The worst realization is when you get to the beach and realize you forget an essential. You’re already in this glorious place, but now you either have to suffer without or go all the way home just to get the item.
We’ve all been there. It’s super frustrating.
That’s why I like to plan ahead. I’m incredibly forgetful (I always seem to forget sunscreen or my towel), so creating a guide of must-have beach essentials helps me remember what to bring with me.
I’m sharing them with you to help you make the most of your beach experience this summer, whether they’re in the Toronto Beaches or Lokrum Island.
I’ll share beach accessories, essentials for your beach bag, and the sports gear you can’t forget for the ultimate beach day.
So whether you are going camping at the beach or relaxing for the day save this list for later so you know what to bring to the beach.
Clothing Necessities for a Day at the Beach
Not every beach is a nude beach, so you’ll need to suit up with these beach must-haves.
No matter what your plans are at the beach, you’ll want to shed some layers to soak up the sun and avoid being a sweaty mess in all your clothes.
Always pack a comfortable swimsuit to wear to the beach. I love a mix of bikinis and one-pieces that have support. I’ve picked out three of my favourite swimsuits to share with you. They’re comfortable all day, have great coverage, and are super cute!
Swimsuits can be hard for girls with big busts or stomachs. I used to struggle with hating my body, so I’d hide in baggy clothes and MELT on the beach. Or wrap my arms around my stomach the whole time and get the weirdest tan lines.
Finding a cute bathing suit is a beach must to help you feel more confident so you can fully enjoy your time at the beach.
Best Swimsuit Brands for Women
Many women struggle to find a swimsuit brand that they can rely on. We often end up buying the cheapest bathing suits and then not loving how they fit.
After YEARs of swimsuit hell, I’d rounded up some tried and tested options to help women find the best bathing suits so they can feel their best this summer.
Remember: the only thing you need to do to get a beach body is to have a body and take it to the beach!
- CupShe – my current love for all things swimwear. They sell their swimsuits through their website and on Amazon (for the Canadians amongst us, that’s a huge help to avoid extra shipping costs). Their stuff is stylish, great quality, and has super helpful online size tools.
- Old Navy – ah, old faithful! I grew up on Old Navy’s skimpy string bikinis (the early 2000s favourite). Now they have way more options for really affordable prices. I always get their plain bikini bottoms to mix and match with their fun top styles.
- Aerie – An amazing option for cute and affordable swimsuits. Aerie has been killing it in the fashion game, especially with athletic wear, recently. I’m obsessed with their crossover high-cut bikini bottoms!
- Summersault – Inclusive sizes, stunning designs, and one of the most diverse ranges of products I’ve ever found. Also an incredible business to support!
Cover-ups are a beach necessity. You’ll need them for all the stores that are no shirts, no shoes, no service. They’re a lovely light layer to add on for your way home without having to get completely dressed again. Because no one wants to put on jean shorts over a wet bikini, let’s be honest.
I love a cover-up that can double as a dress. While a sarong is comfy and a flowy cardigan can be cute, they aren’t exactly full coverage. This gorgeous lace cover-up from CupShe is a beach must-have this summer. Pair it with some gorgeous accessories to be the envy of the entire beach.
A flowy dress on the beach is *chef’s kiss* perfection! I’m obsessed with a long maxi or midi dress that flows around my legs and makes me feel like a goddess in the waves.
Dresses are an easy outfit for any beach trip. I always bring one with me – even if I have something else on initially – because they’re so easy to throw on to go home. Plus, they let you take GORGEOUS pictures, like the ones I took in the Beaches Neighbourhood, Toronto.
Aim for a lightweight dress that has some flow to the fabric. You’ll want to go with polyester or linen for summer weather. Silks are lovely, but you’re likely to ruin them with the water and the sand. Cotton dresses tend to absorb sweat and water, so they’ll feel a lot heavier than a synthetic material.
