Weather permitting, nearly all of us would swap the choke of the city for that sand-between-the-toes feeling of freedom you get at the beach. But, not all of the world’s popular beaches conform to that paradise island idyll of pale caramel sand, and foamy waves lapping at the shore. From lunar landscapes punctuated by sand dunes, to vast stretches of coastline teeming with cows, a visit to one of these weird beaches is sure to be a memorable experience for entirely different reasons!
Prince Edward Island, Canada
The aesthetic beauty of the “Garden of the Gulf” is often overlooked by glossy travel guides, yet this tiny Canadian Maritime province could easily compete with the world’s most popular island destinations for photogenic coastal panoramas and spectacular sunsets. Prince Edward Island, the largest of the 231 islands that make up the municipal region, is primarily known for its spectacular terracotta beaches, influenced by the high levels of iron oxide emitted by sedimentary rocks and fossilised sea creatures. Thunder Cove on the Southern coast is one of the island’s most colourful natural beaches, and a great place to enjoy a spot of whale watching as the sun goes down!
Unless you’ve wandered the coastal moors of Scotland, encountering anything remotely bovine whilst plundering rock-pools along the beach seems an unlikely possibility. That is, until you hit Goa. Fronted by cafe-restaurants and swaying palms, the beach at Anguna is an ideal place to unwind and enjoy a cocktail or two in the sun – if you don’t mind a few heifers and bulls for company.
Animal containment rules are fairly relaxed in Goa, and since the beach forms a natural extension of the nearby farmland, cows roam wild and free pretty much all year round!
Pink Sands Beach
Harbour Island, Bahamas
The name is something of a give-away as to the defining characteristic of this sun-soaked, paradise island beach. Spanning just 3.5 miles in length, picturesque Harbour Island has one of the smallest land areas of any in the Bahamian atoll, yet what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in charm and ambience. The dusky rose hue that defines much of the East coast derives from the eroded shells of single-celled organisms known as foraminifera, which thrive in abundance in the warm North Atlantic.
And the title of the world’s smallest beach goes to… Gulpiyuri Beach in the tiny municipal town of Llanes, Northern Spain. Technically, Gulpiyuri isn’t a beach since it isn’t fed by the ocean, and with less than 160-feet of sand at low tide, there really isn’t much space for tourists to pitch up their beach loungers and parasols. But, visitors to this tiny slice of paradise can’t help but fall in love with its ethereal beauty. Encompassed by grassy knolls and soaring limestone cliffs, the tiny beach is the perfect place for would-be grooms planning a surprise proposal.
Papakolea Beach isn’t quite inaccessible to tourists, providing you’re energetic enough to endure a three mile hike. Situated at the southernmost point of Hawaii and the United States near Ka Lae, the remote beach is shrouded by soaring sea cliffs and rugged promontories, along which you’ll have to hike for three miles to find an entry point. But there is a reward in store for your efforts. Aside from a sense of delicious isolation, this photogenic beach offers a stunning backdrop of soft, olive green sand, created during the eruptions of Puu Mahana volcano some 2,000 years ago.
Imagine the Sahara Desert fronted by a turquoise sea, and you’ll have some idea of what to expect on arrival at Genipabu Beach. Situated on the sunny Rio Grande de Norte coast at Natal, Genipabu has attracts a diverse influx of tourists owing to the huge, undulating sand dunes which taper up from the beach – perfect for dune buggying and… camel rides! The steep elevation of the dunes makes Genipabu Beach have also influenced its appeal as a premier sand boarding destination, attracting over 12,000 thrill-seekers a year all eager to try out the sport!
Hot Water Beach
Waikato, New Zealand
If you love the idea of languishing in a hot tub by the sea, minus the preening spa staff, New Zealand might have just the answer. Nestled upon the East coast of Coromandel Peninsula, Hot Water Beach attracts tourists in their thousands with the promise of a natural hot bath experience by the sea. According to geologists, the rare geothermal phenomenon is attributed to a naturally heated river located directly below the seabed, the pressure of which causes hot water to be pushed upward through the sand as the tide goes out. While most of the rock pools are deemed safe by Waikato authorities, temperatures have been known to exceed 64 degrees Celsius on some parts of the beach!