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.
Today: Currently the longest-running surfing competition in the world, the Rip Curl festival happens here every Easter. Still among the top break spots in the world (and not recommended for novice surfers), Bells Beach was featured in the classic surfing film The Endless Summer and was the setting for the finale of Point Break.
Getting There: Bells Beach is located on Great Ocean Road, about 67 miles southwest of Melbourne. Nearby towns include Torquay and Jan Juc.
Wineglass Bay, Australia
One of the darkest whaling histories in the world.
Located in Tasmania, this beach often shows up on "world's most beautiful" lists—but its past is not so picture-perfect. In the 1820s, whalers descended on the bay, sparking conflict with the native Pydairrerme aboriginal tribe. From their shore bases, the whalers would set off in small boats to chase and harpoon whales; once they caught one, they'd tow the carcass back to shore, where they'd butcher it and boil the blubber down for oil. (The oil was sent back to England to be used for lighting, and the whalebones for ladies' corsets.) Whenever the whalers were working, all that whale blood would stain the bay dark red—earning it the name Wineglass Bay. Whaling only lasted about 20 years on the peninsula.
Today: Wineglass Bay is part of Freycinet National Park, which takes up most of the Freycinet peninsula on Tasmania's breathtaking east coast. The park is popular for sea kayaking, boating, rock climbing, and bush walking, while the beach attracts travelers from around the world.
Getting There: Wineglass Bay is about two and a half hours by car from the airports at Hobart and Launceston, both of which are serviced by flights from Sydney and Melbourne.
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
America's first oceanfront national park.
This beautiful part of the Massachusetts coast stretches 40 miles from Chatham to Provincetown. Back in the early 1900s, the area was mainly made up of private land and was a favorite with the Kennedy clan, who spent their summers on the cape. When John F. Kennedy landed in the Senate, he sponsored legislation to make the area a protected national park. In 1961, when he was president, he was able to officially establish the Cape Cod National Seashore, making it the country's first-ever oceanfront national park.
Today: More than 4 million visitors a year enjoy the Seashore's pristine lighthouses, wild cranberry bogs, waterways, biking trails, and six swimming beaches; the latter include Coast Guard Beach in Eastham and quiet Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, which is framed by an 85-foot sand cliff.
Getting There: The National Seashore is just under a two-hour drive from Boston. Most of the national park stops are found along Route 6 between Eastham and Provincetown. nps.gov/caco.
Wreck Beach, Vancouver, Canada
Canada's first legal clothing-optional beach.
Though Vancouver's Pacific Spirit Regional Park features several sandy spots, including Acadia Beach and Tower Beach, the most legendary is four-mile-long Wreck Beach, Canada's first legal clothing-optional beach and one of the biggest of its kind in the world. Set 542 steps below the park's Trail 6, the secluded area became popular with naturists in the 1960s and '70s. In 1977, the Wreck Beach Preservation Society was formed to help protect this unique haven; over the years, they've successfully rallied against encroaching construction, environmental threats, and privacy and "morality" issues to keep the place fun and—true to their mission—family-friendly.
Today: During the summer, as many as 14,000 weekend visitors may drop by Wreck Beach for some fun in the sun—and not always in the buff. Sticking to the motto of "Nude isn't lewd, but gawking is rude," the dedicated regulars are happy to have sunbathers who choose to stay clothed, but they do take privacy, respect, and courtesy seriously (so no photos). There are unofficial gay and couples areas, and a Vendors Row where you can pick up everything from sarongs to gourmet eats. (Beware the unlicensed hawkers peddling homemade baked goods and not-so-legal substances.)
Getting There: Wreck Beach is on the western-most point of Vancouver, near the University of British Columbia campus. The C20 TransLink bus will take you to the Trail 6 sign at the intersection of Northwest Marine Drive and University Boulevard. From there, it's 542 wooden steps down to the beach.