The World’s Best Beach Museums

This summer — whether you are off to the South of France or planning to soak up the rays on the shores of Long Island — your vacation plans probably center in a big way around beach time. For culture fiends, this can be a daunting prospect: beautiful scenery often means less access to the things you love to do and see. But for those worrying that they’ll have to put that interest on hold for the good of sun, sand, and waves this summer—don’t. Some of the best beach locales around the globe also boast some incredible museums, too. Here, see our five favorite beachside museums from around the globe. Each is worthy of a visit all on its own.

beachmuseums_matisse1. Musée Matisse in Nice, France

Take a break from the Nice beach club scene (and nursing that bottle of rosé), and experience the city through the eyes of Henri Matisse by visiting this museum assembled in his honor. Musée Matisse, housed in a Pompeian red 17th century Genoese villa, gathers one of the world’s largest collections of Matisse’s works, from paintings to books to stained glass, that trace his artistic evolution. Highlights in the collection include everything from his 1890 “Nature Morte Aux Livres” to his famous “Fleurs et Fruits” cutouts from 1952. The museum also boasts items owned by Matisse including photos and documents, so you’ll come away from a visit with some personal perspective on the man behind the art.

beachmuseums_thira2. Museum of Prehistoric Thira in Santorini, Greece

While you’ve likely checked off Athens’ Acropolis on a past trip to Greece, Santorini is seeping with history too — and it’s readily apparent when visiting the fascinating Museum of Prehistoric Thira, located in the island’s most robust town, Fira. The museum covers the history of the famed Greek island, starting with the Late Neolithic period (beginning around 3300 B.C.) and includes objects from ceramics to sculptures to jewelry to wall paintings. The finds, from excavation sites in Akrotiri and other Cyclades islands, includes some serious standouts too from an ancient clay oven to a prehistoric bathing tub.

beachmuseums_vincenthouse3. Vincent House Museum in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Built in 1672 by Puritan William Vincent, the Vincent House Museum, located in the town of Edgartown, is often cited as Martha’s Vineyard’s oldest residence. A visit to the classic Cape House, which remained in the Vincent family for five generations before being donated to the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust in the ‘70s, is like taking a step back in time. The house, comprised of five rooms, is entirely furnished with period antiques, and takes visitors on a journey through four centuries of life on the Vineyard, explaining how the island evolved from its Puritan origins to the more elegant whaling era through the eyes of one family.

beachmuseums_parrish4. Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York

For those spending a weekend (or the entirety of the summer) in the Hamptons, it would be almost criminal to not take advantage of the world class Parrish Art Museum, built right along Montauk Highway in the town of Water Mill. The Parrish’s collection — now housed in a newly built Herzog & de Meuron structure (worthy of a visit on its own) — focuses on artists who have worked along the South and North Shores of Long Island. And there’s nothing second rate about that list which includes the likes of John Chamberlain, Chuck Close, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning. The museum also houses one of the world’s most important collections of American Impressionist William Merritt Chase.

beachmuseums_ilanagoor5. Ilana Goor Museum in Old Jaffa, Israel

Famed Israeli artist Ilana Goor restored a 270 year-old building in Old Jaffa, the historic seaside town outside of Tel Aviv, morphing it into one of the most unique museums in the world. BTW, the space also serves as one of Goor’s private residences. Step into the romantic stone structure overlooking the Mediterranean, and you’ll find a museum filled to the brim with Goor’s own work as well as items from her private collection, which includes pieces by artists like Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore. Quite a few mediums are represented here, from jewelry to furniture to sculpture, which makes walking through the multi-floor space a true discovery experience. And no visit to this space is complete without a visit to the rooftop terrace, which has one of the best views in town.

Text by Leah Bourne. Bourne is a New York City-based culture reporter.

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