Beaches, like travellers, come in all styles. There are the sleek and sophisticated ones, the powdery-soft stretches that make all the “most beautiful” lists and star in countless Instagram posts. There are the party ones, home to lively day clubs and DJ-fuelled parties, and the boho-chic ones that chill out with bonfires and sing-a-longs. Exotic ones in far-flung locations are vibrant with colour and culture, while rocky ones may seem prickly at first, but end up revealing their own treasures.
But our favourite beaches are the ones you have to work for—the little-known stretches of sand around the world that require a real effort to find. Here, we spotlight 13 such spots—beaches that are local secrets, hidden away and totally private. They aren’t just exclusive or reserved for a lucky few, but real discoveries, like the beach in Australia that requires a two-day return hike, or another one in Bermuda that only exists for a few hours of the day at low tide. From Mykonos to Mozambique, these 13 beaches are the so special, you won’t- and don’t- have to share variety.
Mopion Island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
While the “secret” of the Grenadines appears to have already got out, there are still some less-discovered—and off-the-beaten-path—places hidden along this Eastern Caribbean gem. Tiny Mopion Island, or as locals call it, “Sandy Island”, is the perfect spot for a true castaway experience, as there’s nothing there but a thatch-roofed palapa and two cushy loungers. The islet is ringed by coral (making it a great launch pad for snorkelling and diving), so you can only access it via a narrow channel—meaning you’ll have to ride in on a dingy from your private boat.
Where to Stay: Less than a mile from Mopion, the private island resort of Petit St. Vincent is the closest place to stay. The property offers complimentary half-days on the isolated beach, complete with a breakfast or lunch picnic and a walkie-talkie to radio the staff when you’re ready to be “rescued.”
North Point and South Point Beaches, Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Gorgeous white-sand beaches abound in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago, and many of them are only accessible via some private and exclusive way. Some of our favourite beaches in the region, though, are right on Benguerra—mainly because you’re pretty much guaranteed to never see another person while you’re there. Reachable via helicopter from mainland Mozambique, and set just south of the larger island of Bazaruto, Benguerra is only home to a few resorts—so when one hotel is planning on setting up a “castaway” picnic for their guests, it coordinates with the others to make sure no one else will be there. Among the scenic choices for your exclusive beach day are North Point—a sandy strip bordered by the ocean on one side and a calmer bay on the other—and South Point, a wide, dune-topped beach dotted with giant pieces of bleached driftwood that look like they were strategically placed there for a fashion shoot. Spend the day searching for shells and ghost crabs, spotting flamingos and cooling off in the Indian Ocean.
Where to Stay: AndBeyond Benguerra Island takes guests to North and South Point for a cushy dune-top picnic complete with pillow-topped beach beds and gourmet eats. The resort can also whisk guests to hidden-away spots for exceptional diving adventures or traditional dhow boat.
Madame Zabre Beach, Desroches Island, Seychelles
Though there’s only one hotel on Desroches Island, it isn’t technically private—which is part of what makes staying there such a special experience. Located a 35-minute flight from the capital of Mahé in the Seychelles’ less-visited Outer Amirantes group, the 933-acre island is home to two villages—one Indian, one Creole—with a total population of about 100. In-between, there’s also the Island Conservation Society, which focusses on land restoration, wildlife protection, and operating a sanctuary and breeding center for the indigenous Aldabra giant tortoise. And ringing all this is a series of tucked-away beaches and sandy spots of varying sizes. One particular favourite is Madame Zabre Beach, a powder-soft cove shaded by palm trees. To reach it, you’ll need to bike across the island’s airstrip, through unmarked forested pathways, until a you reach a small copse framing the postcard-perfect shores. Keep a lookout for giant turtles along the way.
Where to Stay: Guests of the island’s sole resort, Four Seasons Desroches Private Island, can hop on their personal bike to visit the villages and sanctuary, then continue peddling—picnic hamper in tow—to enjoy Madame Z’s beach for the day.
Private Beqa Lagoon Islands, Fiji
The island of Vitu Levu in Fiji is already a serene escape on which you can explore natural wonders and experience unique cultural traditional and rituals. But if you want an even more remote hideaway, it’s also a good base from which to stake claim to your own strip of sand. Each day during receding tide, tiny sandbanks emerge from the ocean, revealing their pristine white sands for only four or five hours at a time. Get there quickly to enjoy these temporal havens, where you can dip in the blue-green waters and enjoy a Champagne-fuelled picnic before it’s time for the sand to retreat back underwater.
Where to Stay: Nanuku, Auberge Resorts Collection can sail you to one of these “disappearing” spots and set up an unforgettable picnic. Or, if you’d like a bit more time on a private beach, rent out the resort’s two-acre private island in the Beqa Lagoon system of coral reefs. The refuge can be booked for day trips or a magical overnight experience, and is only available for exclusive use.
