“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination, and brings eternal joy to the soul.” — Robert Wyland

From an early age, blessed with the opportunity to grow up in Virginia Beach, I have maintained a longheld appreciation for the ocean and her coastlines. While beaches are certainly the perfect spot for revelry and recreation, I believe a full valuation of its wonders requires an understanding of their esoteric nature.

Beaches collect life…and the testament of life. But in an important way, beaches are also alive themselves. Beaches and dunes grow, diminish, evolve over years and shift with the seasons. To pulsate with change is the very nature of a sandy sea coastline; this change is the essence of what makes beaches so fascinating. In the long term, beaches are dynamic, tumultuous, even dangerous places. Yet, a short visit allows a pleasant acquaintance with the beauty generated by said turmoil.

These wonders originate on beaches, and arrive each day from the most primeval and spectacular wilderness on Earth, the sea. A beach visit allows us to peer into that wilderness and even examine it closely, for much of the sea’s mysterious nature ends up on its beaches. While many articles can illuminate the best nightlife in Ibiza or the parties in Mykonos, I would like to take you on a journey to four of Europe’s beaches that I believe best illustrate the majesty of the ocean and her convergence with land.

Beach Zlatni Rat, Golden Horn, Bol

Despite its name the beach Zlatni Rat does not refer to the mascot of New York City, its name is derived from the shape of the beach appearing to be a long tail. The almost half-mile long cape, surrounded by crystal clear water, often changes its shape and position depending on the tides, currents and storms. Also known as the Golden Horn, the beach is one of the most famous in the Adriatic Sea, adorning the coast of Croatia. The beach is located on Bol, on the south coast of the island of Brac. Additionally, the beach is just 7 miles from the city of Split, the largest Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea. This allows a variety of transportation methods including air, car and ferry to easily access the beach.

Calanque d’en Vau, Cassis, France

While the Golden Horn shows the interplay of water and in the short term, Calanque d’en Vau is a beautiful illustration of the dance of water and stone over a significant geologic time period. The wild and unspoiled nature of this cove is highlighted by the dramatic limestone cliffs meeting the pebble beach at the terminal valley of a mile-long estuary cove. The cove was formed by erosion due to rainwater runoff and its nearby river, accelerated by the folding of the rocks following tectonic movements, and the rise of the surrounding sea. The beauty of the cove is protected by two factors. One, it is the jewel of the Calanque National Park, and two, it is only accessible by foot or by boat.

The hike is very picturesque and achievable, but it is not for the faint of heart. Climbers travel from across France to access the various routes along the trail. Boat charters also leave daily from Marseille. For movie buffs visiting the Cote d’Azur, the cove has been a setting for many films most notably the 1964 classic Fantomas starring Louis de Funes and Jean Marais. While the Calanque d’en Vau may not have the glitz and glam of St. Tropez, Monaco or Cannes, its unspoiled beauty makes it a personal favorite of mine.

Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

Praia da Marinha is a place seemingly straight out of a picture, with turquoise waters lapping against warm golden sand and gorgeous caverns. This beach in the Algarve is one of Portugal’s most iconic destinations, with famous rocky outcroppings that rise into arches. The cave-like features here make it a great beach for exploring. You can access a few walking paths nearby, too, and really get up close to Portugal’s natural side. Kayak tours are offered for those who want to get out and explore the gorgeous area from the glittering waters. And, with the Algarve region boasting warm, sunny weather 300 days out of the year, this beach is one you can visit nearly any time and the weather will be warm and mild. The dramatic cliffs, coupled with the gorgeous double arches and rocky seascape, are worth a visit to see for yourself.

Cala Coticcio, Maddalena Archipelago, Sardinia

Saving the most untrammeled for last, the Cala Coticcio on the Maddalena Archipelago is idyllic. It has been nicknamed Tahiti for its emerald-blue waters. The beach is protected by promontories of granite rock providing a picturesque backdrop. Saved from the beach bars and crying kids, this beach is as natural as it gets. Access requires a guided hike from the national park that is limited to 60 people a day. While that may sound expensive, the guided hike is only 25 euros and entrance to the park is only 3 euro, so price is certainly not the limiting factor. Boat charters also provide daily trips, however, their access is limited to snorkeling and excursions off shore. The protections in place from the national park are incredibly strict, including no umbrellas, foreign towels, or starting fires. These protections have allowed Cala Coticcio to remain a nature lover’s utopia.


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