Ballina has two beaches patrolled by the same surf life saving club, Shelly and Lighthouse. Shelly Beach (NSW 27) is located between the 40 m high Black and Ballina heads and backed by the higher ground of Richmond Hill and the residential development of East Ballina. Access and parking is provided at both ends of the 700 m long beach, and at two central car parks. The beach faces southeast exposing it to the dominant southerly waves. This aspect combined with its fine to medium sand produces a surf dominated by three large rips cutting across the inner bar, one against either headland, and a more variable central rip, the three often connected by a continuous trough. The rips, outer bar and headlands provide good surf, but are a hazard for swimmers.On the southern side of Ballina Head is Lighthouse Beach (NSW 28) is one of the State's newest beaches in that it only came into existence after the construction of the adjacent Richmond River entrance walls in the early 1900s. The construction caused what was then known as Shaws Bay to fill with sand, building not only the beach but also 30 ha of prime beachfront real estate which was developed in the 1970s. The 700 m long beach is now located between Ballina Head and the northern training wall (Figs. 4.20 & 4.21). Good access is provided from the car park at the surf club under Ballina Head, and from the road that runs behind the beach to a car park against the entrance wall, with a grassy reserve between the road and beach. This is popular beach, however it usually has rips and strong currents, and has long been regarded as dangerous. The Surf Club was formed in 1932 and preforms a relatively high average of 47 rescues a year.
Surf Beach is the first surfing beach east of Portland. It begins at the mouth of the Surry River and runs for 11 km south-west to Portland. The shoreline meanders due to a series of 1 to 2 km long shoreline protrusions. Toward the west at Dutton Way, erosion has resulted in loss of the western end of the beach back to the seacliffs. To combat the beach erosion, a 3 km long basalt boulder seawall and several groynes have been constructed since 1960. The seawall follows the shoreline protrusions and for the most part has replaced the beach. Most of the beach is backed by a series of low foredunes, in places 1 km wide.The beach is accessible at Narrawong and in the west along Dutton Way, which parallels the beach and seawall. The seawall area is dangerous for bathing. There is one small pocket beach in the seawall next to the caravan park.Wave height is reduced westward along the beach by refraction around the large Cape Nelson and by Minerva Reef. It averages 1.5 m at Narrawong, but reduces to 1 m along Dutton Way. The surf zone is about 100 m wide, with two bars in the east and one to the west. The inner bar is usually low and attached, with rips more common following high seas. The rips are spaced every 500 m. High tide waves crash against the seawall and often over the road.
Bar Beach is better known by the names of it's three Surf Clubs - Cooks Hill, Dixon Park and Merewether. It is surrounded by long established inner Newcastle suburbs and has excellent road and bus access, with large car parks adjacent to the three Surf Clubs. In addition two rock pools are located on the rock platform at Merewether. The Surf Clubs were formed in 1911, 1932 and 1910 respectively, attesting to both the long popularity of this beach and its inherent bathing hazards. The entire beach is 1.3 km long, faces the south east, receives waves averaging 1.6 m and is bounded by wide rock platforms, backed by high cliffs. Rocks and reefs also occur on the beach and in the surf at either end and at places along the beach, particularly following beach erosion. The waves and sand produce a high energy beach characterised by an inner bar usually cut by 8 beach rips with permanent rips at either end, the northern at Cooks Hill being the more prominent. Rips occur every 200 to 300 m along the beach, with one against the Merewether rocks intensifying when waves exceed 1 m. Higher waves break on an outer bar and the northern and southern reefs, the latter called 'The Ladies'. The result is a wide surf zone with waves often reforming in the channel to break again on the inner bar.