Warm sun, sparkling blue seas and miles of unblemished white sand are more likely to bring to mind the beach vacation of a lifetime than a backdrop to several years of study. For some higher education students, though, palm-fringed coves next to classrooms and surfing between lessons are not a dream but a day-to-day reality.
The following 30 colleges around the world all have something to offer studious beach lovers, boasting as they do such features as gorgeous private stretches of sand, tropical views, and inviting waters in which to take a dip. Located everywhere from California to the Caribbean and South Africa to the Seychelles, the campuses are all within easy reach of the beach, making them ideal destinations for learners who wish to relax in stunning surroundings after a hard day’s hitting the books.
To develop this piece, we first investigated three list articles to find leads for potential entries: About Education’s “Colleges for Beach Lovers,” Campus Explorer’s “Best Colleges by the Beach” and Surfer magazine’s “Top 10 Surf Colleges.”
In order to determine which of these possible inclusions are truly “at the beach,” we also looked at how near to golden expanses of sand the campuses are and their ease of accessibility to the schools’ students.
Other entries were found using specific internet searches and Google Earth. The latter was especially helpful in determining how close each college is to a beach, particularly those institutions in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and South Asia.
We also investigated what might make each beach attractive to students; often this came down to factors like natural beauty and suitability for swimming, surfing, and other water sports. Purpose-built facilities for the college on the beach were looked into, as well as the use of the locale by any of the school’s clubs or organizations. This helped to reinforce the link between the institution and the beach and to point up the variety of appealing activities that take place there.
30. Goa University – Goa, India
It may be the smallest state in India, but Goa is nevertheless famed for its world-class beaches and pulls in millions of tourists to its shores every year. Hence, lucky students at Goa University can combine their studies with basking on palm-fringed stretches of sand and splashing about in the tropical waters of the Arabian Sea. One prime spot is Odxel Beach, just a short walk from campus. Relatively undiscovered by vacationers, this beach is the perfect place for getting a bit of peace and quiet while catching some sunshine. It’s so blissful, in fact, that numerous couples have taken their vows at the Catholic chapel located there. Not far from the eastern side of campus, meanwhile, is the larger Bambolim Beach.
Just a few feet from the waters of Corio Bay in Southern Australia lies Deakin University’s Geelong Waterfront Campus. The school also happens to be in the Victoria city’s central business district; however, even in such a bustling urban hub, the call of the sea is ever present, perhaps most notably at Cunningham Pier – just a three-minute stroll from campus – and its on-site restaurant, bar and café. Yet while the campus is positioned beside Western Beach, the sands begin in earnest at Eastern Beach – still less than 20 minutes’ walk from the university, along the water’s edge. In addition to its pristine shore, Eastern Beach also features an art deco-style swimming area and an adjacent space for picnicking, while lifeguards patrol the blissfully blue waters throughout the summer months.
The only thing separating the University of Malaysia, Terengganu from the South China Sea are lush green spaces and a long, sandy beach – a backdrop that the school says on its website “beckons every spirited soul to enroll.” Given such attractive natural surroundings, it’s perhaps easy to envy the University of Malaysia, Terengganu students who as part of their courses go diving and snorkeling in the beautiful nearby waters. Mangroves also abound in the area, as do a wonderful variety of wetland plants and animals. The school itself was founded as recently as 2002, five years before it was awarded university status.
It may be around 1,000 miles from the coast, but that hasn’t stopped Minnesota’s Saint John’s University from having its own private beach. The sandy expanse in question is positioned beside the 159-acre Sagatagan Lake – a body of water that’s exclusively within the grounds of the all-male Collegeville-based school, and one that’s home to northern pike, brown bullheads and painted turtles. Moreover, while the beach is surely a great place for relaxing away from the books, Saint John’s students can, if they so wish, also take advantage of a rather whimsical floating classroom that launches from the sands. The wooden “Raft U” accommodates groups of an average of 20 students from both Saint John’s and affiliated all-female school the College of Saint Benedict, allowing them to take part in not entirely serious outdoor discussions, concerts or painting sessions out on the water.
