Photo: Sandra Mori/Shutterstock

40 of the Most Photogenic Coastlines in the World

by Abigail Fox May 8, 2014

There’s nothing in science that says the places where water meets landmass must be captivating to the human observer. Yet so often, it’s the coastlines that we’re drawn to, both as travelers and as inhabitants of the land. Something like half the world population lives within 60km of the sea.

And among the thousands of miles of coast around the world, these are the best of the best. From extraordinary natural features to stunning manmade embellishments, the coastlines depicted in the photos below — both the remote and the well-trafficked — will inspire you to get out there and see them for yourself.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Photo: Donatas Dabravolskas/Shutterstock

Famous for Carnaval, Rio sits on Guanabara Bay and is dominated by Sugarloaf Mountain. Carioca beaches are well-maintained and provide an escape from the urbanization and political problems simmering in Rio itself, although many of the older buildings next to the water are being replaced with modern skyscrapers.

Lofoten Islands, Norway

This archipelago of tiny northern islands is sometimes called “the most scenic part of Norway” because of its dramatic peaks rising from the ocean, and the sheep-farming and fishing villages that have remained the same for centuries.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Beautiful view of Manarola town, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy

Photo: Olga Gavrilova/Shutterstock

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997, Cinque Terre is home to five fishing villages jumbled together on a rugged cliff. The oldest was established in AD 643, and the residents have shaped the cliffside with a series of terraced walls that historians have compared to the Great Wall of China in scope.


Photo: Susan Helen Wright/Shutterstock

Antarctica’s coastlines are made of towering ice mountains and glaciers, with its tallest peak, the Vinson Massif, rising over 16,000ft. While Antarctica has no native settlements, several countries maintain research stations on the continent, giving it a population ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 people depending on time of year.

Kauai, Hawaii, USA

napali coast hawaii

Photo: Shane Myers Photography/Shutterstock

Kaua’i is Hawaii’s oldest island, with a series of increasingly precarious mountains plunging into the depths of Waimea Canyon. The Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park is inaccessible by land, but can be reached by hiking or helicopter for some of the most amazing coastal landscape in the United States.

Railay, Thailand

Photo: Preto Perola/Shutterstock

This peninsula between Krabi and Ao Nang is accessible only by boat due to the immense limestone cliffs that are much beloved of rock climbers. Despite its remoteness, the beach attracts a lot of travelers in search of serenity not often found on other Thai beaches.

Southeast Alaska, USA

Photo: Manamana/Shutterstock

Alaska has more coastline than all of the other US states combined. Barely populated, Southeast Alaska is not really connected to the highway system but is reachable by the thousands of commercial fishermen who make their livelihood on its wild salmon.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Aerial,View,Of,Artificial,Palm,Island,,Dubai,,United,Arab,Emirates, week in Dubai

Photo: Jag_cz/Shutterstock

Dubai’s ambitious coastal expansion will add over 1,000 kilometers of new coastline to the tiny nation, including the first artificial island, Palm Jumeirah, pictured here.


Photo: Smit/Shutterstock

This volcanically active island country has a landscape characterized by lava fields, glaciers, and the occasional earthquake. Despite being located above the Arctic Circle with over 60% of it tundra, Iceland’s climate is temperate; its seaside mountains are often farmed and it has several sandy beaches among the numerous fjords.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Photo: Luciano Mortula – LGM/Shutterstock

Greek Islands

Photo: Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock

Greece has a large number of islands, with estimates ranging between 1,200 and 6,000, although only several hundred of them are occupied. This many islands means a lot of coastline; with a variety of cliffs, calderas (volcanic eruption sites), ports, and inlets to explore, the area is often full of cruises and small boats touring the assorted landscapes.

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Ireland one of the happiest countries in the world

Photo: Tyler W. Stipp/Shutterstock

The archaeological history of this southwestern peninsula in Ireland makes it a popular destination for history buffs, who can see Ogham stones (inscriptions in proto-Irish) and the excavation of an early monastery. Everyone else can enjoy the stunning views from a central mountain range.

San Francisco, California, USA

Photo: Bill45/Shutterstock

The beaches along California’s most iconic city are notorious for frequently being draped in fog; locals refer to “Juneuary,” where it never quite gets warm enough to go for a swim. Still, places like Ocean Beach often have stunning views of the city’s famous bridges and skyline.

