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Best Beaches in South East Queensland

Home > Brisbane > Beaches | Escape the City | Free | Lists | Outdoor
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published March 3rd 2016
Let's go in search of SEQ's most perfect beach
Best Beaches in South East Queensland

The perfect beach is usually not that big, has an offshore break for surfers which also shelters the beach itself for swimmers to enjoy. A great beach will also have parklands, restaurants, cafes, takeaway shops and pubs close by. With any luck you might even be able to camp or stay at a hotel on the beach.

The perfect beach setup
The perfect beach setup


South East Queensland has many world famous beaches along with less famous ones that should be. But most of the beaches don't meet the criteria for the perfect beach. Most of the Gold Coast is a long exposed beach that has a beach break, which is not that good for surfing and often too rough for swimmers.

Surfer on the trail looking for the perfect break
Surfer on the trail looking for the perfect break


Here are 5 great beaches that I highly recommend. Are they the best in the region? If you know better beaches let us know in the comments.

Walking on the perfect beach
Walking on the perfect beach


Yes Brisbane itself has beaches, but most don't match up against those in the areas around Brisbane.

Rainbow Bay - Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is characterised by long beaches, often full of tourists sun bathing. The problem with these beaches is that the they are open to the ocean and while this may produce waves, it is mostly beach breaks. Many times the surf can be too much for inexperienced swimmers or young kids. Meanwhile the calm waters of Currumbin Creek are too boring. But don't despair, there are some fabulous beaches on the Gold Coast and Rainbow Bay is one of my favourites.

People walking on the beach at Rainbow Bay
People walking on the beach at Rainbow Bay


So don't Confuse Rainbow Bay with Rainbow Beach which is north of Brisbane near Fraser Island. Rainbow Bay is at the very south end of The Gold Coast. The little beach is protected by Snapper Rocks which creates the perfect surf break while leaving the beach itself well protected for swimmers. It is very dependent on tides, so when the tide Coolangatta provides a better option a short stroll away through Pat Fragan Park.

Surfers early in the morning at Rainbow Bay
Surfers early in the morning at Rainbow Bay


Next to the beach lies Tweed Heads, which is a nice little walk, especially in the morning to see the sunrise.

Snapper Rocks forms the break for Rainbow Bay
Snapper Rocks forms the break for Rainbow Bay


Rainbow Bay is fairly quiet but there is a great surf living saving club on the beach and it is a short stroll to the shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs at Coolangatta. If you want to have a completely new impression of the Gold Coast then Rainbow Bay is for you.

Enjoying drinks at the Rainbow Bay Surf Life Saving Club
Enjoying drinks at the Rainbow Bay Surf Life Saving Club


Tea Tree Bay - Noosa

Noosa is great destination that has the perfect balance between development and the natural environment. Most people will head to Main Beach at Noosa, but a short walk can take you instead to Tea Tree Bay.

Tea Tree Bay at Noosa Heads
Tea Tree Bay at Noosa Heads


Tea Tree Bay is in the Noosa Heads National Park, which means there are no cafes or restaurants on the beach, but it is a short walk to the nearest cafe. Instead this is a more secluded location than other beaches on this list.

Surfers at Tea Tree Bay
Surfers at Tea Tree Bay


The area at Noosa Heads is fairly rocky so there is a reef that creates a break for surfers while leaving the beach calm enough for kids. You will see more surfers than swimmers here, but the more dedicated surfers head off along the heads to the more isolated rocky beaches to surf.

Kids frolicking in the water at Tea Tree Bay
Kids frolicking in the water at Tea Tree Bay


One of the best ways to visit this beach is to do the Noosa Heads National Park walk that goes through bushland, down to Alexandria Bay and then back along the coast to arrive at Tea Tree Bay near the end of the walk.

The coastline at Noosa Heads National Park
The coastline at Noosa Heads National Park


Cylinder Beach - North Stradbroke Island

Last time I went to North Stradbroke Island, huge waves were pounding the shore. Main Beach was closed and all along the gorges walk there was nothing but giant waves. Then we reached Cylinder Beach. Protected by an offshore reef there were hardly any waves on the beach itself.

