Marina Beach is one of the world’s longest beach and second of the top 10 longest beaches in Asia. In fact, it is only the second-longest, natural, urban beach in the world after Diani beach in Kenya.
The Chennai Beach stretches to a distance of 13 km along the Bay of Bengal from Fort St. George in the north to Lighthouse in the South. At its widest point, the Marina Beach is about 1000 ft wide.
History of Marina Beach in Chennai
Do you know why this beach is Chennai’s Pride? In fact, it is note-worthy addition to South India’s list of places to visit.
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In the 1880s, the beach was just a strip of mud that would wash up very close to the road. The then governor of Madras, Grant Duff was captivated by this long stretch of beach and decided to build the promenade in 1884. The same year he officially named it the Madras Marina.
Since then, a number of public buildings, monuments, and statues have been erected along the beach, around 17 to be precise.
The country’s first aquarium was established here in 1909, the Triumph of Labour statue and Gandhi ji’s “Dandi march” statue were set up and later on, Anna Memorial and MGR memorial were built on its northern end.
Not Just That!
Another important monument built along the northern end of the beach is Victory War Memorial.
The two km long Loop Road along the beach is used by about 5000 morning walkers as per Tamilnadu Police statistics. The beach itself is one of the most visited beaches in the world receiving 50,000 visitors a day. It has been a site of importance throughout history. The beach is open to visitors throughout the day.
The hallmark Jallikattu Protest of 2017
In 2017, Marina beach witnessed a gathering of 6 lacs men, women and children, both young and old who had come from various parts of Tamil Nadu to protest the ban placed by the Supreme Court on their age-old traditional sport called Jallikattu.
After six days of peaceful gathering, the ban was revoked and this successful mass protest became a landmark movement garnering huge coverage by the media and praise from around the world.
How to Reach Marina Beach by Bus & Train
One can get to the beach from any part of Chennai through the local train EMU local and several city buses.
There are four stations within walkable distance to Marina beach namely Ice House bus station, TN Slum clearance board, Vivekananda House and Thiruvallikeni MRTS station.
Having said that, Sub-Urban Trains and Chennai Metro Trains are the best way to reach the beach. Not only do you get to see the Best Places of Chennai, but you will also get acquainted with the culture, people and auora of actual Chennai City.
Marina does not have any fixed timings for operations. There is no official Curfew. It is one of few places that is Open 24 hours a day. The beach is open to walking throughout the day and in fact is one of the few places that attracts 1000’s of people to walking and jogging every single. day.
However, depending on what you want tourist itinerary and what see or do, you need to go to Marina at that time. 5:00 am to 11:00 p.m is the best time to visit the beach.
Commercially, Shops are not open before 10 a.m and after 11 p.m on weekends. Horse Riding is available only during weekends. Kite Flying is now banned. Police do not encourage visitors after 11:30 p.m for the fear of thuggery, vagabonds who seek shelter to sleep in the beach and to maintain law and order.
So the best time window to visit the beach will be 5:00 am to 11:00 p.m is the best time to visit the beach. 5:00 a.m to 8:00 a.m Mornings offer great Sea View, fitness enthusiasts and Fresh Cup of Chennai’s Local Tea!
Parking in Marina Beach
The Beach has ample parking space all along the service road from the Light house to the Anna Square (About 2km Stretch reserved only for parking).
The cost of parking is Rs.20 for six hours at present. With the revised parking rates kicking in, the rates are going to be Rs.20 per hour, based on the project of Chennai Smart City Limited.
Marina Beach Swimming Pool Timing
The State Government’s SDAT (Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu) swimming pool is one of the best hotspots of the beach that you do not want to miss. It was built in 1947!
The swimming pool operates from Tuesday to Sunday. Monday is a holiday. The swimming pool timings are split into two slots. The First morning slot is from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and the second evening slot is from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.
Immersive yourself into the 100-feet long pool at just Rs. 15/hour.
