Melbourne is not synonymous with beautiful beaches. It’s not a slight against our marvellous city, it’s just a fact that Melbourne’s best beaches are not quite like other beaches around Australia—thanks Port Phillip Bay. However, that’s not to say there isn’t a beautiful Melbourne beach near you, accessible by public transport, or just an hour’s drive down the coast.
For the sake of this article, we’re lumping in beaches found in Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula and the Mornington Peninsula as well because some of Victoria’s best beaches are not too far from Melbourne. Besides, if you’re looking for surf, these are going to be your closest beaches to Melbourne.
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Very close to the CBD
1. St Kilda Beach
Melbourne’s most famous beach is not its prettiest, but it is our city beach and you can get there by tram from the CBD—just hop on the 3a, 16 or the 96 to hit up our seaside paradise. It’s also quite long. At 700 metres, there’s plenty of space for all the locals, tourists and backpackers to find a bit of sand to squeeze between their toes and frolic in the wave-free water.
Out of the water, a walk up and back St Kilda pier is a favourite pastime—temporarily closed—and the boardwalk is bustling with walkers, cyclists and roller skater/bladers as well. Trendy Acland Street is just a short stroll away and so too is Luna Park. But, our favourite St Kilda Beach activity has to be spotting penguins from the St Kilda Pier—no flash with your photos! It’s no Phillip Island but you can get lucky in the very early morning or late evening. Before you go, check the Parks Victoria website for updates.
Other beaches within walking distance
On the other side of the St Kilda Sea Baths and Catani Gardens, you can find St Kilda West Beach. Over the years has become popular with kite surfers, kiteboarders, paddle boarders and other water sport-ers.
If you continue walking four kilometres toward the city along the shoreline, you’ll come across more of Melbourne’s city beaches: Middle Park Beach, South Melbourne Beach and Port Melbourne Beach. Just over halfway, Kerferd Street Pier juts out into the water and makes for a great little fishing spot. Just bear in mind that the closer to Port Melbourne you get, the closer you are to the port and that means big ships—water cleanliness isn’t exactly great.
Beaches in the southeast
The City of Bayside council (southeast of the CBD) is home to some of Melbourne’s most popular beaches. Thanks to public transport (PTV), they’re super-well connected to the Melbourne CBD thanks to the Sandringham Line train.
The area is also home to four affiliated trails stretching between Brighton and Beaumaris where walkers can check out more than 90 artworks on signs across 17 kilometres of coastline. Many of these were painted by the famous Heidelberg School artists and, recently, have been joined by contemporary indigenous artists whose work details the close relationship between the Boonwurrung culture and the coastal environment.
2. Elwood Beach
We’ve heard that locals say you’ll always find an ice cream truck at Elwood Beach and that makes it a winner in our books. However, it’s also a much less popular beach than St Kilda and Brighton (next on the list), which makes it less busy, less crowded and much more chill. It’s no hidden gem, though, so don’t turn up thinking you can set up stumps and play a round of beach cricket.
Elwood Beach is kitted out with a public shower and the nearby park has got BBQ facilities as well as quite a few family-friendly activities (read: playgrounds) in the vicinity. Point Ormond Lookout to the north end of Elwood Beach throws up some spectacular views of the city and surrounding area.
3. Brighton Beach
Home to Melbourne’s most famous beach photos thanks to the iconic, colourful and quaint bathing boxes (82 in total), Brighton Beach is high up on the list of must-visit beaches for tourists. But, don’t let that deter you from visiting. Well connected to the city, Brighton Beach is just 30 minutes on the train and makes for a fabulous afternoon outing with lovely sunset views of the Melbourne city skyline.
Kite surfers are a fan of Brighton Beach as well as those who love a swim and those that prefer to lay back on the sand and sunbathe. The proximity to Brighton, the suburb, also makes this beach a favoured destination—think cafes, restaurants, trendy shops and galleries. Brighton Beach Gardens is also a good spot to visit after a wander along the shoreline past the Brighton Bathing Boxes and Dendy Street Beach—a continuation of Brighton Beach.
