Backyard Beach Ideas Guide: How to Design Your Paradise

Backyard Beach Ideas

Most people living in San Diego County live within driving distance – or even walking distance – to some fantastic beaches.

There are also plenty of homeowners who live right on the beach, but not all of us are fortunate enough to have the ocean just steps away from our front door—like those in Del Mar, La Jolla, or Solana Beach.

Not everyone can carve time out of their busy schedules to grab a towel and head down to the beach, while others just do not like the idea of having to share their day on the sand with dozens – or hundreds – of other people at popular local beaches.

For those of us who do not live right on the beach, or even for those who do but want something a little more private, there is a solution.

You can create a beach paradise to enjoy any time of the day by installing your own oasis right in your backyard.

Backyard landscaping ideas range from tropical themes to elegant English gardens, but most people tend to relegate features like sand to their children’s sandbox tucked in a corner of their play area.

When we bring the sand out of the sandbox and use it as a main feature in our landscaping, along with other beach décor, we can enjoy a beachside retreat any time of the day or night.

Sand castle competitions with our friends or family, sunbathing on the sand, dipping our toes in soothing saltwater and playing beach volleyball without ever leaving the house are all possible with a backyard beach.

Whether you are interested in adding a mini coastal retreat to a corner of your yard or transforming your entire outdoor living space into a beach-themed sanctuary, the tips and ideas below will help you build your private beach from the ground up.

Backyard Beach Design

Designing a Backyard Beach: Initial Considerations

While you can create a beach-themed yard without the use of sand, if you truly want to create the look and feel of a seaside resort, sand is pretty much a requirement.

This relatively affordable landscaping material is easy to come by and easy to work with, but it is imperative that you consider the ramifications of adding this amount of sand to your soil.

Much of the soil in San Diego County is ideal from growing a wide variety of landscaping options, including fruit trees, vegetable gardens, many flowers and just about anything else you might want to grow.

But all of that can change once you introduce tons of sand to the environment.

You may have heard that adding a bit of sand to San Diego’s clay soil can benefit your garden beds, and this is often true, but when you are creating a beach in your yard, you will be using much more than a little bit of sand.

Most plants and flowers do not grow well in overly sandy soil, so you will need to take special care when designing your beach landscape to ensure that your added sand stays in your beach area and out of your flowerbeds or vegetable garden.

This can be easily accomplished by using a wood or paving stone border to separate your sand from the rest of your yard.

Creating a border will keep the majority of the sand in your beach area, which will help protect your other landscaping features.

If you have a swimming pool or plan to install one as part of your beach theme, make sure you have a wide pool deck or patio around your pool to help keep sand out of the water.

If you plan to install an in-ground or above-ground pool as part of your backyard beach landscaping, you will want to install this feature prior to bringing tons of sand into your yard for use as landscaping material.

Before you bring in the sand, you should also have a good idea of the layout you want for your beach.

You may need to include solid borders to section off different sandy areas, install your boardwalk-style walkways or build up areas with heavier landscaping material for sand dunes before bringing in your beach sand.

Sand Castle

Design Ideas for Backyard Beaches

Much of the beach-like feel of your patio and backyard will come from the décor, but before we go into beach chairs, driftwood and umbrellas, we should first address the more permanent landscaping features that will need to be considered during the design stage.

Sand Dunes

If you have enough space to include sand dunes in your landscape design, this feature can truly make your backyard feel like a real beach.

You do not need very many dunes to produce a beach look, and you can even use them to create separate seating areas or a more intimate space for a fire pit.

Rather than piling up tons of sand to create each dune, you may want to go the easier route of building mounds with small gravel or a similar landscaping material, and then covering the mounds with sand.

This will also add stability to your backyard sand dunes.

Fire Pit

There is nothing quite like gathering around a bonfire on the beach to watch the sunset.

You can recreate this scene in your backyard by installing a fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs.

Sand is a much safer landscaping material to use around a fire pit than many other options, but you can enhance safety further and create a solid seating area by surrounding your fire pit with a small paving stone patio.

You do not necessarily need a bonfire-size fire pit in order to enjoy a sandy, fireside retreat in your yard; even a small fire pit will create a cozy atmosphere for cuddling under the stars or roasting hot dogs with your kids.

Saltwater Pool

Conventional swimming pools make a great addition to any Southern California backyard, but a saltwater pool will definitely make you feel more like you are at the beach.

Conventional pools can be converted to saltwater, but speak to an expert before taking on this project on your own.

While many pools can easily be converted, some are not good candidates for saltwater, depending on the materials used to manufacture the pool, such as the grout.

Saltwater pools are generally considered a more eco-friendly option and, while they are more expensive to install initially, you can experience savings over time, since you do not need to purchase the same chemicals for ongoing maintenance.

Pools filled with soothing saltwater are a growing trend in San Diego and the surrounding areas, so you should have no problem finding a professional to install your pool or assist you in converting your conventional pool.

