Winter beaches

Don’t let the chill force you to retreat indoors. Turn your bad weather blues into carefree coastal adventure. Here’s seven beaches from around the world that are perfect for a visit when the temperature drops.

Looking out towards the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks from Reynisfjara Beach
Looking out towards the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks from Reynisfjara Beach © Sasha64f / Shutterstock

Reynisfjara Beach, Vik, Iceland

White sand beaches are old news. The black basalt landscape at Reynisfjara wins hands down for most dramatic coastline any day. The beach can be accessed by foot from Iceland’s southernmost town Vik, a short 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavík. Here you can wander among some of the world’s most majestic and astonishing natural rock formations set against jet-black sand. Adding to its already ghostly atmosphere, Reynisfjara Beach comes with its own folk tale. Legend has it that trolls pulled a ship to land, but with a turn of bad luck, daylight turned the trolls to stone in the form of imposing sea stacks.

A little too eerie? If you thought the place was lacking in colour, the beach also happens to be home to a puffin community. There are puffin colony viewing platforms, but you’re equally as likely to spot the birds nesting, flying or bobbing on the waves.

An aerial view over Inchydoney beach
Inchydoney’s charms aren’t diminished in colder weather © TyronRoss / Shutterstock

Inchydoney Beach, West Cork, Ireland

Ireland’s coastline is all about its rugged rock formations – relentless waves crashing upon jagged boulders and rocky outcrops provide the dramatic setting for world-renowned wonders like Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway. But why not go against the grain, and discover the country’s equally breathtaking, and arguably more scenic, sandy stretches?

Looking out bravely toward the Atlantic, Inchydoney is a beach that Cork is proud of. The smooth, vast curve of sand on Inchydoney Island is connected to the land by two grassy causeways. Come here in autumn or winter for an umbrella-in-hand day out to explore rock pools with the family or, if you’re feeling brave, to surf. And before you get completely soaked, you’ve a well-stocked selection of pubs to take shelter in over at neighbouring Clonakilty, including famed De Barra’s Folk Club, with hearty pints and local Trad Sessions (traditional music sessions) to warm the cockles.

Kvalvika Beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Arrive at Kvalvika Beach and you’ll feel like you’ve reached the end of the earth. But you’ll certainly have to put the work in to relish the feeling – this remote spot is only accessible via a 4km hike over 543m-high Ryten Mountain. Most astounding is the contrast of the sheer domineering sea cliffs against the bright-turquoise waters. You’ve walked miles, whipped by the wind and coastal elements, but after that first glimpse of the ocean, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the tropics.

Several hikes circle the mountain and its peak, and it’s worth climbing for the view alone. You’ll pass occasional sheep grazing against a panoramic backdrop of sheer cliffs that appear to slide into the icy Norwegian Sea. The trail can be wet and slippery, so make sure you’re kitted out correctly. Set up camp anywhere you fancy along the green grassy ridges, wait for the sun to go down and, if luck is on your side, catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis streaking across the night sky.

A woman sitting in a self-dug hot pool on Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
When it’s cool out, warm up in your own personal hot pool on Hot Water Beach © Naruedom Yaempongsa / Shutterstock

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

Okay, this one might be a sly addition. But Hot Water Beach, located on the far reaches of New Zealand’s laid-back paradise that is the Coromandel Peninsula, is one of the only places on the planet where you can sink into natural hot pools in the sand even when it’s chilly. Thanks to geothermal activity beneath the sand, the water is still warm even when it’s below 15 degrees Celsius outside. While a free, homemade hot tub on the beach isn’t likely to be your little secret, the best part about this spot for cold weather enthusiasts is that colder days usually means fewer crowds.

Don a swimsuit, bring a spade and dig yourself a personal hot pool in the sand. The water can reach around 60 degrees Celsius, so bear in mind that if you visit in winter your surrounding environs will seem much colder. Make sure you check the tide charts too – you won’t want the sea rushing in mid-spa, although it can be refreshing to feel the whip of cold air and ocean spray at a safe distance. Sink in to your steaming man-made Jacuzzi and watch the powerful surf from afar.

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