While it’s easy to be a surfer in warm, user-friendly Queensland, southerly neighbor New South Wales (NSW) demands a deeper level of commitment. With a long, varied coastline encompassing multiple climatic and geographic regions, surfing in NSW can mean sunny, perfect beach break tubes or frigid, rainy, windswept rubbish—sometimes both in the same day. But what the state lacks in predictable consistency it makes up for in uncrowded potential, with miles of national park coastline and hard-to-access breaks ripe for the picking.
NSW boasts heaps of history as well, from 5-time world champ Mark Richards and tour power stalwarts Luke Egan and Kieren Perrow to the classic bodyboarding scene at Shark Island and the infamous Bra Boy-dominated Ours. Morning of the Earth, arguably the most influential surf film of all time, was shot in part in the state’s northern region.
With hippie communes, major cities and desolate wilderness all within a few hours of each other, NSW has something for everyone—and good surf, too!
The Surf: With such a massive coast, it’s not surprising that NSW offers the entire smorgasbord of waves. The north is known for playful righthand points, while the central coast has miles of beach break. Sydney is infamous for slabs like Ours and Shark Island, and the South Coast remains closely and quietly guarded, with lots of potential for the intrepid explorer.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- The Pass: Byron Bay’s most popular spot, this righthand point is world class on its day—and has the crowds to prove it. But one long, symmetrical wave in the peaceful Byron setting makes the hassle more than worth it.
- Crescent Head: A lesser-known break with a storied history, this is a perfect place to live out your Morning of the Earth fantasy.
- Fairybower, Manly: Surfing in the city is a unique experience. Hit it early, before the crowds, and enjoy one of Sydney’s most well-known beaches on a non-conventional hybrid that can power through the soft sections.
- Angourie: This wave was the stuff of dreams in the late sixties, and can still offer a world-class ride on its day. The crowds can be thick and aggressive, so tread softly.
- Kiama Wedge: NSW’s answer to The Wedge, Kiama is a favorite with bodyboarders and offers the added bonus of close proximity to city food and entertainment.
The Water: Water quality and temperature depends where and when you are surfing, with cleaner water in national parks and other undeveloped regions and dirtier water in densely populated areas such as Sydney. Water temps range from 82 F (28 C) in the north in summer to below 59 F (15 C) in the far south in winter, so do some research beforehand to decide what kind of thermal protection to bring.
The Season: The fall and winter seasons are best, with consistent swells pumping from March through September. October through February is a good time to go somewhere else.
The Vibe: The vibe in the water can range from peace/love hippie talk to knife-wielding thuggishness—again, it all depends where you are surfing. If you have a strong aversion to surfing with others, there are many desolate beaches with a plethora of setups on offer, but sometimes solitude can be worse than a crowd—especially with a high incidence of shark sightings and attacks in the region.
Things To Do: Dress yourself in tie-dye and trip out with a guru in Byron Bay. Live the big-city life in Sydney. Get your hands dirty doing blue-collar work in any number of coastal towns. Camp in national parks without seeing another soul for weeks on end. Eat a meat pie and a Vegemite sandwich. Cheer for the Blues in the State of Origin rugby league series. Your options are pretty much endless.
Where To Stay: “It depends where you are” is quickly become the NSW theme. Communes, posh vacation homes, city flats, hostels and campsites are all options along the NSW coast. Choose a region and a budget and you’ll find what you are looking for.
What To Bring: Standard shortboards for the central coast. Heavy water equipment for down south. Longboards and fish for Byron. Wax temps range from warm to cool, and the same applies for wetsuits. Surf shops abound, so you won’t have trouble finding gear on the fly. The weather can get quite chilly down south, and even up north in winter, so pack some warm clothing. Bring camping gear and rent a 4×4 to explore the national park beaches for the ultimate Aussie experience.
Getting There: If you are planning to go central or south, fly into Sydney. If you are heading to Byron or Angourie, fly into Brisbane or Coolangata and then head south for a few hours to the Queensland/NSW border. Unless you plan to stay in Sydney the whole time, plan to do some driving. Tourist visas can be arranged online before arrival and involve little to no hassle. Australia is a popular working holiday destination, and offers great visa opportunities, especially for young (under 30) citizens of the EU, who can come for up to 24 months if they spend three months in the fruit picking industry (12 months otherwise). Airport codes: SYD (Sydney), BNE (Brisbane) and OOL (Coolangatta).