The pool is 4 to 11 feet (1.2 to 3.4 m) deep. It also has a kids / toddler pool that is 2.5 feet (0.76 m).
Places to see near Marina Beach
The beach is full of buildings of archaeological and historical significance from the 17th to the 19th century.
Madras Lighthouse is the former name of the Chennai Lighthouse. The structure was built in 1976 and first lit in 1977. Situated on Beach road, it is one of the few lighthouses to have an elevator. It also houses the Meteorological Department. Public was allowed access after the reopening in 2013. Visiting hours is 10 am – 1 pm and 3 – 5 pm, Monday weekly holiday. Entry fee is Rs 10 for adults and Rs 5 for children below 12. Entry fee for foreign nationals is Rs 25.
All India Radio
This beach is also referred to as the ‘Radio Beach’. This is due to the fact that in late 1940s, at 5 pm, All India Radio would start its evening broadcast of songs, news, and weather reports. Visitors at the beach would get a full blast broadcast of entertainment and news coverage on speakers. The AIR radio station in Ripon Building complex was founded in 1930s and began its operations on 16th June 1938. It is one of the largest broadcasting organizations in the world in terms of number of languages and spectrum of socio-economic diversity it serves even today.
Queen Mary’s College
A government-run college, it started in 1914. A historic building in itself, it is the first women’s college in the city and third oldest in the country. The college is located at the junction of Kamarajar Salai and Dr. Radhakrishna Salai, facing the beach. One can visit the college during working hours on weekdays.
Also known as Vivekanandar Illam and earlier known as Ice House, this is a historic building in Chennai. Constructed in 1842 by Frederic Tudor, Swami Vivekananda stayed in the building on his return from the West. The Ramakrishna Math was founded and operated from this building for 10 years. Today, the structure houses a permanent exhibition on Indian art and culture and the life of Swami Vivekananda. Located on Kamarajar Salai, one can visit on all days except Mondays between 10 to 12.30 and 3 to 7 pm.
Public Works Department, Government of Tamil Nadu
The Public Works Department is the oldest department in Tamil Nadu, founded in the 1800s under British rule. The office building is one of the main tourist attractions located on the beach drive and is open to visit between 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays.
This 244 year old, five-storey building was once home to the Nawabs of Arcot. The Elizhagam is a historic building located inside the Chepauk Palace complex that was spread over 117 acres. Today all buildings within the palace complex house various government departments like Directorates of Social Welfare and that of Industries and Commerce. It is located on Kamarajar Salai in Chepauk, opposite University of Madras.
University of Madras, Chepauk Campus
Established in 1857, the University of Madras is one of the oldest universities in India. Situated along the Marina beach are its two structures, the Chepauk campus and the administrative centre called the Senate House. The Senate Building constructed in 1874-1879, is considered the finest and oldest example of Indo-Saracenic architecture in India. Mostly hidden from the public eye, these heritage buildings were brought to the forefront by Chennai Photo Biennale which held their month-long exhibit in some of Chennai’s best heritage buildings to bring these well-preserved architectural treasures to the forefront. The visiting hours are between 10 am to 5 pm.
The beach is also home to another prestigious college, the famous Presidency College. Sir CV Raman and Shri Rajagopalachari where some of the notable alumni of this college. It was established in the year 1840.
Anna square houses the tomb of the former chief minister of TN, C. N. Annadurai, considered the God Father of the present day political parties of TN. Situated close to the northern tip of the beach, this site sees more than thousand visitors each day. At the entrance is an elephant tusk-like structure, a huge well-maintained park and a hall that exhibits the legend’s personal artifacts. The place is open to visitors throughout the day. It is final resting place of the many legedary chief ministers: Thiru Anna Durai, Thiru Karunanidhi, Thiru MG Ramachandra and Selvi Jayalalitha.
Built by Chennai Smart City Ltd in an area of 4000 sqm, this is an initiative to create traffic rules and safety awareness among people especially children through fun learning. It is a scaled down version of real-street networks complete with traffic signals, zebra crossing and such components. The kids and adults get hands-on experience with traffic simulators provided by Honda India. The amphi-theater allows children to get introduced to safety and traffic rules. There is ample play area for kids with walking tracks, fish pond and a watch tower. The place is open Monday through Sunday 8 am to 6 pm.
One of the places to visit along the beach, especially after sunset is the Napier bridge. Francis Napier, the then Governor-General built the bridge in 1868. Built over Coovum river, the bridge is 149 m long, has six long arches, and connects Fort St. George and Marina beach. Three hundred compact floodlights light up the Bridge. This is provided by QBA architectural lighting designs. This creates an illusion of floating ink-blue light at nighttime.
The Island Grounds is an artificially created river island. It was built on River Coovum in the 19th Century. It is situated at the northern tip of the beach. The vast ground has been used for fairs and exhibitions regularly and since 1975. The Indian Tourist, Industrial Fair, trade fair is annually conducted here by the state government between months of January – March. It is an entertainment hub with lots of fun for kids and adults. Some of the attractions are a giant wheel, Tora Tora, a model of the Burj Khalifa, food stalls, and also commercial and educational stalls showing 3D and Rajnikanth movies.
Statues on Marina Beach/Kamaraj Salai
Marina beach along its coast line has many statues and memorials built in the honor of famous national political leaders, freedom fighters, and the beloved literary historians of the Tamil people. Here’s a list of them starting from the northern most tip of the beach. Labour statue, Subramaniya Bharathiyar statue, Kannagi statue, Nethaji Subhash Chandra Bose statue, Thiruvalluvar statue, GU Pope statue, Dr. Anne Besant statue, Vivekananda statue, Bharathidasan statue, Avvaiyar statue, Mahatma Gandhi statue, Veeramamunivar statue, Kamarajar statue.
Read our article on Famous Statues in Chennai
Best Eateries in Marina
There are a host of eateries, small to large joints offering mouth watering local delicacies and fresh sea food to the thousands of visitors to beach. To name a few would be Nair mess, a budget restaurant serving south Indian specialties. Something Fishy on Marina beach is a must for seafood lovers. The freshness of seafood offered here is unbeatable. One can order authentic Tamilian, made-at-home food like sura puttu, vavval, Ayila fry, and prawn thokku.
Titanic Fast Food is a small make-shift eatery on the beach where you can taste a variety of Biryanis and seafood of course. Mak and Bajji shop, just 0.6 km from the beach serves hot snacks and finger food like vadas, bajjis, bondas, chaats and authentic Kumbakonam coffee at very reasonable rates. Bombay Halwa House is a vegetarian restaurant about 0.8 km from the beach, famous for its Sindhi and north Indian food like paranthas and makki ki roti along with their famous Bombay halwa.
To eat right off the beach, some hot and fresh seafood, one must try the fish stalls that are lined up along the beach. Fresh fishes of all varieties are marinated, fried and served on demand.
Local vendors sell healthy fast food like roasted corn on the knob and steamed salted groundnuts, one can get Sundals that are typical to the southern belt. It’s a mouth-watering, healthy and filling fast food made from boiled chickpeas seasoned and garnished with chopped raw mangos and grated fresh coconut. Also one must try the fried food like bajjis, vadas, spring fried spicy potatoes, local sodas and popcorn.
Fun Activities to do on Marina
Marina beach is very good location for kids and adults to spend their evening. Other than just strolling along the beach and taking in the breeze and sound of crashing waves, some of the fun activities for kids would be horse riding, balloon shooting, and tumbler snow balling.
Marina Beach also has a Skating Rink behind the Gandhi Statue.
Beaches have a special something to offer. Watching wide expanse of water and the rhythmic sound of crashing waves has a calming effect on the nerves. At the same time, it fills us with a sense of wonder and awe and makes one feel one with nature. Marina beach is no exception and a must visit, especially in the evenings.
The next most visited beach in Chennai is probably the Besant Nagar Beach or Elliot’s beach.
Read our artice on Places to See in Chennai