With the sun shining it’s time to reach for the towels and the sunscreen, factor 40 if you know what’s good for you! From Australia to Southern California the coastlines of the world are awash with beautiful beaches. Prime real estate for catching some rays and going for a cooling paddle. But, what if you’re after something a little different? What if you want your beach to offer up a little more than crystal clear waters and endless soft white sands? Then, read on because today we’re going to be exploring unusual beaches around the world.
Glass Beach, California
Kicking off our tour of unusual beach destinations is Glass Beach in California. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear shoes. Well, unless you want to. The glass at Glass Beach isn’t the jagged, sharp kind you’re likely to cut your toes on. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
For over 60 years Glass Beach, located near MacKerricher State Park near Fort Brag, was a garbage dumping ground. In 1967, this stopped, and conservation efforts began. And, the result of over 50 years of the gentle rise and fall of tides has smoothed down all the broken glass. What remains now is a beach that substitutes sand for soft, polished pieces of glass.
Visitors to the park can head to the beach and walk the shores. In the sunlight, the glass glints and sparkles. It’s quite a sight. As tempted as you may be to pocket a few of emerald like pieces, this is strictly prohibited. So, be sure to leave any you’ve picked up behind.
Koekohe Beach, New Zealand
On the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, about an hours drive north of Dunedin is Koekohe Beach. Here, scattered along the beach are a strange and fascinating phenomena known as the Moeraki Boulders.
According to Maori legend, these enormous stones, which can stretch to two meters wide, are the remains of eel baskets, calabashes and kumaras washed ashore after the Araiteuru, a legendary canoe, was wrecked at sea.
In actuality, the boulders are concretions that have slowly exposed themselves after millions of years of shoreline erosion. Concretions are a truly spectacular natural occurrence and for many years baffled geologists. They are the result of buried sediment and mineral cement gathering over time and turning into rock. Some of those exposed took up to 4 million years to form!
The best time to visit the beach is in the morning or late afternoon when the stones are cast in soft light. Alternatively, for a more atmospheric experience, and photo too, head down when a storm's rolling in. It’ll look like a scene from a movie.
Maspalomas Beach, Canary Island
On the Island of Gran Canaria on its southern coast is Maspalomas Beach. What makes Maspalomas such an unusual beach are its dunes.
Many believe that the sands that make up the extraordinary dunes come from the Sahara. And, let me tell you when you see the place yourself, you’ll think the same thing too. But, the dunes are naturally occurring and, in fact, the whole area constitutes as a Nature Reserve.
But what about the dunes? Apparently, the sands came from the bottom of the ocean after the last ice age. Over time, winds blew the sands onto the shore until eventually, the dunes formed.
It's a strange experience to sit in a place that feels like a desert but is actually walking distance from the sea.
Papakolea Beach, Hawaii
At the southern tip of Hawaii’s big island, you’ll find one of the most unusual beaches around the world, Papakolea Beach. What makes this such an unusual beach destination is its olive green sand.
A quick look may at first have you believing that the green hue that dyes the sand is a natural die. But, on closer inspection, it becomes clear that the sand crystals themselves are in fact green.
These green crystals are known as Olivine Crystals. They are the result of the erosion of volcanic debris from a 49,000-year-old volcanic eruption that spewed Olivine rich lava into the bay. Because Olivine is heavier, unlike lighter volcanic debris, it never washes out to sea.
Papakolea Beach is really one of the most unique beaches in the world as it is one of only four known green beaches. Getting to the beach involves a wonderful four-kilometer hike from the designated parking area out to the coast.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
This stretch of beach is a special one. The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site which means that it sits up there with places like Machu Picchu, the Great Barrier Reef, and Florence. How many beaches do you know that have obtained that kind of status? Not many.
Located on one of Europe’s most magnificent coastlines, the Antrim coast, the Giant’s Causeway is stunning. The symmetry of the rock columns that make up this stretch of landscape are a natural curiosity that intrigues and amazes.
Upon its discovery in 1693, there was much speculation surrounding what had caused the rock formations that define the area. Some theories were scientific; others postulated that they were the result of human endeavor and others claimed they could only be the result of a giant's efforts.
In 1771, it a Frenchman determined that the Giant’s Causeway was, in fact, the result of volcanic activity. Over 60 million years ago, the northernmost tip of Northern Ireland was a hotbed of volcanic activity, and the fascinating formations are the result of molten lava being forced up through fissures in the underlying chalk bed.
With the wild Atlantic ocean, and the striking rock formations you are sure to get a dramatic photograph here.
To the Whitsundays now in Australia as we continue on our journey across unusual beaches around the world.
The Whitsundays are a collection of 74 islands off the coast of Australia’s Queensland. The most spectacular beach of the islands is the seven kilometer stretch of sand that makes up Whitehaven.
