Another international ranking, another slap in the face of Queensland (“beautiful one day, perfect the next”). My local pride does not allow me to take it lying down on the world’s (real) best beach.
A few days ago, “National Geographic” published a list of “21 Best Beaches in the World”. This being “National Geographic”, “best” does not mean what most people would think it means, namely the most beautiful beaches to have a holiday, to sun oneself, and to swim – though some of them might be, albeit in that obscure, out of the way, and expensive to get to sort of way favoured by seasoned/snobbish travellers. Instead, the top 21 have been selected because they, variously, are geological wonders (like Cathedrals Beach, Ribadeo, Spain), offer soulful solitude (like One Foot Island, Aitutaki, Cook Islands), provide a boon for shell seekers (like Lyme Regis, England), are dog friendly (!) (like Noordwjk Beach, The Netherlands), have coloured sands (like Pink Beach, Great Santa Cruz Island, Zamboanga, The Philippines), are a paradise for snorkelers (like Blue Bay, Mauritius) or dune walkers (like Piscinas Beach, Arbus, Sardinia).
The only Australian entry on the list is Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Western Australia, in, you guessed it, the shell seeking stakes.
This comes on the heels of Trip Adviser’s “2016 Travellers’ Choice Awards” Top 25 Beaches, where again Australia’s only entry is at number 12, with Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, which is praised on the account that “The whole beach is untouched. No stores, no restaurants, just the beauty of nature at its best.” In other words, it’s remote, inaccessible, and free of tourists.
Keep being beach snobs, guys; a beach which is popular and a great place to relax, sun and swim, all within a walking distance of other amenities, accommodation and transport – it clearly can’t also be a great beach. Your attitude gave us Trump.
Ever since I came to Australia, I was always a big fan of the Gold Coast. Sure, Surfers Paradise itself is a bit too trashy, too bogany, and too crowded, but both north and south of it there is some 50 km of glorious beachefront to choose from. There is so much of the quintessential Australian space that you will never be one of the human sardines packed on a typical popular Euro beach. Broadbeach is my personal favourite; it’s God’s own backyard.
I haven’t been to all the “National Geographic” and “Trip Adviser” cool and trendy beaches. I haven’t even been to the old school popular ones like Ipanema, Miami, Venice (California, not Italy) or Nice. But here is a selection of some I’ve visited over the past three years – definitely not my Top 10, but more like The Daily Chrenk’s Rough Guide to (Often Rough) Beaches.
Nikao Lagoon, Cook Islands – remember: it’s all coral, which makes it tricky to swim and advised to wear sneakers while you doing it.
Meyungs, Koror Island, Palau – See above; swimming almost impossible at low tide unless you want a cheesegrating experience with you being the big cheese.
Apia, Samoa – rocks and mud; if you want a beach in Samoa, go to the other side of the island.
Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – One of the most beautiful harbours I’ve ever seen, but like with Samoa, go to the other side of the island, where the Marines landed in 1942. Just be aware that salt-water crocodiles regularly partake of local villagers.
Tarawa Atoll, Kiribati – no crocodiles here, but beware of the floaters as locals tend to use Mother Ocean as a toilet, though it’s more of a problem inside the lagoon than on the open sea side of the atoll. It’s one of the most overcrowded places on Earth with minimal sanitation facilities.
Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand – narrow, dirty and overcrowded; one of the most over-rated beaches in the world. Surrounded by Russian tourists on all four sides, I’ve felt like Poland must have felt for the past two centuries.
Crown Beach, Cook Islands – remember what I told you about wearing shoes – not only because of sharp coral everywhere but also because of alive nasties. Within five minutes of going on – without shoes – I was stung on my toes by a sea urchin (nothing to do with Dickens), which normally requires a visit to a doctor, but I’m tough.
Scheveningen, The Netherlands – it’s the North Sea, for goodness’ sake.
Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia – almost paradise.
(All photos copyright Arthur Chrenkoff)