One of the best ... Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro.

One of the best ... Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro.

Copacabana, Rio De Janeiro

With Sugarloaf Mountain in the background, this four-kilometre stretch of beach (pictured) is the place where Brazilian beach culture — and the G-string bikini — was born. Crowded with overtanned men and women in tiny swimsuits, its attractions include the landmark Copacabana Palace Hotel and countless beach bars. Its waters are calmer than those off the neighbouring beach of Ipanema.

Repulse Bay, Hong Kong

On the island's south coast, this crescent-shaped beach is a bus ride from Central. Watched over by statues of Taoist gods Tin Hau and Kwun Yum, and the houses and apartments of the super-rich on the hills above, the beach is packed on weekends, although swimmers can escape by paddling out to offshore rafts. Film buffs often take the 20-30 minute seaside promenade to Deep Water Bay, the setting of the 1955 film Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, while those in search of a quieter experience opt for a train or ferry to Lantau Island.

Praia do Guincho, Lisbon

A glorious white sandy beach north-west of the city and a magnet for surfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers and sunset photographers, this beach is part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and was immortalised in the pre-titles section of the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's a 45-minute train ride from Lisbon to Cascais and then a 20-minute bus ride.

Wannsee, Berlin

This sandy "beach" is a man-made stretch on the shores of a lake and the water is murky and relatively warm. It's a 30-minute trip from the city centre but on a baking hot sumnmer's day, it's the only way to cool off. And, with a large section set aside for nude bathing, it offers an interesting insight into local leisure culture. The resort here has its own complex history, with the Nazis critical of the "unGerman" design of the 1930 lido building that overlooks the water. The nearby Wannsee villa was the site of the infamous 1942 conference that designed Hitler's "final solution".

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Even if it weren't a convenient eight kilometres from the city, this stretch of beach would be worth visiting. Noted for its surf, restaurants and bars — especially Bondi Icebergs, where diners feel as if they're floating over the ocean — its southern end is the starting point of an exhilarating cliff-top walk that winds six kilometres past the beautiful beaches of Tamarama, Bronte and Clovelly and on to Coogee.