There’s not much better than taking a week or two off and heading to the beach for some sun and waves; especially if you live somewhere with cold winters. If you live somewhere that's warm year round, and could theoretically hit the beach 365, us looking at snow out the window envy you.
Beach vacations are a major tourist attraction for a reason. If planned properly they can be the perfect mix of fun and relaxation, recharging all of us before we head back to work. Though a traditional hot, sunny locale, and a nice white beach is by far the norm when planning a trip to the beach, there are other, perhaps less known or travelled beaches, that may not always offer the perfect temperature, or the perfect wave, but, due to their utter strangeness, or cool, unexpected features, they offer travellers plenty to experience. Here’s 12 cool, weird and less-travelled beaches around the world.
12 Vik Beach, Iceland
Looking like something out of the Lord of the Rings, Iceland’s Vik Beach is a rugged coastline of jagged rock formations, heavy, white waves and black sand. Oddly shaped rock formations jutting out of the ocean water serve as a reminder that nature is law, especially on Vik Beach, which is less a venue for sun bathing and bikinis, and more an avenue to allow visitors to step back in time and imagine a much simpler, yet way more brutal time.
11 Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
Hot Water Beach in New Zealand takes on a dual role, serving as both a wonderful beach with beautiful sand and serf, as well as a natural spa. During a few hours, both in the morning and evening, while the tide is at its lowest, mineral water from underneath the sand heats to a glorious 150 degrees. Intrepid travellers have realized that if you dig a hole in the sand, you can sit in the mineral water and essentially soak in your own mineral water hot tub. A spa experience, with a much better view, all for free.
10 Punalu'u Beach, Hawaii
Punalu'u Beach is notable for two equally awesome reasons. The island beach in Hawaii is home to a large population of endangered sea turtles, many of which spend their days lounging around the beach or swimming just off shore. Because the turtles are endangered, there are actually signs on the beach warning not to touch or ride them; indeed, doing so is against the law. While the turtles are quite the sight, Punalu'u Beach is even more famous, and weird, for the beach’s jet black sand, which looks especially striking when juxtaposed against the white surf that crashes along the shore.
9 Red Sands Shore, Canada
Located on the tiny province of Prince Edward Island in Canada, the Red Sands Shore is exactly how it sounds. 500 miles of shore line after shore line of red sand dots the coast of the province, with Thunder Cove in the north being the most popular destination for tourists. Though the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Canada remains steadily cold year round, most who visit the Red Sands Shore do so for the color of the sand and the dunes, which is caused by a high level of iron oxide, and not so much the beach vibe.
8 Cow Beach, India
Ever wondered what it was like to sunbath with a cow? If so, check out Cow Beach in India, where the cows truly live a charmed life. As a sacred animal in Indian culture, the cows on the beach in Goa live a life of luxury. Foraging for food up the road from the beach at some waterfront restaurants' trash piles, the cows then hit the beach, enjoying a morning of solitude before any humans show up. In Goa, the cows take center stage, paying little mind to the human element and maintaining their position as rulers of the beach. Definitely a weird, fascinating beach worthy of a visit.
7 Loango National Park, Gabon
Known as ‘Africa’s Last Eden,’ Loango National Park in Gabon, off Africa’s central western coast, is a nature preserve that extends all the way to a beautiful coastline giving the park’s wildlife (elephants, hippos and gorillas among others) an opportunity to head down to the water and take a stroll on the beach, or a dip in the water. Beyond the land-dwelling creatures one may spot along the beach, the coastline at Loango also has the second largest concentration of whales and dolphins in the world.
6 Boulders Beach, South Africa
A part of Table Mountain National Park, Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa displays the passage of time better than many, if not all, other beaches in the world. Thousands of years of erosion along the coastline gave way to massive granite boulders that jut from the sand like giant statues. Along with the massive natural art keeping Boulders Beach interesting, the over 3,000 penguins that call the beach home also make Boulders Beach an utterly unique and admittedly strange destination to catch some sun and waves.
5 Hyams Beach, Australia
Hyams Beach in Australia has the distinction of holding the Guinness Book of World Records title of whitest sand in the world. Whiter than your teeth after a year's worth of bleaching, Guinness is correct in it’s assessment; Hyams Beach is as white as snow. The juxtaposition of the sand with the sparkling blue water makes for a beautiful retreat to catch sun, surf and even snorkelling, the latter of which Hyams Beach also boasts some of the best in the world.
4 Gulpiyuri Beach, Spain
An entirely inland beach, if you can believe it, Gulpiyuri Beach in Spain is a mere 160 feet long, making it less an actual beach, and more a plot of sand, but the fact that it is formed by a sinkhole which allows water to enter from the ocean makes it a strange novelty. Looking more like a lagoon, the water is salt water, and there is actually a tide at Gulpiyuri Beach as well. During high tide the actual sand beach is entirely submerged, and during low tide you’d be hard pressed to even get your feet wet. Regardless, if you visit at the right time, Gulpiyuri Beach, which is surrounded by cliffs and tall grass, can be a private oasis.
3 Zlatni Rat Beach, Croatia
Meaning “Golden Horn” in Croatian, given the geography of Zlatni Rat Beach, the name is wholly appropriate. The white pebbled beach appears out of the trees as if from out of nowhere and proceeds to jut out into the sea exactly like a horn, forming a beautiful juxtaposition with the emerald water it extends into. Bathers can enjoy either side of the horned beach with equal enjoyment, and depending on the current, beach goers can also watch the beach change size, and even shape to astonishing effect.
2 Glass Beach, California
A favorite of intrepid beach glass hunters, aspiring jewellers and amazed onlookers alike, Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California was once a dumping ground, and, after decades of erosion, the once glass refuse has now been smoothed down to beautiful pieces of naturally occurring art. While many go to Glass Beach merely to view the treasures along the shore, other more daring visitors travel to glass beach hoping to bring home some of the beach glass that can be found amongst the rocks in order to utilize the pieces for artistic purposes. Unfortunately, attempting to collect sea glass from the beach is a risky proposition as it is illegal to take any from the beach. Still, worth a visit for the sight alone.
1 Perran Sands, England
Perran Sands in Cornwall, England is quite the beach. Not only is the beach a picturesque mix of cliffs, tall grass, dunes and smooth sand stretching along the Atlantic coast, it is also the site of a massive invasion of Lego pieces, that have continuously been washing ashore since 1997 when a massive wave hit a ship carrying the toy cargo, washing thousands of pieces overboard. Over 100 pieces still wash ashore every day. Now, we have all built sandcastles at the beach, but if you visit long enough at Perran Sands, you may be building a castle of an entirely different kind.