According to Lonely Planet, taking a sundown stroll along Chennai’s Marina Beach is among the south-east Indian city’s highlights. Fortunately for students at the University of Madras, the huge stretch of sand’s northern section is less than 600 feet away from campus. It really is huge, too; in fact, no other natural urban beach in India is as long. Also, because it lies beside a city – the country’s fifth largest in terms of population – there’s always plenty of activity, whether it be locals taking a paddle or fishing boats on their way out to sea. Particularly close to the beach is the school’s Senate House, an architectural gem that’s something of an attraction in its own right.
There’s no denying the natural beauty of Clemson University’s 1,400-acre South Carolina campus – which, besides its proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills, is also right next to Lake Hartwell. The school’s prime position likely influenced its official Campus Beach and Recreation Area, which provides students with a wealth of sand- and water-based activities, from beach volleyball to water skiing. Indeed, the beach and its surrounding area serve as a base for numerous outdoor clubs, with amenities including a disc golf course, rowing boats and athletics areas. Additionally, students can borrow canoes and kayaks for free, making jaunts around Lake Hartwell’s 56,000 acres of water easy.
According to parent institution the Polytechnic University of Valencia, the Higher Polytechnic School of Gandia combines a beachfront location with 300 days of annual sunshine. Moreover, the Spanish city of Gandia is a prime vacation spot, likely owing at least in part to that beautiful Mediterranean weather, not to mention sands that stretch for almost four miles. Just over a 10-minute stroll from campus, Gandia’s beach is the recipient of a Blue Flag eco-label, meaning the locale meets the Blue Flag organization’s international water quality and environmental standards. Plus, adding to the appeal of the school’s stunning setting is Gandia’s abundance of nearby seafood restaurants.
The University of Ruhuna sits on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, on the outskirts of the city of Matara. Such a position places it right in the middle of what’s undoubtedly an outstandingly pretty section of coastline. And while there are numerous gorgeous stretches of sand to explore in the region, University of Ruhuna students really need to look no further than the adjacent Meddawatta-Lakshawaththa Beach. This locale is both an excellent spot for surfing and relatively uncrowded – allowing visitors to catch some rays in peace. Snorkeling enthusiasts, meanwhile, should travel four miles along the coast and through Matara to pretty Polhena Beach, which has the added benefit of safe sea swimming for beginners.
Perfectly positioned above San Diego’s Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma Nazarene University is so nearby to the beach that it’s possible to surf either side of lessons. Furthermore, accessibility is relatively simple: the reef breaks of Sunset Cliffs between Point Loma and Ocean Beach, a couple of miles away, are easily reachable via footpaths. And although the waves at Sunset Cliffs are generally only suitable for experienced surfers, anyone up for tackling them can get some practice with the school’s surf club. Indeed, male and female students with a knack for the sport can try out for Point Loma’s surfing team, which competes in the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s Collegiate Division (NSSA).
21. Laurentian University, Sudbury Campus – Sudbury, Ontario
Laurentian University describes its Sudbury campus as “truly a gem” – hardly surprising given that a private beach is located within the Canadian school’s grounds. The quiet, sandy cove is set beside the 313-acre Lake Nepahwin, where the water plummets to depths of 72 feet. Beach swimming is understandably popular here, though it is an activity that’s likely limited to the warmer months. Furthermore, speaking to The Globe and Mail, one student called the school’s beach “wonderful [and] private.” They also revealed that the university’s vicinity has “an awesome network of campus trails and wilderness areas used for recreation and research.”
Only a golf course – one of the top links venues in South Africa, no less – separates Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University from the beach. Moreover, as part of a bay area that’s also named for the former South African president, the school is in a location dubbed the country’s “Watersport Capital” – with students able to try their hand at surfing, jet skiing and canoeing. In fact, on certain designated sections of beach it’s even possible to go horse riding or quad biking. Meanwhile Algoa Bay, the seacoast area of Nelson Mandela Bay, boasts calm waters that are also markedly temperate – no cooler than 57° F in winter and generally averaging between 64 and 70° F in summer.
