Inspirational Beach Landscape Ideas for the Yard

Beautiful Beach House on Sanibel Island Florida
Purdue9394 / Getty Images

A beach theme with outdoor nautical decor can include salt-tolerant plants indigenous to your seashore and nautical yard signs, mailboxes and ornaments. Browse our beach-theme photos for landscape ideas to use in your own yard.

You don't have to live near the seashore to inject these nautical themes into your backyard landscaping. Beach landscape ideas work well in lakeside communities, too by association—despite the fact that there are no real whales or lighthouses within hundreds of miles! Such details don't stop the true ocean-lover from decorating with beach themes. We've witnessed the use of outdoor nautical decor in yards located nowhere near water of any sort, whether fresh or salty.

If you don't live near the seaside (yet are attracted to nautical decor) and question whether a beach theme is appropriate for your landscaping, realize that it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Try installing an artificial pond and decorating just that area of the yard with a beach theme.

Landscape designs thoroughly committed to a beach theme begin at the property's entrance, with a yard address sign that bespeaks the ocean.

  • 01 of 16

    Beach-Themed Yard Sign

    Beach-theme yard sign
    David Beaulieu

    This whale carving is a perfect yard address sign for a home in a seaside community. For a house near the ocean, we'd call this "a whale of a yard sign."

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  • 02 of 16

    Outdoor Nautical Decor Photos

    Picture of a fence made with a ship's chain.
    David Beaulieu

    Ship's chains go hand-in-hand with anchors as popular elements in outdoor nautical decor.

    This is a case where a fence is purely decorative: Despite its massiveness, this beach-theme fence won't stop very much from coming onto the property. That's all right: its purpose is to evoke the ocean.

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  • 03 of 16

    Ship's Rope Used as Fence

    Ship's rope photo, used in fencing. Another beach-theme material for fencing: a ship's rope.
    David Beaulieu

    Does the ship's chain used in the prior fencing photo strike you as too ponderous-looking?

    Another beach-theme material for fencing is a much lighter material (although still plenty solid-looking): a ship's rope.

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  • 04 of 16

    Grow the Beach Rose

    Picture of "beach rose."
    David Beaulieu

    Rosa rugosa performs very well in seaside communities and has, in fact, been nicknamed the "beach rose." It is ubiquitous at the beaches of the Northeastern United States because it is made of sturdier stuff than the typical types of roses that you see in people's yards. It grows so well in areas such as coastal New England that it has naturalized there in some cases. R. rugosa is so entrenched in seashore areas such as Rye, New Hampshire that many residents do not realize it is actually indigenous to the Far East.

    Beach roses hold up under what is, for many other plants, a perfect storm of challenging conditions:

    • They tolerate drought.
    • They are tolerant of poor soils.
    • They withstand high winds.
    • They do not mind salt—whether it be the salty soil and salt-laden breezes along the ocean or the road salt that contaminates the ground along a highway (an alternate common name for the shrub is "salt-spray rose").

    Not only do these bushes furnish ornamental value along the seashore, but they are also sometimes planted in sand dunes and along beach roads to prevent shore erosion. Wild birds and other animals, such as deer, eat the rose hips (that is, the fruit of the beach rose). High in vitamin C, humans can eat the rose hips, too.

    How to Grow Them

    Several varieties and/or cultivars of beach roses have been put on the market, such as the aptly named 'Sandy,' and plant attributes (including floral color) will vary from one to another. But what follows is a general description of the species (wild) plant.

    Beach roses usually reach a height of 4 to 6 feet, with a similar spread, but they have been known to become even larger than that. They can push up suckers, thereby spreading to become colonies or "thickets" over time. Birds often nest in the thickets of beach roses. The stalks are covered in sharp thorns, making this a good hedge plant for homeowners who wish to discourage trespassers.

    The leaves are dark green in color. The (usually) fragrant flowers are most commonly either pink or white. These 3-inch blooms flower mainly in late spring and early summer.

    Suited for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, you can install beach roses either in full sun or in partial shade, but plants will be healthier and flower better when given full sunlight. Fertilizing is generally not necessary, but do provide them with good drainage.

    While beach roses are low-maintenance, they are like most other plants in the sense that supplying them with a little tender loving care increases the chances for optimal performance. To that end, adhere to these simple rules of care:

    • Space them so as to provide sufficient air circulation. Since mature width is around 6 feet, space new plants at least 6 feet apart, unless you are trying to form a hedge.
    • Water the plants at ground level, not overhead. Along with good air circulation, this will help prevent disease (although this hardy is, to be sure, relatively disease-resistant).
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  • 05 of 16

    Ivy Geranium Hanging Baskets

    Picture of an ivy geranium hanging basket.
    David Beaulieu

    When selecting salt-tolerant plants, remember that the sea breeze carries a salty mist that can have an adverse effect on some plants in hanging baskets.

