The annual pilgrimage north-west to Gnaraloo is one of our greatest surfing traditions and should be on the bucket list of all Australian surfers. Although originally a sheep station (still operational) pioneered by resilient agriculturalists in the early 20th century, over the last 30-odd years the region has gained a reputation as a desert-fringed wonderland popular with feral surfers, families and European tourists. The two main waves in the region—Tombstones and The Bluff—are hollow and knuckly reef-break lefts that can offer the ride of your life or an unceremonious beating in front of cheering semi-wild campers. The nearest town is Carnarvon, 150km south, so take everything, including a medical kit and fishing gear. This place is the ultimate test for you and your vehicle.
Kangaroo Island walk-around—pack a thick wetsuit
CACTUS BEACH, SA
Drive 72km west along the fabled Nullarbor Plain from Ceduna and then head south from the first town you hit—Penong. The Cactus region actually includes over half a dozen breaks but the hollow right-hander, Caves, is considered the region's premier wave. Cactus is infamous for sharks that can rival a D‑MAX in size and girth, but it's probably the locals that you should be more worried about. The most famous is an abalone diver called Moose who boasts the kind of proportions his name suggests. However, if you keep your head down, the rugged beauty and world-class waves can offer one of the most unique experiences in surfing. The camping ground has pit toilets and bore water showers. Firewood is supplied nightly by the camp's owner, but everything else in this unforgiving setting is BYO.
POT HOLES BEACH, NSW
This ledgey right-hander offers some of the best barrels on the south coast of NSW. However, it's well guarded by a crew of local devotees who surf ‘Potties' every time it breaks. The wave itself also packs a punch and features an intimidating, close-to-rocks take-off. Just south of Ulladulla, past Burrill Lake on the Princes Highway, the wave's namesake—a dirt track with a minefield of deep divots—leads you to an idyllic tree-framed cove where the wave breaks in the southern corner.
Double Island Point, Queensland
Although the long, tapering rights will have your legs wobbly with lactic acid, your brain will keep screaming for one more. Wait until the swell turns on at Noosa and then escape the hordes by driving along the 80km expanse of beach north. Low-tide driving is preferable, and keep in mind that this stretch has laid claim to many a lesser vehicle. Double Island is a cyclone season special (November to April) but will break any time of the year. It's all about varying levels of perfection; if the sand is built up in the right way, DI Point can be one of the longest and most perfect rights in the country.
LIGHTHOUSE BEACH, NSW
'Lighthouse' on the Mid North Coast is popular with 4WD enthusiasts and is one of the few locations in the region where you can still take your vehicle on the beach. A short, narrow track winds through a tunnel of native foliage and spits you out on the sand, which offers a selection of sand dependent peaks.
This is a great alternative when the more accessible spots are overcrowded or flattened by the southerly breeze. Although Lighthouse is just a short drive from Seal Rocks, it still offers a complete sense of escapism from civilisation. Goannas are frequently seen in the nearby bush and dingo sightings are common. Local folklore also has it that a bunyip-like creature known as the Yagon monster lurks around the camping grounds at night.
"The rugged north-west coast of Tasmania offers a definitive ‘land that time forgot' feel..."
Marrawah's well-named Cold Water Classic surf contest
The rugged north-west coast of Tasmania offers a definitive ‘land that time forgot' feel and also some of the most spectacular wave settings in the country. Head south of town to Lighthouse Beach where a hollow left breaks into a channel in the northern corner, or dodge the bull kelp on the right-hander, which breaks on the other side of the bay. However, the real adventure starts when you head further south where several dirt tracks lead to isolated stretches of beach. Each is a lottery dip when it comes to waves but the exploring is all part of the fun in this strikingly beautiful part of the world.
Don't let the onshore fool you, ‘Straddie' gets very good
NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND, QUEENSLAND
Coolangatta's points are mythologised in surfing folklore, but on its day, Cylinders, on North Stradbroke Island, rivals Kirra or Snapper. The beachside campsites are 4WD-access only and permits are available for just under $40. If you can drag yourself away from the grinding walls and paper-thin barrels at Cylinders, there are a host of other waves to explore, although local law decrees that you stay put one hour either side of high tide. The beach fishing is a bonus on North Straddie but sharks are plentiful; keep your wits about you and bring a mate wherever you paddle out.
KANGAROO ISLAND, SA
At 155km long and 55km wide, Kangaroo Island is Australia's third-biggest island and offers a broad range of wave options for the intrepid surfer. Take your car over via ferry from Cape Jervis on the mainland and allow yourself at least a few days to roam the coastline. The island offers pristine beach breaks and a few secret spots for those who are willing to do the exploring or befriend one of the 4500 locals. As the island's name suggests, kangaroos are in abundance and roadkill tallies are often high. Also watch out for the goannas that have a habit of taking up residence on the roads in the midday sun.