Free Family Adventures on Qatar’s Beaches
As any family will tell you, Qatar has an inordinate amount of activities on offer to keep your brood occupied all year round. However, as anyone with kids will also tell you, it can be an expensive hobby keeping tots to teenagers busy and entertained. Entrance fees for attractions and entertainment, charges for activities, services and amenities, and costs for refreshments, sweets, and treats all add up and take a sizable chunk out of your budget. So, what’s the alternative? Get creative and search for fun things to do that don’t cost a thing…
Well, when it comes to free activities for kids, Qatar has plenty on offer. A host of interactive and exciting museums offer free entrance or complimentary passes to residents and kids under a certain age. Plenty of heritage sites and cultural venues are free to visit and explore. Many malls stage free entertainment for kids, as do many outdoor venues in the summer when festivals, fairs and other celebrations are commonplace. In addition, nearly every green space in Qatar is equipped with free play areas for kids. And many public beaches have a multitude of activities to keep kids occupied and cost nothing to visit.
In fact, not surprisingly, for a country with such an extensive coastline, spending time on the beach is a hugely popular pastime. There are many well-manicured beaches in Doha city and resorts along the coast, which are extremely popular due to the plethora of facilities and amenities they offer. Generally, these sandy stretches belong to hotel or club premises and, alongside pools, beach bars, cafes and restaurants, cost a pretty packet to spend a day there. Qatar also offers a host of wild and unspoilt beaches outside the city limits - free, beautiful and full of adventure, but with no modern conveniences helpful to families heading out for the day. Fortunately, many more public beaches offer a perfect balance between the two. From golden sand to pebble shores both near and far, these locales are well-maintained and are equipped with basic facilities like showers, toilets and sunshades, often have kids' play areas, and, most importantly, are free.
So, if you fancy a gratis family day of fun in the sun, check out our recommendations below for Qatar’s best family beaches:
Al Wakrah Beaches
Outside of Doha, several public beaches are located at Al Wakrah – our favourites are Al Wakrah Family Beach and Al Wakrah Souq Beach. There is also the New Al Wakrah Beach, though this has the least facilities of the three.
Al Wakrah Family Beach
The Al Wakrah Family Beach, located to the south of the city and within a secure compound, is wide, sandy, and one of Qatar's favourite beaches. The water at low tide is very shallow, creating lots of pools and sandbars for many metres out from the shore - perfect for exploring, setting up your own 'island' camp, making a sandcastle, and paddling with a host of small fish and crabs. Further out, the water deepens for swimming and snorkelling. On-shore, there are wooden cabanas with seating, BBQ grills, plenty of trash bins along the beach, and several toilets and shower blocks near the beach car park. However, the piece de resistance for families is the three large, shaded play areas for children. The play areas have a range of slides, swings, climbing frames, see-saws and other playground equipment for various ages.
The family beach is approximately 20 km out of Doha, just south of Al Wakrah, and can be reached in 25-30 minutes by car on Al Wakrah Road. Once past the town, you can make a U-turn, travel back towards Al Wakrah, and, just after the Woqod Petrol Station, take a right on to Umm Nethaila Street; a second right will take you over a dirt track to the walled beach compound. There are no shops, cafes or restaurants on the beach, so you must bring your own food and drink. However, the beach is located just outside Al Wakrah, a town with many shops and a mall to explore. It is also home to the new Al Wakrah football stadium built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Al Wakrah Souq Beach
Al Wakrah Souq Beach is located alongside Al Wakrah Souq, a market built in the traditional Arabian style with a maze of alleyways and courtyards, selling anything from clothes to cookware and spices to perfume. To get to the beach, which sits adjacent to the souq's picturesque oceanfront promenade, you need to walk through the market's passageways until you reach the beachfront walkway, full of cafes and restaurants. There you will see a narrow white sandy beach dotted with restored wooden boats and a perfect ocean view. Walk left along the beachfront and the sand opens out into a large park for children, walk right along the 3 km promenade to visit the local fishing port.
Opened in 2017, families flock to the clean, well-maintained beach, which is good for swimming, and surrounded by amenities. Indeed, the souq offers guests various shops, cafes and restaurants, changing rooms, toilets, masjids and ATMs. The main family beach area has a small amount of covered seating and lifeguards positioned along the waterfront. The beach gently slopes into the clear blue water, though a small square of the promenade juts out into the sea, surrounded by rocks - an excellent place for spotting crabs, fish and the occasional heron. For kids, the park is a small slice of heaven with a fabulous array of play equipment that spans the various age ranges from toddlers to early teens. During the summer, a host of temporary kids activities pop up all along the promenade, from inflatables and trampolines to bikes, go-karts, camel and horse rides, and are available at a fee. The souq also hosts several vibrant festivals and events throughout the year, which the whole family can enjoy.
The souq beach is about 16 km south of Doha and takes about 24 minutes by car on the Al Wakrah Road. You need to drive past the souq, on the opposite side of the road, to the next intersection and head back towards the souq entrance and parking area. You can also take the Metro from the city to Al Wakrah Station on the Red Line. Once at Al Wakrah Station, a Metrolink Shuttle Bus will take you to the souq. If you are heading to the beach, it is worth noting that modest swimwear must be worn on the beach.
Simaisma Family Beach
Simaisma Family Beach is a great family beach to head to if you want to get out of the city but don't want to travel too far from Doha. This large stretch of beach has a rocky head at one end and an area of mangroves at the other. In between, the sand is soft, and the water is shallow and clear. The beach is dotted with palm trees, wooden cabanas, and BBQ grills, making it perfect for family picnics and gatherings. Grassy areas, a soccer pitch and a kids-shaded play area make it ideal for younger ones too. The mangroves are great for exploring and spotting wildlife; keen fishermen can try catching something from the slipway. There is even a slipway leading out from the beach for launching small boats and jet skis. Toilets and lifeguard stations are an added bonus.
