The Corniche Road is also a popular spot with local residents catching (or shooting) the breeze, particularly towards dusk, when it fills up with a diverse crowd of promenading Emiratis, jogging Europeans and picnicking Indians. There’s also an attractive blue-flag beach with safe swimming stretching from near the Hilton to Al Khaleej al Arabi Street (which is where you’ll find the main entrance).
Driving through modern Abu Dhabi’s suburban sprawl, it’s easy not to notice that the city is built on an island rather than on the mainland itself; it wasn’t until the construction of the Maqtaa Bridge in 1966 that the two were connected. The city’s waterfront location is best appreciated from the sweeping, waterfront Corniche Road, which runs for the best part of 5km along Abu Dhabi’s western edge. The road is lined by spacious gardens on either side and flanked by a long line of glass-clad high-rises which both encapsulate the modern city’s internationalist credentials and provide Abu Dhabi with its most memorable views (although the waterfront as a whole is perhaps best appreciated from the Heritage Village across the water). Two of the city’s most striking recent developments can be found at the southern end of the Corniche Road: the huge new Etihad Towers complex (wetihadtowers.com), a cluster of five futuristic skyscrapers, and the nearby NationsTowers development (not quite finished at the time of writing), comprising two further similarly neck-cricking towers of slightly unequal height, joined at the top by a vertiginous sky-bridge.