The most beautiful beaches in Queensland

Family playing at Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island | beautiful beaches Queensland

By Danielle Reckless

With nearly 7,000km of coastline, it’s safe to say Queensland has no shortage of beaches to explore. If you’re coming to the Sunshine State to dip your toes into warm waters with postcard-worthy views, you won’t be disappointed.

So where should you start? 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 something different for every traveller.

Get to know the most beautiful beaches in Queensland, then get ready to book your holiday. 

1. Palm Cove, Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

Palm Cove | beautiful beaches Queensland

Lined with towering palm trees and centuries-old paperbarks, this patch of coastline lives up to its title as one of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland. 

Palm Cove is just a 20 minute drive north of Cairns, and offers a peaceful village atmosphere beside golden sands. Toss down a towel and relax in the 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 Nu Nu, the award-winning restaurant led by chef Nick Holloway which fuses Asian flavours with fresh local produce. Upscale dining with your toes in the sand? You might just want to stay a while longer.

2. Cape Hillsborough, Mackay

Couple watching the wallabies at sunrise, Cape Hillsborough | beautiful beaches Queensland

Sunrise doesn’t get more iconic in Australia than the one caught at Cape Hillsborough National Park’s Casuarina Beach.

Every morning, kangaroos 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 alarm to and, seriously, you’ll want to because you need to get down to the beach before sunrise to witness the magic. 

It’s a wildlife experience that’ll take your breath away, but be mindful these are wild animals. Be respectful, keep your distance, and save your up-close selfies for your travel companions, not the ‘roos.

Get all the information on how to experience Cape Hillsborough here. 

Tip: If Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is full, reserve a campsite at nearby Smalley’s Beach instead. 

3. Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island

Beach swing overlooking the ocean Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island | beautiful beaches Queensland

This neck of the woods might be more famous for its endless Great Barrier Reef adventures, but you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland near Cairns too. 

Off the coast on Fitzroy Island lies spectacular Nudey Beach. Don’t be confused – this isn’t a nudist beach – simply a pocket of raw, untouched nature so stunning it’s designated national park.

Once you’re island side, make the short trek through the rainforest, past the huge granite boulders and coastal woodlands to find Nudey Beach. Swimmers and snorkelling gear are essentials, with fringing coral reef just a fins-flip from the shore.

There’s plenty more to experience on Fitzroy Island once you’ve basked in the sun, including a fascinating turtle rehabilitation centre. Spend a few days at the resort here to make the most of your visit. 

4. Noosa Main Beach, Sunshine Coast

Surfers at Noosa Main Beach, Sunshine Coast | beautiful beaches Queensland

It’s not just us who think Noosa Main Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland. Noosa attractss over 2 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 at Main Beach, making it a popular spot for families and travellers too.

When you’re done with sun, sand and salt water for the day, retreat to the famous boutiques of Hastings Street or wine and dine at one of Noosa’s award-winning restaurants.

Noosa can be done in a day trip from Brisbane, but if you want to pick up the relaxed vibes this coastal town puts down, check in for least 48 hours. And don’t forget to book your Noosa accommodation in advance.

5. Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast

Burleigh Beach | beautiful beaches Queensland

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 bustling 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.

The view is a perfect 10 too, with panoramas out to the skyscrapers lining the coast from Broadbeach to Surfers Paradise.

When you’re tired of seeing it from towel-level, Burleigh delivers a bar and dining scene big on flavour and views. You can even dine right by the sand at popular restaurants including Rick Shores, Burleigh Pavilion and The Tropic.

Like where this is going? Spend 48 hours beaching it in Burleigh with this guide.

6. Radical Bay, Magnetic Island

Snorkelling on guided Aquascene tour, Radical Bay Magnetic Island |
Photo by @reubennutt

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 on Magnetic Island.

Located a short ferry ride from Townsville in the state’s north, few Queensland beaches look like ‘Maggie’ with its hoop-pine and boulder-strewn headlands, sky-high coconut palms and fringing reefs.

Whether you’re seeking a weekend of adventure or bringing the kids, be sure to pack or hire snorkelling equipment to explore the 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. 

Here are more of the best things to do on Magnetic Island while you’re here. 

