Cape Town, South Africa
Whether you’re a surfer or a sunbather, Cape Town’s location (where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans converge) means you’re sure to find your kind of beach. Camps Bay is a honeypot where glitzy locals hang in upmarket beach bars (and look at the freezing water), while False Bay offers warmer and less frantic waves, and colourful cabins line the sands. When you’re not basking in the sun, there’s a vibrant city to explore – Table Mountain for views, Long Street for drinks. Done.
How: Ellerman House is a splash-out option. Flights and seven nights’ accommodation from £2,419 per person with ITC Luxury Travel. itcluxurytravel.co.uk
Lisbon is a city of seven very steep hills, and after a few hours slogging up and down to see the sights you’ll be sprinting towards the sea to cool off. Luckily the Portuguese capital’s beaches are just a 15-minute train ride away from the city, and there are several lively bays to choose from in Cascais. Locals chug insanely cheap litres of Sagres beer on the breezy sand, then return to the city centre for a night out in the heaving bars of the Bairro Alto. We recommend you do the same.
The French Riviera has long been the playground of the rich and famous, and it’s no wonder – the water’s just as dazzling as the outlandish luxury hotels lining the coastline. But there’s no reason to ignore the urban environment, and in Nice you have a selection of bars, museums and great beaches to choose from – La Reserve is public, pebbly and easy to walk to. For a taste of the A-list life without the big spends, splash out on a lounger on a private beach.
Off the radar
North Beach, Barbuda
Hovering just off the coast of Antigua, Barbuda is a taste of how the Caribbean used to be in the 1970s. Princess Di beach (where Princess Diana retreated to dodge the paparazzi) is a blow-your-mind curve of dazzling pinky-white sand and jade water. At the tip of the island you’ll find North Beach; accessible only by speedboat, it’s a rugged stretch of sand speckled with conch shells and a roaming resident donkey, Douglas. It’s the place to switch off – the beach’s rule of ‘no iPhones, no internet, no interruptions’ insist it. So grab a Wadadli beer, swing in a hammock, and do absolutely nothing at all.
How: North Beach arranges small-plane flights to Barbuda airport; nightly rates from US$200 including meals. barbudanorthbeach.com; Virgin Atlantic offers return flights to Antigua from £510. virgin-atlantic.com
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Brazil is as generous with its beaches as it is with its charm – you can’t help falling for the country, and probably several of the beautiful residents too. On the north-east coast you’ll find Jericoacoara (or Jeri, for short) where bikinis are small, and the beaches large and quiet. For something further off the radar (we’re talking 354km out to sea), get to the Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago of 21 sparkling, untouched islands. It’s hard to choose, but the secluded Baia do Sancho creeps in as a favourite.
How: Bespoke Brazil offers tailor-made beach itineraries to Brazil, taking in the best of the country’s pousadas. bespokebrazil.com
Lake Ivag, Sweden
You may associate Sweden with hipsters, snow and Ikea meatballs, but the Scandi country also boasts idyllic lakeside beaches perfect for those balmy summer months. The remote and scenic province of Dalsland is home to 450km of freshwater swimming opportunities, and if you’re looking for peaceful rural sunbathing, take a trip to the tranquil, tepid-water shores of Lake Ivag for something a bit different.
How: Off the Map Travel offers a seven-night stay from £899 per person, excluding flights, including activities and car hire. offthemaptravel.co.uk
Galveston Island, Texas, USA
Texas boasts cowboys, ribs and rodeo, but you guessed it, there’s more. The Lone Star state has beaches too – a stretch the locals retreat to on sticky summer days. OK, it’s not your typical swaying palm postcard picture, but Galveston Island’s East Beach does come with a rollercoaster-packed Pleasure Pier. If that’s not your scene, there are 32 miles of beach to explore.
Isle of Harris, Scotland
Scotland’s Outer Hebrides call to mind eerie winter breaks involving open fires and whiskies, but in the summer they take on a whole new look, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking them for the Caribbean – Luskentyre on the Isle of Harris is particularly special (although it comes without the balmy Caribbean temperatures). You may be able to fly to Barbados in the same time it would take to drive to Isle of Harris, but as UK-based stretches of sand go, these are some of the best you’ll find.
Pag Island, Croatia
Before the 1990s, the only things Pag was famous for were unspoiled beaches and sheep’s milk cheese. Nowadays it’s a hedonist’s heaven, and the island hosts some of the world’s biggest dance festivals.
Before the 1990s, the only things Pag was famous for were unspoiled beaches and sheep’s milk cheese. Nowadays it’s a hedonist’s heaven
They’re mad cheap (£120 for a whole week at some), and range from Croatia Rocks (your best bet for EDM and boat parties) to Hideout (with pool parties). It’s not all raving 20-somethings, though – you won’t find a single wide-eyed youth on the beaches surrounding the village of Stara Novalja.
How: Forget camping in that Mediterranean heat, rent an Airbnb with air con for your down time, airbnb.com; Zadar is the closest airport (80km from Pag). Ryanair offers return flights from £45. ryanair.com
There’s another side to Ibiza, away from the tourist-wedged, party-loving resort towns. But you can’t hit the White Island and not be lured into at least one night out. Or day out, it seems, because it starts (or finishes) early on this island, so lounge around in the Nikki Beach bar to get things going. Once all that gets a bit tiresome, chill out at the sheltered cove of Cala Tarida, about 15 minutes’ drive from San Antonio. It’s the place to soak up the island’s natural beauty and glorious Balearic sunshine. But don’t get too comfortable – this is all about partying, remember?