The beach is located on the east coast near Simaisma (Sumaysimah) village, approximately 40 km north of Doha. The journey takes about 40 minutes by car, and the area is accessed via the Al Khor Coastal Road to Simaisma. Once in the town, head straight through the main street to the beach. It is advisable to bring your own refreshments, but food and drink can be bought in Simaisma village if not. Simaisma village is also home to one of the oldest mosques in Qatar, the old Simaisma Mosque, and a nearby children's park, should you wish to venture further than the beach.
Al Khor Family Beach
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The Al Khor coastal area has several beaches. Within a few kilometres of the city's centre, you can find Al Qarma Beach Garden, Al Farkeeh beach, Al Farkiah Coastal beach and Al Farkiah Beach.
Al Qarma Beach Garden is a well-tended beach garden for women and children under ten only. It is well-equipped with kids' play areas, picnic tables and benches, grassy areas with trees for shade, washrooms facilities and lighting. Al Farkeeh beach, Al Farkiah Coastal beach, and Al Farkiah Beach are all family beaches, less well-tended but with various basic amenities. However, one of the most popular family-friendly beaches is Al Khor Family Beach, located within the city limits. This beach, with its white sand and blue seas, is scenic, clean, well-maintained and well-equipped. The water is shallow for about 50 m out, beyond which swimming is possible - a sea wall protects the swimming area.
Al Khor Family Beach incorporates plenty of amenities, including sun shades, benches, showers, toilets and changing rooms, barbeque grills, a picnic area, a beach restaurant, a children's play area and a small mosque. Adjacent to the beach is Al Khor's Corniche. Visitors to the Corniche can expect a winding promenade with white sand and sea on one side, grassy areas with picnic tables, benches and a host of shaded seating on the other. All along the Corniche, visitors can find various restaurants and cafes, play areas and washrooms.
Around 50 km north of Doha and reached via the Al Khor Coastal Road, the journey to the beach takes about 55 minutes and is easy to access by car. Once you get to Al Khor, take the Al Khawr Town Road and head north to the beach. The centre of Al Khor has an array of modern facilities – shops, eateries and petrol stations. And, should you wish to explore further, Al Khor Park, with a skate park, kids playground, mini zoo, an aviary, mini-golf, a museum and a mini train, is a short car journey away from the beach. The FIFA 2022 World Cup Al Bayt stadium is also on the outskirts of the town.
Al Ruwais Beach
Al Ruwais Beach (also known as Abu Dhalouf Beach) is part of Abu Dhalouf Park. Recently renovated, it is a well-kept and well-equipped family beach with a paved promenade and grassy park area ideal for BBQs and picnics. The park beach, accessible to families only, has an array of amenities, including toilets, showers, playgrounds, benches and shaded areas, car parking and solar-powered lighting. The water is clear and shallow – an excellent place for paddling and chasing crabs and shrimps. Outside the park area, the beaches at Al Ruwais are a mixture of sand and rock formations that meet the sea. Golden stretches of sand give way to rocky land that juts out into the water. Sightings of Dugongs (marine mammals similar to manatees) have been reported around the rocks. If you feel like getting out on the water, you can ask one of the locals to take you for a boat trip – make sure to negotiate the price.
The park beach is located at the northmost tip of the Qatar peninsula, about 110 kilometres from Doha. The journey takes about 80 minutes, and the park is accessed via the Al Shamal Road. At the town, head to the beach via the Madinat Al Shamal, Al Gharya and Abo Dhalouf roads. It is a far-flung destination, but the route is all tarmacked roads, so the journey is easy. Al Ruwais town has all the usual facilities – shops, eateries and petrol stations - plus a large, peaceful green park - Al Shamal City Park - and several historical ruins – the old police station, Al Ruwais mosque and the ruins of Al Ruwayda, a traditional farmstead. Further afield, approximately 25 km, there is a UNESCO World Heritage site, Al Zubarah. The archaeological remains of this ancient town and an abandoned fort from the 1930s include a visitors centre for the settlement and a museum at the fort - admission is free.
Umm Bab Beach
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Umm Bab Beach on the west coast of Qatar is known locally as Palm Tree Beach because of the collection of palm trees dotted along the shoreline. This beach has fine white sand, full of tiny shells and is edged by clear blue water, giving it a desert island tropical feel. The beach is popular for camping, BBQs and picnics, especially for families. Indeed, part of the beach is designated for families only - it has basic toilet facilities and a play area for kids. The palm trees provide plenty of shade during the hottest parts of the day, and the shallow warm waters are perfect for paddling.
The Umm Bab area is part of a UNESCO Biosphere, the Al Reem Nature Reserve. The reserve comprises limestone pillars and mesas, low-lying plains and wadis. It is home to reintroduced wild species such as ostrich, oryx and sand gazelle (reem) and is an excellent place for spotting wildlife. The Zekreet peninsula also lies further north and is ideal for adventure and exploring. The peninsula is home to spectacular rock formations, archaeological sites, abandoned cities, modern art installations and more great beaches.
Umm Bab Beach is located near Umm Bab town, about 85 km from Doha. The journey takes approximately 80 minutes, and the area is accessed via the Salwa Road and by following the Umm Bab Road towards Umm Bab and Dukhan. Umm Bab is a small town, but visitors can use its supermarket and petrol station. Dukhan Beach and town, with all its facilities, can be reached a short drive to the north.
KEEP QATAR’S BEACHES CLEAN - TAKE YOUR RUBBISH AWAY WITH YOU!
Main image: OSTILL is Franck Camhi/Shutterstock.com
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