In geographic terms they are a coastal indentation and, in tourist terms, a promise of blue sea, sunshine and idyllic landscapes. Here is a selection from across the different seas of the globe.
Gulf of Morbihan (France)
It is in Vannes, on the shores of this Breton bay, that you will find the headquarters of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World, founded in 1997. Morbihan means "small sea" in Breton. Its gulf, twenty kilometres long and fifteen kilometres wide, opens out onto Quiberon Bay via the bottleneck of Port-Navalo. Sailing enthusiasts have made it their playground, as they sail between thirty islands to the rhythm of the tides, always mindful of the Jument current, the second most powerful in Europe.
Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)
Ha Long Bay evokes a distant horizon, the vision of a junk sailing in the mist between rocky peaks rising from the water ... Listed as a World Heritage site, the largest marine karst topography site on the planet presents a landscape eroded by nature which has transformed its stones into cliffs. Ha Long means "descent of the dragon", a creature which, according to legend, broke up the rocks as its tail plunged into the sea.
Bay of Kotor (Montenegro)
It looks like a fjord, but a Mediterranean version, overlooked by the green peaks of Montenegro. The baroque palaces on its banks recall a period in which the Bay of Kotor was under the influence of Venice. In the middle of emerald waters, an Orthodox monastery and a Byzantine church face each other, each on its own island, a poetic testimony to the mixing of cultures on these Adriatic shores.
San Francisco Bay (United States)
Best known for the Golden Gate Bridge which links San Francisco to Sausalito, California. However, the orange suspension bridge is not the only star of this location: San Francisco Bay is also home to the island of Alcatraz, where Al Capone, nicknamed Scarface, was once detained. It was here that adventurer and writer Jack London grew up and learned to sail before setting off on his travels...
Cook's Bay (French Polynesia)
Named after the English explorer James Cook who arrived in 1777, Cook's Bay is one of the main bays on Mo’orea in Polynesia. Pineapple fields, clear waters, peaks standing amidst lush vegetation... this life-size postcard offers an exceptional setting for mooring boats in this corner of paradise on the Pacific.
Gulf of Dakhla (Western Sahara)
Buffeted by the wind, this pearl of southern Morocco is home to one of the best kitesurfing spots in the world. In the summer of 2019, the Gulf of Dakhla joined the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World. Its gem is found at the meeting of the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean: a lagoon frequented by pink flamingos, a white dune standing in the middle of a lagoon, sandy beaches to escape the rest of the world...
Guanabara Bay (Brazil)
Guanabara means "estuary" in Indian. This Brazilian bay is best known as that of Rio de Janeiro, with the nearby sugar loaf and Corcovado mountains and Christ the Redeemer. About 30 km deep, it also has a spectacular flying saucer on its shores, the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Mangroves are found at the mouth of the rivers that flow into the bay, surrounded by mata atlântica, the Atlantic forest so rich in biodiversity.
Phang Nga Bay (Thailand)
One of the peaks of the majestic Phang Nga Bay, Ko Tapoo, is known as "James Bond Island" after The Man with the Golden Gun was shot in this paradise cove of Thailand. With a base narrower than the top, it seems to have been planted upside down in the water! The turquoise cove has been classified as a national marine park. Its shores devoured by mangroves conceal hollows decorated with cave paintings, some sheltering small Buddhist shrines.
Chaleur Bay (Canada)
The explorer Jacques Cartier named it after dropping anchor there in July 1534, during a heat wave, when it was shrouded in mists ... During winter, this arm of the Gulf of St. Lawrence shows a very different side when it becomes icebound. The bay marks the natural border between Quebec and New Brunswick, two French-speaking provinces of Canada. Its residents include whales and bald eagles.
La Ciotat Bay (France)
In March 2019, La Ciotat became the latest in France to join the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World. Situated between Marseille and Toulon, this gateway to the Mediterranean Calanques is dotted with magical landscapes, from the cliffs of Soubeyranes to Cap Canaille. Nicknamed the Gulf of Love, it is home to two gems, the beaches of Figuerolles and Mugel, with turquoise waters bordered by ochre rocks.