Mosquera Islet, the Galápagos Islands
On Mosquera, “do not bathe while a male is nearby” is a warning that refers to the more-aggressive members of the island’s only residents: sea lions. Located between the islands of Baltra and North Seymour, the narrow islet rises up from the sea ringed by a reef of lava rocks and coral, and is fronted by a white-sand beach that’s popular both with human visitors and one of the region’s largest sea lion colonies. Only accessible via a wet beach landing, Mosquera is also a top-notch snorkelling and diving site, offering easy access to a world of tropical fish, brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies and more. Along with the limited physical accessibility, the island is restricted to those on naturalist-guided walks and other specially-authorised permit holders, so you’ll never find crowds lined up on the beach—save for the sunning sea lions, of course.
Where to Stay: Set on the central Galápagos island of Santa Cruz, the luxe Pikaia Lodge—a stylish spot that also happens to be completely carbon neutral and built using recycled materials—has three house yachts that can ferry guests to Mosquera and other spectacular islands in the area.
Accidental Beach, Edmonton, Canada
In 2017, something magical appeared in Edmonton, Canada. As construction was underway on two new bridges across the Edmonton River Bank, locals began to notice a beautiful stretch of sand suddenly appearing further back along the North Saskatchewan River. When it continued to grow into a decent-sized beach, a few intrepid folks ventured through the brush to check it out. Word slowly began to get out about this secret spot—an unexpected find in this Alberta town—and thus began an epic struggle between citizens and bureaucrats, pleasure-seekers and inconvenienced homeowners that continues to this day.
But what’s wonderful is that the beach endures. After disappearing that first winter, the “Sand District”, as locals dubbed it, popped up again in summer 2018 and is expected to appear this summer season, as well. There’s a significant movement to keep it as a permanent site; the rocks that were placed in the river during the bridge construction could be adjusted and left there safely, ensuring a full-time beach. While those plans continue to be debated, the beach will most likely still be around for another two years, until construction wraps up—so try and catch this Canadian “Atlantis” while you can.
Where to Stay: Set in a 1910 former financial trust building, downtown Edmonton’s Union Bank Inn is full of history, character and standout dining spots; choose from rooms in historic or contemporary style.
Bremer Island, Northern Territory, Australia
Arnhem Land may just be one of Australia’s last great frontiers. Bordered by the Arafura Sea, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Kakadu National Park, the vast, 37,452-square-mile natural wonderland is dotted with gorges and rivers, waterfalls and rocky outcrops, as well as a wealth of ancient indigenous cultural sites. The territory also remains under Aboriginal ownership and protection, which means that visitors are required to obtain a permit (via a hotel or tour operator) to enter.
All of this makes exploring the beaches of Bremer Island off the northeastern tip of Arnhem Land an extra-special experience. Hop on a 15-minute seaplane flight or a private boat transfer from the mainland to reach the island, which is ringed by pristine beaches that are usually empty, save for nesting sea turtles and rich birdlife.
Where to Stay: The only tourist spot on Bremer is the Banu Banu Beach Resort, a six-tent eco-resort built in concert with the Yolgnu people—so not only are the beaches exclusive, but they also offer plenty of opportunities to interact with locals, who are happy to show you how to spear fish or weave baskets the traditional way.
Fragia Beach, Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos is hardly an undiscovered destination, but even the popular hot spot has a few secrets. Case in point: Fragia Beach, which until a few years ago was not open to the public. Set on the island’s more remote southeastern side, the wide, sandy beach is tucked among a series of other “locals’ secret” spots, including Pano Tigani, hidden gem Tsagari beach and the wide cover of Lia Beach. Fragia, though, is even more of a find, as it is most easily accessed by boat (the land approach requires a keen sense of direction and a patience for unmarked dirt roads). Once there, you’ll find sparkling Aegean Sea waters and an expansive, protected crescent of sand.
Where to Stay: Make a day of it with a cover-to-catch experience courtesy of Grace Mykonos, Auberge Resorts Collection, which includes a private sail on a traditional caïque fishing boat, casting for fresh seafood, a visit to Fragia Beach for a dip and an intimate barbecue back at the hotel.
Hog Bay Beach, Bermuda
Beautiful beaches abound in Bermuda, but Hog Bay stands out as much for its elusive nature as its aesthetic qualities. First, you’ve got to navigate getting there, hiking over steep, rocky and hilly terrain along a woodland trail in the 32-acre Hog Bay Park nature reserve. Then, once you arrive, the beach may not even be around, as it only exists during low tide. Assuming all the stars align, you’ll find a gorgeous expanse of blush-hued sand leading to clear-and-cool water, and dotted with a few craggy boulders. In addition to providing a secluded spot for sun worshipping, picnics and a mid-day snooze, the beach is great for snorkelling—so even if you miss low tide and arrive to find just the sea, you can jump right in to explore the underwater world.
