Overview of surfing in Queensland
Queensland is known as the ‘sunshine state’ for good reason. Even in the winter months the average maximum air temperature remains above 20 degrees celcius. Maximum temperatures in the summer are around 28 degrees, with sub-tropical humidity. Summer is usually the wettest time of year, while winters are generally dry and sunny.
The state offers hundreds of kilometres of surfable coastline with direct exposure to the Pacific. North of Brisbane, the Great Barrier Reef starts to shield much of the coastline; surf here exists primarily on the outer reefs and islands. These prospects are only now starting to be exposed as valid surfing destinations – there is a lot of ground still to cover.
Queensland is a state of Australia, that occupies the north-eastern corner of the mainland continent. It has borders with the Northern Territory to the west, South Australia to the south-west and New South Wales to the south. The capital of the state is Brisbane.
The 32 best Surf spots in Queensland
Overview of surfing spots in Queensland
Surf spot overview
Want to surf the Superbank? Okay but don’t spend three weeks out of your four week holiday lining up for your shot. The whole QLD coastline from the NSW border up to Fraser Island offers quality consistent surf and year-round warm water. This coast reads like a who’s who of classic surf spots. Kirra, Duranbah, Snapper Rocks, Noosa and the list goes on.
North of Fraser the combination of a generally north north west grading coastline and the fringing Great Barrier Reef reduce regular surfing options considerably. The great barrier reef does offer several excellent offshore passes and breaks for those of spirit all the way to Cairns, but their locations are fiercely guarded by the few that surf them. Still, this should give you plenty to keep yourself busy with.
Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in Queensland
The water temperature varies from approximately 25 degrees in the summer to a pleasant 19 degrees in winter. This means that you can almost get away with boardshorts year-round, although most opt for some sort of wetsuit protection in the cooler months to take the edge of the wind.
Summer (December – February)
The most reliable time for favourable surf conditions is the summer months and early autumn. Summer is ‘cyclone season’, with the majority of Tropical Cyclone activity occurring between December and March. These tropical low-pressure systems can generate extremely strong winds, which lead to large and powerful swells along the Queensland Coast. These tropical systems can also interact with a subtropical high that is usually located to the south of the state in the summer months. This can lead to an extended period of strong SE winds between New Zealand and Fiji, which can see sustained runs of swell lasting more than 1 week.
Autumn (March – May)
Autumn can still see a number of larger swell events, as deep mid-latitude low-pressure systems form as the result of colder air moving across the Australian continent before interacting with the warm sea surface off the Queensland Coast. These low-pressure systems are often referred to as East Coast Lows (ECL) and are the source of many large swells along the Queensland Coast.
Winter (June – August) and Spring (September – November)
Winter and spring tend to see smaller surf, due to the northward movement of the subtropical belt of high pressure, and the associated easing of the regular SE trade wind swells. That being said, conditions will be clean most mornings thanks to offshore Westerly winds created by downslope winds from the hinterland (hills) that lie inland from both the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
Queensland surf travel guide
Find trips that fit a flexible lifestyle
There are two common ways of travelling in Australia: by car or by plane. Train can be an option, but not all states have a public rail network. Greyhound Australia provides a nation-wide (except Tasmania) interstate bus service. And there is a car ferry that departs from Melbourne and goes to Devonport in Tasmania.
The country is huge, so if don’t have enough time, take a plane. Fares are generally low, due to the amount of competition, and flights depart regularly. Main business travel corridor is Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane with flights leaving every 15 minutes. You’ll be able to get to every state with Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Blue or Regional Express. There also are some small state-based airlines that serve regional areas: Airnorth, Skywest, O’Connor Airlines and MacAir Airlines.
Travelling by car is a great option as well, especially to those who want to see and feel the country from the inside. Australia has a well-maintained system of roads and highways and drives ‘on the left’. Keep in mind that great distances separate its cities and after leaving one of them, you can sometimes expect to travel for hours before finding the next trace of civilisation. So it’s a good idea to hire a satellite phone in case of emergency. The shortest distance would be from Sydney to Canberra – just 3-3.5 hours (~300 km). But it is a truly magnificent experience to hire a car and travel around the coast of Australia (check the Great Ocean Road), which you won’t forget.
Queensland is a popular wintertime tourist attraction. Just remember even though Surfer’s Paradise is known for its all-time surfing, it isn’t always hot. Remember to bring warm clothing, but also be prepared for those nice hot days, when you can go out for a swim/surf.
A small backpack makes a good carryon bag and will be useful in daily life.
Beach clothing & sandals and snorkelling gear. And don’t forget to take good protection for your camera from the sand.