Ah, beach day. The beach can either be a romantic getaway for you and your special someone, or a great place for a family vacation (or if your name is Michael Scott, the perfect place for a hot dog eating contest and a fire walk). However you spend your day on the beach, chances are you love them, just like everyone else in the world. So for this list, we've decided to look at beaches.
This list focuses on the largest and smallest beaches across the world. Ranging from 150 feet to 150 miles, these locales are found across 6 continents (sorry Antarctica) and range from gorgeous, tropical inlets surrounded by lush rainforests filled with exotic wildlife to Virginia, which is cool too, I guess.
Many of the longest beaches are well documented and measured since most of them are popular tourist destinations. In this list, we’re going for the longest uninterrupted stretches of beaches. If there is a break somewhere along the way, it doesn’t count. The shoreline has to go on unbroken all the way to the sunset. The smallest beaches in the world are a bit tougher to figure out since they are significantly less traveled on average. So, we found some notably very small beaches that also have something significant going on (unique geological phenomenon, shipwreck, really pretty). Whether these beaches stretch across an entire state or you can walk across them in about 30 seconds, the shorelines on this list prove just how cool our world can be.
20 Largest - Praia do Cassino, Brazil
Stretching all the way from Brazil’s southern border with Uruguay to Rio Grande, Praia do Cassino is the longest uninterrupted beach in the world. This (roughly) 150-mile stretch of sand is beloved by both local and international surfers for most of the year. While it can get fairly chilly in the winter months (mid-50’s F), the summers are relatively warm. There are also many cities and towns across the coastline worth a visit, perhaps most notably the city of Rio Grande which is completely surrounded by water. The sand dunes, expansive wildlife, and the famous Navio Altair shipwreck right off the coast make it a favorite destination for local Brazilians and tourists alike.
19 Largest - Ninety Mile Beach, Australia
Perhaps the prettiest beach on this list, Australia’s Ninety Mile Beach is, well... about 90 miles long. Coastal towns run all the way across the beachfront along with a handful of lakes and lagoons. The golden sands have made Ninety Mile Beach a popular tourist destination for camping, picnicking, whale-watching and water sports. Rotamah Island is located right off the beach and contains a major bird observatory. Surf fishing is also a major activity across the beach. If you find yourself around Melbourne anytime soon, Ninety Mile Beach would certainly be worth a visit.
18 Largest - Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Cox’s Bazar is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangladesh with several beaches across its coastline. The world’s longest ‘natural sand’ beach, this 75-mile stretch on the Bangladeshi coast has been attracting massive amounts of development in recent years across its three major beaches: Laboni, Humchari and Inani beach. The tranquil sunsets, fine white sands and beautiful weather have made Cox’s Bazar a major international tourist destination. Nearby lies the lush rainforests of the Himchari National Park, along with the Aggmeda Khyang Buddhist monastery and the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park.
If you want to take a brief 75-mile walk (or maybe just 1 or 2 miles) on the beach before spending the rest of the day at a Buddhist temple or seeing Bengal tigers and elephants, then Cox’s Bazar would be a worthy destination.
17 Largest - Padre Island National Seashore, Texas, USA
Just a little shorter than Cox’s Bazaar, the 70-mile long Padre Island National Seashore in Texas is the longest beachfront in the United States. The beach separates the Laguna Madre (fun fact: one of the only saltwater lagoons in the world) from the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps most popular for the beach's massive sea turtle population, the seashore is also a safe haven for nearly 400 species of birds. Nearly the entire beach is open to car traffic and swimming is popular all year round as well. The two distinct sides of the Padre Island National Seashore make it one of the most unique beachfronts in the world.
16 Largest - Playa Novillero, Nayarit, Mexico
At 56 miles long, Playa Novillero in Nayarit is the longest beach in Mexico. Other than just being a really long beach, this one has several strange aspects. The unique wave patterns have been studied by oceanographers and you can safely walk out for 330 feet during high tide because the beach slopes down so slowly. On top of that, the beach is actually a third of a mile wide, making it one of the widest beaches in the world as well. Despite all of this, along with the historic churches and indigenous art museum nearby, the beach is still not much of a tourist destination.
