Whatever your penchant, there is a beach somewhere in the world that is just right for you. Sheridan Rhodes surveys some of your choices.
They say a day at the beach restores the soul. There is something about the ocean and long stretches of white beach that begs us to kick off the shoes and sink our toes in. But just as no man is an island, no island or beach suits every traveller. Here we have scoured Australia and abroad to find your place in the sun.
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Home to premium food producers, cellar doors with gob-smacking views, and the renowned cooking school Kangaroo Island Source, run by foodie Kate Sumner, this foodie paradise offers lashings of rural beachside charm.
Staying there The luxurious Kangaroo Beach Lodges offer accommodation from $500 a night (five-night bookings). See kangaroobeachlodges.com.au.
Don't miss Chapman River Wines offers decadent seasonal platters and wines by the glass, in a converted aircraft hangar. The island is a lot bigger than you think, with 1600 kilometres of scenic roads, so hire a car. See tourkangarooisland.com.au.
Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Aucklanders' playground of choice, Waiheke Island offers lovely stretches of beach, inlets with bobbing boats, more than 30 boutique wineries, funky cafes and several excellent restaurants.
Staying there Lodge like a local at one of the many fabulous baches dotted across the island, such as 21 Matapana, priced from $NZ595 ($550) a night in low season. See bemyguestwaiheke.com.
Don't miss Lunch at the stunning Te Whau Vineyard, which serves up some of the island's best dining, along with incredible views of Waiheke Island, Rangitoto and the Auckland isthmus. See waiheke.aucklandnz.com.
Margaret River, West Australia
Bordered by the Indian Ocean to the west and ancient karri forests to the east, the Margaret River wine region is synonymous with surf and wine. Meandering trails lead foodies to chic restaurants, farms, cafes and wine bars.
Staying there The sprawling five-star Pullman Resort Bunker Bay offers rooms from $155 a night. See pullmanhotels.com.
Don't miss The Margaret River Gourmet Escape in November is fast putting the region's culinary prowess on the international radar, with celebrity chefs including Rick Stein, Heston Blumenthal and Tetsuya Wakuda. See gourmetescape.com.au and margaretriver.com.
Fiji's 330 islands are ideal for families with littlies in tow. Help is on hand at every turn, hammocks beckon and waves gently lap the shore. Grown Fijian men cannot resist the urge to kiss babies on the head in passing, while there is always someone willing to take your little one by the hand to collect hermit crabs. In school holidays, Fiji is more packed than the Boxing Day sales, so book a long way ahead.
Staying there Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort offers full-time nannies and candlelit dinners by the pool from $1116 inclusive in a gardenview room. See fijiresort.com. Malolo Island Resort features a kids' club under an enormous mango tree and colonial-inspired bures steps from the water's edge from $476 a night for a family of four. See maloloisland.com.
Don't miss Taking a village tour with the family with Fijian dancing, food and singing. It is an authentic and fun cultural experience for everyone. See fiji.travel.
Port Stephens, NSW
Port Stephens, about 2½ hours' drive north of Sydney, offers beach holidays that hark back to simpler times. Generations of families have come for its natural beauty, abundant wildlife, oysters by the bay, safe swimming beaches and deep blue waters that are home to playful dolphins and whales. The best beaches for children include the gorgeous Little Beach, while Fingal Bay offers a slice of postcard heaven with its own protected swimming corner.
Staying there Marty's at Little Beach is a boutique property offering one and two-bedroom apartments from $130 a night. See martys.net.au.
Don't miss The iconic Bub's Fish and Chips at Nelson Bay, with seafood delivered straight from the trawler to their door daily. See portstephens.org.au.
Sentosa Island, Singapore
Singapore does not have any beaches worth writing home about but it does have the man-made 500-hectare Sentosa Island. Catch the glass-bottomed cable car across to the island, take a swim at one of the lagoon-style beaches, have a go on the luge, marvel at the 1500 live butterflies at the Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, surf waves in two pools and visit Universal Studios. If you prefer a real beach, devoid of crowds, this is not the place you.
Staying there The W Singapore Sentosa Cove offers rooms from $S350 ($300), plus taxes, a night. See starwoodhotels.com.
Don't miss The nightly water and light show - the kids will love it. See sentosa.com.sg.
FAMILIES WITH OLDER KIDS
Gold Coast, Queensland
Offering the country's biggest and best theme parks and kilometres of stunning coastline, the Gold Coast is holiday heaven on a stick for families with older kids. Take flight on the world's newest craze with Jetpack Adventures, or join the fight against zombies at Dreamworld. Many new high-rises in Surfers Paradise have their upsides, but can be noisy with partygoers and traffic well into the small hours. Avoid like the plague during schoolies.
Staying there Peppers Broadbeach, TripAdvisor's best Australian hotel for families, has one-bedroom suites from $210 a night for three-night stays. See peppers.com.au/broadbeach.
Don't miss The 150-metre flying fox over the crocodile enclosure at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. See visitgoldcoast.com.
