My favourite beaches from around the world

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.

Maldives

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.

Palawan, Philippines

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).

Marang, Malasia

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.

Bermuda

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?

Categories: France, Indonesia, Maldives, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, United States | Tags: , , | 53 Comments

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53 thoughts on “My favourite beaches from around the world

  1. All of these beaches sound amazing, Caroline! The Galapagos Islands are high on my wish list and I did a double take at your photo of Phra Nang Bay from 1991 – it looks so undeveloped compared to more recent shots I’ve seen. Enjoying a picnic of French food/produce in Brittany (did your picnic include a buttery kouign-amann?) before a snooze on a warm, empty beach is my idea of heaven.

    And it’s great to see Hong Kong get a mention in one of the earlier comments. My favorite childhood beach is at Tai Long Wan on Hong Kong’s Sai Kung peninsula – we used to go there fairly regularly on family outings as my mom and her best friend’s family were really into hiking, and I have lots of fond memories from those weekend excursions. Tai Long Wan has a stunning quartet of powder-fine beaches that are inaccessible by road (you can only get in on foot or by chartering a boat). There’s a reliable minibus service from Sai Kung town that takes you straight to the trailhead; the first beach is an easy half-hour to 45-minute walk from there.

    Tai Long Wan is not really a secret now, but remains as beautiful as ever (I’d advise going on weekdays). Getting to the wider second beach is a bit more strenuous as the trail goes over a headland with little shade, but the hour-plus-long workout is totally worth it. If you’ve worked up an appetite, a rickety wooden bridge leads from the sand to an open-air diner that serves up the best sweet and sour fish (and “Singapore noodles”) I’ve ever tasted in Hong Kong. The owners still cook these dishes the old-fashioned way, over firewood.

    The even longer third beach is just over a small headland (you can avoid the scramble by walking a back route) and has this really wild appeal. It’s perfect for a relaxing stroll. I made it a point to take Bama as far as this third beach on one of his visits to Hong Kong and he was amazed by the scenery – a friend of his who saw the photos thought it was on some less-developed island in Indonesia!

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    • Hah, no kouign-amann that time but as I recall, plenty of crusty French bread, pâté, cheese and chocolate (an irresistible combo in my opinion…just the wine missing). No wonder we needed a nap.

      James, your description of the three Hong Kong beaches is dreamy and I will absolutely make the effort to see them all when I visit Hong Kong. I like beaches that require a little effort to get to. The second beach with the open-air diner serving sweet and sour fish sounds perfect. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I find it quite incredible that such a huge city has these beautiful, relatively undeveloped beaches. Thanks for all this info. I’m sure I’ll be picking your brain before we visit.

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  2. Amazing post! I’ve not been to any of these, but I hope to visit some. I wanted so badly to visit Brittany before I left Europe, but I’ll surely be back.

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    • Thank you! When you get back to Europe you must visit this part of France. The combination of beautiful coastline, pleasant towns and historic sites is amazing. You will love it.

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  3. I think the France one is my favorite, but they’re all so beautiful!

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  4. Some very beautiful beaches there. My favourite place is the beach. I’m lucky that I live in Perth WA and very near Cottesloe Beach. I’ve finally got used to the cold water and now go for a swim in the summer. Vietnam also has some beautiful beaches. You’ll probably be surprised about Hong Kong. We used to live there and there are some fabulous beaches there, lovely and warm.
    I’m very jealous of your Bermuda holidays

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    • Thank you for your comment Alison. I googled Cottesloe Beach. It sure is pretty; the water is such an amazing colour— I’m surprised that it’s chilly. I was in Hong Kong a long time ago and saw some lovely beaches—great to have this in a mega city. I was lucky that my parents took me to Bermuda a few times in my youth. Sadly I haven’t been back since…very pricey and difficult to get to from where I live now in Vancouver.

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      • I was pretty surprised at the water first time I took a dip! But now love it when it’s very hot. We visited Vancouver a few years ago and loved it, I have a friend who lives in Kelowna

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  5. What a fabulous post; had me dreaming of beaches past and future. The only one(s) here I’ve been to are the Galapagos beaches (def one of our travel highlights too), but I could add a few from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Thailand and Bali. I too am a beach snob 🙂
    Alison

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    • Thanks Alison. When you travel so much, I guess becoming a beach snob is inevitable. I hope that I’ll get to see some of those beaches in Australia and New Zealand. I’ve read posts about multi-day hikes in coastal New Zealand that are incredibly appealing to me.

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  6. These beaches all look fantastic. We’ve had a heat warning here in Toronto the past few days and I would love to go for a swim right about now. I have such fond memories of going to the beach when I was a kid too. We would usually either go to Long Point or Grand Bend. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many great beaches there are here in Ontario. One of my favourites is at Neys Provincial Park, which is situated along the northern shore of Lake Superior and features a sandy beach with plenty of driftwood for seating or to hang your towel.

