Reliably sexy: The world's 10 most amazing lagoons

There are few geographical features that are as reliably sexy as a lagoon. Usually, they're the stuff jealousy-inducing holiday photos are made of. The shallow waters twinkle in greens and milky blues that bog-standard ocean just can't muster. The white sand beaches and reefs that tend to come as part of the package don't half help, either. But some lagoons are on a higher level…

Aitutaki Lagoon, Cook Islands

This is the lagoon you see whenever thirst-inspiring pictures of lagoons are shown on the web. The colours are spectacular, as smooth bars of white sand slip into the almost lurid turquoise waters. A few resorts are based on the main island, but boat tours out to the little islets are pretty much living the dream. Bishop's Cruises are among the operators aiming for the most jealousy-inducing swimming spots. See bishopscruises.com, cookislands.travel

Bora Bora Lagoon, French Polynesia

Aerial view of Bora Bora island over beautiful turquoise lagoon with speedboats to volcanic Mount Otemanu. Bora Bora, Society Islands, French Polynesia.

Bora Bora's beautiful turquoise lagoon near Mount Otemanu. Photo: iStock

OK, so the other lagoon you've almost inevitably seen pictures of can be found in French Polynesia. With Bora Bora, it's as much about the island in the middle of the lagoon – the twin, green peaks of Mt Pahia and Mt Otemanu provide a tremendous contrast to the twinkly teal waters. Boat tours are very obviously the thing to do, and Reef Discovery makes sure you get a good snorkel in between cruising. See puresnorkeling.com

The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, Palau

Palau Ngeruktabel Island - World heritage site - Rock Islands Southern Lagoon. Palau Ngeruktabel Island. Istock image

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon and its 445 small limestone islands. Photo: iStock

This lagoon's magic initially comes courtesy of the 445 small limestone islands contained within it. Many have strange mushroom shapes and tropical green tops. Several have inland lakes, cut off from the rest of the world. These include the infamous Jellyfish Lake where it's possible to swim with a barrage of stingless jellyfish. But get in the water around the islands, and you'll be rewarded with some of the clearest, most diverse snorkelling on earth. Sam's Tours runs snorkel and dive cruises. See samstours.com

The New Caledonia Lagoon, New Caledonia

Barrière de corail, passe et Trou d'Oundjo vu d'ULM - Lagon Nouvelle Calédonie New Caledonia Lagoon. iStock

New Caledonia's lagoon is 24,000 square kilometres in size. Photo: iStock

New Caledonia likes to claim that its lagoon is the biggest in the world. That's open to debate, but the lagoon is undeniably huge at 24,000 square kilometres in size. Surrounded by a giant barrier reef, there is obviously some excellent diving and snorkelling to be done. But the lazy, beginner's option is a cruise on the Mary D out to Amédée Island, where the white sands and strikingly tall lighthouse look out over the lagoon. See amedeeisland.com

Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia

Chuuk does the standard Pacific Island gorgeous lagoon thing, but here, it's what's inside that counts. Surrounded by a 225-kilometre reef, it was Japan's main Pacific Naval Base during World War II. That meant the Americans had an awful lot of ships and planes to bomb. Once Operation Hailstone was complete, Chuuk Lagoon had dozens of ships and 270 planes lying stricken in the clear, shallow water. For wreck divers, of course, this is an absolute dream. The Blue Lagoon Dive Resort is amongst the operators offering dive trips. See bluelagoondiveresort.com

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Aldabra Lagoon, Seychelles

Part of the magic of Aldabra is the sheer size – the atoll-surrounded lagoon covers 155 square kilometres. Part of it is looks – the large, shallow lagoon dazzles in outrageous turquoise. But it's mainly about the sense of isolation. Getting to Aldabra is very difficult indeed, which means humans have largely left it alone, and the world's biggest population of giant tortoises have had the sandy beaches to themselves. Silversea is one of very few cruise operators that includes Aldabra on its itineraries. See silversea.com

Venice Lagoon, Italy

We are looking across the Venetian Lagoon just after dawn toward the facade of the Benedictine church and the San Giorgio Maggiore island of the same name. Venetian Lagoon just after dawn toward the facade of the Benedictine church and the San Giorgio Maggiore island of the same name. istock photo

The Venetian Lagoon at dawn. Photo: iStock

Other lagoons may have brighter colours and more impressive beaches, but none has Venice's sense of grandeur and importance. The canal-laced city faces out towards the water, and the lagoon islands all have their own personality. Burano is known for its colourful houses and lace-making, Torcello offers history and Byzantine mosaics, while Murano is world-famous for its glass-making. Vivo Venetia runs lagoon cruises visiting all three. See vivovenetia.com

Jökulsárlón, Iceland

Glacier lagoon, Iceland Glacier lagoon, Iceland istock photoJokulsarlon, Glacier Bay, Iceland.

Jokulsarlon, Glacier Bay, Iceland. Photo: iStock

Not all lagoons are warm and tropical… Jökulsárlón in Iceland is backed by black sand beaches, but it's what's in the other direction that's more exciting. Floating on the lagoon are a series of icebergs, slowly melting, and always in danger of toppling over. They've broken free from the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, and Zodiac boat tours across the lagoon get visitors awe-inspiringly close to them. See icelagoon.is

The Coorong, South Australia

xxCoorong  South Australia Coorong ; text by David Whitley ; SUPPLIED via journalist ; MANDATORY CREDIT : South Australian Tourism Commission/Adam Bruzzone ; Murray Mouth
*** ONE TIME TRAVELLER USE ONLY *** 

The Coorong, South Australia. Photo: Adam Bruzzone/SATC

Perhaps not as photogenic as the South Pacific lagoons, the Coorong still manages to weave a magic spell over virtually anyone who visits it. Part of this is about the wildlife – pelicans are everywhere, rare migratory birds can be spotted on the sandbars and seals hang out by the Goolwa Barrage. But the long sandy peninsulas, calm waters and last gasps of the mighty Murray River all contribute. The best way to explore is on a kayaking tour. See canoethecoorong.com

Lord Howe Island, New South Wales

Scenic coastal views across Lord Howe Island to Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower. Supplied PR image for Traveller. Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island Mandatory credit: tom-archer.comDescription: Scenic coastal views across Lord Howe Island to Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower. Tourism NSW image.

View over Lord Howe Island lagoon with Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower. Photo: Tom Archer/Tourism NSW

Want a more conventional lagoon in Australia? Well, Lord Howe Island is the place. The delectable beaches and bright, almost luminous water are both there, and the twin peaks of Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird provide a suitably magnificent backdrop. Living among the world's most southerly coral reefs are plenty of fish and a borderline greedy collection of green and hawksbill turtles. Islander Cruises heads out in a glass-bottom boat. See islandercruises.com.au

The writer has been a guest of Destination New South Wales, Tourism South Australia and Cook Islands Tourism.

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