1. Woolacombe, Devon, England
Why go? With a gradual slope into clean water, it’s safe for swimming, and lifeguards keep a watchful eye. Woolacombe’s Atlantic waves attract surfers from far and wide, but there’s plenty of space for those looking for a less radical experience.
Activities: Little ones can happily spend an afternoon with a bucket and spade, building sandcastles and collecting shells, and perhaps letting off a little steam by jumping on the bouncy castle. Served by shops and cafés, the beach has excellent facilities, including a clean stream, where you can rinse the sand off your feet before you go home.
2. Derrynane Co. Kerry, Ireland
Why go? With rocks for climbing on, pools to explore and clear water for swimming, Derrynane beach has the sort of magical atmosphere that will fire up young imaginations and keep them foraging for hours. There are all sorts of interesting creatures to look out for, including natterjack toads and golden orioles.
Activities: If you’re after something active for older kids, head to Derrynane harbour, where you can hire kayaks. There’s even an opportunity to sneak in a history lesson; visit nearby Derrynane House, former home of Daniel ‘the Liberator’ O’Connell, and at low tide, walk across to Abbey Island.
3. Panama City Beach, Florida
Why go? The soft white sand stretches for miles – 27 miles to be exact – so there’s plenty of space for building sandcastles and collecting shells. This is a beach where the water is the star of the show.
Activities: The mesmerising emerald shallows are beautifully clear and clean, ideal for safe swimming and paddling, and there’s an array of aquatic activities available, including snorkelling, canoeing, paddle boarding and skim boarding – the sorts of adventures older children and teenagers will love. Keep an eye out for the wildlife. Shell Island has the highest population of bottle-nosed dolphins in the world and, with such clear water, you’re sure to spot a few.
4. Hua Hin, Thailand
Ride the wave
Why go? Hua Hin, just a short distance from Bangkok, is a rather quirky beach and not your usual Thai destination. It’s part of one of the oldest resorts in Thailand, a fishing village that was given the stamp of approval by King Rama VII in the 1920s.
Activities: The thing everybody wants to do when they come here is ride a horse or pony along the beach. Kids – and parents – will love drifting along the soft sand on horseback. The beach is wide and long, which is lucky because it’s popular. The water is great for small swimmers as it’s shallow for quite a distance, but also has ideal conditions for kiteboarding, which is sure to thrill older children.
5. Alykes Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Why go? The water is shallow, warm and clear, with no rocky surprises, giving you the peace of mind to swim out that little bit further. It’s peaceful and friendly, and part of the Alykes resort, so there are several other beaches nearby, too.
Activities: For older children, teens and parents feeling active and intrepid, Alykes and its neighbour beach Alykanas offer all manner of watersports and excursions to keep you busy. Ride a banana boat, hire a pedalo or take a boat trip to the Blue Caves. To organise your adventures, talk to the people from Golden Dolphin at the Alykes jetty.
6. Trez, Bénedot, France
Why go? Spacious and pretty, Trez is the most popular beach of four in the Bénodet resort. It’s efficiently run with good facilities, so once you’re there, you can completely relax and chill out on the sand.
Activities: Active, sporty families won’t be disappointed. Fancy a spot of sailing? Find sailing boats, catamarans and dinghies available for rental. Kids will enjoy a tumble on the big bouncy castles, and for those keen to have a go at fishing and rock-pooling, head over to the neighbouring Plage Saint Gilles. Lifeguard supervision at Trez during the summer months will put parents’ mind at rest, and there’s no shortage of cafés and bars just behind the beach.
7. Praia Do Barril, Portugal
Five go to Portugal
Why go? Barril, one of the calmest beaches on the Algarve’s south coast, provides a perfect balance of adventure and comfort for families, with former tuna-fishing facilities converted cleverly into shops, cafés and locker rooms.
Activities: The journey to Praia do Barril is all part of the fun. It starts with a bridge over the Ria Formosa lagoon. From there, a footpath takes you across Tavira island to the beach, but what you really want to do is pick up the sweet little tourist train, which operates in high season. The eight-minute ride carries you directly to a beautiful, expansive beach, with clean water and a wide range of plant and animal life.
8. Cable Beach, Broome, Australia
Ride into the sunset
Why go? A gorgeous, smooth, very wide beach, it has peaceful, turquoise water and beautiful white sand, making it perfect for walking, toddling, relaxing, paddling and swimming as a family.
Activities: For something unusual and truly memorable, have a go at climbing up on one of the famous Cable Beach camels. The experience of being carried along the beach by these gentle creatures will live long in children’s memories. Conveniently, you’re allowed to take your four-wheel drive down onto the beach at low tide and, because it’s such a large beach, there’s plenty of space for people and cars.
9. White Rocks, Northern Ireland
Why go? White Rocks’ miles of unspoilt sand and unique natural features incorporate rock pools, former smugglers’ caves and lofty sand dunes that are brilliant fun to climb.
Activities: Buggy users will be happy to find a newly opened promenade. As usual with the temperamental climate in the British Isles, sunny weather can’t be guaranteed. But, should it rain, having this stretch of pristine sand to yourself, not to mention its peaceful backdrop of the castle and the world-famous Royal Portrush golf course, should make up for it.
10. Keawakapu, Maui, Hawaii
Why go? Snorkelling is the order of the day at Keawakapu, a stunning sandy expanse that stretches luxuriously from Wailea to Kihei in south Maui. And children will adore spotting and swimming alongside turtles in the shallow, clear waters. That’s if they’re not too busy just playing, splashing and swimming in the gentle waves.
Activities: There are particular areas set aside for very little ones to paddle, and the sand is soft and perfect for building castles. Once the kids have had enough of turtle-spotting, the older ones might have a go at boogie boarding in the waves, which are just strong enough to make it fun, but not so strong that you’ll worry.