For many, the definition of the perfect vacation is a trip to the beach. The feeling of the sand between your toes, the rustle of the waves crashing nearby, and the heat of the golden sun on your skin. But while there are many incredible beaches, some are just small components of the most stunning coastlines in the world. Here are seven coastlines that should be on your bucket list.
1. Great Ocean Road, Australia
The road that never seems to end. The Great Ocean Road hugs the coastline of what the Aussies call the Southern Ocean, where the views just keep coming and coming. Along the journey, you’ll find windswept beaches, huge surf, and hiking trails galore.
Located about 90 minutes from Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road links the 151 miles from Torquay to Allansford. Along the way, you’ll find the famous surf of Bell’s Beach and the laid back charm of Port Fairy, a throwback fishing village. Make sure you don’t miss the 12 Apostles, among the most photographed natural formations in the world. The limestone stacks dot the beach. A helicopter ride over the Apostles is recommended.
2. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Forged by centuries of evolving glaciers, epic storms, and earthquakes, Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park is a wild and scenic place.
Located on the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, the national park is Alaska’s smallest national park, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up in awe. The highlight of your visit must be the Harding Icefield. More than 700 miles of ice, as thick as one mile in some areas. It is home to nearly 40 glaciers that flow from the mountains above.
Because of the sheer size of the waters surrounding Kenai Fjords, it is recommended that you experience all the park has to offer by taking a boat tour. During the summer months, park rangers will provide a narrated tour on the cruises. Winter tours are also available through private companies.
3. Big Sur, California
The American cousin to the Great Ocean Road may just be Highway 1, en route to Big Sur, California, and anchored by the historic Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the U.S.
Bixby is certainly a stop you’ll want to make, but it’s Big Sur’s beaches and coastline that you must see. One of the standout beaches is Pfeiffer Beach. Also located along Highway 1, the beach is famous for its purplish sand. Find the Overlook Trail and take it to see the unbelievable views of the coastline, where McWay Falls is located. Here you’ll see water plummet 80 feet onto the beach. It is worth the half-mile hike on the trail.
4. Cinque Terre, Italy
Located along the Italian Riviera in the region of Liguria is the unique coastline of the Cinque Terre. Here, five fishing villages are built into the coastline. For centuries, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore were only connected by footpaths, and it’s still the preferred way of enjoying this experience.
Over the years, the townspeople have built the villages into the steep cliffs that rise up over the Mediterranean Sea. Painted in wonderful, bright, and vibrant colors, the views of the towns and harbors are equal to the breathtaking views from them.
Because of the lack of roads, it is suggested that you use the rails. The major train lines that run along Italy’s west coast connect all five villages to such major hubs as Genoa, Pisa, and Rome.
5. Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
For millennia, the iconic coastline of Kauai’s north shore has been captivating the imaginations of those lucky to gaze upon it. The 17-mile natural wonder is as sacred of a place as there is in the islands. The lush, emerald-tinted cliffs tower above the Pacific Ocean below, which opens to showcase beaches and waterfalls and pretty much how you’d picture paradise.
The Napali Coast is rugged, so it’s suggested that you explore it by air or sea. Boat tours to the coast are popular and plentiful and launch from Port Allen. Kayak tours are also popular and allow you to get up close.
Lihue Airport is about 90 minutes north of Napali, and it’s where you can find plenty of Aerial tours. These give you a front-row seat to see the areas you can’t access by land or boat. Such a place is Manawaiopuna Falls, which you might recognize as the famous waterfall from the film Jurassic Park.
6. Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland
I love the word “craggy,” but I’ve never written it until now. I’m using it here because it is universally the best way to describe the scenic 20 miles of the Antrim Coast. Craggy and rugged are its cliffs and glens, which provide a pristine backdrop between quaint fishing villages.
A drive down the coast provides travelers with a plethora of options, including several set locations used in the HBO megahit Game of Thrones. The Dark Hedges, a tunnel of overarching beech trees, was used to depict the Kingsroad, and Ballintoy’s picturesque harbor was used as the fictional Lordsport in the Iron Islands.
One of the must-sees is the Giant’s Causeway. Located just past Whitepark Bay, this natural wonder comprises tens of thousands of hexagon-shaped basalt columns, all of varying heights, creating a mysterious honeycomb effect that is a photographer's dream.
Bonus Tip: Don’t miss Downhill Demesne, an 18th-century mansion that now rests amid a swath of rolling wild grasses and wildflowers.
7. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Meaning “The Four Kings,” Raja Ampat is a chain of more than 1,500 islands situated off the Bird’s Head Peninsula of New Guinea. It is anchored by four main islands: Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool.
Amid these islands is a paradise of lush jungles, enchanting beaches, and underwater glory that one must see to understand. Over 500 variants of corals, thousands of species of coral fish, and more than 700 different types of mollusks inhabit this incredibly biodiverse area. It’s a favorite for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts.
To reach Raja Ampat, travelers must first reach Jakarta or Makassar in Indonesia. From there, small aircraft charters will take you to Waisai, the capital city of the Raja Ampat Regency. From there, various touring companies will be available to ferry you in.
While you're in a coastal frame of mind: