WORDS: Claire Lock
IMAGES: NATURE PLAY SA
If there’s anything Nature Play SA know more about than most of us, it’s things to do outdoors with the kids!
To celebrate the start of summer, and weeks of quality time with our kids stretching before us, Nature Play SA has given us the 10 best beaches for families in South Australia. Why? because it’s time to hit the sand and the surf and spend summer outdoors!
One thing we’ll never take for granted is access to South Australia’s magnificent beaches.
From colourful metro seasides to secluded regional gems, families can escape to beaches framed by sweeping dunes, rocky headlands, ochre cliffs, and rolling hills. Shallow shores are perfect for play, while curious minds can discover an underwater world of fascinating marine creatures, sandy seafloors, seagrass meadows, reefs, and more.
Pack the towels and hit the coast this summer with our pick of South Australia’s best beaches for families.
Always monitor children near water and pay attention to signs and local conditions. Swim between the flags at patrolled beaches and remember to be sun smart. Find more important beach safety tips here.
1. Second Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula
Escape for a day trip or short vacay with family and friends at this idyllic seaside destination. Discover two small beaches, towering cliffs, and fascinating rock formations nestled at the base of rolling hills. Enjoy a coastal picnic, swimming, fishing, and exploring the rocky shore (above and below the water!)
Location: Second Valley (92 km south of Adelaide)
Facilities: Parking, toilets, jetty, Second Valley Caravan Park and Jetty Store
Things to do: Book to stay at the caravan park or local accommodation. Take a short hike for awe-inspiring views of the coastline. Explore Encounter Marine Park by kayak, snorkel, or scuba diving.
Look for rocky and sandy seafloors, seagrass meadows, schools of fish, eagle rays, and Leafy Seadragon (keep your distance to not cause distress).
2. Shell Beach, Yorke Peninsula
Travel into the heart of Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park to the secluded Shell Beach. Follow the sandy trail through the dunes to look out over a blonde beach, turquoise bay, and rocky headlands. Walk to the beach’s northern end to scramble rocks and find the Blue Pool, a natural rock pool.
Location: Innes National Park (300 km west of Adelaide)
Facilities: Parking at Shell Beach. Information office, picnic areas, toilets (including disabled toilets), BBQ facilities, seven campgrounds, and more throughout Innes
Things to do: Book a campsite or heritage accommodation in the Park, or stay nearby in Marion Bay. Learn about the Narungga people, Traditional Owners and co-managers of the Park. Enjoy beachcombing, surfing, fishing, walking, star gazing, and fauna spotting (see if you can spot emus or reintroduced Tammar Wallabies).
3. Port Noarlunga
Located on Adelaide’s mid-coast, ‘Porties’ is prized for its sandy beaches, offshore reefs, historic jetty, and spectacular nearby estuary, dunes, and ochre-coloured cliffs. Families can enjoy beach play, swimming, snorkelling, diving, fishing (restrictions apply) and exploring the local township.
Location: Port Noarlunga (30 km south of Adelaide)
Facilities: Surf Life Saving patrols at Port Noarlunga and the higher energy South Port beach (check for times). Jetty, toilets, car parking, local bakery, eateries, and takeaway. Aquatic hire facilities
Things to do: Walk south along the beach towards South Port and the Onkaparinga River mouth. Explore the Port Noarlunga Aquatic Reserve and Encounter Marine Park (the reef is home to more than 200 marine species, and there’s an underwater trail for experienced divers.)
Learn to surf with a local school (more experienced surfers can discover breaks in the Mid Coast Surfing Reserve.)
4. Brighton Beach
One of Adelaide’s beautiful metropolitan beaches, Brighton is a generally calm beach characterised by clean white sands, a long jetty, and a distinct coastal village vibe. Visitors can relax on the sand, play in the shallows, find shade under the jetty, and look for visiting marine life like dolphins, rays, and schools of small fish.
Location: Brighton (16 km southwest of Adelaide)
Facilities: Jetty, toilets at local park, picnic tables, accessible ramp, car parking, local bakery, eateries, and takeaway. Surf Life Saving patrols (check for times)
Things to do: Stand-up paddleboard or kayak offshore. Walk along the beach or Coast Park trail (head south to Seacliff or north to Minda Dunes and Glenelg). Watch local artist Sue Norman create sand mandalas by the jetty.
View permanent sculptural artworks along the Esplanade or visit the Brighton Jetty Sculptures exhibition in January.
5. Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island
Once named Australia’s best beach, this secluded 6km stretch of white sand enthrals visitors with its turquoise waters, quaint jetty, coastal vegetation, and calcrete outcrops. Spend a day – or a week – relaxing in nature, enjoying sunbathing, swimming, fishing, surfing, snorkelling, picnicking, and more.