A cute romper is definitely a must-pack essential for a beach trip. They’re incredibly easy to wear, are a full outfit in one, and take up very little space in your bag. Plus, they’re so stylish!
I’m a big fan of rompers if you’re planning to do some walking. They help you avoid thigh chafe which you may get with a dress, especially if your skin is still damp from the water.
Bike Shorts (with pockets!)
The rise of bike shorts has been a game changer for me. My summer wardrobe is basically half dresses, half bike short and crop top combos. Plus, they have pockets!
Bike shorts can be paired with a variety of beach styles: bathing suit top, crop tops, under a dress, with activewear, and more!
These Aerie bike shorts are a necessity for any woman. They’re high-waisted with a great cross over design that doesn’t slip. Plus, they come in plenty of colours. I’m waiting on my next pair in light blue so I can rock more summer-y looks at the beach.
You should definitely pack a pair of bike shorts if you’re planning to cycle or jog during your beach trip. I bike to all of my beach destinations lately, so bike shorts have been a steady necessity.
Your eyes are vital, so protect them!
$5 pairs of sunglasses may be cute, but they are doing absolutely nothing to protect your eyes from UV rays. You need to invest in a good pair of polarized sunglasses (which can still be very cute!) to ensure your eyes are getting enough coverage.
I also find that polarized sunglasses reduce my headaches from too much sun. It means I can stay on the beach an hour longer without needing to pop some Tylenol.
Even if you’re not light sensitive, sunglasses are the best beach accessories to protect your body long term.
I have to admit something: I LOVE going barefoot. Shoes are feet prisons I am not down for.
But alas we need to protect our feet. And that means we get to buy some cute shoes to wear to the beach!
I love these Allbirds slip ons that are super easy to throw on and go. Allbirds is one of the leading shoe companies right now. Their wool blend shoes don’t aggravate my wool allergies, keep my feet smelling fresh, and don’t make me overheat. They are one of the comfiest brands on the market AND they give your foot more support than any other slip-on I’ve tried.
When I do rock some pretty shoes, I love a leather sandal. But I still need functionality. I can’t do cheap shoes where I’ll inevitably twist my ankle or get foot pain after five minutes.
These gorgeous mediterranean sandals are the perfect mix of comfort and style. The rubber sole is made for walking on sand, boardwalks, and grass. But the leather straps feel adorably summer-y.
I usually forget about footwear, to be honest, and end up throwing on my ratty pair of running shoes that have mud stains from rainy day bike rides. They make me feel so blah.
When I remember to put on a nice pair of shoes, I always have more oomph – and that’s what I need for a lovely beach trip!
Sun Protective Hat
Protect your eyes! Sunhats are another beach accessory you need in your beach bag. Whether it’s a baseball cap, a stunning sunhat, or a visor, you need something to keep the sun out of your face.
There’s nothing worse than spending a day squinting at everything because the sun is too bright. Or having your hair whipping around in your face. A pretty sunhat will fix all of this for you the moment you pop it on.
Plus, as a very fair-skinned person who constantly burns their hair-part line, a sunhat means I don’t have to put sunblock in my hair (which is never fun).
Essentials to Put in Your Beach Bag
Now that you’re fully dressed and camera ready, you need to pack your beach bag full of essentials.
I’m a planner, so I always pack my bag the day before with necessities and “just in case” items. It helps me be sure that I can stay longer at the beach without having to go home to get anything.
I used to stuff my backpack with my towel, beach reads, and other necessities for every Auckland day trip to a beach. When I went to Waiheke, I had all of these beach bag essentials and MORE!
There’s nothing better than a giant towel, am I right?
I love getting to sprawl out on the sand or wrap myself in a towel big enough to swaddle me after a dip in the ocean.
This oversized towel is my top pick. It’s super soft, has lovely beach-vibe colours that always bring a smile to my face, and is easy to wash.
