How to Build the Perfect Sandcastle on Grace Bay Beach

While winter may seem endless, we’re already in the midst of spring with summer just around the corner. There will soon be warm, sunny days to spend on the beach with your family. To help you escape the lingering winter blues, here is a short guide to building a sandcastle on Grace Bay beach, or wherever you decide to spend the summer.

sand castle

To build the perfect sandcastle you’ll need:

  1. The right tools
  2. The right ingredients (water and sand)
  3. Some inspiration

Let’s get started!

1. Tools for Building a Sandcastle

As everybody knows, all you really need to build a sandcastle are a plastic shovel and a small bucket for sand and water. Of course, as any professional sandcastle builder will tell you, there’s more to it than that.

The quality of your shovel will largely determine how complex your finished sandcastle will be. A cheap plastic shovel will likely break (and end up as litter left behind on the beach). A sturdy metal garden shovel will last for season after season of digging. A larger metal spade will allow you to shovel impressive amounts of sand.

Choosing the right bucket is also important. The small plastic buckets we commonly associate with building sandcastles are suitable for child’s play, but the pros typically bring buckets of various sizes, to efficiently carry water and shift sand around.

Sand sculpting kit?

Professional sandcastle builders go beyond buckets and shovels, and depend on all sorts of tools, including ladders, masonry trowels, and even concrete forms. One handy set of tools that even families can take to the beach is a sand sculpting kit. These kits include a handy tool called a shaper, which allows you to carve out roofs, walls, windows and stairs.

However, to get those details in your sandcastle you need to make sure you have the perfect sand, first.

2. Sandcastle Ingredients

It seems obvious, but the two main ingredients in building a sandcastle are sand and water. However, some experts regard the combination of these two essential ingredients as an exact science.

Damp sand is key

The perfect sandcastle requires one bucket of water to eight buckets of dry sand, according to one writer. A sedimentologist states there’s actually a “magic ” formula: Water = 0.125 x sand.

Why is damp sand so important?

The film of water between individual sand grains is what gives sand its strength, too much and it lubricates one grain over the other, but just right and it binds them strong.

Danish scientists actually tested different ratios of sand and water in a laboratory. Using the what they called an “optimal water content” of two percent, the Danish scientists managed to construct a cylindrical sand tower, only 2 cm wide but which rose 25 cm up in the air. With a cylinder width of 16 cm, the tower rose an impressive 100 cm from the laboratory floor.

Water molecules ‘want’ to stick together. That’s why vapor in the air clusters into drops that fall to earth as rain. But the water molecules also ‘want’ to coat the sand grains. These coated grains then stick together via the capillary bridges the water forms.

And this is why we can build sandcastles at the beach.

Water is the key to a perfect sandcastle

Depending where you are on the beach, however, it’s actually not always easy to find a good supply of damp sand to build your sandcastle masterpiece. If you decide to build close to the tide line, where the sand is damp, then you ‘ll be seeing your creation destroyed when the tide starts coming in.

One solution is to dig a water hole.

Building Your Sandcastle

As mentioned, use moist sand. Squeeze a ball of sand in your hand for a few seconds. If the ball stays together when you roll it around in your palm, it’s perfect sand for a castle. A good first step is to dig a trench or moat around the perimeter of your proposed sandcastle, and dump the sand in the middle. This will be the basis of your creation.

Pounding makes perfect

Sand sculptors often do not use plastic buckets, but instead build their shapes by stacking handfuls of wet sand or by tamping it down in a topless and bottomless form.

With the back of your shovel, pack the sides of the mound to form walls. Make them higher than the center of the mound, creating a “bowl” to hold water. Keep packing until you get the height you want.

Don’t forget a finishing touch. Renzo Piano, the architect who designed the Shard in London, says he got his start dreaming about sandcastles at the beach. His advice?

“Put a little flag or anything else you can find on the sandcastle, just to make it visible to people running on the beach. Go home and don’t look back,” he says. Here’s a wonderful illustration from his interview.

Get inspired

If you want to up your sandcastle game, there are plenty of places to get inspired. Martha Stewart has a step-by-step guide to building sandcastles. Architectural Digest has a list of the “23 coolest sandcastles you’ll ever see“, and if you want to graduate to the big leagues of abstract sand art, Smithsonian has a guide to sand sculptures.

The simple sandcastle really is the gateway to truly individual creative expression.

Some Stunning Sandcastles

Instagram is also a source of stunning sandcastles. There are hundreds of thousands of sandcastles to scroll there using the #sandcastle hashtag. Here are just a few.

Build Your Ultimate Sand Castle on Grace Bay Beach

Our resort’s world-famous Grace Bay Beach location boasts pristine white sand that’s perfect for building sand castles. The warm, crystal clear ocean water also makes a stunning backdrop for your family sand creation. Contact our concierge for help assembling the tools you need to build the ultimate sandcastle on Grace Bay beach.

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