Beaches

World's Wackiest Beaches

Tired of the same postcard-perfect, idyllic white-sand beaches? No, we aren't either. But why not stretch your wings and experience extraordinary beaches that are a bit, um, “different” than the typical ideal. Across the globe you can find shorelines the color of unusual gemstones, made mostly of glass and even one that doubles as a runway -- for planes. Grab your bathing suit and a sense of adventure; we've picked out the world's wackiest beaches.

Matthew High, flickr
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA
Sometimes pollution can have a stunning effect on the environment. Need proof? Pay a visit to Glass Beach, a stretch of coast littered with smooth sea glass that's located in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, CA. Turns out years of dumping trash, including oodles of glass bottles and containers, over a set of cliffs in the north of town, had an unexpected payoff. After town officials closed the dumping grounds in 1967, and clean-up efforts ensued, the ocean waves got to work, smoothing the remnants into the rounded, colored glass treasures they are today. Now, the stretch of beach looks like a glittering jewel box filled with green, blue, red and clear trinkets. Tourists -- most of them sea glass collectors -- can visit the beach, and while they are technically not allowed to take any of the glass with them, a number do grab some polished souvenirs.
Michael Wifall, flickr
Kaihalulu Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Red-sand beaches are a novelty across the globe, making a trip to Kaihalulu Beach a must-do when visiting Maui. After a somewhat difficult trek down ill-kempt paths, arriving at the beach offers a jaw-dropping sight: The rust-colored sand is a result of a crumbling cinder cone hill, which looks sort of like a mini-volcano. The minerals from the disintegrating cone color the sand, giving it a reddish-black hue. The beach is actually a small cove, and is flanked by dark black cliff walls, lined with emerald-green shrubs and trees. The cacophony of colors is startling -- a photo op just waiting to happen. Be careful of swimming here; currents can be strong and there is no lifeguard on duty.

Thinkstock
75 Mile Beach, Fraser Island, Australia

If it weren't for the funny tan lines it would cause, we'd suggest wearing a helmet to 75 Mile Beach … you know, just in case, a plane flies too close for comfort overhead. You see, the massive stretch of sand, which does, in fact, stretch for some 75 miles, somehow became a tempting place for people to land planes. The beach runs along most of Fraser Island's east coast and is positively gorgeous: warm, white sands, sparkling turquoise waters. But, of course, looks can be deceiving; it's not the safest place to swim due to a plethora of tiger sharks. But no worries, mate, you'll be spending too much time trying to keep your hide safe from privately-owned and tour planes that zip down and land on the hard-packed sand. As if that weren't enough excitement for one beach, the densely packed sands also lure dune buggies and other vehicles that speed down the sandy "road." Heads up!

Steve & Jem Copley, flickr
Hot Water Beach, New Zealand

If you've come to the beach to cool off in the sea, you might want to rethink a trip to Hot Water Beach. Granted, the ocean water is temperate, but natural hot water springs under the sands bubble up to the beach's surface with steaming hot water -- like Mother Nature's own spa treatment. Located about 108 miles from Auckland, on New Zealand's North Island, the beach is a popular attraction for tourists and locals looking to soothe their body woes away with a rejuvenating geothermal soak. A visit to the beach does come with a bit of work: To properly take a dip, bathers will need to dig into the sand to create their own little pool to kick back and dunk into. While you might want to bring your own shovel for digging, you can also rent one from the adjacent surf shop. 

Steve Dunleavy, flickr
Papakolea Beach, the Big Island, Hawaii

Nope, that's not moldy sand you're walking in, it's the green sands of Papakolea Beach. So, how does a beach's sand become the color of pea soup? Turns out Papakolea’s sands are rich in the green-colored mineral olivine, one of the elements found in the cinder-cone remains that flank the beach. Located on the Big Island's southern coast, the wide, curving beach is one of only 2 green beaches in the entire world. Getting to the beach isn't for the faint of heart; the trip requires a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to cross bumpy, unpaved roads. The path from the top of the cliff that surrounds the beach to the beach itself is in poor shape and difficult to traverse. Upon reaching the beach, keep an eye on the waves and stay near the cliff wall; waves can reach far up the beach, and riptides here can be treacherous.  

About the Author

Valerie Conners is a freelance writer, editor and producer who has worked with the Travel Channel for more than 14 years, specializing in travel topics including the world's best beaches, outdoor travel and romantic getaways. Her work also appears in many online and print publications including, Aol Travel, Discovery Channel, World Hum, Frommer's Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. She's happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets. She blogs about her travels at PassengerConners.com.

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