4. Sandringham Beach
The sand is soft and the water is clean at Sandringham Beach, which is as much as anyone could want from a beach. But, Sandringham Beach does offer much more than the absolute beach basics, like decent amenities (toilets and drinking fountains) and more than a few walking trails that cut through the green reserves that separate the sand from Beach Road.
If photos are your thing, the Band Rotunda is a historical landmark overlooking the beach and is a sweet spot for sunrise/sunset photo shots. The cliff face and few rocks also make for great backdrops as well as the Windhover Sculpture on the other side of the Sandringham Life Saving Club. Close to the shops as well as the train station make Sandringham Beach a great beach day.
5. Half Moon Bay
“Grab your bucket, grab your spade
We’re heading down to Half Moon Bay.”
Half Moon Bay, situated between the Red Bluff Lookout and the Black Rock Jetty, was famous long before it was mentioned in The Cat Empire’s “The Wine Song”. The water is clear (not crystal but clear enough to see the marine life), the rock formations are dope (briefly featured in Mad Max and Round the Twist) and there’s a shipwreck out in the bay. The HMVS Cerberus, which is the last surviving monitor warship in the world, serves as a breakwater and was quite popular with scuba divers.
Half Moon Bay is also home to a surf lifesaving club, the Black Rock Yacht Club (there’s a boat ramp) and a couple of restaurants and beach huts situated around the jetty. Fish n Chips is a popular choice, obviously. Get there early if you want to claim a great spot on the sand.
6. Mentone to Olivers Hill Beaches
Beaches in the City of Kingston and the City of Frankston, two local council areas farther afield than Bayside but still hug the southeast coastline of Port Phillip Bay, can be reached by train along the Frankston Line. We’re grouping the beaches together because they’re all kind of similar and if it wasn’t for a couple of river entrances, you could walk the 20-odd kilometres of shoreline from Mentone to Frankston.
If what you’re looking for is a bit of sun, sand and salty water to cool you off in summer, then the beaches at Mentone, Mordialloc, Aspendale, Edithvale, Chelsea, Bonbeach, Carrum, Seaford, Frankston and Olivers Hill all serve the purpose. You’ll find all the facilities you need to have a great day at the beach, with most of the beaches just a short stroll past the shops from the train station. They’re not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re more than likely to find more space to throw down a towel than at beaches closer to the city. And, if you live out that way, these are your go-to beaches.
The Frankston waterfront area has been extensively redeveloped and is much, much nicer than it used to be in the 90s and early 2000s. With a large playground, waterfront restaurants and cafes, a boardwalk and the award-winning Frankston Visitor Information Centre, it’s hugely popular in the summer months.
Beaches in the southwest
7. Williamstown Beach
Servicing the inner-west suburbs, Williamstown Beach is very popular when the hot weather rolls around and has us clamouring for sweet relief. When the weather is not stinking, a walk along the Esplanade is a lovely saunter, especially at sunset, and a feed or a drink at the kiosk or one of the nearby cafes is extremely tempting.
The shallow and flat water is great for the little ones and its also got a couple of playgrounds in the area, which is also peppered with lush green spaces like the Williamstown Botanic Gardens, a reserve with an off-leash dog area, and then the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary and the adjacent conservation reserve that can be reached via Bay Trail West.
8. Altona Beach
Further west, Altona Beach is a superb place to picnic, hang out and dip your ten toes and fingers into the water. There are volleyball courts where you can rock up with your ball and have a hit over the net, some restaurants and ice cream shops close by, and a playground across the road at Logan Reserve, which has beautiful, huge trees that provide wanted shade from the hot summer sun. The local shops are just on the other side.
As is usually the case, the pier draws your attention and compels you to mosey up and back. And, if you’re really lucky in choosing the right day, you might just be lucky enough to come across a local who has decided to take their bunny rabbit to the beach to help it cool off. Don’t believe us? Google Reviews is your friend because there is photo evidence and it’s soooooooo cute—it strikes one helluva pose.
