For me, the best thing about living in Australia is the incredible beaches! I love beach days, and now that I’ve been here for over six years I know exactly what to bring to the beach. It took some trial and error (and there were lots of times where we forgot things) but now I have a list of essential beach accessories that I couldn’t be without.
Because beach days are an important family activity for us, I like to make sure I pack my beach essentials and beach gear so we can enjoy a comfortable day out on the sand. Even now, when we head to the beach I check things off on my own beach packing checklist so I don’t forget things as I HATE getting to the beach and realising I’ve left something important behind.
If you’re looking for a beach checklist or a beach holiday packing list, this is the post for you! You can also download my handy list of what to bring to the beach here too so you never forget a thing.
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Things to take to the beach in Australia
I’m going to break this list of beach stuff down into essential beach gear and desirable beach gear (things that are nice to have and that make your life much easier but aren’t totally essential for you to buy right away).
I know when we first landed in Australia it was daunting – we needed to buy all of our beach gear from scratch and it can get expensive very quickly. Hopefully, this list will help you plan your beach gear shopping and prioritise the beach accessories that you want to invest in.
What to bring to the beach: Beach essentials in Australia
Number one on the list of beach essentials has to be sunscreen. The sun is powerful in Australia and I would never consider going to the beach without sunscreen. I have a whole post all about choosing the best zinc sunscreen here.
I find that a thick zinc sunscreen gives us long-lasting, great coverage and it instantly provides a barrier (unlike chemical sunscreen which needs to be applied ahead of going into the sun). I prefer to choose brands that are ethical and don’t harm the environment too as that’s really important to me.
Unless you’re only popping to the beach for a quick swim, taking your own shade is really important. Again, I have a full post all about the different types of beach shades available. We own a few different types of shades for different types of days out. We have a quick pop up sun umbrella for the days when we aren’t staying in the sun too long, and a much larger beach tent if we’re staying for the full day. I’m about to invest in a large sun shade for days when we want something easy to put up for a couple of hours too! Shade is so important – you can’t sit in Australia’s hot sun for too long.
UV rash vests
I don’t let my kids go to the beach without a rash vest. Wearing them makes it so much easier to protect their delicate skin from the sun – I also often wear them too because I burn easily.
Most of the time, I buy our daughter an all in one swimsuit with long sleeves as she loves wearing these and they keep her covered. You can apply all the sunscreen you want, but being covered is a much easier way to stay protected.
Always take plenty of cold water to the beach as you won’t believe how thirsty you get and you need to stay hydrated. We love our insulated Sistema bottles that keep water cold for up to 12 hours. We have some big versions (like the picture) and take reusable plastic picnic cups so we can pour it out as we need it.
I also love that these bottles don’t need to go in my cool bag because they stay cold on their own when you add chilled water to them (as my cool bags are always bulging with food and snacks for the kids!) The kids use smaller versions of these for their school drink bottles too and it means their water stays cold all day long. I literally never ever leave the house without a water bottle in my hand.
Waterproof beach bags
We take a large waterproof beach bag with us for our towels and swimmers (plus extra carrier bags to hold wet, sandy clothes in so I can keep them separate from the dry things), and I take a large beach bag with zip to take stuff like my wallet, book, small first aid kit, phone, sunscreen etc.
Our large waterproof beach bag is just a cheap bag that holds lots of gear – the beach tote bag is more of a beach handbag to keep everything safe and out of the sand. I don’t bother with a kids’ beach bag – they just chuck all of their stuff in my beach bag (they’d end up finding a reason not to carry it if they brought a beach bag to the beach!) I also don’t stress over getting the best beach bag or an expensive fashionable designer beach bag because they tend to get thrown around, get wet and get sandy. Just choose something large enough and ideally something with a couple of compartments so you can keep your phone and keys safe at the beach.
A large beach rug is a great investment for your beach days. I love sitting on beach chairs, but sometimes if we’re just popping down for a short trip we just take a huge beach rug.
We bought ours on our honeymoon cruise in Mexico and I adore it! Whenever I look at it it makes me happy as it’s bright pink and stripey. It’s not a sand-free beach rug though – if I was buying a new one then that would be something I’d consider as my kids always trail sand onto the beach rug! I always recommend getting a beach blanket that is bigger than you think you need so you can spread out on it.
There are plenty of brands of beach towels to choose from. I’ve just been using lightweight beach towels bought from Target up until now but this year I plan on trying out some of the proper beach towel brands on the market in Australia as there are some fabulous ethical brands out there with some lovely designs of beach towels.
When choosing your beach towels, think about the size – if you’re going to be getting changed under them then you’ll want to make sure they’re big enough! Also, think about how lightweight they are and how quickly they dry. I love travel towels as it means they’re light to carry and dry almost instantly.
You can’t go anywhere in Australia without a hat! I like large straw hats for me, and hats with straps under the chins for the kids. Avoid baseball caps as they don’t give you enough coverage. One day last year my son insisted on wearing a baseball cap for a beach day and he didn’t apply enough sunscreen and he got really burnt on his ears and neck so now I always insist on a large brimmed hat!
