Some of my happiest memories from early childhood is when my parents announced we’d be spending the day at the beach. Mom would prepare thickly buttered salami on rye sandwiches; dad would pack up the Oldsmobile. Off we’d drive to Long Sault, a park along the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario. The beach was no great shakes, but at the time I thought it was the best place in the world. While my taste in beaches has changed (some might call me a beach snob), I’m still delighted by a great day at the beach. Here are some of my favourite beaches.
Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia, Canada
It’s wild and windblown and strewn with logs and giant kelp. It’s often foggy, and the water is crazy cold, even in summer. I love the raw beauty of Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island’s west coast. We’ve spent many family vacations there, body surfing in full wet suits and playing in the sand. Walking on Long Beach (it’s 16 km/10 mi long) with the mist on my face makes me very happy.
Baja California Sur, Mexico
Turquoise sea meets sun-baked desert—it’s a stunning combo wonderfully showcased in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. What a treat paddling along this coastline on a multi-day kayaking trip and camping on the gorgeous beaches of Isla Espíritu Santo. The header photo for this post shows Playa Balandra, a jaw-dropping beauty near the city of La Paz.
Brittany’s Cap d’Erquy, France
On our 2019 Brittany/Normandy cycling trip, Mike and I were blown away by the coves and sweeping beaches of Brittany. My favourite beaches were at Cap d’Erquy where we explored the area via the scenic les plages sauvages (the wild beaches) trail, a 7.5 km clifftop path. Our picnic lunch stop and nap on the warm sand of Plage de Lourtuais will always rank among my best days on the beach.
You’ve all seen those promo images of the exquisite beaches, clear water and luxurious resorts of the Maldives. We thought this island nation in the Indian Ocean was out of our reach until we discovered the local islands, an affordable alternative that also provides visitors with a glimpse of Maldivian life. The Maldive beaches really are as gorgeous as the images.
Phra Nang Bay, Thailand
This one dates back to 1991 when I was backpacking through SE Asia. I arrived via longboat on Phra Nang Bay Beach, in Thailand’s Krabi province, and was rendered speechless by the dazzling beach hemmed in by craggy limestone cliffs. At the time, there were only a few basic bungalows set among the palm trees. My journal entry says that I could have stayed there forever were it not for the showers that only spewed salt water.
Kosi Bay Trail beaches, South Africa
When I think of epic beach walks, our trip to Kosi Bay, South Africa tops the list. Kosi Bay is located in the remote northern reaches of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site that stretches 200 km along the Indian Ocean coastline near Mozambique’s border. We explored this region on a guided 3-day hike. I’ll never forget the size and raw beauty of the Kosi Bay beaches and the fact that most of them were totally deserted.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The stars of the Galapagos are the animals, but the islands also have incredible beaches. Imagine sharing these beaches with sea lions, marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs and blue-footed boobies. In the water, we were delighted by the torpedo speed of the penguins and marine acrobatics of the sea lions. We even saw hammerhead sharks in the distance. Galapagos remains among my top travel experiences.
Tangalla Beach, Sri Lanka
There’s a fine balance when it comes to beachside development. For my taste, Sri Lanka’s Tangalla Beach, on Sri Lanka’s south coast, hits the mark perfectly. When we wanted solitude, we walked away from town; it didn’t take long to leave all infrastructure and people behind. When we’d had enough, we turned around and enjoyed the simple, bohemian vibes of the small beachside bars and restaurants closer to town—everything we needed and nothing more.
Yaswawa Islands, Fiji
You might have noticed that I’m big on beach walking and that some of the beaches featured aren’t the best for swimming. Well, if you want outstanding swimming beaches in stunning surroundings, I’d have to give it to Fiji’s Yasawa Islands. We visited Waya and Nacula islands; both have sheltered bays with calm, clear water and only silky soft sand underfoot. There’s great diving too (Taveuni island is amazing).
Komodo Island, Indonesia
Indonesia has some of the best beaches in the world. I’ve only seen a small portion, and of those, I was most in awe of the beaches around Komodo Island. Known for its enormous lizards (Komodo dragons), the island is also exquisitely beautiful. I especially remember the colour of the sand—a dazzling pink hue. Unfortunately, I also remember being freaked out after our boat captain told us that the dragons like an occasional dip.
Here’s another country known for its beaches. Our trip to the Philippines was focused on scuba diving, and as divers know, the best diving locations don’t always have the best beaches. Well, Coron, a destination renowned for its wreck diving, also has extraordinary beaches. The sugary, white sand and volcanic hills and limestone pinnacles of northern Palawan beaches put them at the top of many beach ranking lists.
Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
I’ve been to Turks and Caicos, an island group southeast of the Bahamas, half a dozen times. So what keeps me coming back? Grace Bay, on the main island of Providenciales, is a beach lover’s paradise—miles of silky, soft sand and calm, warm water. It’s a relaxing, no-hassle holiday destination (and there’s great scuba diving). There has been lots of development since my first visit in the early 1980s, but most of it is fairly tasteful. It holds a special memory for being the last beach vacation I shared with my mom before her Alzheimer’s made it impossible to travel (she loved it there).
Here’s another one that dates back to my 1991 backpacking trip. When I google it now, Marang, a fishing town on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, doesn’t get a lot of attention. It is eclipsed by Kapas and the Perhentian islands. The area is known for its fishing village and not so much for its long, beautiful beach. I don’t know if it’s still devoid of development, but it was then, and it was sublime. It also holds the title (with the Maldives) for warmest water I’ve ever swum in.
Pacific City, Oregon, United States
Weeks after our trip to the Oregon coast, I was still finding sand in pockets, bags and body parts. We had beach walked, sandboarded and dune buggied on the giant sandbox that covers much of coastal Oregon. I loved walking out of our little Airbnb, in peaceful Pacific City, straight onto the beach; Alex was over the moon sandboarding on the dunes, and Mike found a great beachside brewery—the perfect family beach vacation.
My parents fell in love with Bermuda in the ’60s and ’70s when my dad traveled there for work as part of an annual pharmaceutical industry conference that included spouses (those were the days). They liked it so much that they wanted to share it with my sister and me. Lucky us! I was a young teen at the time and I totally remember my first view of the tropical beach—a far cry from Long Sault. My beach snobbism started there and I blame it on my parents.
I could keep going. Perhaps this post requires a Part 2. There are so many other great spots that come to mind: Costa Rica, Belize, the Caribbean, California, Greece, Tanzania, British Columbia Gulf Islands…and, there are so many other beaches I’d like to visit.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual beach getaway. What are your favourite beaches?