Cylinder Beach is the perfect place for a swim or surf
Cylinder Beach is the perfect place for a swim or surf


This is of course because the reef creates a nice break for surfers while also sheltering the beach. But there is more to this beach that surfing and swimming. There are a couple of shops nearby and the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel beckons with great views and good food. You could of course settle for a picnic at the at adjacent park.

The view from Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel
The view from Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel


It is also a popular place to stay with a campground right on the beach and of course some nearby hotels. One of the great beaches in South East Queensland.

Camping at the Cylinder Beach Campground
Camping at the Cylinder Beach Campground


Moffat Beach - Caloundra

Like the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast has lots of beaches with different characteristics. Caloundra has a number of smaller beaches and most people will head to Kings Beach and for good reason. However Moffat Beach is something special. Moffat Beach forms part of a trifecta of beaches that also includes Dicky and Shelly Beach.

Photo of Moffat Beach courtesy of Bert Knottenbeld and Flickr
Photo of Moffat Beach courtesy of Bert Knottenbeld and Flickr


Kings Beach is more popular but Moffat Beach offers something a bit different. First of all, you have a legendary surf break but the waters near the beach are usually fairly calm.

Photo of Moffat Beach courtesy of Bert Knottenbeld and Flickr
Photo of Moffat Beach courtesy of Bert Knottenbeld and Flickr


In addition the cafe strip right next to the beach provides many options for relaxing with coffee, cake or a meal.

Photo of Moffat Beach courtesy of Bert Knottenbeld and Flickr
Photo of Moffat Beach courtesy of Bert Knottenbeld and Flickr


For people who love walking by the sea, don't forget that Moffat Beach is connected by a lovely coastal walk to Shelly Beach. If you prefer walking on sand, you can head north instead past Dicky Beach and all the way up to Currimundi Lake.

Burleigh heads - Gold Coast

I am not going to include every great beach in South East Queensland, but if there was one beach to visit, it has to Burleigh Heads. This is the beach with everything.

Kite Surfer at Burleigh Heads
Kite Surfer at Burleigh Heads


First of all, the beach is fairly long but sheltered at each end by heads. Good for swimmers and surfers. It also attracts kite surfers and stand up paddle boarders.

Surfer at Burleigh Heads
Surfer at Burleigh Heads


Burleigh is a good compromise between a sheltered and open beach. There are usually waves in the middle of the beach while the waters near the head are calmer.

Standup paddle boarders at Burleigh Heads
Standup paddle boarders at Burleigh Heads


If you don't want to swim in the ocean, you can enjoy the quiet waters at Tallebudgera creek next to Burleigh Heads. Burleigh attracts stand up paddle boarders because if the water is too rough they have the option of paddling in the creek instead.

Tallebudgera creak is a nice quiet spot to swim, kayak or do standup paddle boarding
Tallebudgera creak is a nice quiet spot to swim, kayak or do standup paddle boarding


As well water activities, Burleigh Heads is a great place for walking. At sunset you will find lots of people doing the walk along the beach to Mick Schamburg Park and back along the path in the parklands.

Burleigh Heads Beach
Burleigh Heads Beach


Burleigh Heads National Park is also a famous place to walk. With a 2.3 km circuit around the heads, you will see people strolling, walking, striding, jogging and running around these tracks (usually several times in one day), as well as enjoying the view from the lookout.

Walking track at Burleigh Heads National Park
Walking track at Burleigh Heads National Park


What I like about Burleigh heads is the cafe and restaurant scene. Much of the food on the Gold Coast lacks any flair, but Burleigh heads is where all the cool and trendy cafes are. On weekends the cafes fill up pretty fast and The Fish House restaurant is legendary.

Burleigh Heads is home to many trendy cafes
Burleigh Heads is home to many trendy cafes

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Your Comment
And a shout out to Alexandria beach too - Notable for being beautiful and the only (though unofficial) nudie beach
by Daniel (score: 1|35) 1116 days ago
While Alexandria Bay at Noosa Heads National park is a beautiful location, it is exposed to the open ocean. Often the unpatrolled waters here are rough and treacherous. This is the reason why it is not on this list.
by Roy Chambers (score: 2|732) 1116 days ago
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