Chennai’s beaches are one of the city’s top attractions. Long expanses of sand, cool waters combined with plentiful food and drink on the shore make them a grand destination for the whole family. Read on for some tips about which beaches to visit and what to do when you go there.
Marina Beach is one of Chennai’s gems. A lengthy expanse of sand and sea, it is popular with foreign and domestic tourists, and locals who enjoy dipping their toes in the Bay of Bengal or simply walking beside its waters. While many people enjoy the beach for playing volleyball, beach cricket and other sports, swimming in the sea is prohibited at Marina Beach because of the strong undertow. To cool down, many people choose to visit one of the two swimming pools along Marina Beach instead.
While beautiful, the beach is not peaceful — as one of the longest urban beaches in the world, it is often crowded. Even visitors who aren’t looking for beach activities may find themselves at the waterfront while seeking other landmarks: Marina Beach Drive is the location of the Senate House, the Ice House and Anna Square.
Because the focus at Marina Beach can swiftly change into long hours of people-watching and making new friends, bring your camera, a beach towel or other cloth for sitting on the sand and chatting, and a hat or umbrella for your personal shade.
If you like to keep moving along the beach, stroll in the tideline or walk along the promenade. If you do the latter, enjoy the greenery and keep an eye out for stone statues of local or legendary heroes that dot the sides of the drive.
As crowded as they are, Marina Beach and the other beaches of Chennai are not only playgrounds for holidaymakers. Fishermen set off at daybreak to seek their day’s catch in gaily painted boats, a sight worth watching if you’re an early riser.
Of the beaches near Chennai, Marina Beach has the most developed attractions for visitors, but it’s not the only option for enjoying sea and sand.
To the south of Marina Beach, Elliot’s Beach is a good place for sunbathing in the daytime and meeting new people at night. It’s a popular youth hangout for students from Chennai’s universities and thus typically draws a younger crowd. It is also referred to as the cleanest beach near Chennai.
Named after Edward Elliot, who was the Governor of Madras between 1803 and 1820, in the past this beach was an exclusive expatriate playground. Nowadays, it doesn’t enjoy the same popularity. After a long day of sand sports and people-watching, most visitors to Elliott Beach stop in at one of the many nearby restaurants offering local and international dishes.
Perhaps answering the question why Elliot’s Beach remains more peaceful than Marina Beach is its three contemplative landmarks. Of these, the newest and most visited is the Ashtalakshmi Temple, dedicated to Lakshmi. It’s built on the beach’s sand. Christians, meanwhile, flock to the grand Velanganni Church for prayers to the Virgin Mary. And, believers of any religion stop to pay their respects at the Karl Schmidt Memorial, which commemorates a Dutch sailor who died trying to save someone from drowning in 1930.
Covelong Beach (Also Called Kovalam)
A destination for windsurfers, Covelong Beach is not as crowded as Marina Beach nor as trendy as Elliot’s Beach. The fishing village of Covelong is about 40 kilometres south Chennai proper and is connected to the city by bus. More peaceful than Marina and Elliot’s beaches, Covelong draws lovers of adventure sports and those who looking for an interesting day-trip out of Chennai city.
Other than the beach, Covelong’s main attraction is the ruins of a fort. The ruins have been converted into a luxury resort, but their profile still makes an interesting addition to the landscape of sea, sand and palm trees.
About the Author: Anika Chavan is a student of ayurvedic medicine and a freelance writer. She writes for domestic and international travel magazines about destinations in India. When she needs to make a quick trip, she finds Chennai hotels on Expedia.