From secluded coves and turquoise-trimmed bays to windswept, black-sand coastlines carved from volcanic rock – there’s just something about beaches that gets our travel senses tingling.
Let’s face it: the beach that will blow your mind next is more than likely the next one you can get to, regardless of where it is – but if you don't have a seaside jaunt planned, this selection from 50 Beaches to Blow your Mind will soon have you reaching for your sunhat and shades.
Navagio Beach – Zakynthos, Greece
Completely. It’s 87 kinds of beautiful coming at you all at once. Secluded, protected by vertical cliffs that tower above, sparkling azure as imagined by Greek gods, pure, perfect sand and, just to give it an extra bit of character, like a beauty spot on a face, a shipwreck!
I just want to go there now. Can I please go there now?
Easy as can be – as long as you’re in Zakynthos. If you are, there are a number of towns, Porto Vromi for example, from where you can take a boat to paradise. It is as you see it – there are no amenities – so you’ll need to bring with you all the supplies you need for the time you’re on the sand/in the water/exploring the shipwreck.
How did that wreck get...wrecked?
It was a smuggler’s ship caught doing its dirty work in 1982. During bad weather a while after the seizure, the boat was washed up on the shore where it was left to rust.
It just looks so amazing!
To get a view of the beach from on high, visit the village of Anafonitria. There’s a platform at a monastery there and the sight of the bay below you will make you wish you were there. And then, of course, you can be!
Bowling Ball Beach – Mendocino, California, USA
This striking (thank you, thank you very much) beach is part of the Schooner Gulch State Beach reserve. It’s one for the beachcombers, photographers and geologists, no question. The spherical rocks (specifically, ‘concretions’ – packed sandstone eroded into the balls you see) almost look like a strange family from a Disney film, rolling in to greet you.
These are some freaky boulders.
Rock hopping is a lot of fun (take care, they can be slippery), but go at low tide to get the full experience. Find a little rock pool and explore a microcosm of sea life. You’ll probably be alone, as this is not a high traffic beach: the whales passing by offshore will be all yours to enjoy.
What’s the water like?
Feel like a little surfing? You can do that here. Windsurfing too. The swimming is good and there are hiking opportunities as well. You want a perfect day for the family? Well then, just pack a picnic and your swimming costumes, explore the balls, collect some salty souvenirs from the caves and crags, and take a dip.
Tallow Beach – Byron Bay, Australia
Can these places please be a little closer together?!
What’s so special about it?
Apart from the fact that the beaches are beautiful, the vibe is laid waaaaay back (this place has a strong hippy history) and food and drink is close at hand – particularly at Tallow, which is in the heart of the town.
I am well up for laid-back.
Don’t let the world pass you by, though. How many town beaches give you whale watching alongside the usual suspects of surfing, swimming and sunning? It’s also a good fishing beach, so bring your tackle.
Dude, chill out a little.
Ah...ok. Well, you’ve found a little enlightenment then. It’s not surprising. So just relax on the beach till evening comes and the lighthouse sends out its beams to keep you enthralled. Then mosey into town when a snack seems the right idea. You’ll be very happy here.
Copacabana – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A name I know.
It may not be the most beautiful beach in the world but it is certainly one of the most famous.
Top 5 maybe.
That’s what happens when a hit song features your name.
That song wasn’t about the beach.
People only hear the chorus. And it was conceived in Rio, so, you know, close enough. Anyway, the beach...
Yes, let’s talk about the beach...
This 4km stretch of action-packed beachy goodness has become party central in Rio. One and a half million people watched the Rolling Stones perform here!
What else is in store?
The beach zones off into interest areas: west of Copacabana Palace is the LGBT area, known as the Stock Market – look for the rainbow flag. Footballers hold court near Rua Santa Clara while next to Forte de Copacabana is the unofficial posto de pescadores (fishermen’s post).
It sounds busy!
Copacabana is a beach with a city of millions just a few metres away. And it won’t let you forget that for a minute.
Porthcurno – Cornwall, UK
This looks like quite the suntrap.
Indeed. Seeing a gorgeous little bay like Porthcurno makes you think that the Brits may just be keeping schtum to the rest of the world to get their stunning beaches all to themselves.
This beach looks like it could be in the Riviera or off the Croatian coast.
Doesn’t it just? Instead, it’s a little cove just 4km from Land’s End, the most westerly point of the English mainland.
So can I assume it’s a hidden gem?
Not exactly. While the world goes about thinking all British beaches are windswept and rugged, the people of Cornwall and surrounds are happily sunning themselves in their slice of coastal paradise. The beach is popular with families: kids love to play in the freshwater stream that runs down into the surf.
That’s a pretty impressive rock formation around the cove.
The 65-tonne rock you can see balancing on the Treen Castle cliffs is known as Logan’s Rock. It used to sway back and forth in fierce winds but after it was pushed into the sea by some unruly soldiers in 1824 it was raised back to its resting place and secured to prevent it from being dislodged.
Yearning for salty air and sandy toes? Check out Lonely Planet's 50 Beaches to Blow your Mind for more inspiration.