It's a lovely family camping on the beach (you can even rent a bungalow on the beach!). It's quite, sunny, not too hot thanks to the trees and the nearby seaside. Adapted for families with one or more children. Very friendly and happy life.
Catalonia was a major Roman province and one of the best places to get a sense of that is Empuries in the far north of the Costa Brava. It's a massive Roman town built on an earlier Greek colony and it's still being excavated today. There are temples, mosaics, painted walls, everyday houses and the usual Roman preoccupation with sewers and water! The museum has a well displayed collection of finds and, even better, the whole thing is right on one of the best beaches on the Costa Brava. So after a morning of ancient history you can strip off, grab a bite to eat at the beach cafe and go for a swim with the fishes. They told us that we might be able to see the odd Roman ruin on the sea floor but we didn't have our goggles that day.
If you go to Cadaques, probably the most unspoilt coastal village in Spain, there are two main pleasures: food and sea. Food: skip the tourist restaurants, and walk round the Punta de Sa Costa on the eastern side of the town centre – you’ll find much more authentic beach restaurants frequented mostly by local people and pungent with the smell of delicious frying fish. Sea: kill three birds with one stone by taking your swimming gear and a picnic and setting off in the morning for the thirty minute walk towards the Cala Nans lighthouse. You get vigorous exercise, beautiful national park scenery, and a magic little cove (Sa Sabolla) where you can spend the day, snorkelling in limpid waters with almost no one else around.
This Catalan location is home to a picturesque mid-19th century lighthouse set on a cliff some 170m above the sea and offers spectacular views across the coastal plain that is home to Calella de Palafuguell, Llafranc and Tamariu. Walk along the cliff top path for views out to sea and down into coves. There is also the excavation of a small 6th century Iberian settlement and a medieval 15th century watch tower. And if you are there in the early evening, enjoy the changing colours as the sun sets, while sampling tapas on the veranda of the hotel restaurant. You can drive up, but the energetic can follow signed paths through the woods from Llafranc down below.
Tatihou is a small windswept island off the town of St Vaast, a resort so obscure to the English the tourist guide has not yet been translated on-line. English yachts visit knowing they will eat very well and find shelter from the south west winds.
There are walks to be had and museums to look at, history even.
However the point is the journey out through the oyster beds and crustaceous rocks.You can walk if you get the tides right or you can travel on the amphibious vehicle.If you miss it and the tide comes in you will have to wait for enough water for a boat home curled up on a sand dune.
Just 20 miles east of Dieppe the three communes at the mouth of the Bresle river are heaven for a francophile. Known locally as the Three Sisters each offers a distinct flavour of France.
Eu, a pleasant short walk along the river, is atmospheric with history including the 12th century Collegiale and the Renaissance château where Queen Victoria twice met Louis-Philippe.
The promenade of Mers-les-Bains is a stroll into La Belle Époque then a climb to the top of the striking cliffs painted by Turner.
Across the Bresle, Le Tréport is the largest and liveliest of the Three Sisters. A busy port for fishing and leisure it has a funicular, museums, a classic carousel, fantastic fish market and a casino.
From the stylishly modernised coaching inn, the Hotel de Calais, to the modest restaurant Aux Saint Jacques (skate with roquefort sauce, chitterlings sausage) everyone is welcoming, helpful and conversational.
So close to home yet over four days not another GB plate was spotted.
Ferries from Granville. This fabulous archipelago of islands is barely populated, car free, breezy, sunny, a timeless place of great beauty. There are a couple of gites and little shops and a fair few yachting visitors. Weathered rocks, deserted shorelines, beaches, pools teeming with life all abound. Great for kids.
Tema Beach Club is just outside the Tema Container Port, some 15 miles from the capital, Accra.
The container port itself is one of the biggest port facilities in West Africa, and lacks charm. But head along the beach road from Accra and you drive along a thin spit of land with a serene lagoon to one side and the crashing waves of the Atlantic on the other. Under a full moon it is a journey of unworldly beauty.
At the start of the road is the Tema Beach Club. The Queen stayed here in 1962, and in her honour the place appears not to have been redecorated since, but you swim in a seawater pool, sit almost above the breakers, drink ice-cold Star beer, snack on octopus kebabs and watch queues of giant container ships waiting patiently to enter the container port.
Google map: bit.ly/MrTPzH
Don't be put off by the simple accommodation units along the beach, the open air eating area or the simple lifestyle. Relax and enjoy - you will soon get used to it.