There’s a gallery of high-rise hotels backing the beach in the Mexican city of Cancun, but you can’t fault the aquamarine water leading into a sky dotted with paragliders, and the talcum powder sand that’s as white as the holiday makers’ teeth. For spring break-style cheese, get your ass to CoCo Bongo for foam parties and Michael Jackson tributes. For a more sophisticated party, sip cocktails in a setting of billowing white fabrics and tarted-up clientele at the ME Hotel.
Mauritius, Indian Ocean
It’s worth shipping the family over to Mauritius for the fine-sand beaches and shallow, warm water. The Indian Ocean island may be a honeymoon favourite, but children are welcome at many of the hotels – the Residence offers Rugbytots sessions for three to seven-year-olds to let off some steam on the kilometre-long stretch of sand.
How: Seven nights from £6,999 per family of four. turquoiseholidays.co.uk
Hillside Beach Club is a laid-back, sprog-friendly option on Turkey’s unspoiled (think sheer cliffs and azure water) and underrated coast.
Hillside Beach Club is a laid-back, sprog-friendly option on Turkey’s unspoiled coast
When you’re not lounging on the pebbly beach there’s mum and daughter yoga, and dad and son kayaking to try (or vice-versa, obviously). Need some peace? You won’t find either children or music at the Serenity beach.
Carting loads of clobber to the beach is no fun – how much better would it be if you could just leave it all there? On Wells-next-the-Sea beach you can – the Wells beach huts come equipped with a decked veranda, kitchen, chairs – plus buckets and spades and the like. The beach is pretty damn nice, too – the long strip of sand is bordered by pine woodland, and the harbour town of Wells is brimming with child-friendly pubs. And don’t even think about leaving without a trip to the seafront for crabbing – them’s the rules.
How: Wells Beach Huts cost £25 a day, book with Norfolk Hideaways. norfolkhideaways.co.uk
Sani Resort, Greece
Young, hip families flock to the shores of Sani Resort in Greece, and for good reason. The 1,000 eco reserve is home to four hotels, each one offering facilities that'll make kids (and parents) screech with joy. From the 'babe watch' beach program (leave your child with a childcare pro while you go for a swim, or a beer) to the resort's own bird sanctuary (packed with flamingos), you're sure to find something to keep the whole family entertained. And the beach? Just 8km of it to explore…
Margaret River, Australia
East Australia does a good job of luring tourists to its endless stretches of sand (Shark Bay in Melbourne even rebranded itself as Safety Beach to up the number of bikini bods).
For something less obvious, check out the west coast’s Margaret River region, where 75 top-class surf breaks are spread over 130km
For something less obvious, check out the west coast’s Margaret River region, where 75 top-class surf breaks are spread over 130km. Inland, there’s abseiling and bush-walking, but make sure you visit the sparkly waters of Hamelin Bay, where you can swim, snorkel or bat-and-ball away the hours. Clammy red (happy) face likely.
Maldives, Indian Ocean
Once you find your beach in the Maldives, you won’t venture far from it. No, really, your hotel is a beach, on an island, and you’ll have to kayak to a neighbouring patch of sand if you want to escape. But why would you? The water is crystal clear, the sand bone-white, and you’ll drift in and out of a buffet-infused slumber. Depending on your holiday preferences you might start to get a bit restless, so make the most of the watersports opportunities – which include big sea fishing, diving, snorkelling, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, whizzing around in an inflatable doughnut. Some hotels even offer off-reef surfing, and at five-star resort Atomosphere Kanifushi, you can work out on-island, with volleyball, tennis and more.
How: Atmosphere Kanifushi offers nightly rates from £325 per villa, on an all-inclusive basis including watersports. atmosphere-kanifushi.com
North West Jutland, Denmark
No matter where you are in Denmark, you’re never more than 50km from the sea, and with 7,000km of coastline, you’ll have your fair pick of sand. One stretch is particularly celebrated by the Danes – Klitmøller beach. Dubbed the ‘cold Hawaii’, it’s one of Europe’s best windsurfing spots, and hosts the European Championships and the World Cup (of windsurfing, obviously).
St Lucia, Caribbean
St Lucia’s a hilly volcanic island, and home to the world’s only drive-in volcano. Aside from the occasional waft of sulphur, it also means that the seabed shelves off dramatically, resulting in an abundant marine life. Seafood travels from boat to BBQ in minutes, with mahi mahi served up with the local beer, Piton. Local markets in capital Castries and tiny Soufriere are packed with produce – bring your picnic back to the west coast beaches.
For food to rival the beaches, get to south-east Italy. In the region of Puglia you’ll feast on simple but delicious cucina povera (peasant cooking) including heaving bowls of pasta, with salami and artichoke sides.
The beaches are crazily good, benefiting from the Adriatic and Ionian Sea and alternating between sheer cliffs and sandy stretches
The beaches are crazily good, benefiting from the Adriatic and Ionian Sea and alternating between sheer cliffs and sandy stretches – Punta Prosciutto is our favourite. Avoid the peak months of July and August when generations of Italian families flock south; instead visit Puglia’s elegant coastal towns in the spring or autumn.
The combined coastline of Japan’s islands is a staggering 21,000 miles. The result? A hell of a lot of foodie ingenuity from both land and sea – no more so than in Okinawa. The region, in the country’s Southern Prefecture, is an archipelago of more than 100 islands, each bringing with them some jaw-dropping beaches and some great grub, too. You might know Japan for its ramen and sushi, but Okinawa’s unique food identity – there are Chinese and other southeast Asian influences – owing to a long history of trading in the region, makes it well worth a visit for adventurous gastronomes.
How: Inside Japan Tours offers a 12-night island trip from £1,340 per person including accommodation and domestic flights. insidejapantours.com; British Airways offers flights to Tokyo from £750. ba.com