BEACH VACATION IDEAS
10 of the World's Most Interesting Beaches
Let's face it, beaches can be beautiful, but they can also be…boring. That's why we sought out sunny places with stories to tell (the capture of notorious pirate Blackbeard, for example) so that when you tire of sunbathing and reading Budget Travel, you have another reason to savor the location.
The birth of the modern seaside resort.
In England, the concept of the modern "seaside resort" really took off in the 1700s, as doctors began touting the health benefits of ocean water and the coastal climate. At the time, beach visitors would disrobe in "bathing machines"—a small changing room on wheels that would get pulled into the water by horses, making it easy for the ill or elderly to step directly into the sea. In Victorian times, women—including Queen Victoria herself—used bathing machines to help protect their modesty, but as the popularity of sunbathing grew in the 1900s, these movable shacks were ditched in favor of stationary huts or tents—typically rentable by the hour, day, or week—that served as a bather's private beachside base. Bournemouth built the U.K.'s first municipal beach huts in 1909.
Today: Nearly 2,000 beach huts of all shapes and sizes now line the five-and-a-half-mile promenade of popular Bournemouth Beach—about 70 percent are privately owned and the city council operates the rest. Huts typically come equipped with deck chairs, curtains, and a small gas stovetop. From $13.70 per day, bournemouthbeachhuts.co.uk.
Getting There: Bournemouth is set on England's picturesque south coast, a little over a 90-minute train ride from London's Waterloo Station. bournemouth.co.uk.
Robin Hood's Bay, England
Known for a smuggler network so extensive it included the clergy.
There's evidence of a settlement here as far back as 3,000 years ago—and still plenty of fossils to be found along its marshes—but this village on England's Yorkshire Coast is most famous for being a smuggler's haven in the 1700s. Protected by marshy moorland on three sides, the bay served as an epicenter for the tax-free smuggling of contraband like tea, silk, gin, and tobacco traveling via ship from places like France and the Netherlands. So big was the operation that it's said that fishermen, farmers, the gentry, and even the clergy were involved. During struggles between the smugglers and tax men, bay wives would pour boiling water out of the windows of the houses onto law enforcement. There were so many secret passages that a smuggled bale of silk could supposedly travel from the bottom to the top of the village without leaving the houses.
Today: This charming village is popular for its family-friendly beaches, rock pools, and surrounding national parks, and offers plenty of pubs, tearooms, and cafes for post-beach dining. Fossil hunters may also luck out by finding a souvenir or two along the marshes.
Getting There: Regular train service runs from London to York; change there for a train to Scarborough, from where bus service is available to the bay. Ferries also run daily from Rotterdam to Hull, one hour away. robin-hoods-bay.co.uk.
Famous for ancient beach parties.
When the ancient Romans went on vacation, they went all out, embarking on grand tours of important sites—including Greece and Egypt—that could last up to five years. The journeys would often start closer to home, though, with a first stop at the seaside resorts along the Bay of Naples. For several hundred years, Rome's super rich would vacation in Baiae, a fashionable town with medicinal hot springs, beautiful villas (including those of Julius Caesar and Nero), and hedonistic parties.
Today: Though Baiae was deserted by 1500 (its ruins now lie under the Bay of Naples), a modern-day equivalent would be Capri, the see-and-be-seen island in the bay. Still a playground for the jet set, Capri's beaches are mainly rocky, but popular nonetheless. The lovely beach at Bagni di Tiberio, near the island's fishing district, was once the site of Emperor Tiberius's seaside palace.
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
One of the first beach destinations for cruisers.
Though ocean liners were transporting travelers and cargo across the Atlantic from the mid-1800s, it wasn't until 1900 that a ship was specifically built for leisure cruises as we know them now. Dubbed the Prinzessin Victoria Luise, the luxury ship was constructed for the Hamburg America Line and included 120 first-class staterooms, a gym, and even a darkroom for amateur photographers. The ship departed New York on January 26, 1901, for its first official cruise, which included a stop on the island of St. Thomas. The vessel continued to sail though the Caribbean and Mediterranean for nearly five years, until it accidentally ran ashore in Jamaica in 1906.
Today: St. Thomas is one of the busiest cruise-ship ports in the world; in high season, up to 10 ships a day might dock at its various terminals. Aside from duty-free shopping, visiting the beaches is one of the top activities for cruisers, and popular choices include Magens Bay on the north side and Lindbergh Bay's Emerald Beach on the south. To experience a bit of what those original cruise passengers did, though, head to the pristine beach on car-less Water Island.