Nungwi beach in northern Zanzibar is as close to paradise as you can get! The warm, crystal clear Indian Ocean, straw roofed beach huts and white soft sands make it the perfect place to relax and soak up the African sun. Blending into the tropical natural environment there are plenty of cheap, mid range and luxury hotels, restaurants and bars available to enjoy a cocktail or an evening meal to suit the backpacker and those with a taste for luxury. Local people live just beyond the coastline where you can have a taste of local foods and culture and you're only a cheap yet hair raising 20 minute bus ride to Stone Town the birth place of Freddie Mercury, with its winding maze of cobbled streets, famous intricately carved wooden doors, exquisite coffee, local art,and its massive and overwhelming cooked fish market which happens every evening. A variety of watersports are available including scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing trips, windsurfing and romantic rides in locally built dhows. You can even watch local fisherman catching the night's meal or building and repairing their traditional dhows. A turtle sanctuary is well worth the visit and every full moon a huge party erupts on a beach nearby that draws huge crowds of tourists from all over Zanzibar.
Google map: bit.ly/OxNlQz
With just a population of 1500 and a spattering of small hotels, the gulf of Orosei's Cala Gonone is the perfect base to explore the surrounding regions. It is so small that there is no taxi firm, so you will need a car from the closest airport, some two hours away.
The gulf's many beaches are some of the best in the world and only one is obtainable by foot, Cala Luna, the rest you will need a boat for. Stranded on a perfect beach for a couple of hours - the horror.
Gorropu gorge is the most unbelievable walk you'll ever do. It's so off the beaten track it took us 45 minutes to actually get IN to it from the path we'd enjoyed for three hours around mountainous, beautiful scenery - there are no signs. There are no roads. It was akin to a level of Tomb Raider, circa 2000.
Cala Osala to the north was a deserted kilometre of white sand perfection, mid week.
The fresh gulf fish and local Dorgali wines are something to shout about and the little delis in Cala Gonone make taking packed lunches on mega day walks/bathes a truly delicious experience.
It's the luxury package of life people pay a lot for but you don't have to pay the huge prices if you know it's there.
After enjoying the beaches and busy old town of Alghero, take the bus down the winding coastal road to Bosa and from there to Oristano. Make sure you sit on the righthand side for the best views and photos of the cliffs and beaches! Explore the alleyways and narrow cobbled streets between Bosa’s multicoloured buildings. Cross the river to gain a better perspective of the Havana-esque street next to the river. Oristano is a smart city with a stunning baroque cathedral and pleasant streets to wander around and have a coffee or gelato. The city is also a great base for visiting the famous Is Aruttas beach and the Roman site of Tharros. Bed and Breakfast Porta a Mari is a great budget option – it’s a traditional Sardinian house within walking distance of the city centre.
B&B Porta a Mari
Via Cagliari 308, 09170, Oristano
Google map: bit.ly/MAz3KG
Bus timetable for Alghero - Bosa
Bus timetable for Bosa - Oristano
Escape from the city and catch the Porto Conte/Capo Caccia bus from Alghero to the stunning Il Lazzaretto beach. Located in the Porto Conte Regional Park, the beach is sheltered by a headland on which stands a sixteenth century tower. With views across the bay towards Alghero, you can wiggle your toes in the soft white sand or cool them in the crystal-clear water while listening to the sound of the cicadas. Plus it’s only a mile along a vine- and olive-lined road from the spectacular prehistoric settlement of Nuraghe Palmavera.
Sardinia has a bit of a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, but don’t let this put you off. Head for Alghero - fly into its airport and it’s only a euro to take the bus into town. It might not be one of the more glamorous spots on Sardinia but it has a delightful old town with well preserved bastions, excellent restaurants specialising in seafood and plenty of places to sit with a cocktail watching the sun go down. There is a working harbour and port and the town is not reliant on tourism, although it does get busy in July and August. An excellent large gently shelving sandy beach stretches the length of the bay, making it an excellent choice for families.
North west coast of Sardinia
Google map: bit.ly/QgnVWe
By far the best way to see the stunning coastline near the beach town of Cala Gonone, on the east side of Sardinia, is by kayak. My husband and I hired a couple of kayaks for a day and paddled our way to some of the area's most secluded beaches, including the idyllic Cala Luna (setting to Madonna's film Swept Away), which is only accessible by boat. A fun and self suffiicient way to view sealife such as jellyfish and the cavernous caves along the coast, not to mention a great way to introduce some exercise to a beach holiday.