New London, Connecticut-based Mitchell College has the prestige of hosting its own private beach. Located beside the seaport city’s admired deep-water harbor, the stretch of sand is the exclusive domain of students, alumni and staff. Anyone else must pay at least $125 for the privilege of accessing the locale, though this fee doesn’t apply to the seals that occasionally turn up – nor, indeed, to the local swans or geese. The beach is open until sunset during the summer and has water suitable for swimming, although enrollees ought to bear in mind that no lifeguards are on duty and so should, therefore, take caution. Over the years the beach has been cared for by the school’s environmental studies students, who in the past have removed invasive flora, while annual litter-picking days are attended by volunteers.
Maine’s climate isn’t exactly tropical, but that doesn’t stop students at the University of New England’s Biddeford campus from enjoying the on-site beach during the summer. After all, July high temperatures in Biddeford average at 76° F, which is certainly warm enough for catching some rays or taking a dip. There’s plenty of room to do either, too; the sweeping beach is big enough to find a quiet spot there, while some strategically located rocks provide shelter when the wind’s up. The school is understandably proud of its coastal position, saying on its website that students “get to live where others come to vacation.”
17. Caribbean Medical University, Curaçao Campus – Willemstad, Curaçao
The Caribbean Medical University campus on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao has such a vacation-friendly setting that its next-door neighbor is a luxury six-acre beach resort. Tucked adjacent to Piscadera Bay in the island’s capital city of Willemstad, the school is among the region’s leading medical colleges, with learners coming to attend the institution from countries across the globe. However, the temptation to stray away from study to explore Marriott Beach’s white sands and turquoise waters must be pretty strong, especially as the locale is but a few hundred feet from campus.
16. University of Wollongong, Innovation Campus – North Wollongong, Australia
The University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus lies scarcely more than a 15-minute walk from eastern Australia’s evocatively named Fairy Meadow Beach and is a good deal closer to the shoreline as the crow flies. Such proximity to the golden sands ensures that they’re popular with students, especially as the ocean here is so surf friendly. Swimmers, meanwhile, may be more at home at North Wollongong Beach – particularly as, unlike Fairy Meadow Beach, its waters are watched by lifeguards at all times of the year. Located at the southern end of Fairy Meadow Beach, North Wollongong Beach is also a haven for paddling and rock pooling as well as surfing.
With the Caribbean island of Nevis measuring a mere 36 square miles, the beach is never far away, wherever students may care to venture. Indeed, the Medical University of the Americas in Charlestown is located less than three quarters of a mile’s walk from Windward Beach and is even closer as the crow flies. Untouched by developers, the blissfully secluded stretch of sand takes its name from the trade winds – the temperate gusts that come from Africa and are so beloved of sailors. Body surfing is one possible activity at Windward, as is swimming, at least for those who are at ease in the water. The school itself describes Nevis as “a classic but low-key Caribbean destination” – and given that it doesn’t have even one streetlamp and is notably quieter than its neighbor St. Kitts, that certainly seems accurate.
14. University of California, Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara, California
According to its official website, the University of California, Santa Barbara has “a campus like no other.” And as its over 1,000 acres of grounds are located right alongside the Pacific Ocean, the school certainly ought to be a draw for beach lovers. Just east of the coastal university is Goleta Beach, which boasts golden sands and a 1,500-foot jetty – the latter used by fishing enthusiasts, boaters and strolling locals. As part of the 29-acre Goleta Beach Park, the area also attracts picnickers, bird watchers and cyclists, all of whom are catered for by an on-site eatery and outdoor barbecues. To the school’s west, meanwhile, is the beachside community of Isla Vista, a haven for students and surfers.
