By Dale Western on 20 August 2013

A beach is just a stretch of sand by the sea or ocean, but iconic beaches are so much more than a slip of white sand. These beaches have gained their iconic status for various reasons; appearing in classic films, being the beaches everyone wants to visit, or simply for having a reputation that everyone buys into. There are more of these than you might think but here are 10 of the world’s most iconic beaches.

Ko Phi Phi Leh

Starting, aptly, with the iconic beach where the film ‘The Beach’ was shot. Ko Phi Phi Leh is the second largest island in the Phi Phi archipelago off the coast of Thailand. Maya Bay is a vast expanse of sand that is more about the view than the swimming. There was controversy here when The Beach was being filmed as much of the island was transformed to make it more ‘paradise like’. The 2004 Tsunami is generally considered to have much improved Maya bay as it literally washed away everything the studio had added, returning it to its glorious former self.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Whether or not you are familiar with the hit song from the 60’s ‘The Girl from Ipanema’, this beach to the south of the city of Rio de Janeiro has earned its iconic status by being the ‘in’ place to be for the young, beautiful people of Rio and the world. The Ipanema neighbourhood is one of the most expensive areas to live in the city, and the beach is lined by top notch restaurants and boutiques. If you want to be seen mingling with Rio’s high society, or take part in some star spotting, this is the place to be.

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Bondi Beach, Sydney

You think Sydney you think Bondi. The spiritual home of surfing in Australia, the stretch of sand that makes up Bondi Bay has grown over the years to become one of the most iconic and recognisable beaches in the world. It is also one of the shortest at only 1km in length, but what is packed into that small space is what has made so famous. There are different hazard warnings along the beach, with the north end being given a difficulty of 4 out of 10, making it gentle, and the southern end being a 7-8 thanks to incredible rip tides that attract surfers the world over.

Lumahai Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

One of the oldest of the main islands that makes up Hawaii, Lumahai beach at Kauai first gained fame through the scene filmed here for the classic - South Pacific. It has remained on the map ever since as one of the most iconic beaches in the world, and the fact that it is spectacularly beautiful is a bonus. This beach is isolated and almost always devoid of tourists; as those who want their photo taken on this beach tend to get off a tour bus, take their photos and get back on it, not the best way to truly experience this stunning place.

Miami Beach, Florida

Miami Beach is actually a resort within the county of Miami-Dade. The beach is simply an extension of an area of Miami that is chic, elegant and opulent. The South Beach is the place to be seen and is a stretch of sand that has appeared in countless TV shows and films. If you go to Florida and want to visit a beach, then make sure it is this one.

Boulders Beach, Cape Town

There are some outstanding beaches in South Africa, so what makes Boulders Beach so iconic? The colonies of penguins that live there of course. These protected African penguins are a sight to behold, and will keep you entertained for hours. The beach itself is beautiful, the swimming conditions excellent, but it is the ridiculously cute penguins that are the main draw.

Bora Bora

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You will have to go a long way to find a better beach than Matira Beach on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora; though given Bora Bora’s location that might not be saying much! The crystal clear waters fringe fine white sands that have become known as the most romantic beach in the world. Located on the west side of Bora Bora it is ideally located for watching sunsets so sublime that they have to be seen to be believed.

Plage de Pampelonne, St Tropez  

There is nowhere more popular for elite members of French society to hang out than the stunning Plage de Pampelonne in St Tropez. Glamour and glitz are the order of the day here, and one of the sandiest playgrounds of the rich and famous is not the place for any old swimwear. Dig out that designer swimsuit, take your place on one of the chairs on the beach and watch the beautiful world go by.

Anakena Beach, Easter Island, Chile

It is safe to say that it’s not often you can spend time on a beach being watched over by ancient Moai statues from Monolithic times. The famous statues of Easter Island stand proud like a silent guard of honour, and have elevated Anakena Beach to the upper echelons of must visit beaches and sealed its iconic status. Unfortunately this is also one of the most remote places in the world and getting to the island takes a huge amount of planning and effort!

Assateague Beach, Virginia

Assateague Beach would probably be just another run of the mill beach were it for its famous residents, its wild ponies, and watching them gallop across the sand with the wind blowing through their manes at sunset is one of life’s truly wonderful experiences. This is a beach from fairy tales and a beach for tourists – all the more reason we’d love to go there.

So there you are 10 beaches that have left their peers behind and made the elite of truly iconic stretches of sand!

Photo Credit: Flickr - tramod

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