Bali serves up action-filled days in spades. Apart from great beaches, Bakas Elephant Park offers families the chance to take an elephant ride and see the beautiful Melangit River, terraced rice paddies and village life. Make a day of it by joining a whitewater rafting adventure down the rapids. On the need-to-know front, tap water is unsafe to drink in Bali, pools in private villas are unfenced and you will need to bring your child's car booster seat from home. Staying there The Semara Resort and Spa at Seminyak offers boutique accommodation with a world-class, pay-as-you-go Cubby House Kidz Club, from $121 a night for a poolside room. See semaraseminyak.com.
Don't miss The fantastic Waterbom Park and Spa, home to 15 slides, a raft river, macaroni tube and racetrack. See waterbom-bali.com and indonesia.travel.
Let the kids run amok at Muddy's Playground and Waterpark on the Cairns Esplanade, with its fantastic water section. The Esplanade Lagoon, a Cairns icon, is great for a swim. Older kids can try bungy jumping (10 and over), rip it up at Australia's biggest skatepark, or go quadbiking on a working cane farm at Yorkeys Knob, one of Cairn's northern beaches. Be warned, though, Cairns in the wet season is hot and sticky and you cannot swim in the ocean without a stinger suit, or at stinger net-enclosed pools.
Staying there The Pullman Reef Hotel Casino offers rooms and suites from $209 a night in an unbeatable foreshore location, opposite the fantastic Figtree Playground. See reefcasino.com.au.
Don't miss Trinity Beach, just north of Cairns is idyllic for swimming, picnics and beach strolls collecting shells. See cairns-greatbarrierreef.org.au.
Lord Howe, NSW
With few cars, a maximum speed limit of 25 km/h and no high-rises or mobile phone coverage, the World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island transports you back to childhood summers where days stretched on forever. But with just one carrier (Qantaslink) servicing the island, getting there is expensive.
Staying there Arajilla has reopened after a million-dollar revamp with all-inclusive suites (excluding alcohol) priced from $1085 a night. See arajilla.com.au. Bowker Beach House is a new adults-only beach retreat priced from $500 a night in low season. See bowkerbeachhouse.com.au.
Don't miss Climb the short but steep track to Kim's Lookout from Old Settlement Beach for 360-degree views over the island. See lordhoweisland.info.
Great Barrier Island, New Zealand
Ninety kilometres off Auckland, the remote Great Barrier Island is one of New Zealand's best-kept secrets, with startlingly beautiful beaches, coastal walks, hot springs, renowned surfing and a laid-back, uncommercial feel. As you would expect, mobile phone reception is sketchy; but know also that there are no banks, ATMs, street lights, electricity supply or supermarkets.
Staying there The award-winning Oruawharo House sleeps eight, from $1575 a night. See islandaccommodation.co.nz.
Don't miss The Great Fitzroy Mussel Fest for succulent greenlip mussels farmed straight from the clear, clean waters of the Hauraki Gulf. See thebarrier.co.nz.
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
With no motorised traffic, but with beach bungalows, deep coral reefs and countless beachside cafes, the hardest choice is whether to read, nap or take another dip in the jade-coloured sea. Think Bali 40 years ago. There are three "gilis" (little islands) off the north-west coast of Lombok, Gili Meno being the one most off the tourist radar.
Staying there The Sunset Gecko offers cute beachfront bungalows and houses, plus the island's best food, from $28 a night. See thesunsetgecko.com.
Don't miss Snorkelling with sea turtles. See gili-paradise.com.
Venice Beach, US
Join the throngs on the beachfront sidewalk to witness the weird, the colourful and the downright wacky all in one place.
Staying there Venice Beach House offers upmarket B&B accommodation from $183 a night. See venicebeachhouse.com.
Don't miss Hire rollerblades and cruise the carnival-like Venice Bike Path. However, avoid Venice Beach on the Labor Day weekend (this year, September 1), as this bustling seaside town strains to near breaking point. See venicebeach.com.
South Beach, Miami, US
See preening models, gym goers, celebrities and wannabes at Lummus Park Beach, or South Beach, voted by Travel & Leisure magazine as the world's best beach at which to watch people watch.
Staying there The Epic Hotel offers 411 rooms and suites with bay or city views from $271. See epichotel.com. If you want to hit the South Beach's trendiest bars and clubs, pull on your hippest threads or you will not get in.
Don't miss Drinks at the Mynt Lounge - a non-paparazzi club
where the stars hang out. See myntlounge.com.
Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro
Made famous by the catchy tune The Girl from Ipanema, this sexy two-kilometre stretch of sand is the place to see the taut, the tanned and the terrific sunning or strutting their stuff. Note, you need to get to the beach early, especially on weekends, to claim your spot.
Staying there The five-star Relais and Chateaux Santa Teresa offers accommodation in a restored colonial building from $332 a night. See santa-teresa-hotel.com.
Don't miss A helicopter flight over Rio taking in the statue of Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema Beach and other city landmarks. See visitbrasil.com.
