Top ten travel inspired tunes

04:04, May 24 2013
Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro

Throughout pop music's history, islands and beaches have inspired some memorable tunes. Here's 10 of the catchiest.

1. Island in the Sun, Harry Belafonte (1957)

The song sounds lovely but Harry Belafonte's hit came from the 1950s movie of the same name that attracted controversy because of its portrayal of interracial romance. The movie is set on the fictitious island of Santa Marta, but was shot in the Caribbean, predominantly Barbados and Grenada. Belafonte was born in Harlem, New York, to parents from Martinique and Jamaica.

Where: Barbados.
The Little Bay Hotel is reasonably priced for this part of the world, and is right on the water.

 2. The Girl from Ipanema, Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz (1964)

The song was inspired by Heloisa Pinheiro, who was 19 when two songwriters noticed the "tall and tanned and young and lovely" girl enter a bar in the beachside area of Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, to buy cigarettes for her mother. Pinheiro became a model and bared her tall, tan self for Playboy, first in 1973 and again in 2003 - with her daughter.


Where: Ipanema, Brazil.
Stay: Hotel Praia Ipanema is a high-rise hotel right on the beach, with a pool deck overlooking the action. Rooms have balconies with views.

 3. Under the Boardwalk, the Drifters (1964)

Songwriter Kenny Young grew up on the Lower East Side of a little island called Manhattan and his boardwalk "down by the sea" was Coney Island. The seaside resort was most popular in the first half of the 20th century. Recent efforts to revitalise it have brought arts events back to the slice of nostalgia that holds a big place in New Yorkers' hearts. But hurricane Sandy walloped the area. The rebuild is on.

Where: Coney Island, New York, US.
Stay: The Isabella at Ditmas Park B&B is a classic Victorian in a Brooklyn neighbourhood that's within a short subway ride of Coney Island.

 4. Island Girl, Elton John (1976)

Elton John's smash hit sounds about as calypso as they come. But the song is set in New York City and is about a prostitute. It's sung from the point of view of a man who would like to take her away from the mean streets and back to idyllic Jamaica, hence the Caribbean vibe of the tune. Many say the "Island Girl" is a male, pointing to the lyrics: "She's a big girl/she's standin' six-foot-three/turning tricks for the dudes in the big city."

Where: Jamaica.
Stay: The Rockhouse Hotel, Negril, Jamaica, has 34 secluded, beautifully decorated bures stretching across the cliffs of a cove.

 5. Echo Beach, Martha and the Muffins (1979)

Echo Beach is not a real place. It's symbolic of memories of better times. Still, the better times songwriter Mark Gane was referring to do involve a beach: Sunnyside, on the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto, of which he had happy childhood memories. Sunnyside beach was a social hub and hosted concerts by such performers as Count Basie and Duke Ellington before falling into disrepair. It's now been revitalised.

Where: Toronto, Canada.
The Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto, is downtown and offers views of Lake Ontario.

 6. La Isla Bonita, Madonna (1987)

"The beautiful island" of Madonna's song was her tribute to Latin people - but it was almost not to be. The instrumental version was first offered to Michael Jackson. When he passed, Madonna got it and wrote the lyrics, including the line: "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro." She's referring to San Pedro de Alcantara, on the Spanish Costa del Sol. The Andalucian town on the south coast is a classic Spanish seaside holiday spot with restaurants, entertainment, sun, sand and sea.

Where: San Pedro de Alcantara, Spain.
Stay: For a longer holiday stay, villa rentals are popular.

7. Kokomo, the Beach Boys (1988)

Kokomo was part of the soundtrack of the Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown movie Cocktail, and was nominated for a motion-picture music Grammy. The catchy Caribbean I've Been Everywhere, Man ("Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to Key Largo, Montego ...) went No.1 across the world, including in Australia. The place Kokomo in the song, referred to as "off Florida Keys", is fictional. But there is a Kokomo Road in Hawaii, on Maui in the mountains, amid pineapple plantations.

Where: Maui, Hawaii, US.
Stay: Haiku Plantation Inn purports to be Maui's first B&B. The building dates to the 1870s.

 8. My Island Home, Christine Anu (1995)

In the realms of unofficial Australian national anthems, My Island Home is right up there with I Still Call Australia Home and Down Under. But it's actually not about Australia as a whole. Originally by the Warumpi Band, it's a song about lead singer George Burarrwanga's longing for his particular island home, Elcho Island, off the east coast of Arnhem Land. Christine Anu changed the lyrics slightly to reflect her Torres Strait Islander heritage.

Where: Torres Strait Islands.
Few of the Torres Strait Islands are open to tourists. Thursday Island is, but even there accommodation is limited. Worth a try is the Grand Hotel.

 9. Malibu, Hole (1998)

Hole lead singer Courtney Love wrote the lyrics and producer Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) caressed them into a sunset cocktail-worthy melody named after one of southern California's most famous beaches. But Love's words are about her late husband, Kurt Cobain, and his stint in rehab at a facility in Malibu, on the coast of southern California, where he was treated for his heroin addiction - just before his suicide in 1994.

Where: Malibu.
The Malibu Motel, a fab retro California classic. There are more ritzy digs in this celebrity enclave, but few more authentically old-school Malibu.

10. Big Sur, the Thrills (2003)

The sweet, jangly tune and the opening line, "So much for the city", evoke open-top, sun-drenched, wind-in-the-hair driving along California's scenic Pacific Coast Highway to the beautiful Big Sur. The song is so classically Californian, you'd think it was written by a band of Santa Monica surfers - instead of some pasty Irish boys from Dublin singing a song of Gen Y ennui. North of LA, Big Sur is the Californian Pacific Coast of dreams, with stunning views and a coming together of rocky cliffs, majestic mountains, verdant forest and roaring sea.

Where: Big Sur, California, US.
The Post Ranch Inn, a 39-room, luxury hotel on a hilltop.

 Who knew?

One of the planet's most famous beaches, Rio's Copacabana is one of the most dangerous - almost 30 people were killed every week in 2007.

Sydney Morning Herald