Nude beaches of the week

Wanderlust readers reveal their favorite places to play volleyball and tan in the buff.

Published July 24, 1998 7:00PM (EDT)

Sand and body sculptures on southern Crete

My favorite nude beach is called the Red Beach on the southern shore of Crete in a town called Matala. My traveling partner and I camped in the caves surrounding the beach for about two and a half months one winter, and had one of the best times of our lives. Once you hike down the rocky cliff, you'll find an almost desolate beach with very fine sand -- with 100-foot sandstone cliffs to the right and miles of sandy beaches separated by natural rock walls to the left. When I went there in the summer, it was full of people in various forms of undress, but a free and easy attitude prevailed.

The first time I visited the beach, we met a French man named Gerard and for two weeks, we never saw him with any clothes on and assumed he was a lunatic left over from Matala's hippie-filled past. We quickly found out that we were right -- except for the lunatic part -- and we became good friends with Gerard, sharing many stories over our nightly campfire and bottle of wine. Two years ago, my girlfriend and I made a stop in Matala to visit the old cave and see the Red Beach that I had told her so much about, and wouldn't you know it, six years later Gerard was still there, camping and carving the most beautiful shapes and sculptures into the great sandstone rock that lines the Red Beach's west wall. Based on Greek and Egyptian mythology, with sea creatures that look very realistic, his sculpture became practically a local attraction, making the newspaper in the nearby town of Mires. (He has a background in archaeology). If you are ever in Crete, Matala and the Red Beach are a must, and tell Gerard that Patrick from California sends his regards.

-- Patrick Cummings

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A Canadian ocean playground

A world-class nude beach can be found in Canada's Ocean PlayGround in Nova Scotia. The beach is a half-hour drive from Halifax, straight down the coastline toward Crystal Crescent Beach, taking you through Herring Cove, Duncan's Cove and the fishing village of Sambro along the way. There are three beaches here and the two near the parking lot are textile beaches. A 20-minute hike through the bushes leads to the nude beach, which is situated on a small tidal cove. The beach is sheltered at both ends by the curve of the shoreline and by large rock precipices. The sand is fine and white but not too hot to walk on. The Atlantic Ocean is cool here and so a refreshing dip to escape the sun is more typical than a leisurely soak.

Beyond the beach, flat rocky cliffs extend for a few kilometers. It is very easy to traverse these outcrops, which are also clothing optional. You can sit on these cliffs with the ocean surging just meters below. On the right day, the waves crash like thunderclaps and white foam and spray lift high in the air. If you do not enjoy the heat of the beach, you can nestle beneath large stones to escape the breeze and find any degree of privacy you might prefer. You can only hear the sounds of nature and some quiet friendly maritime conversation, and on occasion you can see whales from the peak of these rocks

-- Ryan Stoppard

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Legally lewd

Our favorite nude beach has to be Haulover Beach Park in North Miami, Florida. It has ample parking, lifeguards, flush toilets, showers and is full of a mixed group of people, ranging from families to couples to gays. We can thank the South Florida Free Beach Association for Haulover's legal nude status -- they have worked very hard to keep it safe, legal, clean and clothing optional.

On any given weekend there are hundreds of people, so get there early and bring suntan lotion. As a nude beach, overt public sex is definitely frowned upon, but in-ocean cuddling and kissing is not only tolerated but considered charming and innocent. The best spot is clustered around the volleyball court, which happens to be in front of an offshore coral reef, which is easily accessible to kids. Gays will find a tolerant, relaxed, fashionable atmosphere north of the lifeguard stand. The beach is known for its absolutely sandy (no rocks) bottom, and there is an offshore sand plateau that allows for some serious ocean swimming and standing.

Admission is only $3.50 per vehicle. Good restaurants include the Afterdeck for sandwiches (which delivers to the beach), Taisho sushi and the bistros of nearby tony Bal Harbour, Sunny Isles and Aventura.

Haulover Beach counters the notion that A.) Americans can't handle a certifiable nude beach; B.) family nudism doesn't exist or is harmful; and C.) gays and straights can't share a beach and a cold beer in harmony.

-- Alan and Jane Weiss

By Patrick Cummings

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