Travel & Leisure
updated 1/19/2012 10:49:21 AM ET 2012-01-19T15:49:21

Once the holidays subside and winter’s chill sets in, our thoughts naturally turn to the beach. There’s just nowhere better to recharge than on a secluded, sun-kissed stretch of sand.

This urge for a warm-weather escape inspired us to ask Travel + Leisure readers to share their gorgeous beach photos. Hundreds of submissions poured in, which left us the challenge of narrowing them down to the very best. The resulting images not only spur wanderlust, but showcase the diversity of the world’s beaches (rocky shores, powder-fine sand, an abundance of seashells)—and the many ways to enjoy them.

Consider a fantastic action shot captured by user deborahwalker : a surfer silhouetted right in mid-jump. In another shot, you can almost hear the distant squeals from kids on old-time amusement rides. Then there are those who gather at the beach for mellower reasons. On Zanzibar, schoolgirls take a stroll along the fine white sand, while in Cape May, NJ, three friends plop down to gab in front of a lighthouse.

Perhaps it’s the tranquil, paradise-like beauty of the beach that has the most powerful appeal. Take a moment to admire Balos Beach, for instance, which T+L user FlyStefMcD photographed on the island of Crete. Its turquoise water, set against the backdrop of a perfectly vivid, cerulean sky and almost white sand, is enough to make you pack up and book a flight without even thinking twice. No wonder the island is the site of so many myths; it does look almost magical.

T+L user olivierlutaud submitted a similarly dreamy photo of a beach: San Jose Beach, Itacaré, Brazil. The near-empty, rocky shore, pictured at sunset, leaves us dreaming of a romantic moment with a loved one.

But don’t just take our word for it. Click through to see these top-notch beach photos for yourself. We hope they’ll brighten your day and even encourage you to get creative with photography on your next beach trip.

Once you return, be sure to log into the T+L community and share your best photos with us—they might be featured in our next reader slideshow.

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