Glittering seascapes provide both the backdrop and the beat of these waterfront urban meccas.
Tel Aviv, Israel
There’s plenty of room for beach bathing in this modern Israeli city on the Mediterranean. The historic port of Jaffa has found new life in recent years with a vibrant gallery, café, and restaurant scene.
From its picturesque perch on the Baltic, this is one of the most intact medieval towns in Europe. Visitors love to wander Old Town and explore Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour, an interactive maritime museum with ships and a submarine to explore.
St. John’s, Canada
With Irish folk music floating from seafront bars, Newfoundland’s largest city feels more like Dublin. But when icebergs float into the harbor and whales spout offshore, the city struts its own frontier personality.
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San Diego, California
While surfers hit Pacific Beach for some of the best wave riding this side of Maui, others wander the boardwalk, stopping at shacks for fresh fish tacos. A bit south, cruise ship visitors wander a strikingly clean downtown and tour the 1945 World War II U.S.S. Midway, the country’s longest-serving aircraft carrier.
This historic port city has long served as a crossroads between continents, a case made by its stunning new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, a giant box covered with latticework. Rooftop seating offers views of the passing parade of yachts heading out to sea.
Western Australia’s largest city sits on the edge of the continent, taking full advantage of its Indian Ocean roost. From Marmion Marine Park, it’s easy to spot Australian sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, and migrating humpback whales.
Laid-back Brizzie offers the best of both worlds: a sophisticated global city with easy access to beaches, rain forests, and even the world’s first koala preserve. Visitors cruise the Brisbane River, explore the South Bank parklands, and take in the cosmopolitan panorama on the towering Story Bridge climb.
Durban, South Africa
The continent’s busiest seaport blends African and Indian cultures and influences in its beaches, restaurants, and spectacular seaside promenades.
Russia’s remote window to the Far East is home to the country’s Pacific Fleet, which visitors can see while walking along Golden Horn Bay. It’s also the terminus for the famed Trans-Siberia Railway, which links it to distant Moscow, more than 5,000 miles (8,047 km) away.
This lively but laid-back city boasts both top-end galleries and waterfront lobster shacks. But perhaps nothing speaks to its nautical heritage more than the postcard-ready Portland Head Light, authorised by George Washington.
This feature originally appeared in National Geographic.