Melbourne may be the Aussie sporting capital (bow down), but we're not exactly known throughout the world for our white-sand surf beaches and bikini babes. We do, however, have a bucketload of calm and picturesque bay beaches for locals' swimming and strolling pleasure, with neighbouring recreation and dining options aplenty -- take that, Sydney! When summer temps push 40 (that’s over 104 for you Fahrenheit folks!) and it's time for some al fresco action, here are Melbourne's 10 best beaches to dive into.
A super-popular Melbourne beach, this 2.5km straight shot between Black Rock and Hampton Beach is perfect for a jog, or a more leisurely scenic stroll. Facing southwest, Sandy's a half-hour train ride from the CBD and offers easy swimming, with the beach more easily accessible from the northern section between the Surf Life Saving club and Picnic Point. There are also great walking and cycling tracks, with the rocky cliffs to the south soaring to 30 metres at Red Bluff.
St Kilda Beach
You'll find Melbourne's most iconic beach just 6km from the city, and easily accessible by tram (take public transport; parking in St Kilda’s horrific!) Beloved by locals and tourists alike, this bustling bay beach is a people-watcher's paradise, dotted with palm trees and adjacent to a bevy of great cafes, restaurants, and bars for sipping on sundowners. Safe and sandy, the boardwalk jostles with joggers, cyclists, and bladers all year 'round. Not unlike Venice Beach, with its famous pier and amusement park, St Kilda Beach has personality plus.
Dendy Street Beach
Brighton's Dendy Street Beach is as famous for its architecture as its tranquil waters and golden sands, with 82 bathing boxes jazzing up the foreshore with a riot of color. Cookie-cutter in design -- a simple timber structure with a corrugated iron roof -- many were built over 100 years ago, when beachgoers were a modest bunch and neck-to-knees coverage was the height of seaside style. Brighton's bathing boxes are a photographer's dream, and are extremely tightly held; on the rare occasion they do sell, they go for around the price of a small apartment.
A bit less hectic than nearby St Kilda Beach, this picturesque swimming spot is bounded by Elwood Park and Point Ormond Reserve. In addition to the usual sunbathing, this spot's also ideal for sailing, boating, and windsurfing, with a stunning foreshore equipped with paths for walking and cycling, as well as tasty dining options and picnic/BBQ facilities in the reserves. Grab your boo, a rug, and a bottle of bubbles, as the sunsets here are killer.
If you want to cool down in the western suburbs, make your way to the popular Altona Beach. The 3km stretch has a boat-free zone and a dedicated kite-surfing area, making it a great spot for a refreshing swim or your water sport of choice. One of Melbourne's safest beaches for swimming, family-friendly Altona also features great facilities like BBQ areas, a playground, and a long central pier to jump off.
Mentone Beach runs 1.6km at the northern edge of the 20km stretch of sand from Frankston, and its 20-metre-high bluffs are pretty hard to miss. You'll find plenty of folks fishing along the rock groynes, while the southwest-facing beach is partially protected from the wind, which makes it a pleasant spot to splash about. Plus, it's accessible from the CBD in just under an hour by train.
When temps rise in the west, locals head to wide, sandy Williamstown Beach in droves. Bordered by water on three sides, Williamstown was Melbourne's first seaport, and you don't have to look far to see vestiges of its maritime history. West of the West Gate Bridge, the patrolled beach is a popular spot to cool down and chill out, with plenty of facilities -- including playgrounds, BBQs, bike paths, and a kiosk -- to keep both little kids and big kids entertained.
Half Moon Bay
A lovely, crescent-shaped bit of sand surrounded by cliffs, Half Moon Bay in Black Rock is a truly picturesque and protected spot for a paddle. If you're after more action, there's a pier to jump off and the nearby, half-sunk wreck of HMAS Cerberus is super popular with divers. The dining's also great here, ranging from top-notch fish & chips from the kiosk, to a fancier seafood affair at the award-winning Cerberus Beach House. Pack your camera or smartphone; the sunset views here are priceless.
Port Melbourne Beach, South Melbourne/Middle Park Beach
This trio of adjacent beaches is as close as you'll get to swimming inside the CBD itself; easily accessible by tram from the city centre, each spot's ideal for washing away your worries after work. South Melbourne and Middle Park are popular with kite surfers and volleyballers as well as swimmers, and are home to the pretty Kerferd Road Pier. For a well-rounded weekend outing, stroll along Port Melbourne's palm tree-dotted promenade, cool off with a quick dip, then hit the shops and cafes of Bay St.
You'll find Carrum Beach roughly halfway down the sandy stretch from Mentone to Frankston, near the mouth of Patterson River. A hub for boaties, the beach boasts a sailing club and yacht club, and while it's generally a safe spot for a swim, you'll wanna have your wits about you near the mouth of the river (where there can be some tricky currents to navigate).
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Pip Jarvis is a Melbourne writer who loves the outdoors, but burns in 15 seconds. Look for her moon tan on a beach near you.