A shingle beach is a beach which is armoured with pebbles or small- to medium-sized cobbles (as opposed to fine sand). Typically, the stone composition may grade from characteristic sizes ranging from two to 200 mm diameter.
While this beach landform is most commonly found in Western Europe, examples are found in Bahrain, North America and in a number of other world regions, such as the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, where they are associated with the shingle fans of braided rivers. Though created at shorelines, post-glacial rebound can raise shingle beaches as high as 200 metres above sea level, at the High Coast in Sweden.
Shingle beaches are typically steep, because the waves easily flow through the coarse, porous surface of the beach, decreasing the effect of backwash erosion and increasing the formation of sediment into a steeply sloping beach.
Shingle beaches are often criticized as undesirable for visitors. Canterbury City Council notes that the nearby shingle beach at Whitstable is uncomfortable to walk and lie on. Also, advertisers have been known to replace images of shingle beaches with sand in promotional material. However, shingle beaches are popular among rock collectors for the varying rock types that can be found.
Notable shingle beaches around the world
- UK's rare shingle beaches at risk, Alex Kirby, BBC News Online, June 3, 2003
- Easterbrook, Don J. Surface Processes and Landforms. 1999 Prentice-Hall Inc. Upper Saddle River, NJ