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.
These days, it seems like everybody has a list of the world's "most beautiful" beaches. The sheer quantity of sand and sea on this planet makes that an easy list to compile. But after a while, a lot of the world's coastline starts to sound the same (sugary strands, azure water, the gentle sway of palm trees). In fact, it starts to sound—dare we say it—downright mundane. With that in mind, we set out to find destinations with legacies. To pass our test, a beach not only had to have the kind of story you would want to share with your friends, but it also had to be the kind of place where you would want to lay your towel. That's why you'll find places like Malmok Beach in Aruba (site of the largest deliberate shipwreck in the Caribbean) and not the D-day beaches of Normandy, which, while deserving of a visit for their historical value, don't rank high on a sunbather's list. Without further ado—10 places where you can soak up a little culture with those rays.
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Discover the island where one of the world's most famous pirates was captured.
This island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina sits in middle of what was in the 1700s a busy thruway for large trade vessels carrying goods from all over the world. Naturally, with all this booty to be had, the place was swarming with pirates, too. Legendary pirate Edward Teach—a.k.a. Blackbeard—moored at Ocracoke before accepting a pardon and promising to quit the plundering life. But within weeks, he was back at it, so the Virginia governor gave the order for Blackbeard's capture, which happened on Ocracoke in 1718.
Today: Ocracoke has 16 miles of coastline, with pristine beaches ideal for fishing, shell gathering, swimming (some have lifeguards on duty), and lazing about.
Getting There: Unlike other Outer Bank islands, which are connected by bridges, Ocracoke is only accessible by ferry, private plane, or boat. A free 40-minute ferry transfer is available year-round from Hatteras; the ferry that leaves from Swan Quarter requires reservations and takes a little over two and a half hours. ocracokevillage.com.
Malmok Beach, Aruba
Site of one of the largest (and most deliberate) shipwrecks in the Caribbean.
In the early years of World War II, the German freighter Antilla—which carried supplies to the submarines patrolling the waters off the coast of Venezuela—was allowed to dock in Aruba. Though Aruba was initially a neutral zone, the island joined the Allies once Germany invaded Holland in 1940 (Aruba was a member of the Dutch Antilles at the time). The Antilla was ordered to surrender. The captain agreed to yield the next morning, but when the police arrived, there was no ship. Turns out the captain had sunk it himself, just off of Malmok Beach, so it wouldn't fall into Allied hands. Today, the 400-foot Antilla is one of the largest wrecks in the Caribbean and is home to diverse marine life including giant ruby sponges, coral formations, lobsters, and a variety of tropical fish.
Today: Thanks to the Antilla, Malmok Beach attracts both history buffs and snorkelers and divers, who love exploring the ship's remains in the clear waters. Because the ship sits in only 60 feet of water, divers enjoy a lot of "tank time" at the wreck, though it's so large that you'll need several dives to explore it all. If you're not into diving, take the steps down to Boca Catalina, a secluded bay that's great for swimming.
Getting There: Malmok Beach sits near the northwestern tip of Aruba, on the Caribbean Sea.
Bells Beach, Australia
Home to the world's longest-running surfing competition.
Tempted by its great breaks, local surfers were flocking to this sandy strip along Australia's southern coast as early as 1949, even though access at that time was not so easy. About a decade later, an enterprising young man by the name of Joe took matters into his own hands. He paid 30 pounds ($60) to hire a bulldozer and clear a road from the cliff to the beach. He recouped the costs by charging fellow surfers a pound to use his road—and this famous surf spot was officially born. The first Bells Beach Surf Classic—now called the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival—took place here in 1961.