I was out splitting wood on a 30-degree North Carolina morning last week and found myself thinking on how many “beach” locations I’ve visited in 40+ years of travel.
Many places were not visited just because of a beach atmosphere – but sometimes you happen on an area that really stands out for either the quality of a beach, or scenic beauty, or just because you didn’t expect it.
Here are my Top Five favorite beaches. I realize there are thousands around the world I haven’t seen, but these are the visited favorites – and why. I won’t list the other beach areas I would NEVER visit again, but a clue to dislikes about beach towns are #1, crowds, and #2, too much commercial development.
The list is in no particular order – it’s all good!
Gold Coast/Surfer’s Paradise – Brisbane, Australia
For pure, beautiful white-sand beaches, you can’t get much better than Surfer’s Paradise, Queensland, Australia. I wrote a blog post about this area and I can’t say enough about Brisbane, its friendly residents, or its beaches.
Much has changed since my first trip there in 1978. The area is now quite cosmopolitan and has become totally focused on providing everything a visitor could want – all conveniently located – everything just where you need it.
Beach areas are wide and white and safe, but that sun will scorch you if you aren’t careful. Travelers venturing here to escape the cold US winter are warned – you WILL burn.
Big Sur area, California
WOW! Northern California beaches were quite a shock to an East Coast/Mid Atlantic resident.
You can say what you want about San Diego and Newport Beach, but the high cliffs, pounding waves, and marine mammals to be seen and heard along the northern California coastline are tops on my list.
The coastline of Big Sur and northward towards Carmel-By-The-Sea, and into Monterey, California has some of the best sites for photography on the planet. I was fortunate enough to live in this area for several years and never tired of the ocean views.
There are an abundance of things to see and do in this area – once you can turn away from the ocean. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, take a “17-Mile Drive”, or visit February 7-13, 2011 and be a spectator at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am Golf tournament. You might find yourself watching the play from Clint Eastwood’s backyard as I did (quite to my surprise since it wasn’t planned!)
I do like a white sand beach and Naples, Florida has white sand in abundance!
It also has world-class shopping nearby and some of the calmest shores in the world. This south Florida area on the Gulf of Mexico and including Marco Island, is prime example of what most people envision when they think of Florida.
Casual yet elegant, this beach environment offers plenty of nightlife without being a Florida “party” town or beach area. Head here to escape northern winters…you won’t be disappointed.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Here’s my own photo taken during a vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. What’s not to like?
Having made my first visit to the Outer Banks in the late 1960s, I’m a little dismayed by the amount of commercial development – specifically in the Nags Head stretch of the coast. However, the towns of Duck and Corolla, still offer my kind of beach environment and I visit in September or October (with hurricane insurance) when the crowds are minimal and the beaches quiet.
There is a review of my vacation rental experience in Corolla elsewhere on this blog.
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
For an island just eight and a half miles long, Virgin Gorda is a sun worshipper’s beach paradise and you normally won’t see water this clear outside a swimming pool.
Please believe me when I tell you this will be a beach destination you’ll never forget!
Beaches to die for, a serene, laid-back environment, fantastic shopping in luxurious boutiques, to-die-for restaurants, and all that sun and sand – a vacation in Virgin Gorda is like living in an outdoor health spa – 24/7.
If you want a quiet, peaceful vacation, skip through St. Thomas quick as you can, and head for the BVI and Virgin Gorda. You’ll be planning a return visit before you even leave.
I have a few more suggestions up my sleeve – so check back soon when I round out this list to a “Top Ten Beaches” list!
Look for a fantastic vacation rental in these and other “top” locations…