Choosing The Best Beach Sun Shade And Shelter

A day at the beach is bliss, but if there's no shade you can end up looking like a lobster. Sunburn is painful, embarrassing and can do irreversible damage to skin. A beach shelter protects you and your loved ones from the sun's harmful UV rays, and also keeps you cool. If you pack snacks, cold drinks and lunch in a portable cooler too, you can stay at the beach all day long and make the most of free summer fun!

What's the best beach sunshade?

Everyone's different, so the best beach shelter for you depends on your particular needs:

  • How many adults and kids need to fit under the sunshade at once (now and in future?)
  • How much stuff you'll want under your shelter (chairs, bags, toys, dogs, a drinks cooler?)
  • How easy you want the setting and packing up to be (will you do it alone or have help?)
  • How often you'll be going to the beach (every summer weekend or a few times a year?)
  • How long you want it to last (for a year or two, or for many more years to come?)

Working out which beach shelter to buy is easier when you break it down in into these five steps:

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1. Which type of shelter?

Beach Umbrella

A beach umbrella:

  • Is light, easy to carry and set up.
  • Only provides shade from above.
  • Has to be moved as the sun moves.
  • Can usually only cover 1-2 adults.
  • Doesn't protect you from the wind.
  • Can go flying in the wind if not anchored.
  • Should have a rope and sand bag anchor.

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How To Choose A Beach Shelter & Storage - Beach Umbrella


A gazebo is great if you're after a:

  • Larger beach shelter for a family of 5+.
  • Protected beach party or picnic area.
  • Shaded area for a beach wedding.
  • Team hub for beach sporting events.
  • Shelter that's tall enough to stand up in.
  • Sunshade you can add solid or mesh walls to.

To learn more about choosing a gazebo, go to the Outdoor Shelter Buying Guide.

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How To Choose A Beach Shelter & Storage - Gazebo

Beach Shelter

A beach shelter or sunshade:

  • Is lightweight, compact and waterproof.
  • Has 2-4 walls for sun and wind protection.
  • Is perfect for families of 3-4 with young kids.
  • Protects a baby's delicate skin from the sun.
  • Keeps food and cold drinks out of the hot sun.
  • Has a floor so sand doesn't get everywhere.
  • Is great for beach and park picnic lunches.
  • Creates a private space for getting changed.
  • Is colourful so it's easy to find after a swim.

Sunshades are popular beach shelters, so let's look at how to choose one.

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How To Choose A Beach Shelter & Storage - Beach Shelter

2. Size

There are a few key factors when it comes to size. You'll need a shelter with enough space for:

  • Everyone - how many people, towels, chairs and bags need to fit under your shelter?
  • Food and drinks - are you taking a portable cooler/ice box for food and cold drinks?
  • Anything else - do you have a dog or lots of baby stuff that needs to be factored in too?

Also keep in mind:

  • How heavy it is (can you carry it on your own with everything else, or will you need help?)
  • Large shelters usually weigh more and are heavier to carry than small shelters.
  • To try before you buy, head to your nearest Anaconda store and climb in!

3. Parts

The 6 parts of a beach shelter:


The structure underneath the fabric that gives the beach shelter its shape.


The type of material that's attached to the frame to create the shelter.


Mesh panels sewn into the fabric to:

  • Improve air flow.
  • Keep you cool.
  • Stop wind lift.


Stops sand getting into everything (some are removable).


Can be used to peg the shelter into the ground so it's secure in windy weather.


If the bag's slightly bigger, it's easier to get the shelter back into the bag.


How sturdy the frame is will determine:

  • How well it can handle the wind (a pop-up frame may be flimsy in strong winds).
  • Whether it's strong enough to handle hanging wetsuits and swimwear on it to dry.
  • How long the shelter lasts (the sturdier the frame, the longer it's likely to last).

When it comes to the sturdiness and strength of the frame, the poles can be made from:

  • Fibreglass
    • Lightweight, stable and usually the cheapest option.
    • Well suited to the intense Australian summer heat.
    • Won't rust or corrode when it gets wet.
  • Aluminium
    • Flexible but also won't break or snap easily.
    • A rust-resistant metal that suits beach use.

Pegs keep the shelter firmly attached to the ground so it doesn't blow away:

  • Use steel pegs on the grass and sand pegs on the beach.
  • Some shelters come with pegs and/or ropes for stability.
  • You'll need a little hammer to put your pegs in the ground.


The material your beach shelter is made from will determine:

  • How much it protects you from the sun, wind and rain.
  • How durable the shelter is and how long it will last.

Beach shelters are usually made from light, tough polyester, and the key things to consider are:

  • Sun protection - The UV Protection Factor number (E.g. some shelters have a 50+ UPF).
  • Waterproofing - the polyester will be more waterproof if the fabric has:
    • A polyurethane (PU) coating.
    • Sealed or heat-taped seams.
  • Anchoring - Look for pouches on the outside you fill with sand to anchor the shelter.
  • Privacy - Some shelters have zip-up doors if you want some privacy to get changed.
  • Awning - A front awning creates some shade on the sand for kids to play under.
  • Durability
    • A thicker polyethylene floor (shown as PE gsm) will be tougher and longer lasting.
    • Quality stitching reduces the risk of the shelter fabric ripping.
How To Choose A Beach Shelter & Storage - Beach Shelter

4. Set-Up Simplicity

How quickly and easily do you want to be able to set up and pack up your sunshade?

Some beach shelters have:

  • A pop-up design so you can set up and pack down in a few seconds.
  • Poles to assemble so these take you longer to put up and pack down.

It's important to think about:

  • Whether you'll be doing it all alone or if you'll have other (adult) helpers.
    • Is it light enough or too heavy to carry by yourself?
    • Can you set it up on your own or will you need help?
  • Doing a trial run at home so the set up and pack up isn't stressful at the beach.
  • How much space it will take up in your boot (check the packed dimensions).

It's also important to remember that you shouldn't leave your shelter:

  • Unattended (for safety reasons).
  • Up for more than a day at a time.

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How To Choose A Beach Shelter & Storage - Beach Shelter

5. Quality

When weighing up beach shelters, think about quality versus cost, and keep in mind:

  • If a shelter isn't secured with sand pouches, pegs or ropes and the wind catches it, it can:
  • Fly away and cause injuries, so protecting everyone's safety is critical.
  • Bend and be hard/impossible to set up and pack down in future.
  • Fabric and frame shelters that are lighter are usually less durable than heavy shelters.

When it comes to how much you should spend on a shelter:

  • Cheaper shelters tend to provide less sun, wind and water protection than shelters that cost more, so you get what you pay for.
  • If you just want a sunshade the kids can play under every now and then, a cheaper shelter with a good UVP rating that protects their delicate skin will do.
  • If you want happy, hassle-free beach days all summer long for years to come, it's worth spending a bit more on a good-quality beach shelter.
How To Choose A Beach Shelter & Storage - Beach Shelter

How much are beach shelters?

Anaconda beach shelters range from $20 to $140.

When you go to the beach and surf section on the Anaconda website, you'll see tick box filters down the left hand side of the page. Using these filters makes working out which sunshade to buy simpler because you can choose to filter the shelters you see by their:

  • Price - so you only see sunshades within your budget on the page.
  • Brand - so you can see all beach shelters made by a specific brand.
  • Storage sack - so you only look at sunshades that come with a bag.
  • Colour - so you can pick a beach shelter in the colour you like best.

Other Beach & Surf Essentials

Check out Anaconda's range of Beach & Surf products available online or visit your local store.

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