Rottnest Island, 18km west of Fremantle, was so named by seventeenth-century Dutch mariners who mistook its unique, indigenous quokkas (beaver-like marsupials), for rats. Today, following an ignominious period as a brutal aboriginal penal colony in the nineteenth century, Rottnest’s sweeping sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters make it a popular holiday destination, easily accessible from Perth or Fremantle by ferry.
Scarborough beach, Scarborough
About 14km north of Perth, Scarborough is a quiet coastal suburb where living the Aussie dream is a daily reality. Here you’ll see joggers on the beach at dawn, parents with pushchairs on the boardwalk at lunchtime and surfers in the ocean at dusk. Combine the beachside lifestyle with easy access to the city and it’s an extremely pleasant place to relax.
Penguin Island is a large colony of Little Penguins, who make their burrows in the sand beneath the bushes. There was once accommodation here but these fragile birds do not mix well with humans and the whole island is now a designated sanctuary. Head over to Back Beach for a day on the sands – bring a picnic, as there is no food available on the island.
Margaret River, Western Australia
The Margaret River region has plenty to offer - ancient caves, superb wineries, choice restaurants and snug hideaways - but it's the sweeping beaches that make the place well worth a few days of your time.
Salmon Beach, Windy Harbour
Just next to Windy Harbour, Salmon Beach is a wild, exposed strand. If you’re after luxury and sunbathing, look elsewhere - the prevailing southwesterlies blow straight on to the beach. For the more adventurous, this gives the perfect opportunity for a thrilling, hair-tussling stroll.
Ocean Beach, Denmark
Denmark is a quaint little country town and a pleasant spot to enjoy lunch or boat up the river of the same name. But just outside the inlet’s mouth lies Ocean Beach; spectacular views across broad Ratcliffe Bay are well worth the visit, as are the swells that sweep in to create good surfing conditions for learners.
Thistle Cove and Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park
Of all the beaches along the Le Grand Coastal Trail, the gorgeously secluded Thistle Cove and lovely Lucky Bay are the best – where you’ll find kangaroos on the sand, great camping facilities, sheltered swimming and wonderful ocean colours.
Middleton Beach, Albany
Albany’s huge natural harbour was a key port on the route between England and Botany Bay, but just as attractive to sailor or tourist alike are the white sands of the town’s Middleton beach. Early in the morning you may even have the stretch to yourself.
Great Ocean Drive, Esperance
With too many stunning beaches to be ignored, the Great Ocean Drive links the turquoise waters and white sands of West Beach, Fourth Beach, Nine-Mile Beach and prettiest of all, the idyllic Twilight Beach.
Shell Beach, Shark Bay
One of only two such beaches in the world, Shell Beach is composed entirely of millions of shells (in this case tiny bivalve cardiid cockle shells). The shells lie up to ten metres deep, and have consolidated under their own weight. The mass is cut into blocks to restore local buildings and you can see the shell brick quarry in Shark Bay at Hamelin Pool.
Monkey Mia, Shark Bay
After all the hype, you might be surprised to find that Monkey Mia is just a resort and a jetty by a pretty beach. But it's to this beach that scores of people flock to see the almost daily visits by between five and ten adult female dolphins and their attendant calves, all known by name. Get here at 7.30am to watch the first feeding at 8am, then watch them spend the afternoon foraging for food in the bay.
Coral Bay, the Coral Coast
The laidback resort of Coral Bay lies right at the southern end of Ningaloo Reef and is the place to base yourself for whale shark season from April to July. The reef is never more than seven kilometres offshore and in places is accessible from right from the beach.
Bundegi Beach, Exmouth
Near the purpose-built Navy community of Exmouth, Bundegi Beach is far nicer than any of the town beaches despite sitting below some rather ugly navy antenna. There’s a dark platform of coral a couple of hundred metres offshore so bring a snorkel.
Turquoise Bay, Cape Range National Park
One of the best spots for snorkelling along the Cape coast is Turquoise Bay, where the so-called "drift snorkel" floats you across 200m of colourful coral: drop your clothes at the sand bar, enter the water at the southern end of the beach and hop out in time to pick up your clothes.
The "northern beaches", the Dampier Peninsula
Isolated bushcamping can be found along the "northern beaches" on the south-west side of the Dampier peninsula. If you're travelling independently, come well prepared as there are no facilities whatsoever. The first of the beaches is lovely Barred Creek, followed by Quondong Point and then Price Point which is backed impressively red cliffs.
Cable Beach, Broome
Named after the nineteenth-century telegraph cable from Singapore that came ashore here, Cable Beach extends for an immaculate 22km north of Gantheaum Point to Willie Creek. This is where much of Broome's development has taken place, with five-star resorts, boutiques, bars and restaurants lining the streets around the coast. Patrolled swimming is available in front of the Cable Beach Club Resort in season, and to get rid of those white bits head to the nude sunbathing area north of the rocks.
Middle Lagoon, the Kimberley
Isolated and beautiful Middle Lagoon, 53km from the Aboriginal community of Beagle Bay (so fairly nearby in Australian terms), is a lovely white-sand cove with camping, good swimming and snorkelling. The best bet for accommodation here is excellent Nature's Hideaway.
Lombadina, the Kimberley
Much like Middle Lagoon is the community of Lombadina, an ex-mission settlement where you’ll now find well-equipped accommodation, a range of water and land based tours and most importantly, a beautiful wide bay.