Norwegian fjords

Photo: Nanisimova/Shutterstock

Home to over 1,100 fjords, including the largest, Sognefjord (pictured), Norway has a dramatic, glacially carved coastline. Plus, the word fjord is just so fun to say. 

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Photo: Deyan Denchev/Shutterstock

Ringed by several dramatic peaks that loom over a thousand meters high, Cape Town sits in what’s called the City Bowl. The Cape West Coast features equally towering cliffs, natural arch formations, and intricately folded coastlines, with a series of tourist attractions at regular intervals to keep you entertained.

Santa Cruz Island, California, USA


Photo: Bram Reusen/Shutterstock

A part of Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz is the largest island in California and has a wide variety of natural features, ranging from several mountains to deep canyons and 77 miles of craggy coastline. Painted Cave, one of the oldest and deepest sea caves in the world, is behind a waterfall on the northwest side of the island.

The Great Ocean Road, Australia

aerial view looking down on the great ocean road

Photo: YMRgerman/Shutterstock

This Australian National Heritage listed 243km stretch of road wanders along the southeasten coast of Australia. It passes through rainforest, beaches, and remarkable sandstone cliffs, as well as past the Twelve Apostles, a series of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park.

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Tortola BVI beachscape

Photo: PlusONE/Shutterstock

As the largest of the British Virgin Islands, Tortola owes its unusual landscape to its volcanic and seismic activity; it lies near a fault, so minor earthquakes regularly occur. The island’s highest mountain, Mt. Sage, has a rainforest national park at its peak.


Panoramic view of Prince's Palace in Monte Carlo in a summer day, Monaco

Photo: SF/Shutterstock

Bordered by France on three sides, Monaco’s remaining boundary opens onto the Mediterranean Sea. A popular destination for gamblers and the European wealthy, Monaco gained significant fame in the US when actress Grace Kelly married its Crown Prince in 1956.

Oregon Coast, USA

Photo: Art Boardman/Shutterstock

The Oregon Coast has three distinct subregions with unique geographical features: North, Central, and South. Each of these tends to have a particular landform most common to it, whether it is sea cliffs, beaches, or stacks (towers of eroded rock).

Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Argentina

Red and white lighthouse in blue sky in Beagle Channel Ushuaia Patagonia Argentina

Photo: meunierd/Shutterstock

As the separation point between two islands in Tierra del Fuego, Beagle Channel gets impressive scenery from all sides; as a pathway from Ushuaia (the world’s southermmost city) to the Antarctic, the nearby islands are both grassy and populated with penguins. The channel is shared with Chile, and cruise ships occasionally dock at Ushuaia on their way south.

Baja California, Mexico

Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas, is one of the best places for couples in mexico looking for a day tirp

Photo: Traveling Giants/Shutterstock

The key to Baja California’s beauty is that it contains remarkably diverse geography in a small physical area: cramming mountains up next to fruit-producing valleys, deserts, and white sand beaches makes for an unusually scenic landscape. A popular whale-watching destination, Baja California also draws marine biologists and diving aficionados.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA

Photo: CO Leong/Shutterstock

Cape Cod is almost but not quite an island, and juts into the Atlantic with lighthouses what feels like every few miles. Rife with classic examples of maritime architecture and landscape, the beaches are popular with summer visitors from Boston and New York.

Palau, Micronesia

Photo: BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

The 250 or so islands that comprise Palau are famous for their blue lagoons and hidden white-sand beaches.

Champagne Bay, Vanuatu

Champagne Bay is what people think of when they imagine holidays in the South Pacific: pristine white beaches and crystal clear water stretching for miles. Located on the main island of Espiritu Santo, the tropical rainforest that covers large chunks of the island runs down almost to the water’s edge. Supposedly, small bubbles rise from the ocean floor all along the bay, giving it its name.

Highlands, Scotland

Photo: David Pecheux/Shutterstock

The Scottish Highlands take up two thirds of the country in some of its most remote landscape; some of the crofting villages on its coast can only be reached by boat. A series of lochs (sea inlets) scatter underneath Scotland’s tallest mountains, while the northwest tip shows the sort of windswept Atlantic landscape that makes you wonder why anyone ever settled here. 

