It's no wonder, in this land girt by sea and where more than 80 per cent of us crowd around the edges that Australians are obsessed with coastlines, not only where we live but also where we so often choose to travel. Why wouldn't we, when our coastlines and those overseas have so much to offer?
We're not only talking about beaches, of course, but other coastal landmarks as well – cliffs, caves, bays, dunes, fringing forests, hinterlands and sea – but these are also coasts that offer culture, both traditional and modern, and opportunities to gorge on good food, to walk, to paddle, to drive, to cruise.
Coastlines can be hot or cold, sunny or moody, crowded or desolate, famous or unknown. The commonality, of course, is the proximity to the ocean, filling that deep need we as Australians have to be beside the sea, to perch on the edge of countries and continents and thrill and wonder.
Here are some of Traveller's favourite coastlines, from here and overseas, to tempt and excite you as we anxiously await the resumption of travel.
FOR THE ROAD-TRIPPER
THE COAST Coral Coast, WA
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.
COASTING ALONG This is 1100 kilometres of almost deserted coastline from Cervantes in the south to Exmouth in the north.
WHY WE LOVE IT Enjoy the freedom of the open road? Fancy beach after beach, all but entirely deserted? Like the idea of windswept coastal towns, gorge-riven interiors, huge coral reefs, campgrounds, caravan parks, wildflowers, rock formations, Indigenous culture and more? Then Western Australia's Coral Coast is for you.
DON'T MISS It's hard to go past Ningaloo Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage area, home of the whale sharks, and one of Australia's natural treasures.
DO IT This is a coast made for driving: hire a car or campervan in Perth and stop in Cervantes, Kalbarri, Monkey Mia, Carnarvon and Coral Bay. Travel March to July for whale sharks, July to September for wildflowers, July to October for humpback whales. See australiascoralcoast.com
FOR THE ADVENTURER
THE COAST Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
COASTING ALONG Indonesia's "Four Kings" is an equatorial archipelago of more than 1500 islands and shoals.
WHY WE LOVE IT Even above water Raja Ampat is spectacular, with its thousands of forest-covered rocks rising from the warm, clear sea. For the true glory of this sublime coastline, however, you need to go below the surface, to experience the incredible biodiversity of Raja Ampat, which according to some, is the richest in the world. For divers and snorkellers, this remote area is as good as it gets.
DON'T MISS Divers, gear up and go deep at Cape Kri, a well-known though still stunning site at which a record number of fish species was recorded in a single dive: 374.
DO IT The best way to experience Raja Ampat is on a live-aboard vessel. The MSV Amira is a good choice. For divers, the best time to visit is September to April, when the manta rays are in town. See amira-indonesia.com; indonesia.travel
FOR THE GOURMAND
THE COAST Great Australian Bight, SA/WA
Kangaroo Island Spirits, South Australia. Photo: Meaghan Coles
COASTING ALONG Officially, this coastline begins at Cape Carnot in South Australia and stretches 1160 kilometres to Cape Pasley in Western Australia, though we'll include Esperance, Kangaroo Island and the Fleurieu Peninsula.
WHY WE LOVE IT This coastline perfectly captures the highlights of southern Australia, from the pristine beaches of Esperance and Cape le Grand to the barren beauty of the Nullarbor, the towering cliffs of the Eyre Peninsula, the food and wine of the Fleurieu Peninsula, and the wildlife and luxury lodges of Kangaroo Island.
DON'T MISS For foodies, grab oysters in Coffin Bay, tuna from Port Lincoln, make your own gin on Kangaroo Island, and visit wineries in McLaren Vale.
DO IT Best way to see the Bight is on a road trip: begin in Adelaide, take a detour on the car ferry across to Kangaroo Island, before strapping in for the iconic Nullarbor. See southaustralia.com, and westernaustralia.com
FOR HAPPY CAMPERS
THE COAST Gippsland Lakes/90 Mile Beach, Victoria
Gippsland Lakes, Victoria. Photo: Luminaire Pictures
COASTING ALONG The Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria covers 400 square kilometres of tidal lakes, rivers, marshes and streams, while 90 Mile Beach, appropriately, stretches 90 miles, or 145 kilometres, from Seaspray to Lakes Entrance.
WHY WE LOVE IT For those who enjoy boating, fishing, camping, sailing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and really anything else you can do on or around the water, this area is as good as it gets. The Gippsland Lakes were made for long weekends filled with outdoor adventure – there's plenty of isolation on 90 Mile Beach, or small-town life to enjoy in Lakes Entrance or Metung.
DON'T MISS The Mitchell River Silt Jetties are an amazing natural phenomenon, two narrow fingers of land stretching eight kilometres from Eagle Point. Best way to appreciate them is with a helicopter flight over the top. See lakesentrancehelicopters.com.au
DO IT This area is perfect for camping – there are so many places to park up and pitch a tent here, from free to paid sites with varying facilities and access points. See parks.vic.gov.au or visitvictoria.com
FOR THE WALKER
THE COAST Milford Sound, New Zealand
COASTING ALONG Nestled into the Fiordland of New Zealand's South Island, Milford Sound is 15 kilometres long, which means there's more than 30 kilometres of shoreline to explore.
