Comparisons are odious. And often, controversial. Comparing Marina and Edward Elliot’s beach will surely stir up a storm. Because the two beaches evoke strong responses, which go beyond mere facts and figures. Reactions are partisan to the question which beach is better? Given this, we asked the less controversial question: “What do people look for in a beach?” to determine how the two stack up. Besides splashing in the waves and lolling on the sands, the universal reasons for visiting a beach, not in any particular order, are good food, shopping, fun activities such as beach sports, facilities for walking and jogging or just sitting around and soaking in the view, and, oh yes, an atmosphere for romance.

Prince Frederick lists his findings:

ATTRACTIONS

With memorials, fountains and statutes, the Lighthouse and the landscaping, Marina has greater visual appeal. With its rundown Schmidt Memorial and the Broken Bridge (a treat for Nature lovers), a little away from the beach, Bessie just can’t take on Marina in this contest.

With a multiplicity of attractions and better connectivity by road (an impressive number of steel bus shelters from Anna Samadhi to the Lighthouse suggest access to buses plying to various parts of the city), Marina draws numerous tourists, many from rural and semiurban areas and other parts of the State, thereby earning the title People's Beach.

Marina ****

Besant *

PROMENADE/ SIT-OUTs

The granite promenade is Marina’s greatest charm. Adequate lighting, lawns, galleries built on the concept of theatrical seating, pergolas, service lanes and granite footpaths make for a splendid display of related amenities. Found along the three-km promenade (stretching from the Triumph of Labour statue to the Lighthouse), they define 14 sections through different languages of design. Together with adequate parking, these facilities encourage people, especially seniors, to use the promenade well into the evening.

The promenade at Bessie pales in comparison. A large number of people walk their pets. As the walkway is short, walking on it is hardly a pleasure. It’s cruel to make comparisons on this point, because Besant Nagar beach technically forms one endpoint of the 13-km Marina beach, considered the second longest natural sandy urban beach in the world.

Bessie may not be a walkers’ paradise, but has been central to efforts at mobilising running groups. Dream Runners, a bunch of fitness fanatics from the neighbourhood, is identified with Bessie.

Marina *****

Bessie *

FOOD

Visitors to Elliot’s beach (also known as Bessie) are spoilt for choice. On the road hugging the beach and its bylanes, there are swarms of restaurants, and ice-cream and light-eats parlours and coffee shops. KFC, Donut House, Barista, By The Bay (Lebanese cuisine), Murugan Idli Shop, Murugan Jigarthanda, Ibaco, Emilios, Cozee, Dhaba Express, Tasty Jones, Amma Short Eats, Rasoee Dhaba, Cups and Cones, Pupil, Thalapakatti and a Planet Yumm food court on the beach side. Also, at a short distance from the beach, some well-known brands — such as The French Loaf and Karaikudi — are located.

Now, try counting the options for food at Marina! Sagar Vihar, yes. And then, it is down to pushcarts. It takes a strong stomach — and a brave heart — to try the ones on wheels.

In its defence, Marina is close to the seat of power and with Government establishments and educational institutions lining Kamarajar Salai, the scope for eateries or any other commercial enterprises is restricted. In contrast, the Elliots Beach Road is lined with private properties, some of which have been developed into food outlets.

Marina **

Bessie *****

ROMANCE

It’s a tie here. With its greater size and better seating arrangements, Marina attracts lovey-dovey couples. Moreover, a date at the Marina costs next to nothing. There is always an excuse for not taking the significant other to a restaurant. At Bessie, romance and food feed on each other – on the downside, a cheap date is out of the question.

Marina***

Bessie***

SHOPPING

Apparel and accessories and lifestyle shops abound at Bessie. Puma, Reebok (factory price shop), Elliots Fashions, Cape Kazuals Mentor, Just For You, Casual Joint and Cool & Cool Casuals. Interesting additions to the sea of variety are tattoo parlours Tantra and UV Ink, Senza, a hand and foot spa, and Pets 101, a pet store.

And, this list is far from exhaustive. In contrast, long hours spent at the Marina can induce clinical depression in shopaholics.

Marina 0

Bessie ****

SPORTS/ LIFESTYLE EVENTS

Marina is popular for beach cricket. Thanks to two pools, swimming is a defining feature of this beach. It has a skating rink, but so has Bessie. Oh yes, beach volleyball is played off and on at the Marina. Marina used to be the focal point of Chennai Marathon, which is going to be flagged off at the IIT-M Campus this year.

Clearly, Bessie has an edge over Marina in this contest. From Xtreme frisbee and beach volleyball to street food festivals and stunt shows, Bessie is always up to something. It is preferred for such activities partly because of quick access to food and its reputation as congreating ground for youngsters and yuppies.

Marina ***

Bessie ****

GROUP-BUILDING

Bessie has built hobby groups, especially those involving youngsters. ‘Cozee’ figures in the dictionaries of all motor enthusiasts of the city. From jeepers and motorcyclists to car rallyists, this restaurant has served as the meeting-point for motoring groups. Cozee is well-known, but other eateries at Bessie also have reasons to thank these and other hobby groups.

Marina has its share of regular meet-ups – on its sands. Groups that take a diversity of routes to fitness, such as laughter-marathons and tai chi, meet up here. Among the interesting ones is a group of Tamil poets, headed by Ponnadiyan, has met every first Sunday for over four decades! But there is an irresistible flavor to meeting up at Elliots Beach, one that is lacking at Marina.

Bessie ****

Marina ***

(As for the other parameters – such as safety and cleanliness – there are no significant differences. Given its size, Marina has, of course,received a slew of modern equipment to clean its sands. Both have paid toilets, but many more of them are needed.)