Here, the main attractions are the dazzling colors of the water and the pure white sand. The changing tides within the Hill Inlet create a swirling pool of vibrant greens, blues and sandy whites.
The Whitsundays’ location in the heart of the great barrier reef means you can swim, snorkel or simply marvel and the magnificent waters.
Flamingo Beach, Aruba
Is Flamingo Beach in Aruba a gimmick? Yes, of course, it is. Any beach you have to pay for always feels a bit off. But, then again, flamingos, right!
Flamingo Beach is on Renaissance Private Island. The Renaissance Aruba Resort owns the island. So, if you’re not a guest you have to get yourself a day pass.
When you get your pass you motor off to the private island where you can paddle about in the water with the lofty pink birds.
Lying 370 kilometers east of Reykjavik is one of Iceland’s greatest natural wonder, the glacier lagoon of Jӧkulsárlón. This is another of the most unique beaches in the world and its freezing, so forget your towel and swimmers.
Ringed by a beach of black volcanic sand, Jӧkulsárlón has featured in several Hollywood movies, including Batman Begins and the James Bond installment starring Pierce Brosnan, Die Another Day. Remember the car chase scene across the frozen lagoon, that’s right, that’s Jӧkulsárlón.
The lagoon is the result of the melting Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and sadly, global warming. Massive chunks of the nearby glacier are melting, causing them to break off and fall into the lagoon where they float atop the water.
Because the lagoon is at sea level, it is also fed by the Atlantic. This pours into Jӧkulsárlón at high tide. As a result of the melting glacier and the seawater from the Atlantic, it continues to grow with time. It is also Iceland’s deepest lake.
When the light catches the melting icebergs that have washed ashore, it casts a blue hue across the striking black sand that creates an otherworldly atmosphere. To experience the lagoon in all its splendor consider taking an amphibious bus. These see you drive along the beach before slipping into the water and sailing between the massive icebergs.
Maho Beach, Saint Martin
The Carribean Island of Saint Martin boasts a truly interesting beach. One that is not made unusual because of any naturally occurring phenomenon. No, the white sandy shores of Maho Beach are strange for one reason and one reason only. It sits directly under the flight path of the Island’s Princess Juliana International Airport!
Because Saint Matin’s international airport’s runway is so short, planes have to come in at an incredibly low altitude. Generally, this is between 10 to 20 meters. So, remember to duck and pack yourself a pair of earplugs, because things get loud!
Shell Beach, Australia
Only a short 45-kilometer drive southeast of Denham on Australia’s western coast located in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shark Bay is Shell Beach. The 70 miles that make up this beach are covered in cockle shells making it one of the most unique beaches in the world.
What is most amazing about Shell Beach is that the shells that cover it are all from the Fragum cockle. The bay’s climate and a seagrass bank that blocks tidal flow means the water is twice as high in salinity. This, in turn, means that the Fragum cockle faces no real natural predators and so thrives in abundance.
The result is deposits of shells that in some parts are 10 meters deep and water, that like the dead sea, is particularly buoyant.
Scala dei Turchi, Italy
On the Island of Sicily, fifteen minutes from the Valley of Temples in Agrigento you find the blindingly white, weather-worn and weather formed cliffs of Scala dei Turchi.
The name of these limestone cliffs, which sit along Sicily’s Realmonte coast and you can walk along, translates to Stairs of the Turks. This is in reference to the pirates who used to anchor their ships along this coast. From here they climbed the cliffs and mounted attacks on the surrounding villages.
Now though, why not just go for a stroll and enjoy the stunning views of the Mediterranean?
Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas
On to the Bahamas. Here, on the eastern coast of Harbour Island exists the Pink Sands Beach.
Considered one of the best beaches on the Islands of the Bahamas, the beach gets its distinct color from microscopic coral insects known as Foraminifera. These insects have bright pink or red shells and are one of the largest single cell organisms in the ocean. When they die, the crushed shells wash ashore where they mix in with the regular sand.
The pink sand is best viewed when wet. So, for the best holiday snaps make sure you are down by the water.
Spiaggia Rosso, Sardinia
Rounding off our tour of the most unusual beaches around the world, ANOTHER PINK BEACH!
Head to the northernmost tip of Sardinia for a glimpse, and only a glimpse, of the island’s Spiaggia Rosso beach.
Here, the sands too are pink and for the very same reasons that turn those in the Bahamas pink. Sadly though, Spiaggia Rosso beach is inaccessible. You can view it from nearby beaches Spiaggia del Cavalier and Cala di Rotti, but that’s it I’m afraid.
There you have it. Forget the traditional beach holiday. Now, you’ve got 13 fantastic, unusual beaches around the world that you can explore.