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All You Need to Know About Surfing in Australia

by Octavia Drughi

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With its world-famous Superbank, Byron Bay, Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and Torquay, Australia stands at the very top of any avid surfers’ bucket list.

Oz is not only home to some of the best waves on the planet, but also to some of the greatest surfers ever born. Surfing is a way of life among Aussies, regardless of their skill level.

With such a huge coastline, the Down Under attracts a lot of swell from every direction. There are heaps of surf breaks of all kinds and numerous surf camps in Australia offering their guidance, which means tons of surfable waves for all levels, all throughout the year.  

From the surfing seasons to the best destinations and more useful travel advice, here’s all you need to know about budgeting and planning your surf trip to Australia:

 

Surfing seasons in Australia

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Image credit: Soul Surf School

The weather is usually hot and humid in summer and warm and dry in winter. But being such a big country, the climate can vary greatly between regions.

When it comes to the surfing seasons, you’ll be happy to know that any time is a good time to go surfing in Australia. There are great waves all year round!

The Australian summer, between December and February, is not very consistent. However, the summer cyclone season is a much-awaited time of year, as it delivers epic conditions lasting seven days or more. The weather can be quite hot and this is also the peak tourist season.

Autumn (March-May) is a great time to go surfing in Australia. The swells are pumping, the water is at its warmest, the wind is mainly offshore, the weather is more pleasant, and the beaches are not as packed.

The Australian winter, between June and August, has the most reliable surfing conditions. This is the low tourist season and the beaches are less crowded. The water is a bit colder during this time.

Spring is the least consistent time of year, but you’ll still find waves that work.

During summer, water temperatures reach 26-28°C (79-82°F) and are highest in February/March. In winter, they can drop to 19-22°C (66-72°F) and are lowest in August/September.

The water is colder on the south coast and warmer on the east coast, where it is possible to surf in swimwear and a rash vest most of the year, even in winter. However, if the wind is up and if surfing early in the morning, you should throw on a 2mm long-sleeve shorty during the colder months. On the south and southwest coasts, you might need a 3/2mm wetsuit in winter.

 

The surf vibes

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Image credit: Mojosurf Australia

Australia has the world’s second-largest population of surfers after the USA. The sport has been an important part of the nation’s identity for over a century and today, it has become a way of life among Aussies.

In 1903, the first demonstration of surf lifesaving methods was held at Manly Beach. In 1914 and 1915, Hawaiian surf legend Duke Kahanamoku held several surfing demonstrations, including the famous tandem surfing event at Freshwater Beach.

The annual Rip Curl Pro Bell Beach has been held at Torquay, Victoria, since 1962. It’s the oldest surfing competition in Australia and one of the world’s most prestigious.

Fun fact: boardshorts were invented in Torquay. In 1969, two local surfers started making boardshorts in their garage and thus Quiksilver was born. And speaking of famous surf brands, Billabong was born in 1973 on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

In Queensland, the Gold Coast has more surfers per capita than anywhere else in the world. Here, Coolangatta is the home surf spot of world-famous surfers Mick Fanning, Stephanie Gilmore, and Joel Parkinson. It’s also home to the famous Superbank, a partly man-made, partly natural miracle.

In 1995, sand began to be pumped out of the mouth of the Tweed River. The sand gradually filled the gaps in between the points at Snapper Rocks, Greenmount, and Kirra. By 2007, the Superbank was born, a 1.9-kilometer (1.2-mile) stretch of flat-packed sand that can offer some of the longest, fastest, and most hollow waves in the world.

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The annual Quicksilver Pro Gold Coast has been held at Coolangatta since 2002. Duranbah hosts a number of international and local surfing competitions.

The Gold Coast has some of the most competitive line-ups in the country, especially at legendary breaks like the Superbank, Burleigh Heads, and Duranbah. When the conditions are right, these spots can get extremely crowded and the situation has even described as a “human soup.”

But there aren’t only gnarly waves on offer. Thanks to its surfing heritage, variety of surf breaks, and numerous surf schools, the Gold Coast is one of the best places to learn to surf in Australia.

