From Bali-inspired beaches to snorkelling around snoopy island…

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are full of brilliant things to do. But when you’re looking to escape the city, the rugged natural landscape of the surrounding emirates makes for a brilliant day trip. So pack up the car, perfect your road trip playlist and head out to one of these natural beauty spots.

Soak up the scenery in Khorfakkan

Images: Visit Sharjah

On Sharjah’s east coast, half way between Dibba and Fujairah, Khorfakkan has been having a moment in recent years, and the sleepy beach town is transforming into quite the tourism destination. On a day trip to Khorfakkan, there’s plenty to see and do: take a leisurely stroll along the corniche, enjoy an adventurous afternoon of sailing, fishing or kayaking, or climb to the highest point in Khorfakkan, Al Suhub Rest House. Last year, an amphitheatre and waterfall were also added to the roster of attractions here, so be sure to pay those a visit too.

Retreat to lush nature in Al Ain

Al Ain Oasis had the honour of becoming the UAE’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2011. Spread over 3,000 acres, the oasis is one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements, dating back more than 4,000 years. You can wander through its tranquil pathways, with more than 147,000 date palm trees providing a lovely green canopy.

Dive into watersports at Snoopy Island

Snoopy-island

Named after the cartoon dog, which the island is said to resemble in shape, Snoopy Island is a marine paradise offering some of the best snorkeling in the GCC. Turtles, fish every colour of the rainbow and even little white-tip reef sharks have made this sparkling cerulean sea their home. On a day trip to Snoopy Island, you can go snorkelling or scuba diving, or stay above the surface with an afternoon of paddle boarding or kayaking – the gear for all of which can be rented from the shore. Those looking to make a weekend of it can check-in to Sandy Beach Hotel, the legendary Fujairah resort that sits smack bang in front of Snoopy Island.

Hit the beach in Umm Al Quwain

Primarily a kitesurfing school, Kite Beach Umm Al Quwain is the stunning spot bringing Bali-vibes to the UAE. Mismatched sun loungers are made from solid wood planks and sit under traditional thatched beach umbrellas. Up-cycled doors placed in the sand offer a dream Instagram backdrop and guests can rent a beach hut for the day to enjoy the beach in style. Hire a kayak, work up a sweat at the ‘Tarzan Gym’ or book in for a surf lesson and make the most of the waves. You need to pay for access, which starts from Dhs45 in the week and Dhs75 on weekends.

Head for a mountain adventure in Hatta

Hatta is a great place to hit if you want to swap skyline views for nature. The spot is popular among residents for its picturesque mountains, glamping experiences, hiking trails and of course the Hatta Wadi Hub. Here, you can find waterslides, zorbing, archery, axe throwing, ziplines and paint balling, which can only be booked on the day at the Wadi Hub. More projects are coming to Hatta soon too, including a a sustainable waterfall, a world-class hotel plus new hiking trails to the highest peak in Dubai.

Discover Centuries old artifacts in Mleiha

Located an hour’s drive away from Dubai in the emirate of Sharjah, Mleiha includes archaeological sites, a museum, activities including trekking and horseback riding, wadi caves and artifacts dating back to the first movement of humans from Africa 130,000 years ago. At Mleiha Archaeological Centre, learn about life in the region in years gone by; or embark on one of their more adrenaline-fulled activities including a self-drive buggy adventure or a UNIMOG tour.

And one just over the border…

Spot dolphins in Musandam

Image: Getty

The mountainous peninsula of Musandam is separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE, making it an easy day trip from the emirates if you keep heading north from Ras Al Khaimah. While those looking for history can head to the capital of Khasab for museum displays and forts that date back to the 17th-century, the most popular activity in Musandam takes you out onto its beautifully blue waters. Hop aboard a traditional dhow and sail through the majestic fjords, spotting the local pods of dolphins as you go. Companies like Musandam Sea Adventure offer full and half day dhow cruises, or options to create multi-day packages for those looking to maximise their adventure time.