While many people planning their family holidays in 2018 think the best beaches are on tropical islands, they might be surprised to learn that idyllic stretches of golden sand and clear blue waters can be found much closer to home. We’ve put together a collection of beaches with breathtaking scenery and sea views that will help you pick the best beach holiday destinations in Europe.
Navagio Beach in Zakynthos, Greece
Also known as Smugglers Cove and Shipwreck Beach because in 1980 a ship that was rumoured to be carrying contraband cigarettes and wine ran aground in the waters around the north-west coast of Zakynthos Island and still rests buried in the limestone gravel of Navagio beach, this piece of paradise is so isolated it can only be accessed by boat.
Nevertheless, it is one of the best-known beaches in Greece and regular tours to it start from Porto Vromi, Agios Nikolaos and Cape Skinari. Those tourists planning to lounge in the sun are advised to bring all necessities with them because this secluded bay lacks any facilities.
Cala Tonnarella, Sicily, Italy
For those who like a secluded beach free from crowds of people, Cala Tonnarella is the one for you. Hidden away inside Zingaro Nature Reserve, this beach is a small stretch of white sand and blue water with low limestone cliffs. Getting to Cala Tonnarella is a bit of a mission because it isn’t accessible via road. Despite the need to hike at least an hour to get to and from Cala Tonnarella, it’s worth the effort. And the bonus is you might even have the whole beach to yourself.
Praia de Miramar, Portugal
This lovely, somewhat isolated beach has golden sand is found in the upmarket village of Mirimar about seven miles south of Porto. Its main attraction is it is easily accessible yet tourists are almost guaranteed to have huge swathes of the beach to themselves, even in the height of summer, because it is most used by local residents. Although there are cafes near the beach, this location is most noted for the nearby chapel, which sits on a rock at the water’s edge.
Vik Beach, Iceland
Who says the best beaches must be in warm climates? Vik Beach, which is around 180km from Reykjavik and a popular stop-off for those taking a sightseeing tour along Iceland’s South Coast, was voted one of National Geographic’s top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet.
With its black sand and tales of sea monsters, Vik Beach – also known as Reynisfjara Beach – has a gothic feel to it which is supported by local beliefs. Look to the west and you will spot the Trolls of Vik that are said to be the remains of three Icelandic trolls. When the tide is low you can explore the caves that are made up of cooled lava, and rumoured to be the place that once sheltered mythical creatures.
Sandwood Bay, Scotland
If you’re looking for a little adventure, culture and plenty of partying then Jaz Beach is the one for you. Close to the town of Budva on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, this sandy beach is one of the longest in the area. While it’s not built-up like Budva and Bečići, the beach is still lined with loungers, sun umbrellas and beach bars.
But if rest and relaxation is what you’re after on a family holiday to Montenegro, steer clear in mid-July when Jaz Beach is overrun by more than 100,000 party-goers enjoying the annual Sea Dance Festival.
Jaz Beach, Montenegro
Formed by a landslide in 1963, this beach on the Golfo di Orosei resort on Sardinia’s cliff-sided eastern coast is now a National Italian Monument.
Not so long ago you could only reach this beach from the sea, but things have moved on and there’s now a road tunnel bored through the wall of mountains that separate it from the rest of the island. Once emerged from the tunnel, beach lovers are confronted by a steep plunge to the coast, and the spectacle of a coastline noted for its turquoise water and white sand stretching out of sight to north and south.
Cale Goloritze, Italy
This beach is absolute perfection, with tiny white pebbles that are overshadowed by impressive rocks. It’s just one in the series of beaches on the Golfo di Orosei’s coastline. Now, this isn’t your classic white sandy beach; its appeal lies within the clear blue waters. The only way of getting to this beach is either by boat or foot. Most people tend to opt for a boat and come in from Cala Gonone. For something truly amazing though you can walk down an old mule track from the Golgo Plateau which is 400m high.
Playa de Ses IIIetes, Formentera
Ses Illetes in Formentera offers white sand stretching as far as the eye can see and clear azure waters, which gives it a definite Caribbean feel. This always popular beach attracts a real mixture of people, including day-trippers from Ibiza, the rich and famous stopping by in yachts and locals topping up their tan at the weekend.
Once a pirate’s lair, Genoveses is a hidden Spanish retreat. Be sure to take everything you need with you on your trip to this beach as there are no shops, restaurants or bars in this secluded little area. However, it’s the perfect spot for holidaymakers seeking solitude – you can’t even hear any traffic, and with high cliffs surrounding the beach you are guaranteed sunshine.