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  • Writer's pictureBrian Thacker

Best beaches in the world

Updated: Apr 10

Minnesota is around 2,000 kms from the nearest ocean beach - but the state does have 11,842 lakes. And lots of them have beaches. The first time that I went to a lake beach here (at Lake Minnetonka) I was pleasantly surprised just how pleasant it was. First of all there was sand (I didn't expect that), and the water was clean and warm (I didn't expect that either when for a few months the lakes are frozen solid). The lake even had waves (you can actually go surfing on lake Superior). I do like the lake beaches. I love the fresh water - without all that itchy salt on your skin. And more importantly, there are no sharks or poisonous jellyfish.

My boy Luca enjoying the warm clear waters of Lake Minnetonka yesterday.

The beaches are popular too - particularly after everyone has been stuck indoors during the long bitterly cold winter. We went to Lake Minnetonka yesterday and there were lots of people swimming, building sandcastles, canoeing, paddle boarding and water skiing (which was invented in Minnesota!).

Look at all that sand!

I do miss the ocean sometimes, though. I spent most of my life living no more than ten minutes from an ocean or a bay beach, but there are so many other wonderful beaches in the world that I’m yet to go to. I have been lucky enough, though, in my travels to have gone to some amazing beaches. With so many to choose from these are my ten favourite beaches - based on a unique or stunning beach or simply just having that perfect beach day.

Alofi, Wallis and Futuna

Beach heaven. When I visited the islands of Wallis and Futuna for my book 'Where's Wallis?' I was staying on Futuna (which at the time got a whopping 150 tourists a year) when I discovered that there was a third uninhabited island called Alofi. So, I talked a local fisherman into taking me to the island and leaving me there for the night. It could have ended badly - like him forgetting to pick me up the next day because the locals liked to go on big kava benders. But, it couldn't have been more perfect. I had this long pristine beach to myself, where I snorkelled with hundreds of colourful fish over stunning coral reefs just off shore, ate my lunch and dinner (Sao crackers and spam) on the water's edge and slept on a bed I made from palm fronds on the sand. The only thing I had to worry about were the wild pigs on the island who I could hear snorting all night. Oh, and the cannibals. Futuna and Alofi were once full of cannibals.

Whitehaven, Australia

It was bit crowded when I went there. In photos of Whitehaven the sand is so white and the water so blue that it looks like its been retouched in Photoshop. But, it really is that white and blue. And the only way to get there is by boat (or seaplane for the cashed-up folk), so that means no high rises, restaurants, sun lounges for rent or people trying to sell you shit. And, if you get there early enough, you can have one of the best beaches in the world all to yourself.

Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

An Instagram pic before there was Instagram. During the day, Hanauma Bay is absolutely swarming with swimming tourists. It's only a 25 minute drive from Waikiki and people come in busloads by the hundreds. Which is not surprising because it is a stunning bay and beach with incredible snorkelling just off shore. But, I'd hired a moped and left before sunrise to beat the crowds (the buses don't start turning up until after 9.00). I was treated to a perfect Instagram sunrise (although this was 20 years before there was an Instagram) and then almost had the amazing beach to myself. I say almost because a couple of Germans had beat me to it.

Baucau, East Timor

All the other beach goers had been eaten by a large crocodile.

There was only one room (in one hut) to stay on the whole beach in Bacau (in fact, about four beaches). So, I had the beach and water all to myself - although the large man-eating crocodile in the water that I only learned about when I was leaving probably kept the locals away.

Nilaveli, Sri Lanka

Fishing boats from a nearby village.

When I went to Nilaveli Beach Resort (near Trinomalee on the north-eastern coast of Sri Lanka) for my book 'I'm not eating any of that foreign muck', the gorgeous palm-fringed beaches were empty. Although that probably had a lot to do with the fact that the famous Sri Lankan football team 'The Tamil Tigers' were still running amok. There was a couple of other resorts way up the beach, but they were burnt out shells after had been blown up by the Tamil Tigers. Sure was nice having the beach to ourselves, though.

Pelican Beach, Australia

I didn't take this pic, but wanted to show the scale and beauty of the 'island'.

Pelican Beach is actually a tiny island about twenty minutes by boat from Hervey Bay in Queensland. My brother Bruce (along with his family) took me and my daughter Jasmine out there on the way to Fraser Island. And, best of all, we had the entire island to ourselves. I could wax lyrical about the perfectly white sand and perfectly aqua water, but I think these photos will give you a good idea how simply stunning it is.

Blue Lagoon, Malta

Just getting one boat in the pic is impressive - by lunch time there are dozens of them.

Boatloads of day-trippers pour into Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino (two islands across from Malta), but because I was staying at the only hotel on the island I got up ridiculously early (for someone on holidays) to have it to myself for a couple of hours. And yes, the water is as iridescent blue as the pic.

Paleokastritsa, Corfu

Fresh clear water and fresh calamari.

Paleokastritsa Beach was the first beach I’d ever seen outside of Australia - on my first ever trip overseas 35 years ago. I went to Corfu with a couple of Antipodean friends from London, and our week long package holiday had us staying by a tiny muddy bay. We didn't complain though - we left cold London and the package holiday, with flights and accomodation, cost us £79 (which was around $AU220 or $US120). We hired scooters to get to Paleokastrista on the other side of the island, and because it was May (and 35 years ago!), there were no crowds. But what made this beautiful beach even more magical was sitting in a quiet taverna right on the beach eating delicious fresh calamari while knocking back a few ouzos.

Lizard Island, Australia

Your own private beach.

Lizard Island is so exclusive that you get your very own beach. You are given a little chug-chug boat and a map and sent to your own beach (there is one for every guest!). You also get fold-out sun beds, a big umbrella and a huge hamper full of food and wine. And you can go to a different beach every day you are there. And yes, it was absolute heaven.

Ipanema Beach, Brazil

Where is the girl from Ipanema?

There certainly are crowds on Ipanema Beach, but boy what a nice crowd – girls wearing barely anything, skilled footballers showcasing their skills and oh so cool Cariocas. And the beach is beautiful, too – particularly at sunset, sitting at a sand-side bar with a tall glass of caipirinha (the local tipple) in hand.

My quest for the perfect beach isn't over yet, though. There are plenty of other amazing beaches out there that I haven’t been to yet (Seychelles, Maldives, most of the Caribbean islands just to name a few). What's your favourite beach?

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