You’ve seen the pictures on Instagram but can you trust your eyes? Have filters, careful cropping and creative angles spun something out of nothing?
We know it happens but there are plenty of beautiful beaches from all around the world where reality matches the image.
You may have to work hard to get to some of them and others are private with restricted access.
Here are 21 places around the world, in no particular order, where the land meets the sea with spectacular effect.
Durdle Door, Dorset, UK
One of the UK’s most iconic landmarks, the beach has an incredible limestone arch, formed by the power of the sea which has pounded a hole right through the centre. Durdle comes from the old English word ‘thirl’ which means to bore or drill. The beach is on the Lulworth estate and is part of the world famous Jurassic coast so a bit of fossil-hunting is also on offer. It is safe for bathing, but there are no lifeguards so it’s not the best swimming spot.
From September to May you’ll have the place almost to yourself, but it gets crowded in the summer months.
Dune du Pilat, France
With peaks as high as 300 feet, this is Europe’s tallest dune of sand as fine-milled as pre-sifted flour. Bit of a struggle to get up, about 15 minutes by the steep stairs, but easy to roll your way down to Arcachon Bay where you’ll find a beautiful sweep of shoreline with local fishermen and women selling fresh oysters and prawns in season.
But then of course you have to walk all the way back up again, although there is an alternative way back. It takes a little longer but avoids the steep climb.
Green Island, Antigua
Strips of soft white sand with a lush foliage backdrop. It’s uninhabited, isolated and calm. A true Caribbean paradise, privately owned and only accessible by boat. Once there don’t expect any facilities – no restrooms, cafés or shops – but the water is clear and great for swimming and snorkelling.
If you’re lucky you’ll be alone, but be prepared for tours to come and go throughout the day.
Pink Sand Beach, Barbuda
Crushed coral is what gives this shore its rosy hue, ground into fine silken sand. The 8 mile beach is often deserted, as it’s on Antigua’s quieter sister island, and there are no touristy facilities. It’s within striking distance of the landing stage of the ferry from Antigua or take a day tour by boat and taxi to see all the island’s best spots.
Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos
Pure-white sand, black lava rock and and bands of marine iguanas roaming the shores. You’ll also see sharks in the shallows, bright red crabs scuttling about and blue-footed boobies coming in to land. But be prepared to get hot and sweaty to reach it, it’s a two mile hike from the main town of Puerto Ayora.
Champagne Beach, Vanuatu
Famous for its crystal clear waters and powdery white sands, the beach on the island of Espiritu Santu is one of the very best in the South Pacific region and popular with tourists and cruise boats from Australia. The beach gets its name from a fizz that appears at low tide as gas escapes from the volcanic rocks.
You may be lucky enough to spot turtles popping their heads above the water. Its only drawback is, in a bid to curb over-tourism and keep its natural beauty, you do have to pay.
Anse Source d’Argent Seychelles
Probably one of the most photographed beaches on the planet! Dazzling white sands, shallow glass-green waters, beautiful granite boulders and dotted with coconut palms. You can only get to it via the old L’Union coconut plantation so you have to pay a fee.
What the photos don’t show is that the tide comes in pretty high and the beach shrinks dramatically, but pace yourself, stay all day and in the early morning and late afternoon you’ll probably have the place to yourself.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
It’s a cliché but a beach of sugar sand, lined with palms, a gentle breeze, water the colour of peppermint mouthwash is simply perfect. There’s only one public beach on the island, Matira, everywhere else you need to be staying at a hotel for access. It’s a destination way out of our price range, but we can dream can’t we?
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Regularly named America’s best beach, Clearwater is miles of wide sugar-sand and emerald-clear waters where dolphins often come to play. It’s the perfect beach scene and with its nearby Beach Walk shops, live music and restaurants it caters for most tastes.
Great for families, it has cabanas, chairs and parasols for hire. Complete contrast to the deserrted islands of the caribbean, but special nonetheless.
Balos Lagoon, Kissamos, Crete
We love Crete, but never made it as far west as Kissamos where a short boat trip or a bumpy ride through a mountain pass take you to the gloriously pink toned sandy beach of Balos Lagoon.
The waters are shallow and warm in summer, wild and wonderful in winter. The road option is not for the fainthearted though – you have to park a long way from the water’s edge and the hike back up is taxing.
