Far away in Australia
So you want to escape civilization and flee to that mythical undiscovered beach, a place where it's just you, the sand, and the sea (okay, and a nice meal after a sunbaked day)?Well, we've found it, but beware—Haggerstone Island, part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is for those who can really leave their cares behind. Roy and Anna Turner did just that 15 years ago, ditching their day jobs and building a house on this uninhabited island almost 400 miles from Cairns, the nearest mainland town. In 1993, the Turners decided to share the pristine waters full of coral reefs and the stunning white-sand beaches with select visitors. The design of the three open-plan guest bungalows is simple and raw (forget Jacuzzis—the bathrooms are outdoors) and the Turners accept only eight people at a time on the island, ensuring maximum privacy. So what do you do there, given all that isolation?"Very little," say the Turners, and that's the point. But if you find it difficult to simply be, the reefs and a nearby1840's shipwreck make for incredible snorkeling. Evenings are just as splendidly languid as a low-key afternoon on the beach, with dinner cooked in the main bungalow's sundeck fireplace and servedunder the stars.
Haggerstone Island,61-145/111-883, fax 61-145/211-883; from $236 per person.—Laura J. Vogel
Don't come to this ruggedly beautiful strip of land 14 miles north of San Francisco expecting days of sunbathing and Boogie-boarding—the water's frigid and that infamous fog often creeps up the coast. But if your idea of a good time is to watch the sunset on a driftwood-strewn cove with your black Lab and a bottle of the region's fine Chardonnay, then seek out Muir Beach (good luck, since the tiny seaside community is just a blip on some maps and not even listed on others). The best place to stay in town, the seven-room Pelican Inn, is modeled after an English country inn; pub dishes like bangers-and-mash are big hits on the California-British menu (415/383-6000; doubles from $158). Innkeeper Katrinka McKay cheerily directs guests to her favorite spot, the meditation garden at the Green Gulch Farm & Zen Center, a short walk from the Pelican. Need more stimulation than a relaxing day at the beach?Try sea-kayaking lessons at nearby Stinson Beach or a hike through Muir Woods, the spectacular giant-redwood preserve just four miles from town. —L.J.V.
More Surf And Turf
(03)Quick, visit Maya Beach before the breathless hordes of Leo-lovers descend. This jade-green oasis on the Thai islet of Phi Phi Le is the little-known (for now, anyway) setting of The Beach, Mr. DiCaprio's latest opus.
(04) With its dramatic cliffsand a laid-back hippie vibe, Ditch Plains in Montauk, Long Island, is considered the Northeast's top surfing destination by some big kahunas.
(05)Puerto Peñasco on Mexico's Sonora Coast, long a favorite weekendgetaway for in-the-know Southwesterners
(it's just a four-hour drive south from Phoenix),has miles of white sand along the warm, placid Gulf of California. You can avoid the tequila-soaked frat boys who frequent Peñasco by renting a condo in a quiet community such as Las Conchas (800/427-6259 or 602/439-9004; $170 — $300 per night).