Having a dedicated beach towel is essential so you don’t get sand or dirt all over your home. I usually keep mine in a beach bag separate from the rest of my towels.
Quick Drying Towel
Microfiber towels are a lifesaver for anyone staying in a hostel or backpacking. They dry nearly instantly, are very easy to roll up, and compress down.
Even though they dry quickly, they’re still soft. They aren’t as plush as a beach towel, but you’ll still be able to use it as a blanket to sit on and spread out.
Get the largest size possible to use as a beach towel. This will give you more room to sprawl out while reading a book or napping in the sun.
If you’re going on a longer beach trip or a backpacking adventure with some beach journeys, you’ll want to pack a microfiber towel. I used mine when I visited Lokrum Island’s boulder beaches and at Hot Water Beach, New Zealand.
Sand Repellant Beach Mat
Who hates sand getting up in all your places?? Everyone!
I recently discovered sand repellant beach mats and they changed my life. I’m constantly moving about getting comfy in a new position when my arm falls asleep from holding my book at weird angles or to get a snack from my bag. Every move inevitably covers my blanket in sand.
With a sand repellant beach mat, you can easily dust the sand off without having to do that “wave your towel out and cover everyone else in flying sand” move.
You won’t be bringing the beach home with you thanks to this essential accessory.
Insulated Water Bottle
All I drink is water, but I hate buying plastics. So I make sure to bring water bottles with me everywhere.
But on a full day at the beach, your water gets unpleasantly warm very quickly.
Invest in an insulated water bottle that acts like a thermos to keep your water cold all day long. You can even roll the bottle on the back of your neck to help you cool off when the sun is getting a bit much.
Plus, metal bottles are way better for the environment.
Get a bottle with a clip or handle to make it easier to carry. I love this blue-purple gradient bottle. It’s so cute, easy to carry, and holds a lot of water.
Going to the beach means great beach pictures. You can’t get those with an iphone if you’re constantly worrying about it getting wet. And many waterproof cameras are hugely bulky.
I love GoPros. They’re small, durable, and take stunning HD shots.
The GoPro Hero 8 is one of the best waterproof cameras on the market. It has a crazy long battery life, can go in the water no problem, and has the option to pair it with tons of accessories. I used a GoPro to take shots underwater when I went swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand and was blown away by how crystal clear the videos were.
Portable Phone Charger
After getting stranded alone in Amsterdam, I never go anywhere without a portable phone charger.
Heat can drain your phone’s battery faster. And taking cute photos, reading books, texting people, and otherwise using your phone will drain the battery very quickly.
Anker makes the best portable phone charger I’ve ever used. It’s about the size of an iPhone, holds 6 full charges on it (which is amazing because I always forget to charge mine) and can pair with any USB charger. You can use it to charge your phone, your Kindle, or your iPad.
Make sure you pack this beach necessity so you can enjoy your electronics on your day out.
Who doesn’t love listening to music at the beach?
Get a waterproof, sand-proof, portable speaker so you can connect to any bluetooth device and blast your favourite songs.
I often use mine for podcasts on the dock in Muskoka, Canada’s cottage country (which annoys my dad because they’re mostly murder podcasts. Maybe don’t do that at the beach with your friends).
This speaker is lightweight and has a clip so you can hang it on the edge of your bag if there’s no room inside.
Sun Protective Clothes
Shop sun protective clothing!
I’m the palest of the pale with tons of freckles, which means my skin is highly at risk in the sun.
Thanks to the rise of sun protective clothing, I feel way better about spending hours outdoors. I’m solar powered so I need full days out, even if my skin doesn’t.
These light weight clothes are extremely breathable. Sometimes I even wear them hiking.
I recommend everyone, regardless of their skin tone or predisposition to skin cancer, invest in some sun protective clothing. You can throw them over swimsuits and easily layer them with other beachwear.
Sunscreens contain a lot of chemicals. When you wear them in the water, they leech into the ocean or lake and harm the ecosystems.