Golden Horn Beach, Croatia
Definitely the most famous beach in Croatia as it features on postcards, adverts and travel brochures. It’s on the island of Brac, a bus and ferry ride from Split. What’s strange about Golden Horn is that it changes its shape depending on the wind and currents.
Aerial shots make it look sandy but it is in fact a pebble beach, but brilliant for swimming and watersports and no sand in your picnic!
Koekohe Beach, South Island, New Zealand
Famous for the Moeraki Boulders, a group of large spherical objects that photographers go wild for! The boulders are not actually stones but the remains of ancient sea floor sediments, formed around 60 million years ago, which have been exposed by constant erosion of the cliffs over the last 4 million or so years.
Maori legend claims them to be the remains of eel baskets that washed ashore after the legendary canoe, the Araiteuru, was wrecked at nearby Shag Point. The beach teems with wildlife including a yellow-eyed penguin sanctuary, a seal colony and occasionally Hectors dolphins can be seen in the surf.
Tunnels Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
The ultimate beach for snorkelling and scuba diving because of the many underwater lava tube caverns that give the place its name. A perfect crescent shaped bay, fringed by palms and Ironwood trees with golden sands, lush jungle and mountains.
If you think it looks familiar it was a location for the 1950s hit film musical South Pacific.
Walvis Bay, Namibia
A tiny lagoon sheltered by the Pelican Point sand spit, it’s home to masses of wildlife including flamingos, pelicans and Damara terns. The nearby deep water harbour is full of fishing boats and small ships and you can go whale-watching, seal-spotting and catch dolphins at play.
Cape York, Australia
The most northerly point of mainland Australia is the sweep of Cape York and nearby Punsand Bay. Long sandy stretches, rocky promontories and the risk of an occasional basking crocodile makes it unsafe for bathing but oh the views!
We were lucky enough to spend several months at the very top of Australia some years ago, and the sunsets were spectacular. If you’re really fortunate you may even see the elusive dugong in deeper waters around the coast.
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Right at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef you’ll find one of the world’s most unspoiled and eco-friendly beaches. Seven kilometres of pure white sand washed by impossibly turquoise waters. It’s part of the Whitsunday Islands National Park and is well protected. You can visit by catamaran, helicopter, seaplane or sailing boat.
One Foot Island Beach, Cook Islands
Warm, crystal clear waters wash the edges of a triangular shaped turquoise blue lagoon on Aitutaki, the second most visited of the Cook Islands. Popular with honeymooners, the island remains remarkably unspoiled. One Foot Beach, named for its odd shape, has waters so blue you’d think they’d been painted by a pre-schooler with an eye for bright colours.
Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara, Iceland
A complete contrast to the blazing white sands of your typically-tropical island is the basalt-black sand of Iceland’s famous shore. Not great for sunbathing but the stark contrast of the white-foaming sea, the deep blue water and the black sand, made up of volcanic rocks millions of years old, is breathtaking.
Boulders Beach, South Africa
No prizes for guessing how it got its name – but the real attaraction here is not the huge granite boulders that dot the shoreline but the colony of African penguins that make it their home. Their current numbers are between 2,000 and 3,000 but recent pollution, habitat changes and over-fishing are putting the colony at risk. Fortunately the beach is now part of Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, ensuring the beaches are clean and the penguins protected.
And if you can’t get enough of penguins, nearby Foxy Beach has boardwalks which take you around the best vantage points to view them.
Marathonisi, Zakynthos, Greece
An island uninhabited except by the sea turtles that give it its name. It’s part of the local National Marine Park which is doing all it can to protect these beautiful creatures and their habitat. You’ll need a boat to reach the island and its two beaches; one sandy (look for turtle tracks) and one rocky (keep your eyes peeled for loggerhead turtles in the waters near the sea caves).
Luskentyre Bay, Isle of Harris, Scotland
Located on the west coast of South Harris in the Outer Hebrides, Luskentyre is one of the largest and most spectacular beaches in the UK. Miles and miles of white sand, and stunningly clear blue-green waters. Best experienced on foot or bike, the views are breathtaking. And despite the Hebrides’ wild and remote reputation it’s suprisingly easy to get there by plane and ferry.
Do you love beachlife? Where are your favourites?