Although less than 4 kilometres long and 2 wide Gibraltar has six beaches. The three beaches on the eastern side are sandy and the northernmost, eastern beach is popular because it receives the sun all day. The beaches on the western side, facing Gibraltar Bay and Algeciras, receive the sun in the afternoon. The coast of Gibraltar can be divided into two sections, west and east.
The first beach, Eastern Beach, starts at the end of the runway so you can sunbathe and watch the planes either landing or taking off depending on which way the wind is blowing. Please do not be tempted to fly a kite. At 300 metres in length this beach is the longest on Gibraltar. There are changing rooms and showers at both ends of the beach and free parking on the paseo behind. The building works currently going on at the runway end of the beach is the start of the tunnel beneath the runway that will provide an easier way to enter Gibraltar. The construction going on at the southern end is a new hotel and marina complex.
Just over the hill at the southern end, where the hotel will be built, is Catalan Bay with the Caleta Hotel at the far end. Less than 200 metres long with a low cliff at the southern end and backed by pretty fishermen’s cottages with a couple of restaurants this is quite a picturesque beach and safe for the kids.
The last beach on the eastern side of the Rock is Sandy Bay. If you look up at the Rock from either Catalan Bay or Sandy Bay you will see a Talus slope. Until a few years ago this was covered in metal sheets and was a water catchments for Gibraltar. Nowadays with the desalination plant it is no longer needed and the sheets were removed to reveal the original slope that is now steadily re-populating itself with native plants. The Talus slope is a huge sand dune created over hundreds of thousands of years out of sand blown into the lee of the Rock by Levanter winds. The dune became fossilised. Where the road cuts through the lower part of this dune you can see the strata of the sand.
Ironically the sand in Sandy Bay is a recent import from the Sahara desert, the Mediterranean having reclaimed the original over a period of just a couple of years. Today groins endeavour to prevent a repeat performance and also provide a nice sheltered area for youngsters to swim and a home for many species of crustacean and fish if you fancy a bit of snorkelling.
South of Sandy Bay the shore becomes increasingly craggy until you reach the cliffs at Europe Point. Gorham and Vanguard Caves in these cliffs are archaeological sites, closed to the public. They were one of the last refuges for the Neanderthals and are the subject of a World Heritage Bid that was submitted in January 2015. The results are due in July 2016. The caves were also used as a shrine by Phoenician and Roman seafarers. Many of the finds are displayed in the Gibraltar Museum.
Starting in the north. The first beach is Western Beach, in a corner just north of the runway. This is the only sandy beach on the western side and unfortunately it is at present (July 2015) not very pleasant due to pollution.
On the south side of the runway you will find Marina Bay, as its name suggests, a marina and the Ocean Village complex of Casino, restaurants and bars. This is also the berth of the Sunborn, a purpose built floating hotel. On board you will find a Casino and a couple of restaurants and bars. North Mole then protrudes into Gibraltar Bay protecting the dockyard and Queensway Quay Marina. The dockyard has been developed on reclaimed land since 1894. Prior to that time the water lapped the bottom of Line Wall and Casemates Gate was called Watergate because it was through that gate that local boats were launched.
The dockyard now provides berthing and bunkering for naval ships as well as luxury cruise ships, a vital source of income for Gibraltar. At the south end of the dock are three dry docks, the largest, Prince of Wales Dock, could take a Dreadnought battleship.
Just south of the dockyard is the bay used as a harbour prior to the dockyard being built. This is Rosia Bay, famous for being where Nelson’s body embalmed in rum, was brought ashore after the battle of Trafalgar.
South of Rosia Bay is Camp Bay, the second of the beaches on this western side. The beach itself is small, about 140 metres long, but behind it, purpose built, are two swimming pools, changing rooms and showers and recreational areas for children.
Moving south again you reach the last beach, Little Beach, about 70 metres long, again all the facilities, including a large pool called Europa Pool, are purpose built. The ambience of this beach is spoilt to a certain extent by the ugly pipe work and pumping house at the southern end, part of the sewerage system.
Beyond Little Bay the coast becomes increasingly precipitous until you reach Europa Point.