Whichever type of pool you have, if you do not want sand getting in the water regularly, make sure you have a wide pool deck or patio between the pool and sandy areas of your yard.

Shells on the Beach

Pond with a Beach

If you have an existing pond in your backyard, or are considering installing one, this is one water feature where you can allow the sand to come right up to the edge to create an inviting beach.

Ideally, you will want a gently sloping grade leading down to the water to create a comfortable space for laying out on the sand at the water’s edge.

Sand Volleyball Court

Beach volleyball is big in San Diego, but if you do not like the idea of showing off your skills on a public beach, you can create your own sand volleyball court as part of your backyard oasis.

Building a volleyball court in your backyard may seem like a simple, do-it-yourself project, but you may want to call in the pros to ensure proper drainage and safety.

If your court will be used frequently, it is important that the area is properly graded, that drainage is installed, that there is a safety zone around the court and that the appropriate type of sand is used.

If you simply plan to have a quick, casual game among friends every once in a while, you mostly need to make sure you have a good net and deep sand.

Outdoor Shower

An outdoor shower is a handy feature for folks with backyard beaches, as well as those who just have a conventional pool.

Rinsing off before heading into the house is particularly important when there is sand involved.

Plus, an outdoor shower will surely make your backyard feel more like a beach.

This is a project that you may be able to complete yourself, if you are the handy sort and you turn to handy guides like the one available at the DIY Network.

Whether you install this feature yourself or call in the pros, make sure you choose a slip-resistant surface for your outdoor shower floor, such as a small paving stone patio.

You can even include this feature in a corner of your existing patio to save money during your backyard transformation.

Boardwalk Walkways

Weathered logs or railroad ties are perfect for creating boardwalk-style walkways leading to seating areas, your fire pit or your volleyball court.

This is the type of project handy homeowners can accomplish in a weekend or two, but it is a lot of physical labor and does require proper grading for drainage and stability.

If your budget allows, hire professionals to help ensure a satisfactory end product if you plan to make your boardwalk longer than just a few weathered boards meant mostly for looks.

You can also use weathered logs or railroad ties to create steps leading over your dunes.

If you want to avoid the long-term maintenance needs of a wood boardwalk, you can also install walkways made from pavers.

Beach Boardwalk

Lifeguard Stand or Chair

Lifeguard stands dotting the landscape are a regular sight on beaches all along the California coast.

To bring authenticity to your private beach haven, build a lifeguard stand that can be used as a pool house, viewing deck, or storage room for pool toys and patio furniture.

A less expensive option that is better suited for smaller yards is a raised lifeguard chair, which will add the same look at a lower cost.

Palm Trees

There are many types of beaches in the world, and not all of them are lined with palm trees, but if you are looking for a more tropical atmosphere, palm trees are a must for your backyard beach.

Tiki Bar

A Tiki bar is the quintessential addition to a backyard beach, but any type of bar will do.

While an exotic, tropical look is a great way to create a beach-like atmosphere in your yard, it is more important that a larger addition, like a bar, complements the design of your existing patio or outdoor kitchen.

If you have a built-in barbecue, an outdoor kitchen or a patio, use similar materials to build your beach bar.

The edge of an existing patio is a great place to put your bar, since this will allow you to have a solid foundation under the bar, such as concrete or paving stones, while allowing your bar patrons to stand in the sand on the other side while they are being served.

If space allows, you can create a two-sided bar that serves both the patio and the beach in your backyard.

Backyard Beach Décor and Plants

To finish off your beach-themed backyard, you will need the right decorations and plants to complete the overall look.

If you have a favorite seaside resort or coastal retreat, now is the time to draw inspiration from that establishment or area as you choose the right décor to create the type of beach atmosphere you prefer.

Here are 12 plants and decorative items you should consider when putting the finishing touches on your beach landscaping:

1. Beach umbrellas
2. Tiki torches
3. Beach chairs
4. Landscape lighting to accentuate landscaping features
5. Old fishermen’s nets
6. Ice plant
7. Driftwood
8. Anchors and ropes
9. Shells and rocks
10. Beach daisies
11. Yellow lupines
12. Surfboards

Mediterranean Beach

Final Thoughts on Backyard Beach Landscape Design

Building a beach in your yard is not just a great way to make a coastal oasis right at home; using sand in place of a conventional lawn is an excellent way to conserve water and to save money on ongoing maintenance.

Including a beach area in your landscaping is also a great way to complement other water-conserving landscape options, such as rock gardens, Zen gardens and xeriscaping.

If you love building sand castles, sunbathing on the sand or sitting around a fire pit to stargaze, installing a private beach in your yard might be the right landscaping choice for you.

Photo credits (in order of appearance): stock.xchng, amalrik; stock.xchng, iprole; stock.xchng, tommco; stock.xchng, jjneau; stock.xchng, jjneau; stock.xchng, pale.