It’s the time of year for sun, sand and sea. All over Europe there are fantastic coastlines and beaches, whether you’re looking to sunbathe, surf or snap some photos. Here are some of the very best locations for beach holidays, from South Wales to Sicily.
Best for: water sports, seafood, photography, nature, hiking, families.
Top beaches: Bordeira Beach and its neighbour Amado Beach are famous surf spots on the Algarve’s west coast. Rugged and exposed, and home to three kilometres of interrupted golden sand, Bordeira is popular with surfers, but is usually – and surprisingly – largely empty. Down the coast, Amado Beach is busier and better for beginner surfers, hosting two surf schools and a place to hire equipment. If you have small children, your best bet is to head to the beaches east of Faro, which tend to have much gentler waves and sand that stretches on for miles – the perfect place to get out the bucket and spade!
Where to stay: 4* Four Seasons Vilamoura, in the resort town of Vilamoura. From £130/€180. You’ll be around a one-hour drive away from the surfing hotspots, but only minutes away from some of the region’s prettiest beaches and award winning golf courses. Look for other hotels in Portugal.
Gower Peninsula, Wales, United Kingdom
Best for: water sports, hiking, nature, photography.
Top beaches: It might come as a surprise that Wales features here at all, but in truth there are plenty of beautiful seaside locations in the United Kingdom. The Gower Peninsula, to the west of Swansea, has some particularly nice ones. Rhossili Bay features a sublime coastal view and a picturesque village, while at Three Cliffs Bay you can stroll through the woods andwatch wild ponies galloping across the beach. Oxwich Bay, meanwhile, was named one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, with pristine waters, extensive dunes, and a small Saxon church on the headland. You’ll also find plenty of great locations for watersports, particularly at Swansea itself.
Where to stay: 3* Grand Hotel Swansea, located within reach of Swansea Railway Station, is only a 45 minute drive away from Rhossili Bay. From £70 inc. breakfast. Look for other hotels and resorts in Wales.
Southern Sicily, Italy
Best for: sun, food, romance, families, photography.
Top beaches: Scala dei Turchi (literally ‘Stair of the Turks’) is located on the coast of Realmonte in the southern Sicily. It’s a pretty unique sight, formed by brilliant white marl rock that has formed a huge, stunning rock formation in the shape of a staircase, carved out by the sea. The name comes from the frequent raids carried out by North African pirates in centuries past. Afterwards, check out Vendicari Beach on the island’s east coast, near Syracuse. Not only are their clear waters, rockpools and fine sandy beaches, but also a ruined 15th-century tower and a curious ruined tonnara, where catches of tuna were brought from the nearby area.
Where to stay: 4* Palazzo Failla is located in the southern city of Modica in the province of Ragusa. A 1-hour drive from the hotel will take you to Vendicari Nature Reserve. From £50/€69 inc. breakfast. Look for other hotels and resorts in Sicily or take a look at our suggestions for Beach Holidays in Italy.
Cornwall, United Kingdom
Best for: water sports, hiking, food, nature, families.
Top beaches: On the most south-westerly point of Great Britain you’ll find the bulging Lizard and Penwith peninsulas. On this stunning area of natural beauty you’ll find some of Cornwall’s loveliest beaches, such as Kennack Sands and Kynance Cove. The former is good for surfing, and the eastern end of the beach is designated as a nature reserve. The latter, meanwhile, has a stretch of beautiful white sand, with towering rock stacks and a little café selling Cornish pasties and cream teas.
Where to stay: 3* Penmere Manor Hotel is located just outside the historic port town of Falmouth, about 35 minutes away from Kennack Sands and 45 from Kynance Cove by car. From £90/€104. Look for other hotels and resorts in Cornwall.
Best for: sun, water sports, parties, families.
Top beaches: The very best beach on the island is Golden Bay, a beautiful sandy white beach perfect for swimming. It’s also the most popular beach in the area, so for a quieter experience tourists should head a short distance to the south to Ghajn Taffieha Bay, just as pleasant, but with far fewer tourists. On the other side of the island, in vibrant Paceville near the capital, you’ll find Saint George Bay, a popular beach surrounded by restaurants and clubs, making it perfect for socialising and soaking up the atmosphere.
Where to stay: 4* Victoria Hotel in Sliema is just 10 minutes away from Saint George Bay by car, and around 35 minutes on foot. It is about 30 minutes by road from Golden Bay. From £127/€147. Look for other hotels and resorts in Malta.
Best for: water sports, hiking nature, families.
Top beaches: Okay, we’re being a bit cheeky here. Usedom – a Baltic island on the north coast of Germany and Poland – is hardly a household name. But it is a popular destination for German holidaymakers, offering about 40km of fine sandy beaches, perfect conditions for swimming, surfing, sailing and beach volleyball, and a well-developed network of cycle paths and hiking routes. Heringsdorf, a 19th-century spa town, has a beautiful long beach, plenty of restaurants and Germany’s longest pier. It’s somewhere unique
Where to stay: 4* Familien Wellness Hotel is a pleasant resort hotel, 30 minutes from Heringsdorf by road. There is, however, so much beach on Usedom that you’re never too far from somewhere to lay your towel.
Featured image: Kynance Cove – image by Steven Vacher via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Strand Bordeira Algarve, Portugal – image by dronepicr via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The black sheep of the family – image by Rose Davies via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Thinking Of You – image by Angelo Domini via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Lizard Point – image by Barney Moss via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
IMG_4907 – image by Eloise Roberts via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Mykonos – image by Steve Summers via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Malta – 539 – image by fyrwit via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Fischerboot – image by Björn via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)