Travel & Touring | WA Things To Do

22 October, 2020   By: Tim Hawken

Western Australia is known globally for its amazing surf, with most of the good stuff found in the Margaret River region, where huge swells break on renowned reefs dotting the coastline.

While Perth doesn’t pack quite the same punch for professionals, there are still some incredible beaches for those wanting to learn to surf, all within striking distance of the city or just a short drive away.

If you’ve been thinking about giving surfing a go, the first step is picking the right board. Generally speaking, if you’re just getting your sea legs, you’ll want to opt for a soft top board, which is made from the same materials as bodyboards. Soft top surfboards help to significantly lessen the potential of injury both to you and others during inevitable wipeouts.

For adult beginners, a longboard or malibu style is best. These longer, larger boards make it much easier to get going when you catch a wave. Remember, it’s all about having fun and the best fun you’ll have is when you’re actually riding a wave, so, don’t be afraid to go for something a little bigger as long as you can handle it safely.

For kids, there are also smaller soft top options, which are easier to maneuver amongst the breakers and carry to and from the water. Most reputable surf shops in the Perth metro area will have these types of boards, with hire options at a few major beaches, too.

Other things to consider when hitting the beach include hazards like rocks, reefs and rips - the dreaded three r’s. Before surfing at any beach, it’s always best to check the conditions and even ask locals about any hidden dangers. Stay clear of rock groynes, dark patches of water that often signal submerged reefs, and any obvious rip currents. If in doubt, stick to the beaches patrolled by lifeguards and ask them. You can’t surf inside the flags, but patrols frequently roam the beach and can point out the safer spots.

Once you’ve settled on a board, it’s time to start honing your skills in the waves. To get you started, here are our picks of five great beaches for beginner surfers around Perth.

1. Cottesloe Beach

Cottesloe Beach is where legendary West Australian pro surfer Jake Paterson learned to surf. Jake went on to win three world tour events and now coaches some of the best elite surfing talent in the world. He knows his stuff. In Jake’s words: “Cott is great because it’s protected from the southerlies and south-west winds when Scarbs (Scarborough) gets pounded”. That protection against the wind also means Cottesloe is protected from bigger swells. This makes it a perfect beginner surf spot, especially in autumn through winter.

There is plenty of parking, with two main beach car parks (free for three hours). In Summer, you'll need to head a little north of the main pavilion to surf, at least a hundred meters away from the rock groyne at the beach’s southern end, where surfing is prohibited from 1 October to 31 March. The only real drawbacks of Cottesloe are that it can be pretty crowded and in summer it’s often flat - not even big enough to get going on a longboard. If the surf is too small at Cottesloe, then your next stop is a little further north.

  • Best time of year: Mostly in autumn and winter when other beaches are too big/windy.
  • Patrolled: 1 October 1 - 31 March.

2. Scarborough Beach

Scarborough is Perth metro’s most popular beach, for good reason. This long, white-sand beauty is picturesque and welcoming to visitors. Even in summer when the swell is smaller, you should be able to find a fun wave for learning. The main Scarborough strip stretches from Peasholm Dog Beach on the south end all the way to Trigg Beach in the north.

If you’d like to get a surf lesson, Surfing WA has the most respected school in the state and has been operating for more than 35 years at Trigg Beach. They provide wetsuits, boards and expert advice - a good way to learn the basics before heading out on your own.

One possible drawback of the Scarborough Beach stretch is that it can be crowded. Really crowded. Try to go early in the morning if you can before the main rush (and summer sea breeze). You can also search for a quieter patch by walking along its five kilometers or more of open sand.

In summer, Scarborough is normally friendly for learners, but in winter it can get too big. Depending on the sandbanks, the waves can also get quite dumpy, even in summer. Keep an eye on conditions and if it’s looking rough, consider heading south to Cottesloe instead.

Because of the crowds, parking can fill up fast during peak times, too. Try your luck at the beach first, otherwise there’s a Wilson parking lot on Manning Street that’s free for the first two hours ($5 after that).

  • Best time of year: Summer, or on calmer days year-round.
  • Patrolled: Weekends and public holidays from October - April.

3. Leighton Beach

Leighton Beach is one of the less frequented gems of Perth, found at North Fremantle. Like its more famous cousin Scarborough, Leighton boasts a long, white-sand beach worthy of a travel blogger’s Instagram feed.

If you’re looking for somewhere away from the worst of the summer crowds, this could be your beach. It is reasonable all-year-round not needing a huge swell to break. The wind does come up in the afternoons strongly here in summer, so morning is generally the best bet.

Like Scarborough, the waves at Leighton can get dumpy though. Pick your sandbank and catch the waves when they’re already whitewater - a surer bet for rolling fun.

There are more than 100 free parking bays with no time limits in the carpark near the surf club, along with around 90 bays along Leighton Beach Boulevard. There’s also a grassed area located along the foreshore, with electric barbecues, picnic tables, toilet facilities, and a kiosk for a post-surf snack. This makes Leighton a great place to set up with your family for the day and enjoy the sunshine and waves.

  • Best time of year: Year-round.
  • Patrolled: Weekends and public holidays from October - April.

4. Falcon Bay

If you’re looking for a bit more adventure outside of Perth city, Falcon Bay, just south of Mandurah, is a cracker. It’s just over an hour’s drive from the CBD in reasonable traffic and is another spot that’s less crowded than the usual metro Perth destinations.

Protected from strong southerly winds, Falcon Bay offers a great nook for a friendly surf. On the right sandbanks, it has long rollers that are perfect for beginners even when other beaches are too big/blown out. As a bonus, there’s also an amazing fish and chip shop right there after you’ve worked up a big appetite in the water.

The only drawback of Falcon Bay is that in summer the waves are often too small to surf. But, for those willing to brave some cooler water, it’s a great go-to for a winter weekend splash.

There is a car park adjacent to the bay, which can fill up in summer, but usually offers up a spot for persistent drivers. Falcon Bay is often a non-patrolled beach too, so always take extra care and make sure conditions are friendly.

  • Best time of year: Mostly in autumn and winter when other beaches are too big/windy.
  • Patrolled: Some patrols in summer.

5. Pyramids Beach

A little further south of Falcon Bay is another great surfing option for learners - Pyramids. This beach picks up more swell than its protected cousin at Falcon Bay, so is often better in the summer months when the Indian Ocean settles down.

To get to Pyramids Beach, head south from Mandurah along Old Coast Road and take the first right once you go over the bridge spanning Dawesville Channel. From there, go through the roundabout and follow your nose to the beach. You’ll be greeted with white sand and friendly, rolling waves on small days. Like any WA beach though, be aware of rip currents.

The best news with Pyramids is that there’s a surf school right there on Mandurah Terrace if you’d like some expert advice on finding the best beginner waves on any given day. If you’d prefer to go it alone without the surf school, there’s still plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the fun.

  • Best time of year: Summer, or on calmer days year-round.
  • Patrolled: Summer months through to April on weekends and public holidays (recently announced by the City of Mandurah council).

Need to fuel up before hitting these surf spots?

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