From wild horses to ancient forests, you’re sure to have a memorable day at the beach.
A beach is always a welcome sight, but the elements that make a beach a beach can be a bit predictable. You’ve got your sand and your tides and, though their surroundings might vary, you basically know what to expect when you head to any given beach. There are, however, a few shorelines around the world that have a few surprises up their sleeves and beneath their waves.
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Who knew that something so beautiful could come from a literal trash dump? The appropriately named Glass Beach near Fort Bragg in Northern California is awash with multicolored glass pebbles. This remarkable sight is the result of the site having served as a trash dump for years. It was eventually cleaned up, but enough of the trash—particularly the glass and metal—had been swept up by the waves and over the years were compounded into smooth, jewel-like pieces.
Hoshizuna no Hama
At first glance, Hoshizuna no Hama on the Japanese island of Iriomote appears to be a very beautiful beach blanketed in standard-issue sand. But if you look closer (like a lot closer), you may notice that the star-shaped grains of sand are, in fact, the empty exoskeletons of a single-celled organism.
Iceland is home to a few black sand beaches, but what makes the beach at Jökulsárlón particularly distinctive is that it’s populated with crystalline chunks of ice that have given it the nickname Diamond Beach. The beach happens to be situated near the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and pieces of the icebergs from the lagoon are then washed up on the beach’s black sands.
There’s hardly anything unusual about tides. The reliable nature of their ebbs and flows has made them a top-tier literary metaphor. And while the tide at Chandipur Beach is as reliable (and evocative of cycles and renewal) as anywhere else in the world, they are unique in one very striking way. At low tide, the water recedes up to three miles into the Bay of Bengal. As the water withdraws, it leaves not only a large swath of walkable beach but a plethora of marine life in its wake.
Massachusetts’ Singing Beach is home to a natural phenomenon that’s known by a few names “whistling sand,” “barking sand,” and—naturally—“singing sand.” But before you grab your guitar and try to strike up a seaside duet, know that singing sand doesn’t actually make for the best vocalist. As visitors walk across the sand, it will emit a squeaking sound.
Hot Water Beach
WHERE: New Zealand
Taking a dip in the ocean while being able to enjoy hot tub-esque temperatures may sound like an impossibility, but it can be done. Hot Water Beach in New Zealand happens to be situated over an underground hot spring. So, within two hours of either side of the tide going out, warm water bubbles to the surface, allowing beachgoers to dig in the sand and form their own personal spas on the shore.
A combination of strong winds and low tides revealed what remains of an ancient forest. Underneath the water and sand, hundreds and hundreds of tree stumps—that had been preserved by peat—now dot the beach for anyone to see. The appearance of an ancient forest on the Welsh coast naturally evoked Cantre’r Gwaelod, a legendary sunken city often referred to as the Welsh Atlantis.
The beaches of Hawaii are, at a baseline, remarkable. But Papakōlea Beach takes things a few steps further by adding green sand into the mix. The beach’s verdant hue is thanks to the presence of olivine crystals, which themselves are found in the volcanic material that makes up the site.
It’s not so uncommon to head to a beach and see an equestrian making their way down the strand. But when you head to Assateague Island you may have the good luck of seeing horses on the beach—sans rider. The island is famous for being populated by feral horses. It’s not exactly known how the horse population got to the island, but a popular legend supposes that they’re the survivors of a 17th-century Spanish shipwreck.
Much like Hoshizuna no Hama, Shell Beach appears to be blanketed in standard-issue (albeit beautiful) sand. And while the name does give you a pretty good indication as to its true nature, what makes up the shore only becomes more evident as you take a closer look. The shore is covered in delicate cockle shells that have become especially abundant here because the water’s high salinity makes it easier for the shells to form.