Reef-safe sunscreens aren’t well regulated. Many companies use the term even if their product isn’t actually reef-safe.
To pick the best zero waste reef-safe sunscreen that actually protects your skin and the oceans, look for SPF that uses physical UVA and UVB filters. These typically only contain natural minerals like zinc oxide that won’t hurt you or the water. For more on the specific chemicals to avoid, check out this guide to reef-safe sunscreen.
Get a high SPF to protect your skin, re-apply regularly, and always bring more than you think you’ll need.
Hawaiian Tropic is a reef-safe sunscreen you can find at most local drugstores. It smells amazing as an added bonus.
You work so hard to keep your face blemish free and glowing. Don’t ruin your efforts by putting body sunscreen on your face.
It can clog pores and lead to oily skin very easily.
Dermatologists recommend Cerave’s face sunscreen. It’s perfect for daily use and a beach necessity to protect your skin. Unfortunately, they don’t have incredibly high SPF ratings so you may need to apply it more frequently if you have fairer skin.
I love the lightweight, non-greasy feel of this sunscreen. It doesn’t mess up my makeup or leave streaky white lines. Plus I don’t feel all shiny like I do with some other face sunscreens.
This little tube is a great addition to your beach bag.
SPF Lip Balm
We’ve protected almost all of our skin with SPF now. The last place is your lips!
Most people don’t think about protecting their lips from damaging sun rays, but it’s very important.
Invest in a lip balm with SPF, like this amazingly minty lip balm from Jack Black Intense. I’ve used it for years. It works way better than any chapstick I’ve tried and always leaves my lips super hydrated.
A Sea Salt Spray for Damp Hair
Beachy waves are the epitome of a beach essential. Although you can’t pack them with you, you can pack something to help you achieve them.
This Moroccan salt spray is the perfect elixir to get dream beachy waves. A few sprays on wet hair and you’ll have gorgeous wavy hair by the time you get to lunch.
Mini Portable Hand Held Fan
Even if you love the beach, you may not love the heat. Getting a portable fan can help keep you cool so you don’t risk heat stroke.
Get a battery powered fan like this one that you can either hold or prop up to keep you cool when there’s no breeze at the beach.
It’s not good to eat with sandy hands. And there’s always the risk of sunscreen from your hands getting into your eyes.
Clean off with cleansing wipes. They’ll disinfect, wipe clean, and pack away super easily.
I always bring some with me so I don’t have to worry about snacking with salty fingers.
Girls must have a way to tie their hair back at the beach. With all of the wind, the sand, and the water, you’re likely have a mess on your head if you don’t tie it back.
These scrunchies are super soft, don’t damage your hair, and you can colour coordinate them with your beachwear!
What should you not forget to pack for a beach vacation?
We’ve covered what to wear to the beach and the essentials that you need to bring to the beach, but what else do you need to remember?
Let’s look at the best beach accessories to have an epic day out.
Cold sodas, fresh sandwiches, and cool fruit are a luxury when you’re out at the beach. This insulated cooler bag that you can easily carry over your arm will let you have your dream beach picnic.
There are separate compartments for silverware and different items you may need to bring.
Portable Lock Box
Going to the beach alone is always stressful, because you don’t know what to do with your valuables while you’re in the water.
The best rule is to leave as many of them at home as possible, but you can’t leave them all. You need your phone and your keys, at the very least.
This portable lockbox can be attached to any chair or bag. It holds your items and deters thieves who are very unlikely to attempt to break into a lockbox when someone a foot away has their valuables out in the open.
Waterproof Phone Bag
If you don’t have a waterproof camera, be sure to invest in a waterproof phone bag. This lets you keep your phone with you so you can take pictures in the water.
If you don’t have a lockbox, a waterproof phone bag also ensures that your items won’t be taken.