Where to Stay: The 240 acres of the recently redone Rosewood Bermuda include a golf course, spa, several dining and drinking options, and a long, serene stretch of pink-sand beach.
Klein Curaçao, Curaçao
A historic lighthouse, palm trees and a couple of huts are all you’ll find on Klein Curaçao—along with a long, wide stretch of empty beach. Set eight miles off the southeast coast of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao, the 0.66-square-mile “Little Curaçao” has no inhabitants, and it’s only accessible by helicopter or a two-hour boat ride. Once there, you’re rewarded with one of the longest and most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, as well the chance to snorkel past vibrant coral and scuba dive to shipwrecks and underwater caves. While most visitors just hang out for the day, locals like to camp for the night along the beach, under a canopy of stars; most luxury hotels or tour operators on Curaçao can make that happen.
Where to Stay: Check in to one of the 23 suites and villas at Baoase (many with private plunge pools), and enjoy easy access to the sea, not to mention a pretty spectacular beach right in front of the resort.
Satellite Island, Tasmania, Australia
It takes a somewhat epic journey to reach this wild hideaway—which only recently became accessible to the public—but it’s worth it. After getting to mainland Australia, then to its southern island of Tasmania, hop in a car in capital city Hobart and drive along a windy road that takes you through coastal towns and tiny inlets. About 90 minutes later, you’ll take a ferry from the town of Kettering to Bruny Island, where you’ll continue to drive along the coastline (this time stopping to snack on fresh oysters, artisan cheese and other Bruny specialties.) In the village of Alonnah, the Island Keeper will load you up onto another ferry for the five-minute trip across the appropriately storybook-sounding D’Entrecasteaux Channel—and, finally, to Satellite Island. (Of course, you can also arrive by helicopter, but the long way is definitely part of the decompressing experience.)
Once there, wander along cliff walks and down to the water’s edge, where you can enjoy lunch at the Boathouse, beach-comb for treasures, cast for shellfish and crayfish right off the jetty, or shuck oysters plucked fresh from the sea. The beaches include a mix of pebbly strips and sandy coves; you can kayak or jump into the pristine Tasman Sea waters from either, then come back at night for a bonfire and glass of Tasmanian wine.
Where to Stay: The only accommodation on-site, Satellite Island is an exclusive-use luxury lodge with room for up to eight guests in the Summer House, Boathouse, and one posh tent. The houses come stocked with kayaks, fishing equipment, snorkels, stand-up paddleboards and more to enjoy on and off the beaches.
Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia
With more than 310 miles of coastline, this South Australia island (set about a 20-minute flight from Adelaide) has no dearth of scenic beaches for swimming, sunning and catching waves. Stokes Bay, though, is where you go for solitude—and a bit of adventure. You’ll need to walk through a labyrinth of caves and rock tunnels (on an uneven path nicknamed “The Secret Tunnel”) before reaching the gleaming white-sand beach on the quiet north coast. The picturesque spot is protected from the surf by giant rocks—resulting in what feels like a big, warm private swimming pool. And while you probably won’t see another soul while you’re there, you’ll find plenty of company in the native wildlife—including a number of the island’s namesake kangaroos.
Where to Stay: The perennial award-winning Southern Ocean Lodge is a contemporary, all-suite island resort complete with gourmet dining, lots of complimentary perks and unbeatable coastal views.
Refuge Cove, Victoria, Australia
Victoria’s Wilson’s Promontory National Park is full of natural wonders and several stunning (and less-visited) beaches. Fairy Cove, for example, is only accessible by foot at low tide, when two nooks come together to form the pristine beach. It’s mainly only visited by locals, who come to sunbathe atop the granite boulders dotting the cove. For those who really want to earn their beachside fun, though, there’s Refuge Cove, which is only accessible to boaters with special permits (and even then, with lots of restrictions) and to hikers up for a 21-mile trek with two nights of camping. The hike will take you over steep slopes and river crossings, and up to panoramic lookout points. At the end, you’ll descend onto a white-sand beach bordered by wooded slopes and sparkling waters.
Where to Stay: After your hike and camp-out, reward yourself with a stay in one of Wilson’s luxury Coastal View Cabins, which come equipped with jetted soaking tubs, pillow menus, foldable glass doors to take in the views—and the possibility of visits from koalas, wallabies or kangaroos.