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    • Yes, I’ve seen your crazy weather report. We’re going through a cool and damp period (typical of June in Vancouver). Ah yes, Grand Bend. A lovely spot. I thought of including Sandbanks Provincial Park but my photos are really crappy and they’re mostly of me and my friends looking somewhat inebriated. I would love to explore more of Lake Superior (only been once on a cross-Canada drive where we didn’t have time to explore in-depth). I think you’ve blogged about Neys Provincial Park? So many gorgeous beaches in our own provinces and country. Nova Scotia has some beauties too and I’ve never been to PEI.

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      • Sandbanks is another gorgeous beach in Ontario. And yes, I’ve definitely raved about Neys before in the past. We’re planning on returning later this year in the fall. I just can’t seem to get enough of Northern Ontario and Lake Superior. I’ve never been to PEI either but heard the beaches there are nice too.

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  7. i also agree you need to see some Australian beaches. Try the Whitsundays out for size! Love the Galapagos beaches and especially the blue footed boobies!

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  8. Moving from the St. Lawrence shore to the Pacific Rim is a serious upgrade. I really like the picture of the Maldives.

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    • Haha! Yes I’ve come a long way since my beach days on the St.Lawrence. My husband likes that Maldives picture too. It was super fun and beautiful walking on that sandbar.

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  9. Wow.. Gorgeous beaches!! What a wonderful list, Caroline! Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Wow, just look at all the beautiful places and beaches you’ve been to, Caroline! And your blog post about the world’s oceans and their shorelines fits perfectly with today’s theme which is World Ocean Day celebrated on the 8th of June every year 🙂

    As much as I would love to relax under swaying palm trees and bask in a burst of tropical sunshine, if given a choice, I would go to Pacific Rim National Park without much pondering. It’s a haven for rare species, lush temperate forests, dramatic coastal scenery and long sandy beaches. There’s definitely something magical when it comes to rugged, unspoilt West coast wilderness. Not to mention some of Canada’s wildest surf. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

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    • I wish I could say I knew about World Ocean Day, but I’m glad that the timing of my post happened to coincide.
      Pacific Rim National Park and the coastline both north and south of the official park are magnificent. I would definitely rank this area among my favourite places in the world. I agree with you Aiva that it has a magical quality. Some of the more popular places like Tofino can get quite busy in the summer months, but there is lots of room to spread out. Mike and I have enjoyed a few trips in November where we have those giant beaches and rainforest paths to ourselves. I actually recommend the off season as the water is too cold to swim anyway and the wild surf is amazing.

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  11. Love beaches and floating in the sea. My favourite is the one in Mahabalipuram we frequented as kids

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  12. What a great list and very enticing pictures. Is the main picture Baja? Looks phenomenal. Like you we don’t sit on the beach much but we love long walks on the beach (sounds like a dating advertisement). I’ve been to or close to some of your favourites, and now I’m dreaming of them. My all time favourites as a kid is Grand Beach north of Winnipeg. I haven’t been back in years and I’m not sure I want to spoil my memories by going back 😊. Glad Tangella made the list. Maggie

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    • Yes, it is Playa Balandra near the city of La Paz. The landscape and clear water are phenomenal. We started our Baja kayak trip in La Paz. We loved it there and a little further north near the town of Loretto. Mike and I have talked about returning to explore the peninsula north of Loretto.
      It’s interesting thinking back at childhood beaches. I think the beauty of the beach might have been secondary to just the simple joys of sand, beach toys and potato chips (in my case, salami sandwiches). I’m so glad you guys directed us to Tangalla. I could go for one of those long, hot beach walks followed by a king coconut!

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  13. Fantastic post and great selections!

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  14. Hi. There’s something about sand, water snd sky in combination that absolutely cannot be beat.

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    • So true. I can’t imagine not enjoying this combo. I thought of you and your love of Cape Cod when I wrote this post. I was a really young kid when I went there but I remember the fun dunes.

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  15. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the beaches you’ve visited, Caroline. That really is quite a few you have visited and lovely to hear you might do a part 2. It is interesting to hear that some dive beaches aren’t the most best beaches, but I suppose beaches are also about the experiences. Unlike your parents, my parents didn’t like taking me to the beaches when I was a kid. That’s because coming from a Chinese family, my family didn’t want us to get tanned under the sun at the beach. Despite this, I still love beaches. One time I went up to Queensland and visited Bondi Beach here in Australia. The ocean was a stunning blue and the sand was so soft underneath my toes 🙂

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    • Thanks Mabel. We Canadians, especially those growing up in the 70s, were a terrible bunch when it came to tanning. Perhaps because most of the country has such long, cold winters we just crave the sun and warmth. I’m much more careful in the sun now, but I still love how it feels on my skin. At least your parents saved your skin! I have seen lots of gorgeous images of Australian beaches. Hopefully I’ll get to some of them in the future.

