Tripadvisor names world's best beaches 2021: Queensland's Whitehaven Beach tops list

Tripadvisor has announced the winners of its annual Travellers' Choice Best of the Best Awards for Beaches, naming Queensland's Whitehaven Beach as the winner for 2021, with Western Australia's Turquoise Bay voted world's sixth best.

It will surprise few to learn that Australia's second best-known beach (after Sydney's Bondi) was named the best in the world. The seven-kilometre stretch of sand is part of the Whitsunday Islands National Park. Photos of its aqua waters and impossibly white sands are regularly turned into postcards or marketing material.

Despite its much-publicised beauty, the beach is kept from being overrun by its remote location – it can only be reached by boat, seaplane or helicopter – and its proximity to the highly-protected Great Barrier Reef.

The beach gets a five-star rating on TripAdvisor, with more than 2000 of the 2391 reviews giving it an 'Excellent' ranking. 

"I have always wanted to go to Whitehaven and was not disappointed by the experience," wrote user Terriode last month. "It's the whitest and softest of sand and you truly feel like you're on a piece of paradise. It's a true gem in the Whitsundays."

Of course, there's always a few detractors, with nine reviewers given the beach just one star. Virtually all of these reviews criticism the tour operators that run trips to the beach, rather than the beach itself, though a couple complain about "biting flies" and "stinging jellyfish".

Snorkelling haven Turquoise Bay is also known for its pristine waters and white sands. Located along Western Australia's central coast in Cape Range National Park, it is close to Ningaloo Reef, one of the best places on Earth to swim with whale sharks. But here you'll also find world's largest fringing reef, a 260-kilometre long coral reef swarming with turtles, tropical fish, manta rays and humpback whales.

Aerial view of Turquoise Bay, Exmouth.

Aerial view of Turquoise Bay, Exmouth. Photo: Salty Wings/Tourism WA

Santa Maria Beach, located on the island of Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba, took second place this year. This tiny island sits off Cuba's northern coast, and is set against a backdrop of the Cayo Santa María Wildlife Refuge, which is rife with wildlife – such as the Cuban trogon.


"Your last trip to the beach probably feels like a lifetime ago, but with vaccine programs rolling out worldwide, safely making that beach getaway a reality just might be in reach," said Christine Maguire, vice president and general manager, global media business at Tripadvisor. "In fact, a recent Tripadvisor survey revealed that 60 per cent of [travellers] are very likely to take a beach trip in 2021."

"Whether your preferred kind of beach is preened and pristine or rugged and rough, this list of [travellers' favourites] is just the inspiration you need to get planning your next beach break," she added.

Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba.

Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba. Photo: Alamy

Top 10 Beaches in the World

1. Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Australia

2. Santa Maria Beach, Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

3. Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

4. Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

5. Saint Pete Beach, Florida, United States

6. Turquoise Bay, Exmouth, Australia

7. Eagle Beach, Eagle Beach, Aruba

8. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa, Italy

9. Ka'anapali Beach, Hawaii, United States

10. Baía dos Golfinhos, Praia da Pipa, Brazil

Over in Europe, islands won big this year, with Spiaggia dei Conigli on the island of Lampedusa in Italy crowned the best beach in Europe, closely followed by Playa de Cofete on the Spanish island of Fuerteventura.

Known for its beaches, Lampedusa is the largest island of the Pelagie Islands, which can be found in southern Italy. Facing the Area Marina Protetta Isole Pelagie, the area is an egg-laying site for marine turtles, and Spiaggia dei Conigli is known for its excellent marine life.

Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa, Italy.

Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa, Italy. Photo: iStock

Top 10 beaches in Europe

1. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa, Italy

2. Playa de Cofete, Fuerteventura, Spain

3. Praia da Falésia, Olhos de Agua, Portugal

4. La Concha Beach, San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain

5. Bournemouth Beach, Bournemouth, United Kingdom

6. Balos Lagoon, Kissamos, Crete, Greece

7. Elafonissi Beach, Elafonissi, Crete, Greece

8. Plage de Santa Giulia, Santa Giulia, Corsica, France

9. Kleftiko Beach, Milos, Greece

10. Porthminster Beach, St Ives, United Kingdom

In the South Pacific, five Australian beaches filled the top five positions ahead of world-famous Bora Bora's Matira Beach in French Polynesia and two New Zealand family favourites.

Matira Beach, Bora Bora.

Matira Beach, Bora Bora. Photo: Alamy

Top 10 beachs in the South Pacific

1. Whitehaven Beach - Whitsunday Island, Australia

2. Turquoise Bay - Exmouth, Australia

3. Cape Le Grand National Park - Esperance, Australia

4. Greens Pool - Denmark, Australia

5. Cable Beach - Broome, Australia

6. Matira Beach - Bora Bora, French Polynesia

7. Piscine Naturelle - Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia

8. Ohope Beach - Whakatane, New Zealand

9. Kaiteriteri Beach - Kaiteriteri, New Zealand

10. Mt Maunganui Main Beach - Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

The awards are based on the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings from Tripadvisor travellers for beaches, gathered over a 12-month period, and the winners feature pristine sands and ultra clean seas.

New for 2021's rankings, the Best of the Best Beaches also takes into account the volume of "saves" for beaches on Tripadvisor, reflecting the beaches that were most dreamed of in 2020, when most of the world was left unable to travel.

Not that any of the beaches outside Australia will be feasible for a 2021 visit – but many of the best are looking very much in reach.

The Telegraph, London with Kylie McLaughlin

See also: Secret's out: 18 of Australia's best hidden beaches

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