Location: Kangaroo Island (225 km south of Adelaide – ferry required)
Facilities: Short jetty, picnic and BBQ facilities, parking, campground (toilets and showers available), Vivonne Bay General Store
Things to do: Camp or stay in local accommodation (start planning your trip to Kangaroo Island here.) Nearby, discover the expansive Little Sahara Dunes or view the sea-lion colony at Seal Bay (guided tours and wheelchair access available).
While on the Island, visit Flinders Chase National Park to see sights including Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch, and bushfire recovery efforts.
6. Almonta Beach, Eyre Peninsula
Cool down in the pristine turquoise waters of Almonta Beach in Coffin Bay National Park. Also named one of Australia’s best beaches, this secluded coast features windswept dunes and Golden Island views. Multiple marine sanctuary zones in the area make Almonta an exceptional place to swim, snorkel, spot wildlife, and fish.
Location: Coffin Bay National Park (710 km west of Adelaide)
Facilities: Toilets and picnic spots in Coffin Bay National Park. Many parts of the Park are accessible by 4WD only. Visitors need to bring their own water
Things to do: Watch for crustaceans and life amongst the rockpools. Spot pods of dolphins in the Southern Ocean (Coffin Bay is an important breeding and calving ground for bottlenose and common dolphins).
Take in the views from Golden Island Lookout. Stay in one of the six National Park campgrounds (Yangie Bay is the closest to Almonta Beach). Look for emus, goannas, kangaroos, White-bellied Sea-eagles, and Osprey.
7. Long Beach, Robe
One of the Limestone Coast’s beautiful beaches, Long Beach draws visitors with its 12kms of white sands, gentle waters, 4WD beach access, and a backdrop of tall coastal dunes. Pack a shelter, food for the day, bodyboards, and cricket set to settle right in (note: this beach is especially popular during peak season).
Location: Robe (340 km southeast of Adelaide)
Facilities: 4WD access in sections, BBQ facilities, accessible facilities, toilets, shelters, picnic areas, play equipment, walking trail
Things to do: Walk, swim, fish, and surf along the expansive coastline (surfing lessons are available in summer). Families may prefer to set up on the section closer to Robe, where vehicle access is restricted.
Stay locally at Long Beach or Robe (find holiday homes, caravan parks, and camping options). Admire Walking Trail views, visit local landmarks like the Obelisk, and take a trip into Little Dip Conservation Park.
8. Horseshoe Bay, Fleurieu Peninsula
Nestled in the historic village of Port Elliot, Horseshoe Bay is a treasured holiday destination. Be charmed by its sheltered sandy bay, small jetty, impressive rock formations, picturesque walking trails, and family-friendly facilities. Look for three small islands – The Sisters, Twins, and Pullen Island – from the beach or local vistas.
Location: Port Elliot (85 km south of Adelaide)
Facilities: Patrolled beach (check for times), lawn areas, playground, tables, toilets, bowling green, parking (busy at peak times). Accommodation options including Caravan Park and holiday homes
Things to do: Swim, kayak, or body board in the bay. Take in the panoramic views from Freeman’s Knob. Pedal the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula coast along the 31 km Encounter Bikeway.
Visit Tokuremoar Reserve, a significant environmental and cultural site of the Ramindjeri / Ngarrindjeri people. Refuel at popular eateries like the Flying Fish Café and Port Elliot Bakery (try the doughnut creation of the month!)
9. Memory Cove, Eyre Peninsula
One for adventurous families, Memory Cove is a Wilderness Protection Area surrounded by Port Lincoln National Park. With access along a 15km 4WD track and only 15 cars permitted per day, this truly is a wild coastal escape that captures hearts with its white sands, granite outcrops, sheltered waters, and coastal mallee.
Location: 680 km west (13 km southwest of Port Lincoln)
Facilities: Only 15 cars per day are permitted in Memory Cove (bookings are essential). Five campsites at Memory Cove Campground can also be booked (4WD access only). Toilets available
Things to do: Enjoy swimming, snorkelling, birdwatching, bushwalks, and fishing (outside of Marine Park sanctuary zones). Try spotting Southern Right Whales in winter, White-bellied Sea Eagles, Ospreys, Sea Lions, and other local wildlife.
Be impressed with the rugged beauty of Lincoln National Park: visit Boston Bay, Sleaford-Wanna Dune System, Wanna Lookout, and Stamford Hill (camping, glamping, and cottage accommodation available).
Be enchanted by this expansive soft sandy beach, long jetty, low dunes, and tranquil shallow waters on Adelaide’s northern metropolitan coast.
A 2km stretch of grassed foreshore makes this beach popular with families, offering activities like mini-golf, water slides, mini steam train, a vintage carousel, and more.
Location: Semaphore (15 km north-west of Adelaide)
Facilities: Parking, toilets, lawn and picnic areas, BBQ facilities, amusements, cafes, pubs, and takeaways
Head to the nearby Wara Wayingga -Tennyson Dunes Conservation Reserve to appreciate Adelaide’s most significant remaining dune system.