New South Wales has the most crowded surf beaches in Australia. At the same time, it also has some remarkably empty line-ups. You just need to travel farther away from the main surf hubs to reach them.

If you’d like to experience the alluring Aussie surf culture, travel in February and attend the Surfest Newcastle. This is Australia’s biggest surfing festival, a series of international competitions held at Merewether Beach in Newcastle, NSW.

Australia is currently home to three World Surfing Reserves. Through the efforts of the Save the Waves Coalition, Sydney’s Manly Beach, as well as Queensland’s Gold Coast and Noosa, have been declared World Surfing Reserves. They were chosen thanks to their quality waves, surf history, and exemplary surfing communities.

Here are 8 surfer-based ocean conservation projects you can support today to make a difference tomorrow.

 

The best surfing destinations in Australia

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Image credit: Mojosurf Australia

Surfing in Australia can be broken down into three main areas: east, south, and west. The further north you go on the eastern and western coasts, the more deserted the beaches become. However, surfing isn’t possible on most of the north coast because of the coral reefs blocking the waves, as well as the many jellyfish and saltwater crocodiles.

The east coast is the most visited surfing destination in Australia. Queensland and New South Wales are dotted with chic surf towns and surf camps. This stretch of coast receives plenty of swell and offers a high density of waves for all levels, from reefs and points to friendly beach breaks.

 

Sunshine Coast, Queensland

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North of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast is the northernmost stretch of reliable surf in Australia. This is where you’ll find the world-renowned series of right-hand points at Noosa Heads, a legendary longboarding spot and a beginner surfer’s paradise.

These gently rolling waves are ideal for learning to surf, but also for experienced riders looking to score some epic 200-meter (650-foot) rides.

 

Gold Coast, Queensland

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Image credit: Steve Austin

Just south of Brisbane, the Gold Coast is a stretch of white sandy beaches extending for 57km (35mi), most of them patrolled by lifeguards all year round. This is the most visited coastline in Australia, and the crowds can be insane.

Some of the world’s best right-hand point breaks can be found here, as well as some of the most consistent waves in the country, which offer something for all levels.

» Join a surf camp in Queensland.

Burleigh Heads is considered Australia’s best surf break. When it’s big, the sand-bottomed points at Burleigh Heads are for advanced surfers only. But every now and then, the conditions are favorable for beginners too.

Between Burleigh Heads and Snapper Rocks, the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve stretches for 16km (10mi).

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In Coolangatta, Kirra is probably the best sand-bottomed point break on the planet. It offers some the longest and deepest tubes in the surfing world. Plus, it can hold the biggest swells the ocean can throw at it.

Snapper Rocks is the starting point of the Superbank, which can give you the longest ride of your life. On a good day, you can surf from Snapper Rocks, through Little Marley, Rainbow Bay, and Greenmount, all the way to Kirra.

Duranbah, or D-bah as the locals call it, sits north of the Tweed River, which marks the border with New South Wales. D-bah is one of the world’s best beach breaks, as the jetties help form wedgy peaks and long tubes.

 

New South Wales

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Image credit: Mojosurf Australia

The most populous state in Australia, home to Sydney and Byron Bay, is an epicenter of the surfing world. There are tons of world-class waves to choose from.

Byron Bay, the sleepy fishing village turned surfing mecca, welcomes surfers of all levels. There are seven surf breaks here, each of them worth checking out. The Pass is considered the best in the area and is recommended for experienced surfers. But there are plenty of beginner-friendly surf spots as well.

» Join a beginner surf camp in Byron Bay.

South of Byron Bay, Lennox Head is considered Australia’s finest right-hand point break. Coffs Harbour is home to numerous surf breaks for all levels. Crescent Head offers rides up to 200m (650ft), while Port Macquarie has 18 surf beaches to choose from, with waves for beginners as well as pros. In Newcastle, Merewether Beach is an iconic surf break that works with any tide, wind, or swell size

Just outside Sydney, Bondi Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the world. Therefore, it gets seriously crowded. There are numerous surf schools operating here, and it is a preferred place to learn to surf.