Melbourne’s summer seaside playground is complete with seaside restaurants, local markets, wineries and some of the best beaches close to the city, including ocean and surf beaches.
At the entrance to the Mornington Peninsula is Mornington and also one of the more underrated beaches in Port Phillip Bay—Mother’s Beach. It’s easily accessible with amenities at hand plus super close to town and a park with bbq and playground. There’s also a boat rental service if you fancy getting out and about.
Like Brighton Beach, Mt Martha Beach also has brightly coloured Bathing Boxes, which, as usual, attracts the amateur photographer in all of us. It’s also one of the longest beaches in the area at about two kilometres in length so there’s generally space somewhere on the soft sand to sit back and relax—it is split in north and south by Balcombe Creek but it’s not impossible to walk across. With the local shops just on the other side of the road, there’s plenty on offer in the way of cafes, bars and restaurants in the area for those that haven’t come prepared. And no, we’re not going to talk about the nearby Instagram attraction that’s resulted in erosion and angry locals.
Keep driving and Safety Beach is another sandy haven that’s well worth a stop, especially if you’ve got kids—fun fact is that it used to be called Shark Bay. It’s clean, the water is shallow, and there’s plenty of parking plus a handful of cafes where you can get great coffee. Further along, Rye Beach, Sorrento Beach and Port King Beach in Portsea are extremely well-rated by locals and those that have been going for years. Shallow and clear water makes for an enjoyable swim, but if you’re keen to see fewer people, try Blairgowrie Beach in between.
And now onto the back beaches, the ocean beaches and the surf beaches of the Mornington Peninsula and some of the finest beaches close to Melbourne. Top of the list is Sorrento Back Beach, followed by Portsea Back Beach, Diamond Bay, Number 16 Beach and Bridgewater Bay. And, one of the best surf beaches anywhere in Victoria has to be Gunnamatta Ocean Beach, which has three kilometres of exposed coastline making for great waves. Other favourites include St Andrews Beach and Point Leo Surf Beach.
Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula
When talking about beaches in Geelong, there’s only the one beach that can begin the conversation and that’s Eastern Beach. Famed for its shark-proof enclosure, it’s got floating islands, platforms, slides and a diving tower for young and old to have plenty of fun. Lifeguards are on patrol in the summer while the littler kids are able to have a paddle in the fenced children’s pool. Nearby, you’ll find bbq facilities and plenty of lush green grass for when you’re tired of the sand. If you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter, Rippleside Beach is a good shout and so too is Moorpanyal Beach—a not-so-well-known slice of sandy paradise.
Still in Port Phillip Bay, Cindy’s Beach is an amazing local beach that’s got a decent reef for some underwater adventures while Portarlington Beach is seaside perfection for walks along the esplanade and up the pier as well as for a swim in the calm waters. This area of the Bellarine Peninsula also throws up some sensational sunset views of the Melbourne city skyline across the bay—a very different perspective from the City of Bayside beaches.
Depending on what you’re looking for in a beach, Point Lonsdale Front Beach is a terrific option for a summer swim and adventure along the walking tracks that take you up around the lighthouse. There are phenomenal views of the Port Phillip Bay heads, rock pools to explore at low tide and the pier to walk. However, beware of the strong currents and rips at the entrance of the bay—naturally called The Rip.
For some of the best surf on the Bellarine Peninsula and the City of Greater Geelong, look no further than Thirteenth Beach, a 4.5 kilometre stretch of coastline west of Barwon Heads that serves up waves for both beginners and pros. And, if you’re able-bodied and willing to trek over some sand dunes, Bancoora Beach near Breamlea is well worth a visit and a surf when the conditions are right.
And if you’re looking for some of the best surf in the country, or to surf at the spiritual home of surfing in Australia, Bells Beach isn’t too far away. You’re going to need to go on a scenic drive down the Great Ocean Road, though, and leave the Greater Geelong region behind. And if you’re on your way to Warnambool/Adelaide, Loch Ard Gorge was voted the fifth most beautiful beach in Australia in 2022—find it on the other side of the 12 Apostles in Port Campbell.