Australia’s most dangerous beaches for shark attacks

Beware when swimming at Byron, Ballina, Bondi and Bells.

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If you’re planning on a trip to the land down under, you may want to check out which beaches pose a higher risk of shark attacks. Research shows there have been 43 unprovoked fatal shark attacks in Australia since 1990, and although most recorded attacks have occurred in New South Wales, the majority of fatalities transpired in Western Australia. analysed data released by the Shark Research Institute’s Global Shark Attack File, determining hotspot coastal locations around the country where 317* unprovoked shark attacks have occurred between 1990 and 2017.

In Australia, there has been an average of 11.7 shark attacks a year since 1990.

122 attacks took place off the coast of NSW, almost double the 66 attacks recorded in both Western Australia and Queensland, which were tied for second.

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Shark attack prevalence by state since 1990 – 2017

New South Wales1286
Western Australia6618
South Australia3210
Northern Territory20

Source:, *Not all shark fatalities are recorded by State, and some are unaccounted for due to ocean locations.

The coast of Western Australian is the most deadly, with 18 fatal shark attacks. South Australia has the next deadliest coastline with 10 recorded fatalities, followed by Queensland (7), NSW (6) and Tasmania (2).

This means Western Australia accounts for almost 42% of the country’s total shark-related fatalities.

Breaking it down by beaches, NSW’s Byron Bay has recorded the greatest number of attacks (12) and fatalities (2) since 1990.

A little further south, Ballina incurred six attacks and one fatality, while divers and swimmers in Sydney Harbour have suffered five attacks, four attacks have taken place in Newcastle and rounding out the top five was Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, which has seen four attacks and two fatalities in the last 26 years.

Top 13 Australian locations for unprovoked shark attacks since 1990

1Byron BayNSW122
3Sydney HarbourNSW50
5Cottesloe BeachWA42
6Bondi BeachNSW30
7Seal RocksNSW30
8Bells BeachVIC30
9Fingal BayNSW30
10Shelly Beach (Central Coast)NSW31
11Lennox HeadNSW30
12Mona ValeNSW30
13Middleton BeachSA30

Following the most recent shark attack on NSW’s north coast, state Premier Mike Baird announced plans for a six month trial of shark nets in the area, despite nationwide protests and debates regarding controversial netting programs in Western Australia just a few years ago.

Unprovoked shark attack locations in 2017

StateLocationActivityFatalAge and Gender
New South WalesAvoca BeachSurfingNo25, M
New South WalesBirubi Point, Anna BaySurfingNo31, M
New South WalesIluka Beach, YambaSurfingNo35, M
New South WalesThe Farm, Shell HarbourBody boardingNo30, M
QueenslandBoot Reef, Torres StraitScuba DivingNo55, M
QueenslandClairviewSwimmingNo57, M
QueenslandMagnetic IslandSnorkelingNo7, M
QueenslandMoreton BayKakayingNo39, M
South AustraliaNormanvilleKayaking / FishingNo15, F
VictoriaCathedral Rock, LorneSurfingNo37, M
VictoriaFlinders, Mornington PeninsulaSurfingNoF
Western AustraliaSam’s Creek, Point SamsonSwimmingNoM
Western AustraliaFalcon Bay Beach, MandurahSurfingNoM
Western AustraliaGracetownSurfingNoM
Western AustraliaWylie Bay, EsperanceSurfingYes17, F
Western AustraliaMauds Point, Coral BaySnorkelingNoF
Western AustraliaPoint Casuarina, BunburyBody boardingNo48, M

According to the International Museum of Wildlife, the odds of being killed by a shark are 1 in 3.75 million. You’re far likely to die as a result of a public transport accident (1 in 16,831) or lightning strike (1 in 71,601).

Australian deaths from 2006-2016

CauseNumber of deaths
Venomous spiders0
Crocodiles, alligators16
Snakes and lizards28
Hornets, bees, wasps28
Swimming pools213
Accidental drowning2,111

Top 15 countries for unprovoked shark attacks from 1990 – 2017

Australia ranks second in the world for the number of shark attacks (317) behind the USA with a whopping 1,074 attacks since 2017.

CountryShark attacksFatal shark attacks
South Africa15131
New Zealand304
New Caledonia2910
French Polynesia130
Papua New Guinea115

Planning to surf or swim on your travels? Find travel insurance that covers you for your trip.

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