In my opinion, this is a last resort. The bags are a bit clunky when you’re trying to enjoy some ocean time. Investing in a small waterproof camera and a lockbox allow you to be more free in the water.
Pack your food in reusable bags so you don’t waste any plastic.
It’s bad to go to the beach and leave garbage. Even if you take your plastic bags away, they’re likely to end up in an ocean in the future.
I use these reusable bags to take sandwiches, cut up fruit, and cheese slices with me to the beach. They’re easy to wash out and use time and time again.
Best Beach Accessories
For a truly epic beach day, you need more than just hand held items. You need to create a paradise that you can enjoy for a full day.
That means sun protection, a comfy place to sit, and floaties!
I first discovered beach tents in New Zealand, where the sun is so intense that you basically have to have one to spend more than an hour on the sand.
These tents are three-sided with optional windows and a zip-updoor. They’re the perfect place for a beach nap, to get the illusion of a private beach on a public one, and to read in peace.
The floors are sand-proof so you don’t have to worry about sand embedding itself in your beach tent.
This beach essential is super easy to put up and take down. It packs up into an easy carrying bag that is smaller than a yoga mat!
We’ve all made a drink holder out of sand before. Now you don’t have to!
Ensure you don’t lose a drop of your drink with these adorable cup holders. You set them and forget them. There’s no risk of knocking them over by accident or not balancing them properly.
Portable Beach Chair
Most people assume beach chairs have to be rickety folding chairs where you sink far too low and have no support.
Well this portable beach lounger proves that that’s not true! It mimics the design of a fancy beach lounger without the weight.
You’ll be able to pack it up into an easy to carry backpack after lounging in this amazing beach accesory.
Portable Beach Table
A beach table is a necessity I didn’t know I needed. Once I started bringing them to the beach, it was a total gamechanger. I didn’t have to leave all of my items on the sand or have to worry about things getting dirty. It made the beach feel way more comfortable.
Be sure to buy this beach must have to create a comfy environment that you can enjoy all day.
Inflatable Waterproof Pillow
This pillow is AMAZING. I first got it to use in the bath, but have since taken it with me to the beach and felt like a damn princess.
I used to go to the beach and fold a sweater up under my head or use my lumpy backpack.
This inflatable pillow was a total gamechanger. It’s comfy, can deflate down to a small size so it’s easy to carry, and even looks super cute!
This is a beach must have you need to bring with you.
Is it a beach party without some inflatable floaties? Nope!
I’m a big fan of floating in the water doing nothing. These floating are perfect for that.
Snag some classic floaties, a trendy unicorn, or a simple beach ball to make the water more fun.
Inflatable loungers are a thing of the future that we have access to today. You can blow them up to have a totally comfy beach bed or float on them in the water.
I’m genuinely obsessed with them and want to get a thousand in every colour.
The lounger has a great pocket in the middle for you to sit in, so there’s no risk of you rolling right off of it. But they also are high enough that you don’t have to worry about water pooling inside and making you cold.
If there’s one beach essential you should buy this summer, I think it needs to be this lounger.
I’m a hammock addict. My happy place is a hammock in Spain at the yoga retreat I used to work at.
You can enjoy the subtle swaying, ergonomic comfort, and shaded coolness of a hammock at the beach with this beach hammock.
It’s the perfect place to read, nap, and relax on your beach day.
Must-Have Beach Sports Gear
Relaxing at the beach doesn’t always mean lying down. For some people, it means getting out there and going on adventures.
These are the beach must-haves for anyone who wants to be sporty.
Inflatable Paddle Board
An easy-to-carry alternative to a standard paddle board. You’ll save money and save packing space with this affordable inflatable paddle board.
It comes with all of the gear you need to inflate it (and a bonus waterproof phone bag!).
Paddle boarding is so fun to do. Now you don’t have to pay high rental fees to try it. And no more dragging your board on top of your car. This option is easy and highly portable so you can have some summer fun!
