Summer’s coming and our thoughts naturally turn to sun and sand, especially those of us who’ve been stifled by this year’s particularly harsh winter. No doubt you’re thinking about some lush island location where the temperature climbs into the 70s and the trade winds blow gently, keeping you warm yet comfortable.
But if you were planning a trip across “The Pond” rather than an island vacation, you don’t have to forego the beach portion of your summer trip. Europe boasts a number of wonderful beaches that rival most anything you’d find in the Caribbean. Besides, heading to a European locale rather than just an island destination means you’re not locked into just spending your days on the sand. Just a short drive from most of the beaches listed below are great cities, towns, and villages, and/or plenty of cultural attractions as well.
Here’s a list of a handful of our favorite European beach destinations.
Figures at least one magnificent French beach would make our list of the top sandy spots on the continent. Close to the Spanish border, this wonderful beach locale offers a little taste of both countries and is not only a trendy destination for beach goers but also the go-to spot for surfers. If you’re heading there in July, the Biarritz Surf Festival dominates but is fun to watch, even if you’re not a surfer. There are also two casinos in town along the Grande Plage, plenty of upscale shopping, and some of the best Basque cuisine available. The Asiatica Museum is also quite notable, and there’s even a Chocolate Museum in town. What could be more indulgent?
Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia, Greece
Chances are you’ve seen photos of this wonderful Ionian beach as it’s one of the most photographed in the country. Situated on the northwest coast of the island of Kefalonia, it’s about as dramatic as it gets. Its mile-and-a-half of sand is surrounded by steep limestone cliffs and the water is pure turquoise in color. It’s a little difficult to reach, but during the summer, public transit bus service takes you to the beach from the town of Divarata. Be advised, however, that Myrtos is best suited to adults as the current can be rough and there’s a sudden drop in water depth not too far from shore.
Zlatni Rat, Croatia
The cool thing about this Croatian beach on the island of Brac is that it always looks a little different, largely depending on the currents and winds to create its shape. Zlatni Rat is not really a sandy beach – more a pebbly expanse, but it’s still terrific and is especially attractive to those who enjoy kite flying as well as kite surfing. Visitors can bike or walk there from the town of Bol (about 2 km on an easy-to-navigate route). It’s huge so crowds are usually manageable, but the west side is generally reserved for “naturalists”.
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall, England
Even if you’re going to the U.K., you can grab a little beach time. This lovely, lovely beach in Cornwall sits between a pair of dramatic cliffs, which form a protected bay that boasts beautiful white sand and turquoise waters. While it’s not likely you’ll find surfers here or anyone else practicing extreme sports, Porthcurno Beach is indeed popular with body boarders. Families can enjoy swimming here as well, but be aware that there is a drop a little ways out that might not be suitable for little ones. If you keep them near the sand, however, they’ll be just fine. Furthermore, Cornwall is a lovely place to set up camp for a while, and you can also do some great fishing there.
Cala Luna, Sardinia, Italy
This crescent moon-shaped beach on the Gulf of Orosei is one of many breathtaking beaches on the island of Sardinia. We like this one because it’s perfect for both snorkeling and scuba diving but is also user-friendly for those who don’t wish to do either. It’s quite secluded, which makes it extra special for sun-worshippers seeking some quiet time, and it’s rarely filled with children as it takes a bit of a hike to get to it. (Though you can catch a boat that’ll take you there from the local Marina di Orosei.) The coolest thing about this beach, however, is the small caves in the cliffs that surround the beach, ripe for a little exploring and great for shelter, when needed. Just beautiful!