WHY WE LOVE IT Also known by its Maori name, Piopiotahi, Milford Sound is New Zealand's most famous natural attraction. Here you'll find dizzying cliffs and rushing waterfalls; wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins; untouched forests hugging alpine peaks; and New Zealand's best-known multi-day walk.
DON'T MISS The Milford Track is bucket-list stuff for hikers, a 53 kilometre pathway that winds past lakes and through mountain passes, and includes suspension bridges, boardwalks, and spectacular views.
DO IT This is a great place to walk – Milford Track is open October to April, and bookings are essential, see doc.govt.nz – though you could also cruise the Sound to enjoy brushes with the area's marine life. Celebrity Cruises has itineraries calling into Milford Sound in 2023. See celebritycruises.com
FOR THE GLAMOURPUSS
THE COAST Costa Smeralda, Italy
COASTING ALONG This achingly beautiful coastline in northern Sardinia begins in Budoni in the south and ends at Isola Rossa in the north: about 20 kilometres all up.
WHY WE LOVE IT If you're a Russian oligarch in possession of a superyacht then you know all about the Costa Smeralda. This is the coastline of choice for the world's uber rich, who bring their seaborne toys to play in this stupendously beautiful part of the world. You'll find them in Porto Cervo. Everyone else you'll find at the beaches and lidos strung along the coast, sipping Aperol Spritzes and living the dream.
DON'T MISS You really can't go wrong anywhere here – though Capo Testa, a rugged headland near where ferries depart to Corsica, is close to perfection.
FOR THE CULTURE SEEKER
THE COAST East Arnhem Land, NT
A welcome to country at Bawaka, East Arnhem Land. Photo: Shaana McNaught
COASTING ALONG This coastline begins around Milingimbi, and wraps around the top of the NT, ending at Groote Eylandt.
WHY WE LOVE IT The eastern half of Arnhem Land is a stronghold of traditional Indigenous culture in Australia, an amazing, wild area filled with white sandy beaches lapped by warm waters. This is the ideal place to embark on a cultural adventure, to learn from the local Yolngu people while exploring the likes of the Gove Peninsula and Bawaka.
DON'T MISS Perhaps the most accessible location is Groot Eylandt, home of the Warnindilyakwa people, where there's high-quality resort accommodation, cultural experiences, and some of the best fishing in the world.
DO IT If you're on land, this is four-wheel drive country. On the water, Crooked Compass offers expedition cruises of East Arnhem Land and the Wessel Islands. The area is best from April to October, and some places require permits to visit. See eastarnhemland.com.au
FOR THE CITY SLICKER
THE COAST Cape Town, South Africa
Lion's Head in Cape Town, with Table Mountain in the background in South Africa.
COASTING ALONG This seaside region runs from Bloubergstrand in Cape Town's north, around the cape itself and back to Gordon's Bay – more than 150 kilometres all up.
WHY WE LOVE IT If you're here for pure scenery, you're in luck: from Cape Town itself, wrapped around Table Mountain, to the windswept charms of the Cape of Good Hope, to the seaside beauty of Simon's Town and Kalk Bay, this area is a feast for the eyes. But then throw in vibrant modern culture, affordable accommodation and even a few wineries, and you have yourself a guaranteed good time.
DON'T MISS There's so much to choose from here: drive the Cape; climb the mountain; make your base in swish Camp's Bay or Clifton.
DO IT Make use of the excellent boutique accommodation in Cape Town (try POD Camps Bay – pod.co.za – or Hotel on the Promenade in Sea Point, hotelonthepromenade.com), and then get around by Uber or hire car. Head downtown for nightlife, Camps Bay for glamour, and Constantia for vineyards. See southafrica.net
FOR THE CRUISE-LOVER
THE COAST Tierra del Fuego, Argentina/Chile
COASTING ALONG There is a phenomenal amount of coastline on this archipelago at the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, with hundreds of islands over a combined area of 73,746 square kilometres.
WHY WE LOVE IT This is the end of the world, in many respects, and the scenery is incredible. Tierra del Fuego was once explored by the likes of Magellan and Darwin, a rugged area where those aboard a modern cruise vessel can round Cape Horn, view the majesty of Garibaldi Glacier, see Agostini Glacier in a fiord of the same name, and sail the Strait of Magellan.
DON'T MISS For many, the most exciting journey here is along the Beagle Channel, named in honour of Darwin's vessel, and the beginning of any expedition departing Ushuaia.
FOR THE EXPLORER
THE COAST West Coast, Tasmania
Gordon River Cruises on Tasmania's West Coast.
COASTING ALONG This coast stretches from Cape Grim in the north all the way to Southwest National Park.
WHY WE LOVE IT You have to love one of the slogans for Tasmania's wild and isolated West Coast region: "Just outside your comfort zone". That's exactly what it is: true adventure, but not too much so. Along the coast here you have cruises along the Gordon River departing from Strahan; the rugged, windswept beauty of Ocean Beach; the towering Huon pines of Macquarie Harbour; fishing from Trial Harbour; convict history on Sarah Island.
