The Australian coast contains 10,685 beach systems, which occupy half the coast and can be classified into 15 beach types. These include six wave-dominated, three tide-modified, and four tide-dominated types which are a product of wave-tide and sediment conditions and two types which are influenced by intertidal rocks and fringing reefs. Wave-dominated beaches occupy the higher energy, microtidal southern coast exposed to persistent Southern Ocean swell. Tide-modified and tide-dominated beaches are most prevalent around the more tropical northern coast, which experiences meso-, macro-, and mega-tides and receives lower seas, as well as some sheltered and mesotidal southern locations. This article assesses the roles of waves, sediment, and tide range in contributing to beach type, particularly through the dimensionless fall velocity and relative tide range. It also describes their regional distribution, together with the occurrence of rip currents, multibar beach systems, and the influence of geological inheritance and marine biota.
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Vol. 2006 • No. 221