Algarve Coast, Portugal

Photo: Pixel to the People/Shutterstock

As the most popular tourist destination in Portugal, Algarve is stuffed with smooth sand beaches and partying backpackers. The imposing cliffs that loom over parts of the coastline hide small medieval castles and towns, although surfers barely venture past the resorts that spot the water’s edge.

British Columbia, Canada

Sechelt is a small Canadian town in British Columbia.

Photo: EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock

The wesernmost province of Canada, British Columbia’s coast spans a distance of almost 26,000km and is home to a number of First Nations groups. Most closely resembling the fjords of Norway, the coast is dotted with parks and islands (including the largest, Vancouver Island), and often filled with campers, hikers, and rock climbers.

El Nido, Phillipines

Palawan, Philippines

Photo: R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock

Southwest of Manila, El Nido is a protected area and each of its 45 individual islands has unique geological features. The area is also seismically active, and on a completely different tectonic plate from the rest of the Philippines. Its limestone cliffs resemble those ringing Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

Florida Keys, USA

Overseas highway to Key West island, Florida Keys

Photo: Mia2you/Shutterstock

This coral archipelago off the southern tip of Florida is famous for its white-sand beaches, clear water, and eccentric characters. Pictured above is Fort Jefferson, constructed by the US in 1825.

Normandy, France

Spectacular natural cliffs Aval of Etretat and beautiful famous coastline, Normandy, France

Photo: Gaspar Janos/Shutterstock

The northernmost tip of France directly facing the English Channel, Haute Normandie’s cliffs range from granite in the west to limestone in the east. The long stretches of beach in the center were the staging point for the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, also known as D-Day.

Queensland, Australia

Clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland Australia

Photo: Renjie Sun/Shutterstock

The east coast of Queensland stretches for more than 3,000km, and the Great Barrier Reef follows that coastline for 2,000km, from Torres Strait to Fraser Island. The Sunshine Coast boasts a remarkable number of beaches, sunny laid-back towns, and large concrete roadside attractions to entice anyone who likes holidays on the sand.

White Cliffs of Dover, England

At-risk-natural-wonders-White-Cliffs-of-Dover-632941031.jpg345342149, At-risk natural wonders

Photo: GlennV/Shutterstock

These remarkable chalk cliffs plunge from the North Downs to the English Channel. Streaked with black flint, the cliffs have historical significance for Britain since they were the first defensive line between England and the rest of the continent…and the first sight of England for visitors entering by boat.

Orange County, California, USA

Beach in California one of the best places for remote work abroad

Photo: Engel Ching/Shutterstock

Despite being mostly known as a suburb of Los Angeles, Orange County has over 42 miles of coast, with numerous public beaches that draw visitors year-round because of the area’s balmy climate and constant sunshine. Surfers also love the area, dubbing Huntington Beach “Surf City USA.”

Legzira, Morocco

Photo: KajzrPhotography/Shutterstock

Cook Islands, New Zealand

Photo: gg-foto/Shutterstock

While the Cook Islands are an independent country composed of 15 small islands, they are in “free association” with New Zealand, and were formed by the same volcanic activity that formed the larger country. The Northern Cook Islands are mostly coral atolls, and the water in the region is remarkably clear, making it a great destination for snorkelers.

Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

Photo: Sandra Mori/Shutterstock

This historical region of Croatia on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea is peppered with coves, islands, and channels, making its medieval-era towns stand out against the blue water. Dubrovnik pictured.

Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland

Photo: Johannes Rigg/Shutterstoc

Home to the famous Giant’s Causeway and numerous hiking trails through the Glens of Antrim, which offer views of Scotland and the Isle of Man. Other notable sights of the area are the 33-mile Causeway Coast Way, said to be the finest coastal walk in Ireland, and the suspension rope bridge over to Carrick-a-rede Island over a 23m-deep and 20m-long canyon.

Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Spain

Photo: Melinda Nagy/Shutterstock

Los Gigantes (The Giants) takes its name from the massive rock formations called Los Acantilados de los Gigantes (Cliffs of the Giants), which rise quickly from sea level to almost 2,500ft. The village itself is quite small, but there is a lot of tourist traffic, especially from British vacationers.

French Riviera

The beautiful town of Cassis in the French Riviera

Photo: Andreas G. Karelias/Shutterstock

The Cote d’Azure (Azure Coast) is universally known as one of the most beautiful areas of the Mediterranean and was one of the first resort towns in Europe. The region gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year and is known for being a yachting/cruising destination. 

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