The west coast of Australia may not be the first place you think of when planning a surf trip to Oz but after you get a taste for the less crowded breaks and breath-taking views maybe you’ll think again!
Whether you’re new to surfing and looking to improve your pop up or you’re a seasoned pro looking to spend some time in the barrel over some heavy reefs, then Western Australia has just the spot for you. In this article we explore some of the best surf spots in West Oz to help you spend more time on the waves and less time looking for them!
No doubt when you come to West Oz by plane you’ll land in Perth, the main city in this region, Perth is a relatively small and spread out city compared to the likes of Sydney, that has more of a town feeling rather than a big city vibe. Only a 20-minute drive from the city is the coast, a long sandy coastline with beautiful dunes and waves breaking all the way along. The great thing about Perth is that you can a user-friendly sand-bottom surf right in front of the beach, then only a few metres down there can be a much heavier spot breaking over a reef to satisfy the more advanced riders. The best time of year to visit Perth for surfing is in the Winter, the winds aren’t as strong and the swell is far more consistent, once the summer hits the winds pick up and the area is much better suited to kite surfers and wind surfers.
Starting from Cottesloe Beach, a beach break adorned with white sand and clear waters, this spot is perfect for working on your surf technique on your own or enrolling in a surf school for some guided instruction. A few minutes north you have Scarborough, which is loaded with user-friendly beach breaks working through all tides and breaking close to the beach to make for an easy paddle out. Finally, Trigg just next door is a popular spot offering a few beach breaks and reef breaks, depending where you paddle out, and is supervised by the highly experienced Surf Life Savers who ensure everyone stays safe out in the line-up.
Now it’s time to ditch the mainland and head over to Rottnest Island, a small island located only 19km off Perth and with regular ferries departing daily from Freemantle Harbour or Hilary’s Harbour, and only taking 30 minutes from port to port. Rottnest, literally meaning rat nest as the sailors who discovered this island thought the charming little Quokkas were giant rats, is a car-free zone, but you can rent bikes on the island and explore the hidden coves and picturesque beaches under your own man-power. One of the best things about the surf spots all over the island is that they pick up more swell than on the mainland, so you can be sure to find some fun waves here when it’s only knee high in Perth!
Once you’ve loaded up the surfboard on your bike it’s time to head to Strickland Bay, this is relatively heavy A-frame wave breaking over a shallow reef, suited to the more practiced surfer who is comfortable going down the line or seeking out barrels.
This spot works best with a higher tide so you don’t end up on dry reef, and just a tip but the last 300 metres to get to the spot are best accessed by foot as the path tends to be quite sandy and not so bike-friendly. A few more reef breaks that can be found on both sides of the island are Radar Reef, Cathedral Rocks and Chicken Reef, and like mentioned before, these spots can be from 2-3ft bigger than the waves on the mainland! The island is home to very fragile flora and fauna so, please stick to the paths to avoid destroying any of the carefully conserved plant life and habitats.
If you’ve spent any time watching the World Surf Leagues’ Championship Tour then you’ve probably heard of Margaret River, located in the southwest of Western Australia and famous for its vineyards, (relatively) endless sunshine and stunning rural scenery. Stretching across 130 kilometres and home to 75 surf breaks, Margaret River is an absolute must for the bucket list, drawing in surfers from all around the round who want to enjoy the long rides the breaks offer here.
With such a long and exposed coastline this area attracts some of the biggest waves in Australia on a place called Cow Bombie about 2 km offshore, and as well as waves there is plenty of wildlife, from sharks and dolphins to kangaroos and cockatoos!
Some of the best and most famous breaks here are The Box, a heavy reef break reserved for the well-practiced surfer, North Point, which is another tricky but rewarding point break, and Main Break, which is a popular left hander able to hold a solid swell.
If you’re looking for a more beginner-friendly spot then Smiths Beach is a great option on a small day, this left-hander breaks over a sandy reef, thus making it a bit more forgiving when the inevitable wipe-out happens, and is best on a low to mid tide. The 2 spots just next door to Smiths are called Supertubes and Torpedos and when the swell hits they certainly live up to their powerful names! Finally, Huzzas is a nice and easy A-frame point break, ideal for improving your pop-up, paddling and take-off technique, this spot mainly breaks left (hurrah for the goofy footers) but also has the occasional right. Prepare to find a relatively crowded line-up here as its one of the most accessible spots around and, therefore, is home to troops of overexcited groms and motivated “weekend warriors”.
Located along the beautiful Coral Coast, about a 12-hour drive north of Perth, is Gnaraloo. Spreading across 57km of coastline, Gnaraloo is home to the awe-inspiring Monument Cliffs, the 3rd largest population of Loggerhead turtles worldwide and, what we all came here for, incredible world-class surf breaks! Also, if you find time between surf sessions or the conditions are a bit too heavy one day, Gnaraloo is situated on the southern tip of Ningaloo Reef, making it a haven for fishing, snorkelling and diving.
Possibly the most famous surf spot here is Tombstones, and yes, it really is as intense as it sounds! This is an aggressive left-hander, and if the conditions are right, you could find yourself in the barrel from take-off to kick-out. The ideal time to paddle out it with a mid to high tide and with a south-southeast wind direction, also, be careful if you find yourself out there on a low tide as the sharp reef will start being exposed and the wave will start trying to pin you on it. Easily accessed from the Tombstones parking is Centre Peak (aka Centres), this is also a left-hander and works through all the tides so you can enjoy a super-long session out here if you have enough fuel in the tank and sun block on your face! Don’t worry, there are still some waves here that aren’t crazy hollow and ready to give you beating of your life!
This is where Fencelines comes in, a fun and slightly more forgiving spot thanks to the sandy bottom, breaking left and right to suit all the regular and goofy footers who come to surf here, and working best between the mid to low tides. Another more intermediate-friendly wave is Ganraloo Bay, this is a more chilled spot in comparison to the others however it still is a solid left-hand barrel that breaks over a relatively shallow reef. The ideal time to join the line-up here is when there is a big swell and a southeast wind blowing through.
All in all, Gnaraloo isn’t really a place for the faint-hearted or surfers just starting out, but if you do find yourself here tagging along with a few advanced surfing mates then you certainly won’t be at a loss for things to do thanks to the beautiful hikes and flourishing reef.
Hopefully after reading about all these amazing surf spots we have managed to get your travel excitement firing! Western Australia truly is an incredible place to visit and, whether you only visit Perth or you make a pilgrimage along the whole coastline, you are guaranteed to score some fun waves and have plenty of memorable sessions. So, what are you waiting for! Pack up your board bag and get planning!