Few people have seen the world quite like Gray Malin. The famed aerial photographer’s 9-to-5 is a far cry from a typical desk job: His “office” is a helicopter, his tool of the trade is a Canon camera, and his goal is to chase the sun, venturing to some of the most picturesque places on earth to photograph them from above.
Malin’s new book, Escape, takes him to some of the most exquisite patches of sand we’ve ever seen, from Bora Bora, French Polynesia, to Byron Bay, Australia. It spurred us to ask him: Of all the beaches you’ve visited and photographed during your career, what’s the most beautiful? Ahead the talented artist and eternal traveler indulges us with this bucket list, revealing his favorite tropical getaways and the insider travel tips he’s learned along the way.
It might be winter, but somewhere in the world the sun is shining and the glistening waves are beckoning. Take a leaf out of Gray Malin’s book, and plan your next escape to one of his all-time favorite beaches.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
“I went to Bora Bora in April of 2016 to shoot my private collection series, Art of Living, which was released in October of the same year. Although very focused on accomplishing the project, I also made time to explore Bora Bora. Visiting this island oasis is a serious once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who’d listen.
“The key thing to do while in Bora Bora is to enjoy every moment of it. It’s definitely a place where you want to immerse yourself in your environment because it’s truly that stunning.”
Lake Como, Italy
“I visited Lake Como, Italy, for the first time this summer. It had been on my list for a very long time, and it did not disappoint. Driving to Lake Como, located in Northern Italy just outside of Milan, you will quite literally exclaim ‘it’s gorgeous!’ as it begins to come into view. I know I did.
“For a completely first-class experience from the moment you step through its doors. I recommend staying at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, and if you really want to spare no expense, request the Bellagio Corner Suite, as it provides an exclusive view of the ‘pearl of the lake,’ also known as the town of Bellagio.”
Byron Bay, Australia
“I’ve been to Australia numerous times, but I went to Byron Bay, Australia, for the first time (and only time, so far) in January of this year. Once a sleepy coastal town with an alternative hippie lifestyle, this secluded surf-happy beach community is now a vibrant notable destination for the trendsetting crowd. The locals say Byron has a special ethereal spirit that relaxes anyone who visits. Upon arrival, I immediately understood.
“The perfect day in Byron Bay is to begin with a morning walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse followed by breakfast at Harvest Café. In the afternoon, hit the beach! If you find yourself here and you have never surfed, I really think it’ll be the time to seize the day. There are quite a few surf lesson options, so no excuses. For those who do surf, one of the best places to paddle out is The Pass, Byron Bay.”
Camps Bay, South Africa
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love South Africa. The country has everything from stunning beaches to beautiful wine country and of course, epic safari adventures.
“The first time I went there was for my honeymoon in 2013, and I have been back two more times. The most recent being for my 30th birthday last year. We stayed at Cape View Clifton, and it’s the best place to stay, in my opinion. Aside from incredible service, beautiful rooms, and delicious food, this hotel offers the absolute best views of Clifton Beach. I wouldn’t blame you if you simply wanted to sit outside on the deck from morning coffee to sunset sips.
“You should definitely get out and explore, though. One unique place to visit is Camps Bay Pool, which is part swimming pool, part ocean rock pool, and is definitely worth a visit!”
“My first time visiting the Amalfi Coast was in 2013, and I made the mistake of only doing a day trip to Capri. Though I enjoyed my time, I highly encourage people to stay on Capri to really experience its many treasures. I’ve since been back a few times, but the most memorable trip was in the summer of 2015, as I traveled quite extensively through the entire country and made sure to devote ample time to Capri.
“There are a few amazing spots to spend your days on Capri, but my absolute favorite is La Fontelina Restaurant and Beach Club. Walking down an unforgettable windy pathway, you can see the beach club’s navy-and-white umbrellas dotting the rocks below and the famous Il Faraglioni islands in the distance.”
“I can’t pick a favorite part of the Hamptons, but I can definitely confirm that my personal favorite time to be in the Hamptons is over Memorial Day weekend. I think it’s safe to say this is everyone’s unofficial kickoff weekend to summer, and the Hamptons really personifies the thrill of early summer days.
“One of my favorite activities to do is rent a bike (with a basket, of course) at Rotations bike shop. Take a bike ride along Gin Lane for views of the ocean and the amazing homes. But you can’t ride it on Main Street—insider tip! You can, however, enjoy some delicious frozen yogurt with sprinkles and walk along Main Street in Southampton.”
We’re not done! Add the world’s most beautiful islands to your bucket list too.