Time Out On Qatar’s Family Beaches
Is there anything better than taking a beat from everyday life and spending it relaxing with the family in the great outdoors? Qatar may be the last place you'd think of for spending time outdoors due to its heat but think again. Qatar might have a hot desert interior, but it's significantly cooler on the coast, especially during the balmy winter. And this is a country with all but 60 km of its 563 km length bordered by the sea - and where there is sea, there are beaches.
There are plenty of beaches to choose from both in and around major urban areas and Qatar's more rural coastal regions. Numerous private beaches, generally owned and maintained by hotels, clubs and resorts, are located in and near the cities, as well as the odd one or two in more remote locations. Private beaches are well equipped with modern conveniences but charge a fairly hefty fee for entry. However, from the inner city to the furthest tip of Qatar's shores, there are a host of free public beaches just waiting to be explored. And many public beaches come equipped with facilities; some have a host of additions such as toilets, cafes, shops, changing rooms, playgrounds and barbecues, sun loungers and sunshades. Some have minimal additions, more akin to wild beaches.
And the sea? Qatar is blessed with shallow coastal waters, the land very gently sloping into the deeper blue. Thus, much of the water along the coast is warm, perfect for paddling, and safe for kids. Swimmers and snorkelers, and lovers of deeper water activities need only wade out further to find their ideal spots. And, swimming in the sea is considered to be safe. There are jellyfish, stonefish, lionfish and stingrays in the waters, but in limited numbers - taking suitable precautions will prevent any problems with them.
So, where should you head when you have some family downtime? Well, we recommend trying out some of Qatar's public family beaches. They're free, most can be reached in under an hour, and they have, at the very least, basic facilities. They're each unique, and by taking the time to visit, you have a chance to venture further and see and explore more of the nation. Plus, there are plenty of choices - some beaches are ideal for swimming, some for paddling and crabbing, and some for water sports. Some beaches have miles of sand, some have rock formations or mangroves, some have birdlife, and some have great sea life. All of them are worth a visit!
So, without further ado, here are our top family beach recommendations:
Katara Beach is located at Katara Cultural Village, a stone's throw away from Doha city centre. The village is a multi-cultural venue with purpose-built theatres, performance areas, art studios, galleries and concert halls, which back onto a wide promenade overlooking the 1.5 km beach and the Arabian Gulf.
The beach is narrow, clean, safe and sandy. The clear blue water is good for paddling or swimming. There is a great play area for children, and the beach offers plenty of facilities and amenities. There are beach recliners and umbrellas - but you can also bring your own. Furthermore, there are restrooms, plenty of restaurants and cafés for refreshments and two masjids for prayer.
During the winter, there are inflatable beach games, an inflatable water park and several rides to keep little ones entertained. There is also a multitude of water sports and adrenaline activities that you can try. So, if you fancy something active, you can water-ski, wakeboard, or parasail; take a ride on a speedboat or a gondola; have a banana/doughnut ride, or hire a kayak or a canoe. There are even jet skis, sea-breachers and Jetlev-flyers for hire, and lessons are available for some of the water sports. With so much to do, Katara is one of the most popular beaches in Doha.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, for a public beach, there is more than the norm, but it does come at a cost. Yes, we know we said "free public beaches", but Katara Beach is a great location, with facilities and things to do for the whole family; we thought it wouldn't hurt to add it! And it's far less expensive here than a day at a hotel or resort beach. A day pass costs around QAR 50 for adults, and entrance is cheaper for kids, on weekdays and after sunset. Kids under six enter for free. Additional activities and beach furniture are extra. The beach is generally open from mid-morning to around 11 pm, though swimming is prohibited after sunset.
Katara beach is located near West Bay Lagoon and The Pearl. It is easily accessed by road (cars, buses and taxis) or on the Metro. It is about a 15-minute drive from the Corniche and along the Lusail Expressway, with plenty of parking. By Metro, head north from the city on the Red Line to the Katara Metro Station.
NOTE: This beach has a strict dress code due to its urban location - no bikinis or speedos.
Al Wakrah Beaches
There are two public beaches at Al Wakrah – the family beach and the Souq beach.
Al Wakrah Family Beach
Image: Qatar Living
Al Wakrah Family Beach, located just south of the city and within a secure compound, is wide and sandy. 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, building sandcastles, and paddling with a host of small fish and crabs. Further out, the water deepens for swimming and snorkelling.
On-shore many people come to the beach for picnics and BBQs - there are wooden cabanas with seating, BBQ grills and plenty of trash bins along the coast. And families flock to the shoreline to make use of the three large, shaded children's play areas pitched on the beach - each as equipment to cover a range of ages, ensuring all the young ones are entertained.
In terms of facilities, the family beach has toilets and shower blocks, which are located near the beach car park. There are no shops, cafes or restaurants on the beach, so you must bring your own food and drink. The beach compound is manned, but entrance is free.
The family beach is approximately 20 km south of Doha and can be reached in 25-30 minutes by car or taxi on the Al Wakrah Road. The nearest Metro station is the Al Wakra Station, but to get to the beach would require an additional taxi ride.
