A beach for all seasons - Paul Edwards looks at some of the world's favourites.
Travel means different things to different people, but for most it inevitably means at least one visit to a beach.
Some beaches such as those in Normandy have enormous historical significance. Some are remarkable for their thousands of naked bodies. Others are the haunt of the rich and famous while some for example, Brighton in England don't even have sand.
Beaches mean relaxing holidays; art galleries, cathedrals and regional cuisine imply serious cultural travel. A neat mix of the two is the start of a perfect itinerary.
The choice of best beaches is purely subjective so we've narrowed them down to some of the most famous ones.
Cannes, French Riviera
Cannes is where people come to play spot the star. The promenade is known as la Croisette; a low wall separates pedestrians from sun worshippers in varying stages of undress. East and west of the main "plage" are harbours where the boats are big and expensive.
The old town is nearby and the rocky, hazy mountains are just along one of the corniche roads. Cannes and the other centres of the Riviera are not cheap, but if you do your research you can shop and sleep economically.
Get there from one of the London airports with a no-frills carrier, from Vienna via Austrian Airlines, or take the TGV train from Paris five hours, 33 minutes.
Anzac Cove, Gallipoli
On the Anzac day long weekend we remember that 90 years ago this narrow shore was red with the blood of young Australians and other Allies, mown down in an ill-conceived attack on a well-entrenched force. Now it is a peaceful stretch of sand on Turkey's quiet Aegean shore. "The Sphinx" still crowns the crumbling cliffs, the sea is dark blue, relatively unpolluted and perfect for swimming. There is a heady fragrance of wild herbs and shrubs as you head for the heights. But since 1915 the graves have appeared; well-tended, symmetrical and unobtrusive. Higher up around Lone Pine you can see what few Anzacs saw, and then only briefly the Dardanelles passage through to the Black Sea. This beach is a sacred site to many Australian travellers, and it's also a good place for a contemplative swim.
Get there by bus or hire car from Istanbul or Ismir. Stay at Canakkale (20 kilometres away); while there, visit the ruins of Troy.
Hawaii has more beautiful strands with better surf, less bustle and fewer tourists, but nothing quite matches the three kilometres of Waikiki on the island of Oahu.
The eminence of Diamond Head, the rosy hues of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the shadows cast by the brutal high-rise apartment blocks they're all part of what makes up perhaps the most famous beach in the world. It's where today's surf culture began, and there's a statue of Duke Kahanamoku to prove it.
There are many surprisingly affordable places to eat and sleep.
Get there by air via Sydney, or perhaps on the return section of a round-the-world ticket.
Bondi Beach, Australia
The Australian choice could have been Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, one of several magnificent beaches on Fraser Island, Cable Beach at Broome, Bells Beach at Torquay while Byron Bay in northern NSW also offers some serious contenders. And while Sydney locals may even prefer one of the numerous and much less crowded neighbouring stretches of golden sand, Bondi remains a haven for thousands of Europeans and British tourists desperate for an all-over Aussie glow to show off to friends and family back home.
Dyed-blond Japanese tourists in Billabong and Rip Curl brands are another common sight learning to ride the waves like their bronzed heroes. A plethora of super trendy eating and drinking establishments, ice-cream vendors, hotels and surf wear outlets also line the main drag opposite the beach. To get there, grab a 380 bus from Alfred Street (close to ferry wharf No. 2 at Circular Quay). The trip takes about 45 minutes. Forget driving. Parking is a nightmare, especially on weekends.
Each has at least one song written about it; each is the playground of the cariocas of Rio de Janeiro. Australians like to think we have a beach culture; we ain't seen nothing yet! The beaches double as sports grounds volleyball and soccer take over much of the sand and most of all they act as the heart of the city.
The twin beaches front the Atlantic with glimpses of Corcovado, Sugarloaf and other mountains through the haze of a city of 8 million beach lovers. Copacabana is big, brash and close to the centre of the city's sex industry. Ipanema is lined with the mansions and restaurants of the nation's richest people. Don't ask how they got their money, just admire their style.
When the sun goes down, the neighbouring streets become party territory, then at dawn the cycle starts over.
Get there very easily the beaches are just 30 minutes from the international airport, named after Antonio Carlos Jobim, who wrote Girl From Ipanema.
Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
Maya Beach on Phi Phi Island is where the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach was filmed; chances are you'll recognise the towering rocks and the pale blue sea. The sadness may never leave some of Thailand's tsunami-ravaged beaches, but tourist dollars are desperately needed and the resorts are being repaired and rebuilt at a frantic pace. Almost certainly the infrastructure will soon be better than before. Phi Phi Island was ravaged on the west coast, but the eastern shore, housing Holiday Inn, Island Village and other resorts, was unaffected. The island is about 50 kilometres from Phuket and is a kaleidoscope of rocks, sand and sea.
Get there easily with a holiday package or travel independently via Bangkok and Phuket.
James Bond Beach, Jamaica
A marketing plan prompted the name change for this stretch if sand, which was known as Oracabessa Beach. Local residents were stirred but not shaken. The locals are rich and don't have a lot to do, so they fill their lives with parties, water sports, game fishing and gossip.
Sir Noel Coward lived here when he wasn't on the French Riviera; Ian Fleming wrote most of his 007 adventures here in a mansion called Goldeneye. Live And Let Die was filmed here. The Caribbean has some of the world's better beaches; this is up there with the best. Hard white sand, clean water, generally calm, warm to hot conditions and somewhere to have a martini perhaps the Moonraker Bar. For a little more nightlife than this beach offers, go to nearby Ocho Rios and spot the glittering people.
Get there via either of the island's two international airports. Many carriers fly there, including British Airways from London. To James Bond Beach? Hire an Aston Martin, of course.