7. Rainbow Beach, Sunshine Coast

Great Beach Drive, Rainbow Beach | beautiful beaches Queensland

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 (and then over to K’gari for an even longer adventure, should you choose).

The sand landforms don’t stop here. Visit Carlo Sand Blow, a desert sand mass covering over 15 hectares that offers 360-degree views over Rainbow Beach stretching out to Double Island Point and Tin Can Bay.

Here are a few more adventures to experience at Rainbow Beach

8. Mon Repos Beach, Bundaberg

Mon Repos Beach

Every one of Queensland’s beaches might be magical, but not all promise the magic of new life.

Each year from November to late March, Mon Repos Beach near Bundaberg 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.

Visit for nesting season, or come a few months later to watch baby turtles scurry towards their future under moonlight. Tours are run by national park rangers, and are sure to make you appreciate the wonder of nature. 

9. Punsand Bay Beach, Cape York

Family walking along the beach at sunset, Punsand Bay Cape York | beautiful beaches Queensland

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.

Getting here is a big adventure. To find it, you’ll have to drive towards the northernmost point of Australia, Cape York. If you find yourself one of the fortunate few 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

 Tangalooma Wrecks Moreton Island | best beaches Queensland

Not many capital cities boast the world’s largest sand islands just offshore – but Brisbane does. Just 75 minutes from the CBD is Mulgumpin (Moreton Island), home to many contenders for Queensland’s most beautiful beach.

Jump on the ferry and you’ll arrive at the showstopper, Tangalooma. Expect bright, crystal clear water and golden sand, and over a dozen scuttled ships offshore that flourish with marine life and coral – a snorkeller’s dream.  

There are endless adventures to be had that’ll pull you away from your beach towel. The activity desk at Tangalooma Island Resort will hook you up with snorkelling, ATV quad bikes, kayaking and even 4WD tours to the island’s most remote and special spots. 

11. Mooloolaba Main Beach, Sunshine Coast

 Mooloolaba | most beautiful beaches Queensland

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 at the lifeguard patrolled beach, make like the other visitors and locals 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’.

Here’s everything to see, do and eat while you’re here.

12. Cylinder Beach, North Stradbroke Island

Cylinder Beach North Stradbroke Island | beautiful beaches Queensland

The second largest sand island in the world, Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) flies under the radar compared to other beautiful beaches in Queensland – much to the delight of those who venture here. 

Rich in Indigenous culture, wildlife and home to a tight-knit community of artists, creatives and nature-lovers, Minjerribah offers several incredible beaches to suit whether you’re after a quiet swim, a dip in calm waters, or the chance to surf the biggest waves.

Well-protected Cylinder Beach remains one of the most popular spots for all ages, along with beginner surfers. And there’s a campground only a few steps from the sand, too. 

Stay for a weekend to get a good taste of the island life, just moments from the heart of Brisbane. 

13. Whitehaven Beach, The Whitsundays

Whitehaven Beach | Queensland most beautiful beaches

Consistently crowned one of the world’s best beaches, Whitehaven Beach remains an international crowd pleaser – and for good reason.

The pure-white silica sands here are like nowhere else on earth, so don’t miss the opportunity to sink your toes into it and hear the iconic squeak, bathe in the clear waters, and hike to the lookout for those iconic swirling views of Hill Inlet. Endlessly spectacular, there are endless ways to experience Whitehaven Beach – from scenic flights, skydiving, speedboat and sailing.

Here’s everything you need to know to visit Whitehaven Beach in the magical Whitsundays Islands. 

14. Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

Couple riding a bike on Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas | beautiful beaches Queensland

There’s just something special about Port Douglas, a seaside village an hour’s drive north of Cairns, where the beach meets a bustling town centre of fine dining, luxury resorts and palm-lined streets. 

Four Mile Beach is the place on every visitors radar when they make it here. Patrolled year-round, it offers plenty of water-based activities including surfing, kitesurfing and sailing. You can also hike Flagstaff Hill Trail and be rewarded with sweeping views from the lookout. 

While the beach will lure you morning and afternoon, be sure to pull yourself away at least once: Port Douglas is a stone’s throw from where two World Heritage-listed areas collide, the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef. Dry yourself off, the adventure is just beginning