Types of Beaches Throughout the World

From white silky sand to black rubble, beaches come in many forms

Beaches have one thing in common: they border bodies of water. Beaches in narrow strips that run the banks of a river or stream have as much right to claim ”beach” status as ocean-side stretches of beach as wide as a football field.

Commonly identified by classification, beaches are sorted by type of sand (including grain size and color), the kind of water they border (saltwater or freshwater), their style of formation (dune, flat, sandbank, crescent, for example), level of urbanization (wild, developed, or somewhere in between), and use by humans (family, sports, nude, etc.).

No matter how they are identified or classified, all beaches are manufactured by nature in much the same way: materials found on the sea bottom are brought to shore by the extreme forces of waves and winds. When we walk on a beach, crushing the grains of sand to even tinier fragments, we are effectively participating in the development of the beach.

Sand equals beach, and given that sand is eroded from other natural objects, like rocks (and their junior counterparts, stones and pebbles, really worn-down rocks), lava and coral, there are accordingly hundreds of types of beaches, technically speaking.

Normally the color of a beach takes its hue from the elements that formed it, sometimes quite literally millions of years ago. The relentless motion of waves on the shore in locations of oceans, seas and extra-large lakes over centuries and millennia, break down and erode larger natural items, and over time become sand.

White coral and shells, if crushed long enough, become white sand; pink-toned coral will result in a pinkish sand, and a combination of the two will often result in a warm shade of beige. Even fossils contribute to the formation and color of sand. A green-toned sand may be tinted by seaweed or green shades of coral. Grey sand is often very old, bleached out (by the sun) black sand. Sand even comes in royal colors like purple and gold!

Black sand is mostly formed by lava, the result of violent volcanic activity; hot lava meets cool water and in essence, explodes, creating fragments that are then further worn down with time and the erosion caused by water currents and tides, and elements of the weather. Black sand also contains minerals like thorium, tungsten, titanium and zirconium; its composition may also include pulverized gemstones like ruby, sapphire, garnet, topaz and even diamonds!

When you take a stroll on a beach, you are literally walking on the sands of time. Miniscule grains that millions of years ago were shells, coral or even boulders. Beaches may edge oceans, lakes or rivers, they may be white or pink or black, and they may be powdery or rubble, but all types of beaches are visual displays of the ancient planet on which we live.

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