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North of Sydney, the famous Northern Beaches stretch for 20km (12mi) between Manly Beach and Palm Beach. If you’re not sure which one to choose, Manly is a great place to learn to surf and North Narrabeen is one of Sydney’s most iconic surf breaks.

South of Wollongong, the beaches get less and less crowded. On the south coast of NSW, the Aussie Pipe, aka Black Rock, is a powerful reef break and one of the most hollow and photogenic waves in Australia.

 

The Great Ocean Road

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Image credit: Ed Dunens

The main surfing destination on Australia’s south coast is the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, which stretches west of Melbourne between Torquay and Warrnambool. This incredibly picturesque coastline is a surfer’s paradise.

Torquay and Bells Beach have been a surfing epicenter since the 1960s, and the coastline is dotted with exposed reefs and points. While most surf breaks are more suitable for experienced surfers, there are a few mellow waves as well.

Also in Victoria, Phillip Island is one of the most consistent surfing destinations in the country, home to several world-class waves and a large population of penguins.

Wanna check out the waves on the Great Ocean Road? Read our guide to the best surfing destinations in Victoria.

 

Western Australia

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Image credit: Richard

Although less crowded than the beaches on the east coast, some surf spots in Western Australia can become packed with surfers, especially those near Perth.

The most popular surfing destination in Western Australia is Margaret River. It is exposed to powerful swells and it has the right surf breaks to handle them. There aren’t few beginner surf spots. Most of the waves are powerful and technical, and the area is mostly frequented by experienced surfers.

Prevelly Park is the premier surfing destination in Margaret River, and the gnarliest wave in the state is, without doubt, Main Break. It has a reputation for its ultra-heavy barrels, as well as its many bowls and bumps that can be very treacherous in a big swell.

Northwestern Australia is the final frontier. This region is where dozens of remote surf breaks await adventurous surfers and many more are waiting to be discovered.

For more on those famous Aussie waves, read our guide to the best surf spots in Australia.

 

How to budget your surf trip to Australia

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Image credit: Mojosurf Australia

December through February is peak travel season in Australia. This is when the prices are highest, and the beaches are most crowded.

The low travel season is between May and August. The weather is pleasantly warm, but the nights are cooler. The prices are lower and you can find discounted airfares and accommodation.

Autumn (March-May) is a sweet spot for surfers. The weather is more pleasant than in summer, the water is warm, the crowds are starting to thin out, the swell is pumping, and the prices drop.

 

Surf camps

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Image credit: Mojosurf Australia

For traveling surfers, the most convenient option would be to join a surf camp. This way, you won’t have to worry about booking accommodation and surf classes, as well as renting surfing equipment and getting to the surf spot. All of these will be included in the camp. Furthermore, some packages also include daily meals and airport transfer.

» You can join a budget surf camp in Australia for as little as 50 USD per person/day.

 

Accommodation

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Image credit: Soul Surf School

You can find dorm rooms starting at 15 USD. Prices are usually much higher in the big coastal cities. A double room in a budget hotel will set you back 55-70 USD per night.

You’ll also find surfer-friendly accommodation near the most famous surf breaks. There are also numerous campsites along the coasts, which cost 10-20 USD per person/night.

 

Food

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Unfortunately, food is not cheap in Australia. You can expect to pay 6-7 USD for a sandwich and 10 USD for a fast food meal. Luckily, there are many Asian and Indian restaurants where you can get a savory and filling meal for as little as 7 USD.

If you shop for groceries and cook your own meals, you can spend 75 USD per week.

 

Getting around

 

Most of Australia has a reliable and affordable public bus system. On the east coast, the cheapest way to travel in between cities is by bus. On the other hand, buses are more expensive on the west coast.

Rideshare is a very popular way to travel in Australia. It is cheap and efficient, and all hostels have a bulletin where travelers can post rides.

Taxis are expensive in Australia, so try to avoid them as much as possible. Trains are also very expensive.

*Cover image credit: Mojosurf Australia


If you’ve been surfing for a while, there’s no better place than the Land Down Under to take things to the next level. Join an intermediate surf camp in Australia!

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