When you think of sand castles, you might reminisce about your younger years spent by the beach building little ones with buckets and digging holes. The competitive world of sand castles and sand sculpting however is a far cry from those attempts you made as a toddler. Today, there are over 20 amazing sand castle competitions around the world and numerous amateur events and festivals.
At each competition, world renowned sand sculptors compete to build amazing structures based on themes such as dinosaurs, fairy tales or more current topics like climate change. You’ll be blown away by the sheer size and complexity of each design, especially considering they’re only made out of sand and water. Some of these competitions have been running for decades while others are just a few years old. Whether you want to visit one in Australia, Europe or the United States of America, we have you covered with this list of the 10 Coolest Sand Castle Competitions In The World.
10. The Sun & Sea Festival Imperial Beach
-Imperial Beach, California, USA
The Sun & Sea Festival held in Imperial Beach, California, has a long and impressive history reaching as far back as 1960. Over 50 years ago a public festival of the same name was held to celebrate the date of the city’s incorporation. This annual event featured a sand sculpting competition. From 1980 to 2011, Imperial Beach hosted the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, which was a similar success. When that annual contest ended, a new family friendly event was created which is now known as The Sun & Sea Festival.
At this event, world-class sand castle builders will compete for 5 full hours to create amazing and intricate sand creations and battle for the championship. In previous years, giant sculptures spanning meters across were built, so you can expect to be blown away by the creations built. A Kids ‘n Kastles Sand-Building Competition will also be held as well as a Farmer’s Market and an International Food Fair, showcasing the wide variety of events Imperial Beach has to offer. The event will feature a community parade, live music, children’s activities and a pancake breakfast. It’s the perfect place to visit with family and friends and enjoy a world renowned and traditional sand castle competition.
9. Blue Water SandFest
-Port Huron, Michigan, USA
The Blue Water SandFest is less than 5 years old but it’s already cementing itself as one of the best sand competitions out there today. This is Michigan’s first and only Masters sand sculpting event and is held at the foot of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, along the beautiful beaches of Lake Huron. All proceeds raised from Blue Water SandFest contribute towards the renovation and restoration of historic buildings on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Light Station County Park.
Amateurs and advanced sand artists compete over three days in hopes of winning the championship. The amateur contest involves approximately 3-6 hours of sculpting time while the advanced competition takes 2-3 days to complete with 20 hours of sculpting time. You’ll also find interactive sand sculptures, live music, sand sculpting demonstrations and even lessons from professional sand artists. The Blue Water SandFest features a Quick Sand Speed Sand Sculpting competition (that’s a mouthful!) where two sculptors go head to head for 10 minutes, creating a sculpture based on a suggestion from the audience. It’s a great way to see the skill and complexity involved. There’s also an interactive photo opportunity so you can step in and become part of the sand art, then have your photo taken. There are a lot of activities on that would appeal to family and friends making it a fantastic three day event.
8. Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition
-Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, USA
If you’re looking for a seriously cool sand sculpting competition, this is it. Beginning in 2000, local artist Greg Grady was commissioned to create a larger than life replica of the New Hampshire quarter out of 10 tonnes of sand. It was such a success that the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition was created the following year and has been going strong since, now attracting thousands and thousands of visitors each year.
This invitation only event has grown in leaps and bounds and is now the largest Masters competition in the Northeast United States. During the three day event, only sand, water and creativity is used to create amazing sand masterpieces. Over 150 tonnes of sand is used each year by the contestants, who are all competing for cash prizes and awards worth up to $15,000. Awards include “Sculptor’s Choice” and The “People’s Choice”. When completed, the sand sculptures are sprayed with a solution of glue and water to protect them from the elements. This allows them to remain standing for weeks creating a free sand art exhibition which is also illuminated at night. This is certainly a world class competition that should be on your bucket list.
7. The Hawaii Sand Festival
-Hanalei, Hawaii, USA
As you would imagine on a beautiful island like Kauai in Hawaii, many families and friends enjoy going to the beach to frolic in the sea and sand and spend time together. In Kauai they have taken that tradition one step further and created the largest sand sculpture contest in Hawaii. The Hawaii Sand Festival/Sand Castle/Art Contest is held in the town of Hanalei during the Summer, and it is the only sand castle competition in Hawaii. This is a not for profit event which aims to raise awareness and appreciation for the ocean and the islands.
This free event invites amateur and professional sand sculptors from all over the world. Over one day, contestants are invited to create a sand castle or sand sculpture using only sand, water and the basic tools such as shovels, pails and spray bottles. Individuals or teams of any size are welcome to create their vision and enjoy a day at the beach as sand sculptors. There are four competitive divisions including kids under 12, Youth 12-17, Beginner Level and Competitive Level. Contestants can also enjoy music whilst building their masterpiece, making it a fun, family friendly atmosphere. To top it all off, world renowned sculptors are often invited to provide free lessons to the public on how to build an impressive work of art from sand.
6. European Championship Sand Sculpting
-Zandvoort aan Zee, The Netherlands
An initiative of the World Sand Sculpting Academy (WSSA) in The Hague, the European Championship Sand Sculpture Festival is held in the seaside village of Zandvoort aan Zee -also known as Amsterdam Beach. The sand is brought in from the River Maas near Nijmegen and professional artists from around the world are invited to compete in this event. The WSSA is the leading organisation responsible for initiating sand sculpting activities around the world and oversees this event.
