Best Beaches in Literature

You’ve read the books – now visit the beaches. These great novels are set on beaches that play crucial roles in the telling of their respective stories. Lose yourself in fiction as Beach Tomato discovers the stories behind these beaches from literature.

Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo, Cuba in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

You can barely move for Ernest Hemingway haunts in Havana, but get away from the city and head to Cayo Guillermo, off the northern shores of Cuba, for a literary throwback of a different kind. Hemingway moored his yacht, Pilar, on the paradisiacal white sand beach (also called Pilar, after said yacht) and the lack of development in the area means that it’s easy to transport yourself back to the 1950s, when Hemingway was living and writing in Cuba. The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of the battle between an elderly Cuban fisherman and his quarry, a giant marlin fish, and was inspired by his time spent on the boat. So grab a cocktail, pull up a sun lounger and lose yourself in Hemingway’s Cuba, all from the comfort of one of his favourite spots on the island.

Near Cannes, French Riviera in Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tender is the Night tells the story of Dick and Nicole Diver, a wealthy American couple who rent a villa in the South of France, surrounding themselves with glamorous friends as their marriage systematically falls apart. Contrasting the glitz and sophistication of the 1920s’ American lifestyle with murder, infidelity, alcoholism and the fragility of friendship, this novel showcases page-turning drama at its best. Written in a similar vein to The Great Gatsby, it exhibits hedonism gone wrong, with the French Riviera providing a stunning backdrop.

Chesil Beach, Dorset in On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Set on the beautiful Dorset coast, the pebbly Chesil Beach was a popular honeymoon destination in the 1960s, and in the book, it’s where newly-weds Edward and Florence are set to consummate their relationship in their beachside hotel retreat. However, all does not go to plan as they contemplate their contrasting attitudes to sex. The beach plays a pivotal role in the story (as you might have guessed), and Ian McEwan’s novella concludes with a harrowing scene set on the beach itself. Yikes.

Venice Beach, California in Light My Fire by Ray Manzarek

Back in the ‘60s, Venice Beach was the place to be for hip young things looking to share some Cali lovin’ and enjoy the carnival atmosphere that still permeates the LA coastline today. Ray Manzarek, who played keyboards in prolific American rock band The Doors, takes us back to the strip’s heyday, when the hippies and New Age spiritualists ruled, and the bodybuilders and street performance artists weren’t there simply to entertain the tourists.

Maya Beach, Thailand in The Beach by Alex Garland

Ok, so strictly speaking, the book doesn’t make reference to the exact location of the island that forms the setting of this cult utopia’s-not-all-it’s-cracked-up-to-be traveller’s tale. But we just couldn’t leave it out. Maya Beach on Koh Phi Phi Le, Thailand, was the location chosen to represent the island described by Alex Garland, and it’s not hard to see why. The word ‘paradise’ is no exaggeration; the bay is enclosed by awe-inspiring limestone hills, and boats slip inside to reveal sugar white sand and warm turquoise waters, backed by lush greenery. Naturally, it’s a tourist hub, but this doesn’t detract from the sheer beauty of the island and the feeling that living here might not have been the worst thing in the world, after all…

By Emma Cambers

Latest stories

More from Lifestyle

Shop now

Most watched

because we all need some lunch break love

Follow us on Facebook

beach inspo, style tips, life hacks + more

Get a dose of Beach Tomato straight to your inbox