Think of Pondicherry – now technically known as Puducherry – and chances are that Life of Pi will spring to mind. The eponymous protagonist of Yann Martel’s novel and Ang Lee’s movie adaptation begins his life in the former French territory, which lies on the attractive Coromandel Coast in southern India. A little way north of the city, meanwhile, is Pondicherry University. Spread over 800 acres, the campus grounds slope down toward the school’s own private beach, where waves break on golden sands. Complete with a backdrop of swaying palms, this is the perfect spot for students to relax in – or maybe take a dip in the waters of the Bay of Bengal – after class.
Given that it’s located less than 500 yards from North Kirra Beach, Southern Cross University’s campus in Gold Coast, Australia is an excellent choice for those who love basking on golden sands. Luckily, taking a dip in the water nearby is also generally safe thanks to the lifeguards positioned near Tugun Surf Club, while the surfing here is said to be excellent, in particular at Kirra Point. Moreover, according to one Southern Cross University student, the school’s magnificent natural setting is something that learners really savor. “We’ve seen whales migrating past, watched tow-in surfers when the swell is up [and] seen the skydivers come down on Kirra Beach,” she explained. “Quite often, lecturers are closing doors or blinds to stop students staring out the windows.”
11. University of Seychelles, Anse Royale Campus – Anse Royale, Seychelles
The University of Seychelles may be affiliated with the University of London, but its campuses’ surroundings are perhaps a little more picturesque than those of its British counterpart. Take the University of Seychelles’ main Anse Royale campus, for example. Given that it’s positioned a mere stone’s throw from an exquisite tropical beach, it’s a minor miracle that students get any work done at all – particularly as the waters are at their calmest from October to May. Still, the school appears to recognize that the Anse Royale site’s sublime environs are a distinct selling point, citing on its website not only the beach, but also the “second to none” diving options nearby.
On its website, Kingsborough Community College describes its “tranquil seaside location” as providing a “perfect setting for reflective academic pursuits.” The City University of New York school can be found on the coast opposite Sheepshead Bay – an oceanfront position that the college dubs “spectacular.” Between late June and early September the school’s private beach opens to students, staff and faculty members for the summer season. And while swimming is forbidden at other periods of the year – namely term time – the stunning sandy expanse is an ideal place for relaxing or painting ocean scenes. Indeed, speaking to The New York Times in 2008, one former student revealed his own apt nickname for the beach: “the chill spot.”
Just 164 feet separates The University of Notre Dame Australia’s heritage-style Fremantle Campus from Bathers Beach, meaning the waters of the Indian Ocean are a mere four minutes’ stroll away. Bathers Beach’s nearly 1,000-foot-long strip of gorgeous sand affords access to some excellent ocean swimming – as its name suggests – not to mention the opportunity to witness stunning sunsets. The beach is split into a northern and a southern section, the latter of which is adjacent to the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour – home to a selection of eateries, a brewery and jet boat riding. What’s more, Bathers is itself but a ten-minute walk from Fremantle’s entertainment district.
Massachusetts’ Endicott College is located beside not one, not two, but three beaches, all of which are the exclusive domain of students. To the west of the school’s Beverly campus is Patch Beach, part of Beverly Cove; Mingo Beach and Endicott Beach, meanwhile, are to the east of the campus. Students wishing to be as close as possible to the water should consider rooms at Birchmont Hall, which is positioned practically right on Mingo Beach, or the colonial-style Hamilton Hall – the latter just minutes from the school’s namesake stretch of sand. Those staying in these residences are afforded access to prime sunbathing spots, while ocean swimming is also permitted – although it’s strongly advised that learners be accompanied by at least one friend when pursuing this activity.
The Cayman Islands are renowned for being both a vacationer’s paradise and a financial hub; and while their third-level educational institutions aren’t perhaps quite so well known, they’re still of some standing. A case in point is St. Matthew’s University, a veterinary and medical school located on Grand Cayman, the archipelago’s biggest island. And since St. Matthew’s is nestled right next to the glorious Seven Mile Beach, its students are only a few paces from good snorkeling, swimming and summer sports like beach volleyball. The stretch of sand is so appealing, in fact, that in 2012 Caribbean Travel + Life magazine readers deemed it the top beach in the region. No doubt Seven Mile’s perfectly white hue and crystal-clear waters helped sway their minds.
