There’s nothing like a dreary, grey day to shift your thoughts to warmer climes, sunnier spots and (let’s face it) dreams of beaches you could be stretched out on, feeling the sun on your back. And if you’re considering planning a round the world route based around beaches and islands, you’re not alone. Here are some ideas for a trip that packs in the most beautiful beaches and islands you could possibly imagine, all over the world.
Set in the Indian Ocean just a boat ride from Dar es Salaam in mainland Tanzania, the spice island of Zanzibar is what sugar-white beach dreams are made of. With a year-round sunny climate, turquoise seas and pure white beaches, you’re a snap away from creating waves of jealousy on Instagram. Ruth explains what’s on offer in Zanzibar, including swimming with dolphins, a spice tour or a walk through the cobbled streets of Stone Town.
Amongst Sri Lanka’s many delights are the beaches lining its southern coast which attract many a traveller who find it difficult to move on. Mirissa Beach is frequently voted one of the best beaches in the country; completely clear waters and no rocky shoreline, plus a laidback backpacker vibe as Adam found out. Arugam Bay rewards surfers with a famed point break whilst the calmer waters of Bentota Beach and Hikaduwa are perfect for snorkelling. If you’re looking for wildlife experiences or temples, see what else we recommend in our Sri Lanka top 10.
Nestled between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, the beaches of Southern Thailand are the stuff of legend. You’ll find palm fringed, white sand beaches and luxury resorts on Koh Samui and hedonistic full moon parties on neighbouring Koh Pha Ngan. Sail from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi for that iconic photo of Maya Bay (the setting for “The Beach”), kayak through the hidden lagoons of Phang-Nga Bay or lounge on tranquil, undeveloped beaches with blissful views over Krabi’s many islands - the perfect spot for luxury Thailand holidays away from the crowds.
Southern Thailand has a good bus service and plenty of local ferries and long tail boats to help you hop form beach to beach. If you’re looking for a sociable and shoestring way to get about, we can set you up with a Stray Asia hop-on/hop-off bus pass which includes all your transport and a few activities along the way. Stray buses run all over Indochina so why not explore for a few weeks before flying out of Koh Samui?
This particular itinerary offers beach bums the contrasts of two coastlines with plenty to satisfy any wildlife fan, sun-worshipper or snorkeler.
Arriving in Perth (Australia’s sunniest city) you can be exploring the often overlooked Indian Ocean beaches in no time if you rent a campervan. Explore the rock pools of Greens Pool near Denmark, snorkel with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef or watch kangaroos hop along the beach at Lucky Bay in the Cape le Grand National Park. With fewer tourists, the rugged west coast is less busy and peppered with hidden gems, as Milly discovered when she spent 3 weeks exploring by campervan.
The sometimes neglected west coast is a haven for incredible beaches. It would be a crime to miss the drift snorkel of Turquoise Bay (where the warm current carries you along the beach), driving a 4WD along Cable Beach or discovering the aptly named Shell Beach in Shark Bay.
Sydney needs no introduction and plenty of people who arrive here on a round the world trip wind up spending longer here than they planned! Once you’ve visited Circular Quay, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, there are fine beaches like Bondi and Manly, coastal path walks and so much more, before you even make forays further north along the coast.
Your next stop is on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, so take as long as you like to enjoy an east coast adventure. Jump on a 4WD tour to explore the sand dunes and lakes of Fraser Island, then continue up to Airlie Beach which is the gateway to the magnificent Whitsunday Islands – with advice from Laura on which trip type of sailing trip to choose. Continue north to Port Douglas and Cairns – both jumping off points for the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel or dive amongst hundreds of colourful tropical fish on the Great Barrier Reef and if you’re looking for some luxury see Annette’s post on which Great Barrier Reef island to stay on!
At any time of the year if you head north of Auckland to Northland and the Bay of Islands, you're likely to encounter warm weather and lovely beaches. Either rent your own campervan or let us set you up with a hop-on/hop off bus pass from Stray, Loka, Bamba or Kiwi Experience, which each include your journey and some bonus activities along the way.
Take a 4WD vehicle along Ninety Mile Beach, dig your own warm water pool on the Coromandel Peninsula’s Hot Water Beach, swim with playful dolphins in the sub-tropical Bay of Islands or discover the vibrant surf town of Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty. You’ll be amazed by the diverse coastline and pristine beaches within an easy drive of Auckland. Not sure how to best get around and sample the laid back beach culture? David explains how to travel around New Zealand.
With a lower profile than the Fiji or French Polynesia, the 15 islands of the Cooks are glistening jewels well worth exploring. Explore at your leisure by bus or scooter then grab a drink at sunset and you’ll soon forget your troubles - it really is a quintessential Pacific paradise. Aitutaki is home to one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons and the uninhabited paradise of One Foot Island. The main island of Rarotonga promises friendly locals, kaleidoscopic marine life and not a high-rise or international hotel chain to spoil the picture postcard beach views. Perfect.
The original home of the overwater bungalow experience, heart-shaped islands and the shimmering Bora Bora lagoon, French Polynesia is justifiably top of many bucket lists. The archipelago of the Society Islands does shelter some fantastic 5* resorts and offers truly once-in-a-lifetime options like the luxurious Paul Gaugain cruise, but there are definitely options for budget travellers too. Rich in ‘pensions’ or local guesthouses, we can certainly help you island-hop on a budget!
West-coast beaches for the win: Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Manhattan or Redondo? The choice is yours. You’ll need wheels if you’re going to get about in this city (that’s if you want to leave the beach!). We recommend a car, or even better a campervan – and with enough time, you could drive the Pacific Coast Highway up to San Francisco. Aaron offers his top picks for LA if you’re looking for more ideas.
For beach bums, Costa Rica’s main draw card is that it has beaches along the shores of two oceans; the Pacific and the Caribbean. Head to the Pacific beaches where you’ll find pink sands and surfy retreats. Discover the beauty of Playa Grande, walk through the mangroves to reach Playa Avellana or stumble across waterfalls that run into the sea at the boho beach town of Montezuma . Head to the Caribbean beaches to see baby turtles hatching in the Parque Nacional Tortuguero and feel the reggae beach vibe of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
Like a journey into another age, a visit to Cuba will transport you back in time with big old American cars, Latin rhythms and crumbling colonial facades. Avoid the large package holiday resorts and instead you can explore the flamingos and deserted white sands of Cayo Sabinal or teeming coral reefs of Cayo Largo del Sur. Head out to the beaches of Pinar del Rio and you’ll find one of the Caribbean’s premier diving spots – the barrier reef near Maria La Gorda. Cuba is best explored by small group tour where you’ll stay in local homestays and really get under the skin of the country. If you prefer to travel independently, then you can cover the whole island cheaply by Viazul (the tourist bus).
No matter which destinations and beaches are on your bucket list, talk to us about working them into your itinerary; this route is just a suggestion and any route is possible with us! Our consultants can recommend great beaches and islands from their own experiences and help you build the itinerary of a lifetime, whether you're looking for round the world flights on a shoestring or a fully tailor-made round the world holiday.
To start planning your trip, call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.