Kayaking is such an amazing summer activity. This beach essential lets anyone with limited storage or no car enjoy a lovely beach kayaking trip.
These have grown in popularity recently. I’ve seen them absolutely everywhere. I was surprised at how sturdy they feel, since I’m used to a heavy plastic kayak.
It actually feels way more sporty and makes it even more fun to go on a beach adventure!
Snorkel & Mask
A snorkel and mask are an essential for any beach packing list. They’re a necessity if you’re planning to look for fish or dive down underwater.
This set is amazing for its suction. You won’t have to worry about getting water in your eyes or nose. And the snorkel’s strap attachment ensures it always stays the right way up.
Surfers and water sports enthusiasts know the value of a rashguard. They are an essential beach accessory for anyone who doesn’t want to risk friction burn on their skin.
These lightweight shirts feel like a sun protective shirt. They don’t get heavy in water and actually help keep you cool.
Sometimes beaches aren’t all soft sand. When that’s the case, grab a pair of these easy to slip on water shoes. They’ll protect your toes from any sharp shells or rocks.
Beach First Aid Kit
This small first aid kit is a great addition to any beach bag. You’ll want to bring it with you to ensure a safe trip to the beach.
It includes first aid essentials so a scrape doesn’t put a damper on your day at the beach.
People that go the beach often, especially surfers and paddle boarders, need to invest in a portable shower. These are popular among campervan drivers as well who need a shower on the road.
You fill up the bag in advance and then spray yourself down to remove salt water and any sand.
Best Beach Bag
You can’t go to the beach without a beach bag to put all of your beach necessities in. These are the best beach bags to hold all of your essentials.
Beach Bag with Cooler
This bag is a perfect two-in-one: it’s a beach bag and a cooler. You can keep your lunch fresh without freezing your sunscreen.
I love the fun colour of this bag, the comfy shoulder strap, and the mesh that will help keep sand out.
Sand Proof Beach Bag
Sand sucks. Let’s all agree.
It’s fun at the beach, but nowhere else.
So invest in this adorable pineapple print beach tote. Its sandproof material will ensure that you can dump out all of the sand without needing to throw it in the wash. I love the extra holders for flip flops so you don’t have to put your dirty shoes in with the rest of your items.
Pockets are always a must have!
Don’t want your wet items getting anything else wet? Grab a dry sack to ensure your gear stays dry. I love these bags for the amount that you can cram in them and the handy carrying strap.
They’re perfect for putting your wet clothes in after a day of surfing in Costa Rica or a sunset canoe tour in Toronto. Then you can go to dinner or spend the rest of the day exploring without fear of getting the rest of your essentials wet.
Best Beach Reads
I love a good beach read. So I’m sharing my favourite beach reads for 2021 to help you pick with to read on the beach this summer.
- Green Ghost, Blue Ocean – A woman’s journey around the world by boat.
- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – A high school girl uses her year-end project to solve a cold case.
- Lost Girls – 3 women who quit their jobs for a year of adventure around the globe.
- Crazy Rich Asians – The addictive tail of the uber-rich in Asia.
- One More Croissant for the Road – A food journalist’s bike exploration for the best croissant in France.
- Shadow and Bone – Bewitching world of fantasy and adventure.
- James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes – Collection of the most unbelievable true stories of a comedian’s life.
- Yearbook – Collection of Seth Rogen’s funny life stories.
- Outlander – A British woman goes back in time to the Highland wars in Scotland and falls in love.
Beach Essentials Wrap Up
Summer beach weather means stocking up on essentials to turn any beach trip – whether it’s a 7 day beach vacation or a day trip to your local public beach – into your perfect getaway.
These beach must haves will make you feel like you’re living it up on a private beach. Treat yourself by buying these affordable beach accessories to make a day in the sun more comfortable.
Remember that everyone deserves time off. We all need to relax, and doing so in comfort makes it so much better.
Stay safe and remember to wear your sun protection at the beach!