    But ivy geranium, shown in the picture above, is one plant that seems to thrive at the seashore. Another plant popular for hanging baskets that thrives near the ocean is lantana. Another great idea is to use these plants in window boxes if you live near the ocean.

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  • 06 of 16

    Palm Trees

    Front yard palm trees
    Troy Plota/Getty Images

    The sight of a palm tree makes many of us think of a beach landscape.

    Don't think that you have to live in the sub-tropics to enjoy palm trees. Among the various types of palm trees, some are hardy. Denizens of cold climates also have the option of treating palms as annuals or potting them up and taking them inside for the winter. Not all palm trees are as gigantic as the ones in the picture above: some are small enough to make good container plants.

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  • 07 of 16

    Seaside Heather Plant

    Close up of woolly beach heather
    David Beaulieu

    One way to achieve a beach theme is to "go native".

    When you think about the various types of wildflowers, wild beach vegetation may not come to mind immediately. But some of us do have strong beach associations with the native plants that grace our local beaches. Native plants also carry the advantage of being adapted to your particular climate. Check with your local wildflower nursery for the availability of native plants that would fit in with a beach theme.

    The seaside plant in the picture above goes by various names, in case you're interested in researching it: "woolly beach heather," "wooly beach heather," "false beachheather," etc. Woolly beach heather (Hudsonia tomentosa) is native to the Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast region in North America.

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  • 08 of 16

    Beach Grass

    Close up of beach grass
    David Beaulieu

    If it's native plants you seek for your beach theme, don't forget the obvious: beach grass.

    These homeowners were smart to grow beach grass (or "dune grass") in their small front yard, rather than struggling to grow lawn grass where it really doesn't belong. The only "carpet" you need at the beach is sand. Like the ornamental grasses with which you are probably familiar, beach grass is meant to grow tall and look pretty, rather than functioning as a carpet as lawn grasses do. Nor do you have to mow it (always a plus).

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  • 09 of 16

    Mailboxes for the Beach Landscape

    Fish mailbox overlooking the water
    David Beaulieu

    This bigmouth bass swallowed a whole mailbox.

    We've also seen these fish mailboxes in brown, but we think the green fish shown in the picture above provides better color for seashore landscaping.

    Like a yard address sign, a mailbox is one of the first elements in a yard to catch the viewer's eye. So if you're developing a beach theme for your landscaping, the mailbox is a good place to begin. The next few pictures all show examples of clever mailboxes for seashore communities.

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  • 10 of 16

    Fishing Lure Mailbox

    Fishing lure mailbox
    David Beaulieu

    In the prior picture, we saw a mailbox in the shape of a fish, the mailbox pictured here is similar but exploits the fishing theme from a subtly different angle. Here, it is a fishing lure rather than a fish that will hold the day's mail.

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  • 11 of 16

    Lobster Trap Mailbox

    A lobster-trap mailbox
    David Beaulieu

    A lobster-trap mailbox provides the ultimate opening for a beach theme.

    You could easily do without the fish and seahorse figures floating above the lobster trap as they clutter a scene that requires no more than the lobster trap to get its message across.

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  • 12 of 16

    Lighthouse Mailbox

    Lighthouse stone mailbox
    David Beaulieu

    Lighthouses are a pinnacle of beach-themed landscaping and it would be silly to ignore these iconic figures. While they can be used as stand-alone ornaments for the yard, this is a more creative spin. The lighthouse mailbox has plenty of company, with separate lighthouse ornaments in the background.

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  • 13 of 16

    Seashell Mailbox

    Seashell mailbox
    David Beaulieu

    Did you ever sell seashells by the seashore when you were a kid (or at least collect them)?

    The kids will love this mailbox made with scallop shells, sand dollars, and the like.

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  • 14 of 16

    Ship's-Chain Mailbox

    Close up fo a ship's chain mailbox.
    David Beaulieu

    Earlier, we saw a ship's chain used as a fence for an ocean-landscaping theme while this picture shows another interesting use of ship's chains in landscaping by the ocean: as mailbox decorations. 

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  • 15 of 16

    Decorative Boats

    Picture of mini-boats in pond with beach theme. Decorative boats are useful in beach garden themes.
    David Beaulieu

    Decorative boats are useful in beach garden themes.

    Without the duck decoy in the picture above (indicating scale), you wouldn't be able to tell that these aren't real boats!

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  • 16 of 16

    Ship Anchor Decor

    A ship's anchor used in nautical-theme garden.
    David Beaulieu

    The anchor is a no-brainer for outdoor nautical decor, and the round piece of metal in the background sets the anchor off nicely.

    Talk about a focal point literally "anchoring" a landscape design!