Once feared for its fierce head hunters and impenetrable jungle, Sabah, at the north-easternmost tip of the island of Borneo, offers travellers the chance to trek south-east Asia's highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, dive the Sipadan Reef and come face to face with the "wild man of Borneo", the orang-utan. However, the Australian government continues to warn against travel to eastern Sabah due to the ongoing threat of kidnapping by militant and criminal groups based in the southern Philippines.
Staying there Gayana Eco Resort, a recently refurbished stay, offers overwater bungalows from $411 a night. See gayana-eco-resort.com.
Don't miss Seeing orang-utans in their natural habitat at Danum Valley Conservation Area. See sabahtourism.com.
Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Dive what is considered the premier wreck of the Pacific Ocean, the SS Coolidge, as well as Millionaire's Point and the USS Tucker, trek through jungle to villages, and have a picnic on the postcard-perfect Champagne Beach.
Staying there A beachfront bungalow at the charming Aore Island Resort costs from $250, including continental breakfast. See aoreresort.com.
Don't miss Swimming in the Blue Holes with their staggeringly beautiful fresh water the colour of sapphires. See espiritusantotourism.com.
Slide down a gushing waterfall, dive Somosomo Straits and gain insight into the historically rich daily lives of Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian societies in the Pacific Cultural Triangle of islands.
Staying there The Tui Tai, voted by National Geographic as one of the world's best adventure travel companies, offers cruises aboard a beautiful 140-foot schooner through remote, northern Fiji. See tuitai.com.
Don't miss Diving the pristine Rainbow Reef within the Somosomo Straits, including the Great White Wall and other sites, comprising what Jean-Michel Cousteau has dubbed "the soft-coral capital of the world".
Beaches on a budget
If you're looking for a budget break beyond Bali and Phuket, Malaysia offers beautiful beaches, incredible food, terrific diving and general flop-and-drop appeal. On the peninsula's east coast, Cherating Beach is a sweeping stretch of coastline on the South China Sea. It offers rustic beach bungalows, affordable family-run chalets and guesthouses, from $23 a night. The island of Penang's capital, Georgetown, full of low-rise shopfronts, crumbling colonial-era Straits architecture and Asia's best hawker food, is a charming juxtaposition of old and new. Australian hotelier Chris Ong's two "flashpacker" properties offer boutique accommodation at their affordable best: Muntri Mews, in the heart of Georgetown, and Noordin Mews, a heritage hotel with retro interiors inspired by old Shanghai, priced from $95.
On the northern coast of Penang, the seaside resort town of Batu Ferringhu offers affordable beach stays at family-run guesthouses from just $13 a night. If the budget stretches, Lone Pine is the pick of the area's seaside resorts with rooms from $180, including breakfast. Langkawi, a short flight or ferry ride from Penang, offers superior beaches, lush jungle and terrific food, with accommodation from $30 a night. See tourismmalaysia.com.au.
Hua Hin bargain
South of Bangkok, the resort town of Hua Hin is another beach destination where it's still possible to snag a bargain stay in private seaside bungalows, from $40 a night. See au.tourismthailand.org
Closer to home you could camp on one of Queensland's islands, most of which are framed by the Great Barrier Reef and pristine beaches. Here million dollar views come for the cost of a sandwich (from $6 a night). nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks
Hayman reaches new heights
It was Australia's first truly luxury resort - built by Sir Reginald Ansett to host royalty, with an impressive collection of antiques and arts, pet swans and an iconic pool.
A decadent haven since the 1950s for guests who arrived by stylish "flying boats", Hayman has long lured celebrities, lords, politicians and wealthy holidaymakers wanting to explore the World Heritage-listed reef from its premiere address.
In a few weeks, the five-star Whitsunday Island resort will be relaunched after a $50 million makeover. Bastien Gonzales' medical pedicures, a doubling in size of Pool Wing rooms, a new family pool and upmarket dining are just some of the changes travellers can expect when the chic new One&Only Hayman Island opens on July 1.
If One&Only's luxury resort collection, spanning such destinations as Mauritius, the Maldives, Bahamas and Dubai, is anything to go by, the new-look Hayman will redefine the Australian resort experience and give neighbouring six-star Qualia on Hamilton Island some much-needed competition.
One&Only says the resort will feature a chic, contemporary and luxurious feel but will retain a strong Australian flavour.
Changes to the 64-year-old resort, One&Only's first Australian property, will include a reduced room count from 210 to 160 and the overhaul of the Pool Wing so all rooms become one- or two-bedroom suites. The resort will introduce its One&Only Kids program while rooms will be reconfigured to enable families to book the existing Beach Villas combined with the Retreat Rooms. A new family pool and dining concept will also be offered.
Hayman's Kids Club is expected to make way for vastly ramped up facilities that also cater to the tween and teenage markets.
Also new to the resort will be a One&Only Health Spa and beauty salon.
The Hayman pool will continue to be an icon of the property, but will get a new lease of life with cabanas, day beds, and more food and beverage options.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Paradise for Sheridan Rhodes is an island, a hammock strung between coconut palms, a good book and a long, cool mojito.