Craving an exotic beach holiday in the land of smiles? Travel blogger and official Friend of Thailand Julie Miller shares some of her favourite patches of sand.
Put kids on a beach, and there’s a good chance they’ll be happy. Adults, on the other hand, sometimes require more than a bucket and sand. Throw in an incredible view, perhaps, maybe a palm tree for shade ... add a hammock, and - why not? - even a cocktail. Now you’re talking - parental bliss.
Little wonder Thailand’s beaches are such a lure for Australian families: there’s enough dimensions to keep everyone happy, and a patch of exotic shoreline suitable for every taste. Here’s a glimpse of Thailand’s favourite beach destinations, from popular resorts to hidden coves.
The largest Thai island and also the most accessible for Australian travellers, Phuket has a beach to suit everyone. For those who like to be in the thick of the action, with shopping, restaurants and bars close at hand, Patong is a popular, if overcrowded choice, thick with Australian accents! Kata and Karon beaches are a little more sophisticated with hotels like Centara’s Grand Beach Resort, Karon Resort and Kata Resort all offering excellent facilities for families.
The north-western beach of Mai Khao features some top-quality resort accommodation, such as the JW Marriott Resort and Anantara Phuket; here the sand is soft and white, protected as a turtle nesting site, with a natural backdrop of the Sirinat National Park. Nearby - and also close to the airport - the Indigo Pearl Resort has a great location on Nai Yang beach, which has some cool seafood restaurants for barefoot dining. The gated complex of Laguna - featuring six deluxe resorts - is also a great choice for discerning families, with excellent facilities in a safe, kid-friendly environment.
Cape Panwa, on the extreme southern tip of Phuket, is also worth considering, with secluded swimming and some quality resorts. Note, however, that taxis in Phuket are very expensive, so shopping or dining excursions into Patong or Phuket Town will add to the budget.
With its own international airport (privately owned by Bangkok Airways), cosmopolitan Samui is also a convenient island destination for Australians, with a great range of accommodation from three-star to luxury villas and condos. A pretty island with a mountainous interior, Koh Samui is more navigable than Phuket, and can be easily driven if you brave hiring a car.
Chaweng Beach is the most popular strip of sand, but can be crowded and noisy. Certainly head here for a sunset cocktail and dinner, but you may prefer to stay in the quieter Bophut, a charming fishing village on the island’s north, or further south at laidback Lamai.
The Anantara Bophut Resort and Spa is an excellent hotel choice for families, with a gorgeous pool surrounded by monkey statues sure to delight the children.
Accessed by ferry from Koh Samui, beautiful Koh Phangan is best known as a ‘party island’, with its monthly Full Moon Party attracting thousands of revellers. Visit outside of this time, however, and you’ll find a tranquil and unspoilt paradise, with plenty of idyllic bays and coves and some truly magical beaches for the kids.
Personal favourites include the squeaky white sands and rustic bungalows of Malibu Beach, near the fishing village of Chaloklum; Haad Yao and Haad Salad on the west coast (perfect sunset-viewing beaches); or upmarket Thong Nai Pan Noi, where resorts such as the Anantara Rasanada have sublime beachfront access.
Pretty Hua Hin has been a popular beach resort amongst Thais for over 70 years, and is the preferred holiday destination for the Thai Royal Family. Due to their influence, the town is ‘squeaky clean’, with no red light district and beautifully maintained public spaces, as well as serene royal villas and palaces, some of which are open to the public.
There are some top-notch resorts scattered along Hua Hin’s eight kilometre white-sand beach, including the ritzy Intercontinental and the famous Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas (formerly) Sofitel Central, originally the old railway hotel. Offering safe and secluded swimming, the beach is also popular with kite boarders; while you can hire ponies for a ride along the sand.
A visit to the Siam Hua Hin Hills Winery is a must-do for the whole family - while the parents are wine-tasting, the kids can take an elephant-back tour of the vineyard!
Stunning Krabi, with its stunning golden beaches and limestone islands rising dramatically from an emerald sea, is arguably the most beautiful destination in all of Thailand. There are 83 islands scattered through the bay, and boat trips are the most popular way of experiencing the region.
Renowned as a rock climbers’ Paradise, Railay Beach is arguably the prettiest beach of all, with accommodation to suit all budgets. The most exclusive offering is Rayavadee, set in gorgeous established grounds and with a great kids’ program including cooking, arts and crafts and garden discovery walks. Certainly worth the splurge! Rock climbing tuition is available for young enthusiasts, while sea kayaking is another popular way for families to explore hidden sea caves, or hongs.
It took many years for Khao Lak - located an hour’s drive north of Phuket - to recover from the affects of the 1994 Boxing Day tsunami, with the beaches there the hardest hit in all of Thailand. Today, it is once again a thriving economy, with a slew of new hotels lining the glorious white-sand stretch of beach.
Khao Lak is much quieter than Phuket, with few shopping and dining options; but it’s a gorgeous, tranquil escape and ideally located to explore the jungle hinterland. A visit to Khao Sok National Park is a must; for an overnight side excursion, stay on one of the budget raft houses on the lake, a unique and fun experience for the whole family.
This is my ‘secret treasure’ of Thailand - and probably the quietest, prettiest island in the whole country. It’s also not that easy to get to - hence its isolation. Located off Koh Chang, a large island near the Cambodian border, Koh Kood is a two-hour speed-boat ride from the nearest mainland port, Trat. There are only a handful of low-profile resorts (and one extremely exclusive one, the Soneva Kiri by Six Senses) on the island; there’s also just one paved road, no 7-Elevens, and no ATMs. In fact, there is nothing to do here but relax on the beach, swing in a hammock and swim in the crystal clear water with your kids. Pure bliss, but certainly not for everyone. For me - most definitely!!
For more tips on visiting Thailand, visit Julie Miller’s blog, Kao Jai Thailand.
Thailand is generally hot and humid, particularly between March and May. November to February is cooler and dry.
The currency is the Thai Bhat (THB). At the time of writing, AUD $1 buys THB 32.15
Australians don’t require a visa for stays shorter than 30 days.