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      • That’s good to hear you are taking care of your skin now. The sun and blue skies can be so inviting. Hope you get to come to Australia some day. Take care, Caroline 🙂

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  16. You’ve certainly been lucky to have been able to visit so many exquisite beach destinations, Caroline. I’m not much of a beach babe, and swimming in the sea is not for me, but I do love the occasional stroll along a deserted beach. I do recall floating in a lukewarm ocean on the Kenyan coast, which holds special beach memories. When I visited Koh Samui, I spent more time hiking in the mountains than strolling on the beach!
    I’ve long dreamed of visiting the Maldives . . . all the pictures I’ve ever seen of it fuels the vision I have of what tropical islands should look like. And I’ve always wanted to go to one of the local islands, instead of those expensive all inclusive resort islands. Experiencing the culture is after all why I love to travel.

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    • I started out as a sun-worshipping beach babe who could lie on the beach all-day, but have morphed into a restless wanderer who loves nothing more than exploring deserted beaches and coastline trails. Our love of snorkeling and diving has brought us to some lovely spots where we often tack on an extra few days at the beach. I hope you get to the Maldives. We had an excellent experience on local island Fulidhoo.

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  17. It’s difficult to pick the most favourite because all these beaches look gorgeous!
    But if I have to choose, I will vote for the Pink Beach on Komodo Island. It looks so extraordinary. I would also like to visit Galapagos Island. How did you feel when sharing the beach with sea lions? Did they get close to you? 🙂

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    • Len, I hope you get to visit Komodo; it’s such a fascinating and stunning place. Neighbouring Flores is gorgeous. Bama and James have both written about this lovely destination. When you visit Galapagos, try to do so on a small boat tour. We had only 8 passengers and it made for very peaceful animal viewing. We kept our distance from the sea lion— just watched them. They didn’t show any interest in us. In general, all the animals there are unbothered by human presence. It’s really special. I can’t speak for other tours, but we had an excellent guide/naturalist who was very strict about giving animals their space and respecting their habitat.

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  18. What a great post with some wonderful memories and photos!! I have been to a few of these places 😉 Your photo of Phra Nang in ’81 made me a tad sad as you cannot get that same view now. The price of ‘progress’ 😦 Thanks for sharing these!! 🙂

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    • Thank you! Yes, things do change over the years, sometimes not for the better. I’m glad I visited Phra Nang when I did, and as I mentioned in another comment, I’m reluctant to return. Having said that, relatives were recently there and they had nothing but praise.

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      • Haha but you saw it ages before me, so, will have higher expectations 😉 I was first there in ’03 and last in ’15 and the differences were incredible each year 😦

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        • I will set my sights on new explorations. By the way, I was there in ’91, not ’81. That’s still a long time ago, but don’t make me any older than I already am 😂

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          • Haha, it was still pre-tsunami and before the fancy spa at the end and the parade of shops by the boat dock! By the looks of the photo, it was also before Railay west was so developed! 😉

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  19. Yeah, I’m so glad to see South Africa on your list … yes, Kosi Bay is such a beautiful place! Next time you’re in South Africa, you must explore the West Coast … long-long white beaches without people or high rising developments – just the place for wild camping!
    Love your other beaches as well, such beautiful photo’s!

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    • We’ve only seen a small portion of South Africa and were so impressed with your abundance of beautiful coastline, among other things! We also really enjoyed our time in Hermanus…such a stunning seaside town and outstanding coast. And the “urban” beaches in Cape Town are wonderful too.Thank you for the tip about your West Coast beaches. They sound like my cup of tea. We visited some of the wild beaches in Namibia and they were awesome. Thanks for your comments!

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  20. Unlike you, my memories of beaches from my childhood are rather mixed ones. I remember having a great time when my parents took me to this beach at the western part of Java. But I also remember my mom’s stern look every time I came too close to the water. She was worried I would get washed away by big waves. It wasn’t until 2010 when I went to Bali for the first time that I started appreciating the many great beaches we have here in Indonesia. Lombok has some of the most stunningly beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, although I’m worried that some of them have changed due to the rapid development of the island. I wrote about them in 2013, and back then I told James that we shouldn’t return to those beaches for we might be disappointed of how they would become years from our visit. By the way, when you said that people call you a beach snob, I can relate. 😀

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    • Hello fellow beach snob! Luckily we didn’t have any big waves at Long Sault, plus the water was so cold we usually just hung out on the sand building castles. I am envious of your beaches in Indonesia. I haven’t been to Lombok but I totally share your reluctance about re-visiting favourite beaches that have seen big development over the years. I feel that way about the Thai beaches I visited so long ago. The Bali coastline holds great memories for me, but more for the snorkeling and diving on the north coast (Menjangan Island). I remember lovely beaches on Flores but I have gaps in my journal (I was probably having too much fun). I remember reading some posts you and Janes wrote about Flores and being surprised by the amount of development, but I also seem to recall that it is quite attractive.

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      • Oh I loved snorkeling around Menjangan Island. It was rainy season, so the visibility wasn’t ideal. But it was still beautiful.

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  21. Having been an avid kayak paddler for many years I have visited lots of beaches in Australia. The best ones are those that few people know about along the Southern Ocean. Miles and miles of sandy beaches and best of all , mainly deserted.

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    • I have not had the pleasure of visiting Australia but have seen lots of images of your beautiful beaches. I’ll remember your tip about the Southern Ocean beaches. Are they difficult to access? Thanks for your comments!

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