15 Largest - Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand
The similarly-named but significantly-less-honest Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand is a mere 55-miles long. While not as big as its Australian counterpart, this beach is still one of the longest in the world. The sand dunes off the shoreline are notable for being desert-like in appearance, making this beach one of the most unique locations on New Zealand’s North Island. These sand dunes also make the beach a popular destination for body boarders. If bodyboarding isn’t necessarily your speed, many spots on the beach provide some great surfing and the warm climate makes this a great vacation destination.
14 Largest - Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
With about 2.75 million visitors each year, Virginia Beach is the most popular tourist destination on this list. At 35 miles long, this popular site is the 7th longest uninterrupted beach in the world. Due to the high amounts of tourists, the city has become a resort town with shops and hotels across nearly the entire shoreline, making it the ‘longest pleasure beach in the world’ according to the Guinness Book of Records. The beach is popular for surfing and beach soccer, along with being the home to several state parks. It’s easy to see why Virginia Beach is such a popular tourist destination.
13 Largest - Long Beach, Washington, USA
On the other side of the United States, Long Beach in Washington state is the next beach on our list. Continuing with the theme of overcompensating, this is not—as is frequently marketed—the longest beach in the world. Instead, it comes in at a respectable 8th place at 28 miles long. It is however the “World’s Longest Continuous Peninsula Beach.” That’s not quite as catchy, though... Long Beach is also the longest shoreline on the west coast of the US and is a popular destination for whale-watching. There are also plenty of events on the beach year-round such as the Annual Washington State International Kite Festival that takes place every August.
12 Largest - Muizenberg, South Africa
The only location on this list to feature both penguins and sharks is Muizenberg Beach, just outside of Cape Town in South Africa. While you’ll have to travel next door to the nearby shores of Boulders Beach to meet the penguins, the 25-mile long Muizenberg Beach is a largely unknown destination for tourists outside of the row of moderately-famous colored huts. Besides being a gorgeous destination, the ‘historical mile’ along the beach includes homes, museums and other destinations deeply important to South Africa’s colonial history. Between the turquoise waters and the surrounding mountain range, the beach is truly a sight to see. It’s also a very popular destination for swimmers because of the calm waters and for rock climbers because of the scenic cliffs just beyond the town of Muizenberg. Also, did I mention the penguins?
11 Largest - Stockton Beach, Australia
Rounding off the top 10 longest beaches in the world in New South Wales, Australia is Stockton Beach. This 20-mile long beach is most notable for having the largest moving sand dunes in the world that can get up to 100 feet high and move north by about 10 feet every year. Every year since 2010, the Big Beach Challenge sees runners travel the entire stretch of the beach. Being in Australia, the entire beach is, naturally, gorgeous with warm, clear waters and soft, white sands. Also of note is the great white shark nursery just off the beach. So if you’re into sharks, running on sand for 20 miles, or giant moving sand dunes (who wouldn’t be?) then Stockton Beach would be pretty tough to beat.
10 Smallest - Stefanou Beach, Greece
Kicking off the other end of this list is the tiny cove of Stefanou Beach in Crete, Greece. This tranquil little inlet lies about 2km east of the nearest village of Chordaki. The only ways to get to this spot are either by car or by boat. The azure Mediterranean waters and photogenic cliffs have made the beach a bit of a tourist hotspot in recent years, and for good reason. The beach is made up of both pebbles and sand, and is the perfect spot for a nice swim or a brief hike up the cove that surrounds the little beach.
9 Smallest - Praia do Sancho, Brazil
The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha off of Brazil’s northeast coast has several beaches, notably including Praia do Sancho. This tiny beachfront looks like the definition of paradise between its teal blue waters, black rocks and lush jungle. This small beachfront can only be accessed through a crack in a wall making it a fairly secluded location as well. The whole ‘paradise’ angle is definitely bolstered by the diverse wildlife that you can find nearby including turtles, octopuses (or octopi or octopods—all three work so no snarky comments, please), tropical fish and sharks. As far as pure beauty goes, Praia do Sancho might be at the top of this list.
8 Smallest - Algar de Benagil, Portugal
Perhaps the most unique entry on this list is the Algar de Benagil in Portugal. From above, a sizeable hole in the ground reveals a hidden beach underneath. On the Algarve coast, this natural grotto has been carved out of the cliff rocks by the tides. I’m not quite sure how the hole got there, but it’s pretty cool. The waves come through two small entrances in the grotto, lapping onto a small beach tucked away in the back.
