Coastlines hold a special allure, with their sheer natural beauty, dynamic ecosystems, and profound influence on human history and culture. These liminal spaces where the land meets the sea are forces of both tranquility and power. Often, they offer ample exploration and recreation opportunities — or at the very least, one of the best photo ops around. From the rugged beauty of Italy’s Amalfi Coast to the dramatic coastline of California’s breathtaking Big Sur, here are nine famous coastlines that are worth the trek.
Antrim Coast – Northern Ireland
Game of Thrones fans will recognize the Antrim Coast as one of the principal filming locations of the blockbuster show. Located in Northern Ireland, the captivating coastal region offers some of the most dramatic and varied countryside vistas in the country. In fact, the region is so stunning it’s been designated an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The coast is best explored through the Causeway Coastal Route. Across about 120 undulating miles, visitors can explore the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the historic Dunluce Castle perched on a cliff’s edge, and, most notably, Giant’s Causeway, famed for its tens of thousands of interlocking basalt columns that are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
Big Sur – California
This stunning slice of the Pacific Coast Highway — located between Carmel and San Simeon in central California — is famous for its dramatic cliffs, towering redwoods, hidden coves, and marvelous views of the Pacific Ocean. The beauty of Big Sur has intrigued adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and artists of all disciplines for generations. The list includes writers Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller, music legends the Beach Boys, and Australian-born landscape artist Francis McComas, who called the area the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”
Despite its popularity, Big Sur remains relatively isolated and sparsely populated due to environmental protections and the challenging access of its steep coastal mountain range and rugged coastline. Its breathtaking vistas remain a must-see, however, including spots such as Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls, where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean.
Amalfi Coast – Italy
The Amalfi Coast, situated along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, is famous for its steep limestone cliffs and coves, terraced vineyards, and lemon groves — all overlooking the crystal-clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Charming towns such as Positano, Ravello, and Sorrento dot the coast, each with distinct old-world and leisurely charm.
The region also boasts a rich historical heritage dating back to Roman times. Visitors can explore several historic sites, ranging from cathedrals to ancient ruins and significant works of art like the ceramics of Vietri. Outdoor enthusiasts can also tackle scenic hiking trails such as the Path of the Gods, while foodies have their pick of abundant lemon farms to visit. The Amalfi Coast was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 for its topography, history, and culture.
Gold Coast – Australia
Coastlines don’t have to be all about natural beauty, and Australia’s Gold Coast is a prime example. Spanning over 40 miles along Queensland’s southeastern coastline — from Paradise Point along the Pacific Highway to Coolangatta at the New South Wales state border — Gold Coast is a bustling seaside city famous for its beautiful beaches, vibrant urban culture, and stunning skyline.
Iconic resort areas like Surfers Paradise, situated on its namesake beach, and Broadbeach, located on Kurrawa Beach, make the Gold Coast a mecca for surfers and sunbathers alike. The city is also home to world-class theme parks like Dreamworld and Warner Bros. Movie World, as well as the lush bushwalks of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
French Riviera – France
World-famous for its idyllic beaches, mild Mediterranean climate, and azure-blue waters (the inspiration for the French name of the region, Côte d’Azur), the French Riviera has been a magnet for artists, celebrities, and tourists for centuries. This coastline in the South of France coastline is home to glamorous cities like Cannes and Nice, the rolling hillsides of Provence, and the hilltop town of Eze, which feels straight out of a fairytale. It’s also home to fascinating historic sites such as the Monaco Opera and the Trophy of Augustus.
Garden Route – South Africa
Spanning 125 miles along the southern coast of South Africa, the Garden Route extends from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Storms River in the Eastern Cape. This glorious stretch of coastline, hugging the Indian Ocean, is known for its natural beauty — from lush forests to sparkling lakes, rocky mountains, and pristine beaches. Visitors can enjoy the Garden Route in a variety of ways: road tripping with surreal coastal views, taking in the picturesque marinas of the enchanting town of Knysna, hiking the mountains of Plettenberg Bay, or daring to traverse the famous suspension bridge in Tsitsikamma National Park.
Turquoise Coast – Turkey
Also known as the Turkish Riviera, this famous coastline curving along Turkey’s southwest shore is as beautiful as the name suggests. The word turquoise comes from the French pierre tourques, meaning Turkish stone, which was first brought to Europe via Turkey. The coast has bays that indeed sparkle that distinct turquoise blue, particularly the otherworldly lagoon known as Ölü Deniz (Dead Sea). The coast is also rich in history and culture, with ancient Lycian tombs, rock-cut churches, and bustling bazaars.
Great Ocean Road – Australia
The Great Ocean Road, spanning 150 miles along Australia’s southern coastline, is not only one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, but also a historical marvel. Constructed by Australian soldiers returning from World War I between 1919 and 1932, this coastal highway offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the stunning vistas along Australia’s southern edge, while also commemorating an important chapter in the nation’s history.
As it meanders alongside the mighty Southern Ocean, the Great Ocean Road showcases dramatic seaside cliffs, the lush Maits rainforests, and the towering 12 Apostles limestone rock formations of Port Campbell National Park.
Cabot Trail – Nova Scotia, Canada
The Cabot Trail is a 186-mile-long roadway that winds through Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands, offering awe-inspiring vistas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. Named in honor of explorer John Cabot, this breathtaking coastal area on the northern tip of the island also features old-growth Acadian forests, diverse wildlife, dramatic headlands and cliffs, and charming fishing villages rich with Celtic culture. The Cabot Trail is especially famous for its vibrant autumn foliage, making it a popular destination for those seeking picturesque coastal scenery in the maritime provinces of Canada.