DON'T MISS Near Strahan, take the gentle 50-minute round-trip walk to Hogarth Falls, keeping an eye out for platypus in gorgeous rainforest streams.
DO IT Hunker down in self-contained accommodation and then explore by car or on foot – check out Comstock Cottage (comstock.com.au) or Franklin Manor (franklinmanor.com.au). Though there's plenty to do year-round, outdoor activities are best planned for warmer months. See westcoasttas.com.au
FOR THE NATURE-SEEKER
THE COAST Mid-North Coast, NSW
Elizabeth Beach in Booti Booti National Park, NSW. Photo: Guy Williment
COASTING ALONG This gorgeous area runs about 400 kilometres from Port Stephens in the south to Woolgoolga in the north.
WHY WE LOVE IT Have you seen the Pacific Ocean from the NSW Mid-North Coast? It's stunning. This is one seriously underrated part of the world, where you get small beachy enclaves such as Seal Rocks and Blueys Beach, regional centres like Port Macquarie and Forster, national parks like Hat Head and Myall Lakes.
DON'T MISS Keep it between us, but Boomerang Beach, just south of Forster, is the idyllic stretch of sand and ocean you've been looking for. Surf, dive, relax.
FIVE MORE COASTS TO GORGE ON
AMALFI COAST, ITALY
When life gives you lemons… And of course, life gave Italy's Amalfi Coast many, many lemons, which local cooks use to make pasta al limone (creamy pasta with lemon), Delizia al Limone (fluffy "lemon delight"), and much more. This is also the region to feast on spaghetti alle vongole, seafood risotto, anchovies, mozzarella di bufala, and anything else you can get your hands on. See amalfitouristoffice.it
Japan's northernmost island has the best of everything, produce-wise: the best vegetables, thanks to its volcanic soil; the best dairy, thanks to the perfect conditions; and the best seafood, thanks to the cold, clear waters that surround it. Feast on snow crab, sea urchin, prawns, scallops, salmon roe, squid, tuna… and repeat. See japan.travel
Lighthouses at Cap Frehel along Brittany's coast, France. Photo: Manfred Gottschalk/Getty
This famously maritime region of northern France is well known for its cuisine. Many will tell you the world's finest oysters come from Brittany. There are also Breton galettes – buckwheat crepes filled with egg and ham – plentiful seafood, hearty stews, local beer and cider, and sweets such as kouign-amann, crepes and Far Breton. See brittanytourism.com
YUCATAN PENINSULA, MEXICO
The flavours of the Yucatan are not subtle: the dishes of this Caribbean region are famed for their liberal use of Mexico's chillies. Check out classics such as cochinita pibil, slow-roasted pork stuffed into flour tortillas; panuchos, fried tortillas topped with shredded meat; or ceviche, made using local prawns drowned in citrus and chilli. See visitmexico.com
BASQUE COAST, SPAIN
The Basques are famously obsessed with cuisine, and are fortunate to harness two perfect resources: the region's fertile mountains and foothills, and the seafood-rich waters of the Bay of Biscay. Dine almost anywhere in San Sebastian, Getaria, Hondarribia, Tolosa and Bilbao and you will experience some of the best food on the planet. See tourism.euskadi.eus
FIVE MORE CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN COASTLINES
GREAT OCEAN ROAD, VIC
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria. Photo: iStock
Australia's most famous stretch of road hugs an impossibly dramatic section of coastline, all towering cliffs and perfect beaches, pillars of rock and natural caves, rugged forests and crashing waterfalls. Go for a surf, go for a hike, take a helicopter ride, walk on a platform high in the forest canopy. And have a bite to eat. See visitvictoria.com
GOLD COAST, QLD
Call it the Goldie, call it the GC, call it what you like, really – whatever the name, this is one of Australia's best-loved stretches of coast. It has some of the country's best surf beaches, a thriving culture of fresh-food markets, craft breweries and artistic events, including at the new HOTA centre, a blend of big-city style and laidback suburbia, plus access to a vast hinterland. See destinationgoldcoast.com
THE KIMBERLEY, WA
Is there a better place in the world to take a expedition cruise, charting the rugged coastline of the Kimberley, stopping to explore the likes of the Horizontal Falls at Talbot Bay, the rocky gorges of Prince Regent River, the wildlife along Hunter River, the spectacular Montgomery Reef, the mighty King George Falls? Never a dull moment. See australiasnorthwest.com
The word "idyllic" doesn't even begin to describe the Whitsunday coast, both mainland and island. We're talking luxury resort stays on Lizard Island or Orpheus, family-friendly sojourns to Hamilton Island or Daydream, bare-boating on the open waters, snorkelling, scuba-diving, hiking, kayaking, or just lazing in the sun. See tourismwhitsundays.com.au
NORTHERN RIVERS, NSW
The coastal beauty of the Northern Rivers region is no secret these days: sea-changers, tree-changers, celebrity-spotters and holidaymakers have been flocking to the likes of Byron Bay, Bangalow, Lennox Head, Tweed Heads, Brunswick Heads and more now for some time, and with good reason. See visitnsw.com