Winter by the sea: Australia’s top 10 ocean getaway destinations in winter

Winter in Australia is the perfect excuse to head north (for the most part), explore and enjoy some of the nation’s best beach destinations. Say goodbye to seasonal sadness and hello to sunshine and good times. Here are ten of the best winter long weekends by the beach that will warm you inside and out. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.

Sunshine Coast, QLD

Mooloolaba Beach, Sunshine Coast. Image via Bigstock

Best beaches: Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Noosa Main, Sunshine.

It’s called the Sunshine Coast for a reason: sun-drenched seashores and bright blue skies even in winter. Mooloolaba Beach is safest for swimming and perfect for a day of sun-soaking and surf-splashing. The Wharf is the city’s entertainment and dining hub so be prepared to spend a day shopping, eating and having loads of fun. Families will have a blast meeting and observing the animals at Sea Life, an epic aquarium dedicated to marine conservation.

Need a place to stay?
Enjoy a dash of understated luxury and close proximity to the beach at Breeze Mooloolaba, Ascend Hotel Collection.

Townsville, QLD

Best beaches: Strand Park, Saunders, Magnetic Island

With over 300 sunny days yearly, it makes sense to put Townsville on your winter travel list. Magnetic Island is a 20-minute ferry ride away and the area’s sweet spot for sandy shores. The Strand, the city’s 2.6-kilometre coastal walkway, is teeming with parks, beaches, cafes, restaurants, and ice cream shops. Speaking of ice cream, road trip an hour north to the Frosty Mango for the best tropical ice cream on earth.

Need a place to stay? The stylish and sophisticated Clarion Hotel Townsville is located in the heart of the CBD – just a short walk from cafes and restaurants.

Cairns, QLD

Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland.

Best beaches: Esplanade Lagoon, Palm Cove, Ellis (obey all safety signs)

Some like it hot, even in winter. If that sounds like you, venture far north to Cairns. A day snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef will give you instant holiday vibes. Meandering along The Esplanade and cooling off in the Esplanade Lagoon is a must and a great way to soak up the city’s relaxed vibe. The palm-lined beaches of Palm Cove offer iconic images for your Instagram page.

Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Cairns City offers affordable accommodation on the edge of the CBD, just a short walk from the Esplanade, Cairns Aquarium, and cafes and restaurants.

Mackay, QLD

Best beaches: Blacks, Bucasia, Lamberts

Experience beautiful sunrises complete with kangaroos on the beach (if you’re lucky) at Cape Hillsborough National Park. It’s just a short drive north of Mackay. Keswick Island is the go for a day of fishing, whale watching, and honey tasting (it’s home to purebred Caucasian bees!). Blacks Beach is part of Mackay’s Northern Beaches and at six kilometres, it’s the longest stretch of sand in the region.

Need a place to stay? Comfort Resort Blue Pacific is located in Mackay’s Northern Beaches, which is handy for those planning to head out to Hillsborough.

Hervey Bay, QLD

Best beaches: Pialba, Scarness, Torquay

North of Brisbane, the town of Hervey Bay practises the art of coastal relaxation all year round. From July to October, humpback whales take rests in the bay on their journey north, which means a whale-spotting excursion is highly recommended. Anglers of all abilities will love casting a line off the 800-metre long Urangan Pier. Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, lies just off the coast and offers beach drives and forest hikes.

Need a place to stay? Located just a ten-minute stroll from the beach, Comfort Inn on Main Hervey Bay offers affordable, family-friendly accommodation and close proximity to Hervey Bay’s key attractions.

Coffs Harbour, NSW

Diggers Beach, Coffs Harbour. Image via Destination NSW.

Best beaches: Jetty, Diggers, Emerald, Sawtell

Coffs Harbour on New South Wales’ north coast is a year-round holiday favourite. Think surfing, bodyboarding, or just getting flat out on a towel at Park Beach. Take a walk on the Northern Breakwall to Muttonbird Island for birdwatching and hiking (you’ll be rewarded with incredible views). Save Sunday for the Habourside Markets, where you’ll find everything from food trucks to handicrafts.

Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn Premier is a relaxed and friendly hotel, conveniently located on the southern approach to Coffs Harbour. Further on towards the CBD, Quality Hotel City Centre features a guest pool, gym, and stylish in-house eatery.

Darwin, NT

Best beaches: Waterfront Precinct

A trip to Darwin in the Top End is guaranteed to bring some heat and heart-pumping adventures your way. Feeling brave? Jump in the Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove. To see crocodiles and other wildlife in their natural environment, book an airboat trip through the mangroves. You may not think of Darwin as a beach destination but there is sand at the Waterfront Precinct, complete with a wave pool. It’s a safe spot to splash down all year round.

Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Darwin Airport has a resort feel and offers contemporary air-conditioned accommodation, a tropical-style pool and poolside bar, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Karratha, WA

Point Samson, Pilbara. Image courtesy of Tourism Western Australia.

Best beaches: 40 Mile, Hearson’s Cove, Point Samson, Honeymoon Cove

Karratha’s dry, desert-like environment makes it a favourite destination for anyone looking to warm up over the winter. For an outback adventure, explore the Pilbara by 4WD or learn about Indigenous culture with a rock art tour at Murujuga National Park. It’s a 40-minute drive from town to Point Samson for sunset fish and chips on the beach.

Need a place to stay? Econo Lodge Karratha is a relaxed property that makes a great base for exploring the region. Amenities include communal kitchen facilities, an on-site laundry and free parking. Comfort Inn and Suites Karratha offers a range of apartment-style accommodation options, each with a full kitchen and laundry. The hotel is set in beautifully maintained gardens.

Perth, WA

Cottesloe Beach, Perth. Image via Bigstock

Best beaches: Scarborough, Cottesloe, Port, Trigg

Perth is blessed with the title of Australia’s sunniest city, even in winter. While Cottesloe Beach is a favourite, winter winds mean it’s best viewed over a delicious meal from the sheltered patio at Barchetta. For something unique, take your holiday to epic heights by climbing the 72-metre Matagarup Bridge over the Swan River. Another way to see the famous river is by cruise – you can even do a wine cruise to the Swan Valley.

Need a place to stay? Browse all Perth accommodation options

Fremantle, WA

Bathers Beach, Fremantle.

Best beaches: Bathers, South

Just south of Perth is the hip port city of Fremantle. Start your long weekend with a sunset cocktail at Bathers Beach House, the only restaurant serving on the beach. Solidify holiday feels with a day trip to Rottnest Island (30-minutes by ferry), where you can rent a bike and ride in search of beaches, bays, and quokkas (you won’t have to look far). On Saturday evening, make a beeline to Freo Social for local craft beer and live entertainment.

Plan your winter warming long beach weekend with Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels has you well and truly covered in Australia with a superb range of accommodation options to suit every budget. Search online and book direct for a Lowest Price Guarantee.

About the writer
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand and Australia. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book or zooming in on a beautiful scene. She’s also likely to be boarding a plane – or jumping out of one.

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