With the sun reflecting off the sand and the ocean, sunglasses are the best way to protect your eyes. I have Maui Jim prescription sunglasses and would never choose another brand again – I absolutely love them! They were expensive (even with our health insurance reducing the gap fee) but they were so worth it as I wear them so much here all year round.
I highly recommend choosing polarised sunglasses. This improves clarity and it helps you see the ocean (and marine wildlife) so clearly.
I’m so lucky to say that mosquitoes don’t really bite me often, and if they do their bites don’t really bother me (I know, I’m so lucky!) BUT our 8 yo and my hubby both get eaten alive and they react so badly to the bites and really swell up. Usually beach days are fine without any mozzie spray, but sometimes at the end of the day as you’re heading back from the beach you can find them around (especially if we stay there late to cook a beach bbq dinner) so I like to make sure we always have some with us, just in case.
I prefer to use natural, DEET-free products.
Snacks or a picnic
I have three kids so I can’t leave the house without food! I always back fruit, popcorn, crisps, crackers, biscuits, sandwiches – anything that is easy to throw in a bag. It doesn’t matter if we’re going to the beach for an hour or less – we always take snacks and if we plan to be there for a couple of hours I always pack a full picnic. Swimming in the ocean makes kids very hungry!
A bodyboard or skimboard
If your kids love the ocean, taking a bodyboard or skimboard to the beach is so much fun. Next on my list to buy is a paddleboard!
Bucket and spades
My kids are 11, 11 and 8 and they still love digging on the beach and building castles and moats. It entertains them for hours. The bucket and spades are the first thing they look for when we arrive at the beach, so we never travel without them.
A soft cooler bag
You can get hard cool boxes but I love a soft cooler bag. I find it really easy and flexible to use and it’s lighter to carry if you need to carry it a distance from the car. I put in a few ice blocks and a picnic or snacks and it keeps them cold all day. Sometimes, I also pack up a second one filled with BBQ food and leave that in the car until the end of our beach day so we can cook our dinner at the beach (more on that below).
We’ve recently just bought a new soft cooler that goes on your shoulder for easy carrying. This makes it flexible for days out at the zoo too.
Small first aid kit
Finally, I never go anywhere without my mini first aid kit. It is just a stack of products I’ve bought from the chemists and put in a small make up bag – plasters, antiseptic cream, alcohol wipes, bandages, soluble Panadol for the kids, ibuprofen and paracetamol for the adults and some bite cream and antihistamines.
It gets used ALL THE TIME. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used it when I’ve been out and about. Falls in the playground, green ant bites, headaches, allergic reactions – there are so many times when it has come in useful.
Non-essential (but REALLY useful) beach gear for your beach packing list
These aren’t deal-breakers but they do make your day at the beach a lot more fun and much more enjoyable so I think they’re beach accessories well worth investing in.
At first, we used to struggle with all of our beach gear and argue over who was carrying what. Then we got a beach wagon and it made the whole thing so much easier! I wouldn’t be without one now. You can read this post all about choosing the best beach wagon here and read my review of the Buddy Wagon. Although it’s not essential, it is definitely worth investing in a beach cart as soon as you can as it really does make your beach days a lot smoother and easier.
A beach rug does the job, but I love taking fold-up beach chairs when we go to the beach for a few hours as it’s just so much more comfortable. We have some cheap fold up camping chairs that have coffee cup holders in. They do the job perfectly and make beach days a lot more comfortable.
Plastic picnic set
Whether you’re taking a full picnic lunch that you’ve packed up or you’re planning on buying fish and chips or a snack at the beach, I love taking some plastic plates and cutlery with me. It makes it easier to share big packs of food out if you each have your own plates. I also hate disposable plastic cutlery and think it’s wasteful for the environment so I would much rather take my own reusable picnic set.
A portable BBQ/camping stove or BBQ cooking accessories
We love finishing off our day at the beach with a BBQ. If you cook at the beach often, getting your own portable BBQ or camping stove is a great idea so you never have to wait and you can cook and eat wherever you like (plus you don’t have to rush to clean it right away like you do the public ones). I have a post all about the best portable BBQ here.
We often use the public BBQs at the beach – for those, you just need to remember to take your BBQ cooking gear with you so you’re good to go.
Flask and tea/coffee
I like to be pretty frugal on our beach days – it can quickly add up if we pop to a cafe for lunch, ice creams, coffee and all the things! I always take a flask and travel coffee cups so we can make a coffee on the beach and on the way home. Even on a hot day, there is nothing nicer that sitting down and drinking coffee while looking at the ocean!
We have beach cricket, beach balls and a frisbee to entertain the kids. Australian beaches are plenty big enough for you to have some fun with beach games!
What to bring to the beach in Australia: Your ultimate beach packing list
If you’re going to be packing for the beach soon, I hope this list of things to bring to the beach has been useful! The beach is truly my happy place, so I love sharing my beach tips with you!