6. University of California, San Diego – San Diego, California
A roughly 15-minute walk down Torrey Pines Scenic Drive takes students from the University of California, San Diego’s (UCSD) North Campus in La Jolla to Black’s Beach – one of Southern California’s best surf spots. Strong waves are channeled toward the shoreline via a submarine canyon, making Black’s particularly appealing to experienced surfers. The school itself describes the beach as “beautiful” – although it does additionally warn students about potentially dangerous rip tides there that make it unsuitable for untrained swimmers. Black’s Beach is, aside from this, the go-to location for the UCSD surf team, in particular for its start-of-season tryouts. The beach also hosted a California-wide college surf competition in October 2014.
Perched beside beautiful John Brewers Bay, the University of the Virgin Islands’ campus on the island of St. Thomas offers not only a broad range of academic pursuits, but also an idyllic Caribbean setting. Indeed, after class students have the chance to relax on Brewers Bay Beach, which forms part of the campus’ grounds near the town of Charlotte Amalie. The beach is popular among both undergrads and local families, who can splash around in its shallow waters or bask in the sun on its pristine white sands. Snorkeling is an option here, too, and the sunsets are nothing short of spectacular.
Not only do students at Grenada’s St. George’s University benefit from an ultramodern campus with first-class facilities, but they can also bask in the pristine surroundings of the Caribbean’s “Spice Island.” The school’s True Blue Campus is located in Grenada’s southwest corner beside a crescent-shaped cove, and the campus’ name should give a fair clue as to the stunning hue of the Caribbean Sea waters adjacent. The cove’s beach comes complete with a jetty and clusters of small motorboats and is no doubt an ideal place for students to relax at before, between or after classes. More adventurous enrollees can even partake in a spot of scuba diving around the island’s many reefs.
Located in the Malaysian Labuan Federal Territory, the Sabah University of Malaysia’s Labuan International (UMSLIC) campus is apparently regarded as having some of the most picturesque grounds of any university in the country. Indeed, it is affectionately referred to as “The Beach Campus,” and the school believes that its seaside position contributes to “a conducive learning environment” for students, who are drawn from places as far off as the Middle East, Africa and China. With UMSLIC accommodating around 100 learners of varying citizenships, Sungai Pagar Beach no doubt provides the perfect spot for some after-class mingling – especially as it’s less than a quarter of a mile from the center of campus. In addition to being an ideal chill-out space, the beach offers decent surfing and some excellent sunsets.
Owing to its position next to the Gulf Coast, Eckerd College’s St. Petersburg, Florida campus boasts a waterside that’s more than warm enough to swim in from July to September. However, the campus’ undoubted highlight is South Beach – Eckerd’s very own slice of seaside real estate. Part of Boca Ciega Bay, the area isn’t just an ideal place for catching some rays; in addition to its 100-yard stretch of sand, it also plays host to a soccer field, a pair of beach volleyball courts and an al fresco pavilion. A less sporty alternative, meanwhile, comes in the form of the South Beach Supper Club. Targeting potential Eckerd College students, this Sunday event combines on-beach cooking with socializing and, indeed, the opportunity to showcase the school’s private beach come nightfall – with the shoreline looking particularly majestic at sunset.
1. Florida Gulf Coast University – Fort Myers, Florida
Half of Florida Gulf Coast University’s 800-acre Fort Myers campus consists of conserved wetlands and uplands, so its student body ought to be right at home in or near water. In fact, some learners live very close to the wet stuff indeed. The school’s North Lake Village student residential facility, for example, is adjacent to Lakefront Beach; as a result, the complex’s lucky residents are just steps from pristine white sands and a beautiful 80-acre recreational body of water. What’s more, picnic areas in the vicinity are perfect for al fresco feasts with friends, while various water sports are on offer on the lake for the more adventurous. Also adding to North Lake Village’s resort-like appeal is its swimming pool – just in case learners haven’t had enough splashing around.