10 Epic Coastal Cliffs

The Chalky White Cliffs of Dover rise above the greenish-blue waters below

asmithers / Getty Images

Typically formed by erosion or major debris avalanches, coastal cliffs can be found all around the world. The erosion that shapes these cliffs comes from destructive waves, often seen during powerful storms, that strip coastal material from the land and push it out to sea. Although created through a process of destruction, these seaside formations are among the planet’s most beautiful.

From the rugged and rocky Mizen Head of Ireland to the limestone stacks of Australia’s shore, here are 10 of the most breathtaking coastal cliffs around the world.

1
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Cliffs of Moher

The grass-covered land above the Cliffs of Moher on a cloudy day in County Clare, Ireland
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The Cliffs of Moher in Country Clare, Ireland stretch five miles long and rise nearly 400 feet above the Atlantic Ocean along the country's western coast. Not far beyond the cliff's edge stands Branaunmore, a 219-foot sea stack formation that was once a part of the cliffs but was whittled down by erosion. With over 20 different species of sea birds, including the puffin, the Cliffs of Moher have been designated as a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive.

2
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Étretat Cliffs

The white face of the cliffs at Étretat, France on a sunny day
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The farming commune of Étretat in northwestern France may be small, but it boasts big scenic views. The striated white and gray cliffs located there overlook the English Channel and feature dramatic natural arches and a needle-like rock structure, known in French as “L'Aguille,” that juts out from the deep blue water. The cliffs in Étretat inspired many world-renowned Impressionist painters, including Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, and Henri Matisse.

3
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Cliffs of Bonifacio

The ancient town of Bonifacio sits on the cliffs over the water

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The town of Bonifacio, perched on the limestone cliffs of southern Corsica, France, is the site of an old Tuscan citadel that was founded in the ninth century. The famous white cliffs overlook a busy harbor and the nearby Lavezzi and Cerbicales islands. Carved into the face of the cliff is the centuries-old King of Aragon’s Steps, which features 187 steps and joins the upper town with a cave below.

4
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12 Apostles

The stacks known as the 12 Apostles jut out of the ocean on the Australian coast

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Located just off the shore of Australia's Port Campbell National Park are a set of limestone stacks known as the 12 Apostles. These majestic, seaside formations were created through erosion over many years — first as small caves in the ever-receding headland walls, and then as arches that later collapsed and became up to 147-foot-high stone stacks. Due to continued erosion of the stacks, only seven “Apostles” remain.

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White Cliffs of Dover

The chalky White Cliffs of Dover rise above the waters on the English coast

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Situated on the English coastline and facing out toward France, the famous White Cliffs of Dover are made of chalk. The finely grained limestone cliffs were formed over millions of years from the calcium carbonate skeletons of planktonic algae that died and sank to the bottom of the ocean during the Cretaceous period. Visitors to the landmark can climb the step to the top of the nearby South Foreland Lighthouse for a view of the cliffs that can’t be beat.

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Mizen Head

A stunning footbridge connects Mizen Head to a nearby island above deep blue waters

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The jagged cliffs of Mizen Head in County Cook, Ireland look out onto the great Atlantic Ocean and are the country’s most southwesterly point. A major attraction at the cliffs, the Mizen Foot Bridge stands 150 feet above the water and stretches 172 feet from the cliffs to Cloghane Island. The waters below the cliff are home to a variety of beloved sea life, including dolphins, seals, and whales.

7
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Big Sur

The misty and rocky coast of Big Sur on a partially cloudy day in California

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The gorgeous cliffs and valleys of Big Sur stretch roughly 90 miles along the central coast of California. The rugged coastline is navigated by way of the iconic and picturesque Highway One, which winds along the edge of the Santa Lucia Mountains and offers dramatic views of the Pacific waters below. The Big Sur region is dotted with beautiful wildflowers and is home to majestic creatures, including the great California condor.

8
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Navagio Beach

The white cliffs of Navagio Beach rise above the shipping vessel on the sand below with bright blue waters stretching to the horizon
Evgeni Dinev Photography / Getty Images

Located on a tiny cove on the coast of Zakynthos, Greece, Navagio Beach features gorgeous limestone cliffs that rise high above the white sands and sky blue waters. Often referred to as Shipwreck Beach, the beach contains the rusted remains of a small shipping vessel, the MV Panagiotis, that ran aground during a storm in 1980. The cliffs at Navagio Beach are a popular spot for BASE jumpers, who leap from the top of the cliffs and parachute down.

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Bunda Cliffs

The red and white Bunda Cliffs stretch along the Australian coast

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Bordering the Great Australian Bight for roughly 62 miles, the Bunda Cliffs are among the longest, continuous line of sea cliffs in the world. The limestone cliffs, which reach as high as 393 feet, were formed 65 million years ago when the land that is now Australia split from Antarctica. A variety of animals roam the land surrounding the cliffs, from land-dwellers like dingos and wild camels to marine life like Australian sea lions.

10
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Paracas Cliffs

The Paracas cliffs rise above the water at Paracas National Reserve on a clear day

John Coletti / Getty Images 

The peninsula of Paracas in Peru is perhaps most famous for the Paracas Candelabra — a 600-foot-long prehistoric geoglyph built on the peninsula's north face — but the region also boasts rugged and beautiful coastal cliffs. Located inside the protected Paracas National Reservation, the seaside cliffs are made of pink granodiorite, which gets eroded and windswept on the beaches, giving the sand a deep reddish hue.