Shore winner

There’s a beach for each of us along this first-class coast. Simon Griver knows which ones are best for surfing or scuba, which ones are for lazing and which are simply bliss if you happen to be a dog...

November 9, 2010
Ranked among the world’s top 10 beach cities, Tel Aviv appeals to a wide variety of sand-and-sea lovers, from the sporty to the sedate

Ranked among the world’s top 10 beach cities, Tel Aviv appeals to a wide variety of sand-and-sea lovers, from the sporty to the sedate

Despite the cool cultural scene inland, Tel Aviv's 14km Mediterranean coastline and its golden beaches are still the city's most attractive scenic asset. For tourists, the focus is on the 7km central section of seafront from Jaffa Port in the south to Tel Aviv Port in the north.

National Geographic magazine recently ranked the city as one of the world's top 10 beach cities, alongside Honolulu, Vancouver, Cape Town and Barcelona, describing Tel Aviv as "The Miami of the Mediterranean". The magazine recommended that travelers try the "wide and sandy" Gordon Beach, beneath the strip of hotels along Hayarkon Street.

But tourists might want to wander away from the hotel district to some of the city's less well-known beaches. For a more authentic ethnic Israeli experience, just south of Jaffa Port is the Ajami beach, a thin strip of powdery sand, surrounded by a range of local eateries.

Looking north from Jaffa, Tel Aviv's high-rise landscape looms and beckons. Past the Etzel Museum in Charles Clore Park, a strange building of glass and stone, which recalls the battle for Jaffa in 1948, are the city's most popular beaches. The Dolphinarium beach is one of the best for surfing, but it is advisable to get to the seafront at 6am for the highest waves, though even at dawn there are a surprising number of bathers on the city's beach, with many locals out for an early morning jog.

North of the Dan Panorama and David Intercontinental Hotels are the Geula, Jerusalem, Trumpledor, and Bograshov beaches - all packed on a Shabbat but bearable during the week. However, overcrowding is not a problem for much of the year, as Israelis very rarely venture on to the beach after October and before late March, even though the temperature is usually over 20ºC.

There is even Dog Beach just north of Bograshov beach, where it is acceptable for owners to let their dogs splash about in the water. The aforementioned Gordon Beach further to the north is the city's trendiest stretch of sand, where somehow the bodies seem slimmer and the tans deeper. This is classic Israeli beach territory, with bronzed Sabras playing rackets or beach football. The deckchairs cost a small fee and the stone reefs out at seas calm the waters and help protect bathers from the Mediterranean's dangerous undercurrents.

Further north are most of the city's largest hotels and along the streets just inland there is a remarkable amount of urban renewal going on, as crumbling seafront buildings are being gentrified into luxury apartments, three-star hotels and B&Bs.

The Tel Aviv Marina in the heart of the hotel district remains a focal point for scuba divers and other sea-sports fans and equipment and boats are for hire.

The nearby Atarim Square, the pride of Tel Aviv when it opened in the 1970s, is now run-down and shabby, although there are plans to renovate the area.

Continuing northwards is the delightful Independence Park beneath the shadow of the Hilton hotel - the cliffs in the park are a pick-up point for gay men at nights. The Hilton beach is one the best for surfing, while the religious beach immediately south of Tel Aviv Port is popular with orthodox Jewish bathers and those women who prefer a gender segregated beach.

Tel Aviv Port itself, near the Yarkon estuary, is a stark contrast to Jaffa Port in its modernity and is now one of the city's major leisure and entertainment centres following an ambitious urbal renewal project that was completed in 2008. The seafront promenade continues with a bridge over the River Yarkon, but the Reading power station often deters people from exploring further north, even though the Tel Baruch beach in north Tel Aviv is one of the city's most attractive and is also an excellent beach for surfing.

Those tourists who do not take pleasure in sand between their toes and salty sea can still enjoy strolling along the promenade and feeling the cooling breezes that temper Tel Aviv's heat.

Last updated: 3:21pm, November 9 2010