This means the only means of access is by boat (I guess you could jump through the hole, but... please don’t).
7 Smallest - Capitola Beach, California, USA
The first of three tiny beaches in the United States is in Capitola, California. This beach town is mostly known for its colorful house fronts (pictured above) and trendy shops. The small stretch of Capitola Beach immediately in front of the colorful homes is just one strip of the larger beach that extends through the town. In the warmer months, there are popular movie screenings on the beach and live music in the summer. The nearby pier makes this coastal town a popular fishing and surfing destination ensuring that this small urban beach is almost always packed during the summer months.
6 Smallest - Schoolhouse Beach, Wisconsin, USA
Schoolhouse Beach in Wisconsin is one of just a handful of beaches in the world with a smooth stone beach. The pressure from the tides is enough to make the stones smooth enough to walk on comfortably. Completely sand-less, this tiny beach in the Midwestern paradise peninsula of Door County, Wisconsin is famous among locals. Instead of sand castles, you can build stone castles (how cool is that?). This is a popular destination for families staying in one of the handful of nearby towns throughout the peninsula. There are also charming signs all over the beach asking you politely (we are in the Midwest, after all) to please leave the stones, thank you.
5 Smallest - Just Enough Room Island Beach, New York, USA
This small island off of Alexandria Bay is the smallest inhabited island in the world at a grand total of 30,000 ft. Appropriately named Just Enough Room Island, there is a gorgeous home, a tree, a couple of shrubs and a tiny, tiny beachfront right out in front of the house’s front door. In order to classify as an island (and therefore classify as having a beach), it must be at least one square foot, have at least one tree, and to stay above water year-round, all of which are technically checks for Just Enough Room Island.
Unfortunately, for those of you interested in visiting, it is occupied and is a private property. However, the island can be seen from boats around the bay which would be your best bet unless you want to make an offer.
4 Smallest - Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Also known as Shipwreck Beach, Navagio Beach in Zakynthos marks the second tiny Grecian beach on this list. The most notable attraction on this small, sandy inlet is, of course, the shipwreck. While being chased by Greek officials during a storm, the ship ended up crashing on the secluded beach front, surrounded by cliffs. Because of the shipwreck, this beach has become a popular destination for tourists across the world. This place has all of the trademarks of a beautiful Grecian beach as well—turquoise water, warm Mediterranean weather, and pristine white cliffs.
3 Smallest - Lover's Beach, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The 164-foot long Lover’s Beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico has easily the best story of any entry on this list. The small peninsula lies directly in between the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean making it one of the only beaches in the world that unites two seas. The story goes that a Japanese sailor was rescued by a local woman and the two naturally fell in love. They would spend all of their time together on the beach (hence the name. How cute!?), until the girl’s father found out and took the man's life in a fit of rage. Fulfilling the whole Romeo & Juliet thing, the girl ends up taking her own life on the beach. Whether this is true or not, it’s a great story uniting the Pacific and the Gulf. Oh, it’s pretty and whatever, too.
2 Smallest - Playa Colomitos, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
This small stretch of about 100 feet of sand marks the second small beach in Mexico on this list. Just outside of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, Playa Colomitos can be a formidable place to reach. If you’re wanting to forego the water taxi ride to the beach, then you’re going to have to hike through the jungle for about 45 minutes to get to this secluded beach. Notable for the wide array of wildlife including but not limited to iguanas, foxes, raccoons, skunks, crabs and small reptiles, this inlet is surely worth the trek through the jungle (or the comfortable water taxi ride, but that’s not as fun).
1 Smallest - Gulpiyuri Beach, Asturias, Spain
The definitive ‘Smallest Beach in the World’ title goes to Gulpiyuri Beach in Asturias, Spain. This beach literally has no sea. What you see here is what you get. A safe 300-odd-feet from the nearby Cantabrian Sea, this flooded sinkhole has its own beach and tide, making it a natural phenomenon unlike anywhere else in the world. While usually not swimmable, you can certainly still dip your feet in and enjoy the sand. Sometimes when the tide gets a little too low, the beach can completely disappear, so if you plan to go, make sure you check to see if the beach will even be there. At just over 150 feet long, Gulpiyuri is the smallest known beach in the world.