by Rebecca Lawson
We all know Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches, but where are the best family-friendly surfing spots? Here we highlight six surfing beaches along the Pacific Coast that are sure to keep the whole family happy.
It’s not known as the Legendary Pacific Coast for nothing. Along this sublime stretch of NSW coastline you’ll find all you need for a sun, sand and surf-filled family holiday. Just what the doctor ordered.
Central Coast and Lake Macquarie
Nestled along the Central Coast near Terrigal, Avoca Beach has long been a favourite of day-trippers and families looking for a long weekend out of Sydney, and why not? It really does have all bases covered for a short or long stay. Long lines of Norfolk Pines means that you’d be hard pressed to find a prettier spot and surrounding cafes ensure a delicious meal when you need to recharge. The beach itself is a great place for surfers with consistently good conditions, and to keep the little ones happy, the beach backs onto a completely flat lake generally known as the best kept secret on the Central Coast. Avoca Lake is perfect for paddling, skimming and general aqua fun.
However, there are plenty of great beaches on the Central Coast, and if you and your family are camping your way up the Coast, Central Coast Holiday Parks has lovely spots sprinkled throughout the area, all near the beach and offering camping spots, caravans and cabins perfect for your hoard. One of our favourites is Toowoon Bay Holiday Park which is safe and family friendly, but all the Central Coast Holiday Park properties give access to patrolled beaches and secluded bays perfect for kids young and old.
Just a little further up the coast is a sports-enthusiast’s paradise. Lake Macquarie offers learn-to-sail trips, boat hire, wake boarding, jet boating, fishing charters, kayak hire, or for those wanting to stay dry, horse riding and go-karts.
Mid North Coast
If it’s aquatic wildlife you’re after, look no further than Port Stephens and its surrounds. It’s known as the Dolphin Capital because it is one of the best places in the world to see these frolicking creatures in the wild. Numerous whale watching tours venture out from Nelson Bay. While many of the tour groups, such as Imagine, cruise year-round, the whale migration runs from mid-May to mid-November. Bottlenose dolphins can be seen all year in the port. The Australian Shark and Ray Centre is also a must-visit attraction in the area, where children can touch a giant ray and feed sharks.
Port Stephens has holiday park accommodation all wrapped up. Big 4 Koala Shores is situated near the deliciously named Lemon Tree Passage. They have all levels of accommodation on offer, with powered sites all the way up to the luxe Deluxe Bushland Spa available for those in need of a treat. Big 4 also has a great holiday park further around the estuary at Soldier’s Point, offering everything you’d expect from a Big 4.
When it’s time to hit the surf with the kids, we recommend the relatively calm Fingle Bay where they do wake board lessons for kids, or you could try Box Beach for those with a little more experience on the waves.
Macleay Valley Coast
Not far north from Port Macquarie near Kempsey sits the picturesque Macleay Valley Coast. The area is awash with beautiful little beaches perfect for both surfing and family fun – it really is just a matter of taking your pick. Our choice is Killick Beach in Crescent Head because, despite its family-friendliness, Killick has had its fair share of golden surfing moments. Many a surfing legend has graced the waters up here including Nat Young and Jack ‘Bluey’ Mayes, which should be enough to keep any budding surfer interested. There is also plenty to keep those too little for a board entertained. The beach offers families gentle shore breakers as well as a gentle creek. There is good fishing further north along the stretch and the village has everything a friendly Aussie coastal town should, including camping grounds, motels and of course, local markets.
Macleay Valley Coast Holiday Parks has your accommodation stitched up. For a relaxing break try the holiday park in Hat Head National Park, or parks in Crescent Head, Grassy Head, Stuarts Point and Horseshoe Bay.
Coffs Harbour has long been a famed Aussie beach-break destination, but a short 17km further north and you’ll come across some lesser known beaches with surf breaks that are well worth the effort of exploring. Emerald and Shelly Beaches are nestled in the beautiful Moonee Nature Reserve. Emerald Beach has a sandy bottom to ward off gravel rash and the waves are suitable for beginners but can be challenging enough for those with a little more board expertise.
When the kids (or parents) get sick of the waves, a short wander over to Look At Me Now Headland and Shelly Beach and you’ll find a lazy little area with reasonable swells and even better – a mob of resident kangaroos and wallabies to check out.
A surfing road trip up the Pacific Coast simply would not be complete without a stop at Australia’s first National Surfing Reserve, Angourie in the beautiful Clarence Valley area. It is a famous surfing area, but be warned – it is renowned for breaks that can easily sweep inexperienced or young surfers onto treacherous rocks. There is no shame, and probably a lot of sense, in leaving the board at home when you visit Angourie – many of the world’s top surfers have struggled here – so if you’re not quite brave enough to tackle the surf, Angourie is still a brilliant place to visit. Fresh water Blue and Green Pools formed out of an old rock quarry are a very popular swimming spot while Yuraygir National Park, which Angourie village calls home, has one of the east coast’s most beautiful coastal walks. The nearby Lake Wooloweyah is great for other, slightly calmer water sports such as fishing, canoeing and windsurfing.
Right up north in NSW sits a string of beachside villages just perfect for a family getaway. The gorgeous little town of Ballina is one such where you can take the kids to visit Macadamia Castle where they can visit the Animal Park, jump on a train ride, or play mini-golf. Be sure to consider going to Lennox Head, just a stone’s throw south from its superstar neighbour, Byron Bay. Much less crowded, Lennox is definitely not less worthy, especially for grommets (kids into surfing). Its breaks are definitely suited to the more experienced surfer but there is plenty there for beginners as well. Kool Katz Surf School guarantees you’ll ride a wave for 40 metres or your money back – you can’t go past a deal like that! Lessons are for any age over six and they cater for beginners to advanced surfers.
Lennox Head is also home to the reasonably new Skull Candy Oz Grom festival, run in July. This is a junior surfing comp which develops the involvement of young teens in the sport – and despite the cooler weather, it’s a great place to take the kids, lap up the atmosphere and people watch.