In previous years, the European Championship has seen representatives from Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Portugal, Czech Republic and Spain. In 2014 eight sculptors from eight different European countries created an impressive sand sculpture based on the theme ‘Music and Dance’. Don’t expect to see little sand castles here, instead you will be treated to sculptures rising meters high, all created using the basic materials of water and sand. Previous years saw a giant recreation of Elvis as well as huge musical sheets and instruments. This competition truly showcases the craftsmanship and artistry of sand sculpting at its finest. Come wind, rain or hail, this competition will go ahead! Once the competition is finished, the sculptures are sprayed in an environmentally friendly coating, allowing them to be admired by the public for months after.
5. Weston Sand Sculpture Festival
-Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK
The Sand Sculpture Festival at Weston Super Mare had its humble beginnings in 2006 when two sculptors from the Netherlands created a giant King Kong using 30 tonnes of sand. The following year, eight sand artists from around Europe came back to create four incredibly big sculptures to the theme of fairy tales, using a total of 120 tonnes of sand. Each year since, the competition has only gotten bigger and better attracting more visitors each year and has become one of the largest sand events in the UK. In 2015, 4000 tonnes of sand will be used by fifteen of the world’s best sand sculptors.
Each year the competition uses fun and interesting themes such as Under the Sea, The Continents of the World, The Jungle, Great Britain and Hollywood. This year, the organisers invited suggestions from the public, making it a great way to get involved in this family friendly competition. The contestants will build for eight hours a day for nine days, creating huge works of art that will be on exhibition for weeks. Those who encounter the sand creations are amazed by both the sheer scale of the sculptures and the complex detail and skill that goes into each one.
4. Sand Castle Competition at Havre-Aubert
-Magdalen Islands, Quebec, Canada
Havre-Aubert is a tiny sandbar located in the archipelago of the Magdalen Islands, in the Gulf of St Lawrence. The area’s communities are artisans who enjoy participating in the long held summer tradition of building sand castles. The shoreline on Havre-Aubert runs for an impressive 12 kilometers and is characterized by the beautiful golden color of the sand, a fine grain variety caused from erosion of the red sandstone cliffs. This makes it ideal for sand sculpting so it’s no surprise there is a world famous competition held here.
Here you will find the ‘World’s Biggest Sand Castle Contest’ or the Concours de Châteaux de Sable. This competition has been running for over 25 years and is strictly for sand castles, so don’t expect to find any Disney characters or dinosaurs here. Over 500 builders now participate in this event and they have only one day to build their amazingly complex and beautiful castles. There are prizes for the best in the adult category, family, freestyle and even animation. If you want to be blown away by the humble sand castle, this is the place to go. When visiting this competition, give yourself at least three hours to walk along the shore and admire the works of art created.
3. Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition
-Siesta Key, Florida, USA
The Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition, founded in 2010, has fast become a favorite for professional sand sculptors and visitors alike with over 35,000 attendees each year. Named as one of Americas top beaches, the beauty of the pristine white sand makes it the perfect location for this competition and showcases the complex designs created. Each year proceeds are donated to the Mote Marine Laboratory’s sea turtle research and conservation programs and attendees are able to visit the turtles during the competition.
During the four day event, sculptors have 24 hours to create amazing sand sculptures and create an outdoor sand art gallery. Some creations are over ten feet high and use tonnes of sand to finish the masterpiece. In previous years, the Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition featured many international teams including Canada, the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Philippines and the United Kingdom, along with multiple U.S. states. There is also an annual Quick Sand competition where two sculptors compete against each other to complete a sand sculpture in only 10 minutes. The audience chooses the sculptor by applauding the loudest and it’s a great way to see how quickly a complex sculpture can be created.
2. Sand Safari, Australian Sand Sculpting Championship
-Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia
Summer in Australia is hot and long and many families enjoy the tradition of visiting the beach and building sand castles. The Sand Safari Competition held at Surfers Paradise in Queensland, takes this tradition to a whole new level as professional sand sculptors create amazing works of art along the foreshore. Each year ten professional sculptors enter the competition for a chance to win the championship.
Each sculpture can reach up to 4 metres high and range from 10-25 tonnes, so it’s no small feat! A total of approximately 180 tonnes of sand is manipulated into the artists’ interpretation of the theme. In previous years the competition saw complex castles, temples and even jungles with animals. In 2015 the theme is ‘Disney’ and each sculptor will be be creating scenes and characters using only sand and water.They will bring Disney’s magical friendships to life and it’s a great opportunity for family and friends alike to come and admire these creations. Running for two weeks each year, there’s plenty of time to visit and Sand Safari also runs additional interactive displays such as a sculpture exhibition where you can have your photo taken or participate in sand art workshops.
1. The American Institute of Architects SandCastle Competition
-Galveston, Texas, USA
This competition is one of the largest in the world and has been running for over twenty years in Galveston, Texas. Given that it’s run by the American Institute of Architects, you can expect some pretty complex and creative sculptures to be built over the one day competition. Teams of architects, designers, and engineers have taken their buckets and shovels to the beach each year for some healthy competition and work for five hours non-stop creating their masterpieces. The American Institute of Architects SandCastle Competition is also a fund-raising event for AIA Houston and the ArCH Foundation.
Last year the Golden Bucket award (or first place) went to Matrix Design Inc for a complex sand structure called “Enter the dragon” featuring a detailed 3D dragon and holy temples. Each sculpture is judged according to a set criteria including originality of concept, artistic execution, technical difficulty, carving technique, and utilisation of the site. The awards granted to the teams include Best Traditional, That’s Entertainment, Most Complex, Stars & Stripes, Best Architectural, Most Hilarious and Most Lifelike/Realistic. Some notable entries from 2014 include ‘Muppet Rushmore’ featuring your favourite muppet characters in place of the American presidents. You’re sure to see a wide range of amazing sand castles and sculptures at this event.