach, Sunshine Coast
It wasn’t actual rainbows that gave this stretch of beach on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast its name. Rather, the coloured sand cliffs which reach over 200 metres high, made up of over 72 different colours of sand that add the rainbow to this beach.
Geology tells a story of winds weathering the cliffs, but Aboriginal legend offers a much more exciting account. Yiningie, the spirit of the Gods, who often took the form of a rainbow, crashed into the cliffs and his spirit coloured these sands after a fight.
The best way to see the rainbow is by car, tackling the Great Beach Drive which runs from Noosa to Rainbow Beach.
The sand landforms don’t stop here. Visit the Carlo Sand Blow – a desert sand mass covering over 15 hectares offers 360-degree views over Rainbow Beach stretching out to Double Island Point and Tin Can Bay.
8. Mon Repos Beach, Bundaberg
Every one of Queensland’s beaches might be magical, but not all promise the magic of life.
You’d be right to think of Mon Repos beach as a turtle obstetrics unit. Each year from November to late March, Mon Repos Beach turns into a scene straight out of an Attenborough documentary when thousands of teeny tiny loggerhead turtles hatch and make their way to the water.
Get up to speed with everything to do with nesting season, over on this post.
9. Punsand Bay Beach, Cape York
Few beaches in Queensland can lay claim to being able to watch the sun set AND rise from the same beach, but Punsand Bay does.
To find it, you’ll have to drive Cape York to (almost) the northern most point of Australia, at least to the point the Coral Sea is to your left and Arafura Sea to your right.
If you find yourself one of the fortunate few (50,000-70,000, year) who make the pilgrimage to the tip, make sure you do Punsand Bay right. That is, watching the sun go down with a pizza and a beer from the café on site.
Thinking of tackling Cape York this year? Check out:
10. Tangalooma Beach, Brisbane
Not many cities have a beach just 75 minutes from its capital, but Brisbane has Tangalooma and when you see it for the first time, you’d be right to think the water looks like Bora Bora. Expect bright, crystal clear water and golden sand on Moreton Island’s east side.
Getting there is as easy as jumping aboard the Tangalooma Island Resort Ferry or travelling with your own wheels aboard the vehicle ferry, MICAT.
Suffer beach boredom? Tangalooma Island Resort will bust it.
The Tangalooma Island Resort activity desk will hook you up with snorkelling, ATV quad bikes and kayaking to name a few different beach adventures, so you won’t be stuck on a towel, struggling to get through a book.
11. Mooloolaba Main Beach, Sunshine Coast
If you’re looking for a beach holiday where you can see your holiday apartment from the beach, check into a hotel along the esplanade of Mooloolaba Main Beach.
Once you’ve had your dose of vitamin sea, make like the other visitors to this Sunshine Coast hotspot who can be found wining and dining along the beachfront.
It’s not just us who think this beach is worthy of a mention on this list, Moolooalaba Main Beach was recently nominated in TripAdvisor’s Top Ten Australian Beaches.
12. Cylinder Beach, North Stradbroke Island
The second largest sand island in the world, North Stradbroke Island needs no introduction if you’ve read any of these posts (48 hours on North Stradbroke Island and a local’s guide to North Stradbroke Island).
It’s home to sun, sand and surf, but importantly a campground that makes this beach so much more than a day trip destination.
You’ll find it nestled between Cylinder and Home Beach Headlands, which makes it relatively protected when the weather is right.
Even though parts of Stradbroke Island are pet-friendly, Cylinder Beach is not one of them, so leave pooch at home for this beach trip.
13. Whitehaven Beach, The Whitsundays
Last but not least, Australia’s best beach, as voted by you (and us!) – Whitehaven Beach.
Consistently crowned and listed in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards, Whitehaven Beach remains an international crowd pleaser.
If you ever get tired of the white silica sands of Whitehaven Beach, you can always island hop your way around the other 74 islands with this guide.