Al Wakrah Souq Beach
Image: Qatar Living
Al Wakrah Souq Beach is a traditional-style market with a maze of alleyways and courtyards. Tucked away in the courtyards are a host of shops selling anything from clothes to cookware, spices to perfume. If you wander east through the souq, you will find yourself on a seafront promenade full of cafes and restaurants, a manicured white sandy beach dotted with restored wooden boats, and a perfect ocean view. Walk left along the beachfront, and the sand opens into a lovely, well-tended, large park for children. Walk further north, and you'll find another stretch of wilder sand and BBQ areas.
Families flock to the beach, which is clean and well maintained and suitable for swimming; though, the coastline gently slopes into the clear blue water making it safe for paddling kids (lifeguards are available along the main family beach area). A small square of the promenade adjacent to the souq juts out through the beach into the sea. Surrounded by rocks, this is an excellent place for spotting crabs, fish and the occasional heron. The promenade itself stretches for 3 km, providing a great way to walk to the local port and fishing points.
There is plenty of seating around the souq and the promenade and a small amount of covered seating on the beach. Plus, the beach is surrounded by amenities - plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants, changing rooms, toilets, several masjids and ATMs. During the summer, and available for a fee, a host of temporary kids activities pop up all along the promenade - inflatables, trampolines, bikes, go-karts, camel and horse rides, and more. The souq also hosts some vibrant festivals and events throughout the year.
The souq beach is about 16 kilometres south of Doha and takes about 25 minutes by car or taxi on the Al Wakrah Road; buses are also available. The souq offers plentiful car parking. The nearest Metro station is Al Wakra Station; from there, a Metro Shuttle bus is provided to the souq.
Simaisma Family Beach is a great family beach to head to if you don't want to travel too far from Doha. In less than an hour, you can be on the long stretch of beach that boasts soft sand and shallow, clear water. At one end of the sandy stretch are an area of mangroves and a slipway for launching small boats and jet skis. The mangroves are great for exploring and spotting wildlife, and keen fishermen can try catching something from the slipway. The rest of the beach is dotted with palm trees, wooden cabanas and BBQ grills, making it perfect for family picnics and gatherings. Grassy play areas and three kids' shaded play areas make it ideal for little ones.
Toilets and lifeguard stations add to the list of facilities at the beach. Plus, there are several mosques, including one of the oldest mosques in Qatar, the old Simaisma Mosque. If you do not bring your own, food and drink can be bought in Simaisma village. And, just back from the beach is a large green, tree-filled park with another kid's playground.
The beach is located on the east coast near Simaisma (Sumaysimah) village, approximately 40 km north of Doha. The journey takes about 40 minutes, and the area is accessed via the Al Khor Coastal Road.
Al Khor Beach
Image: Alizada Studios/Shutterstock.com
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 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 metres beyond which swimming is possible - a sea wall protects the swimming area. The 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. The centre of Al Khor is close by with an array of modern facilities – shops, eateries and petrol stations.
Around 50 km north of Doha and reached via the Al Khor Coastal Road, the journey to the beach takes about 55 minutes. It is easy to access by road; from the Coastal Road, take the Al Khawr Town Road into the city, then head north to the beach.
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 water is clear and shallow – perfect 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 has an array of amenities, including toilets, showers, playgrounds, grassy areas, benches and shaded areas, car parking and solar-powered lighting. The towns of Al Ruwais and Abu Dhalouf have all the usual facilities – shops, eateries and petrol stations. Within Al Ruwais, there is a large, peaceful green park - Al Shamal City Park and there are several historical ruins – the old police station, Al Ruwais mosque and the ruins of Al Ruwayda.
The park beach is located at the north-most 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. It is a far-flung destination, but the route is all tarmacked roads, so the journey is easy.
Umm Bab Beach
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. The palm trees give this peaceful beach a desert island tropical feel and provide plenty of shade for visitors during the hottest parts of the day.
The beach at Umm Bab is popular for camping, barbecuing, picnicking, and taking a paddle in the shallow warm waters. The beach is especially for families. Indeed, part of the beach is designated for families only - it has basic toilet facilities and a play area for kids. It is advisable to bring your own supplies as Umm Bab is a small town, but it does have a small supermarket and petrol station for the essentials.
The Umm Bab area is part of a UNESCO Biosphere, the Al Reem Nature Reserve. The site 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 a great place to spot them.
The beach is located near Umm Bab town, about 85 km from Doha. The journey takes approximately 80 minutes via the Salwa Road and the Umm Bab Road.
A Walk on the Wild Side
There are plenty of beach options around the coast of Qatar, almost everywhere you drive along the shoreline. These are often wild beaches interspersed with public, family and private beaches and resorts. Wild beaches tend not to have any facilities, and the best are generally found in more remote destinations - but if you go prepared, they can provide just as much fun and adventure for the whole family. So, if you fancy trying Qatar's wild beaches, check out our recommendations in our Discovering Qatar's Wild Beaches article.
With so much choice for sandy getaways, the only thing left to do is pack your beach towel and sunscreen and get ready for some sun, sea and outdoor fun.
KEEP QATAR’S BEACHES CLEAN - TAKE YOUR RUBBISH AWAY WITH YOU!
Main image: HasanZaidi/Shutterstock.com
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