What is an Esplanade?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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An esplanade is a walkway arranged to run alongside a body of water, such as a lake, river, or seashore. The walkway can be made out of many different materials, and may stretch for miles. There are many examples of esplanades throughout the world, many of which provide wonderful vantage points and exercise opportunities in scenic and beautiful settings.

Esplanades can serve several practical purposes that increase the comfort of visitors and also provide some security from unpredictable bodies of water. The walkway is often paved with stone or concrete, or made of grass, and can be used as an alternative to walking on sandy river or seashore banks. In addition, esplanades can provide a safer place to watch the ocean when waves are unpredictable.

Frequently, an esplanade is a multi-use path that provides for many different types of visitors. Some feature divided sections for bikers, skateboarders, and runners, allowing a reserved section for those traveling at a more leisurely pace. Esplanades that offer divided sections often have painted indicators or signs that direct users to the correct path. Typically, cars and other large vehicles are not allowed on an esplanade.


There are many examples of esplanades throughout the world, particularly in areas with beach, lake, or riverfront districts. In the Los Angeles area, the esplanade in Santa Monica is a long, flat walking path that joins several area beaches together. The bike section of the path is part of one of the longest bike paths in the world, a 22 mile (35.4 km) road that stretches south from Pacific Palisades through Santa Monica to Torrance, California.

Australia’s coastal regions, well-known as havens for beaches and sunny weather, are also home to some of the best known esplanades in the world. The Cairns Esplanade in Queensland is a popular tourist destination that was originally built in the 1870s as one of the first major streets in the new town. The Gold Coast Oceanway, also in Queensland, is a 22.5 mile (36 km) multi-use path that includes numerous beaches and the famous Point Danger lighthouse along the way.

As esplanades often become major sightseeing destinations for tourists, they frequently include large shopping and dining districts to accommodate the needs of visitors. Many take advantage of the scenery and family atmosphere to include tourist attractions such as amusement parks. The association of retail and tourist activities with esplanades has led to many inland recreation systems also sharing the name, regardless of waterfront proximity.


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