Kayaks are readily available from the promenade in Cala Gonone.
Google map: bit.ly/MzlwWF
You will be familiar with the charity event of trying to squeeze as many people as possible into a Mini. Now imagine that lack of personal space but in a beach setting. What you are visualising is the renowned La Pelosa beach at the north-western tip of Sardinia. A triangle of glowing white sand set below a watchtower and surrounded by water with the clarity and colours of the Caribbean.
It is visual perfection and it is very, very popular. It is also rather small. In high summer you will find that every inch is covered by either a towel or a lounger. If there is not space to lay a towel, sun worshippers simply stand on the sand (looking very stylish as is the Italian way). If there is no space to stand on the sand they stand in the sea. It is a spectacle to behold and you must visit but unless you are planning to get there very early in the morning don’t bother bringing your towel and parasol.
La Pelosa, Stintino, Sardinia
Google map: bit.ly/QbKtHw
The medieval city of Trogir is a “must-see” location on the Croatian coast. It’s well worth its designation as a UNESCO world heritage site but it swarms with visitors in the summer and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful who park their yachts along the waterfront. So, don’t stay in Trogir itself, nor on Ciovo Island – the causeway is a reduced to a traffic jam in the summer months. Instead, locate yourself a little way down the coast at Seget Donjii and use the regular and reliable ferry service provided by Felip’s Marina. If you become a regular user they might even let you take hold of the tiller as you head along the coast, and they provide day trips to neighbouring islands like Solta, with a fish lunch cooked in the open air, and further afield to Split.
Trogir is 10km from Split airport and Split is about 40km along the coast. It's only a few kilometres to the quiet village of Seget Donjii.
Google map: bit.ly/PFdKtO
The last time we were in Brsec we were lost and it was going to take a similar lack of navigation skills to get us back there this time.
So we headed optimistically more or less south-east across the Istrian peninsula hoping for signs for Hrastovlie, Pozane, Buzet, Vranja and make Brsec in time to check into the B&B and head for the only restaurant/bar in the village and chilled pints of the local Favorit beer. They don’t get many English/British visitors and in the absence of us having any Croatian language skills German is the common tongue. “Do you have any vegetarian dishes”? “Yes, we have chicken and fish, where have you come from”? It is now that we learn that Buzet is pronounced Tzb, Pozane, Nzp and Vranja, Jnrv. Just take out all the vowels and pronounce it backwards - you get the picture.
Brsec and this stretch of the coast are truly beautiful. The sky is blue and cloudless and there’s a path leading from our B&B down through wild asparagus and sage scattered woods to a secluded cove where the Adriatic Sea is aqua-marine and crystal clear and that’s where we spend the majority of our weekend. Mostly we have the beach to ourselves but at some point the cove fills with a family of seals, their black heads bobbing in the sea as they dive and play. On closer inspection the seals turn out to be a scuba diving club. One of the islands nearby is the home of a flock of Griffon vultures and squadrons of long-necked jet black swan/goose-like birds zoom across the surface of the water.
We venture as far as Labin for gnocci and gorgonzola sauce and walk along the promenade from Lovran to Opatije for ice cream and pizza and that’s as much effort as we want to make.
B&B: +385 51 290 159
Google map: bit.ly/Mc3msD
Escape the cruise ship hordes in Korcula Town and the sunworshippers on Orebic beach by heading out to peaceful Stupe Island. This tiny outcrop in the Adriatic Sea (you can walk right round it in 20 minutes) has a small beach, superb snorkelling, rocks to dive off and a family-run shack, or Kornoba, serving freshly-caught grilled fish. The kitchen is built right into the rock and wooden tables overlook the dock beneath a shade of reeds. You can reach the island by water taxi from Korcula or, as we did, towed behind a speedboat on an inflatable banana! Just don't forget to ask to be picked up again after sunset.
Otok Stupe, Korcula Archipelago, Croatia
For table booking call mobile: +385 (0)98 933 76 11
Google map: bit.ly/MAco1h
Mljet is an island off the Dubrovnik coast. Stay in Sobra, the village that tourists normally sail past. You'll have a private 'beach' and Nikola runs a first class bar/ restaurant serving Croatian food and Italian pizzas. From Sobra catch a ferry or hire a Dalmation styled Fiat 500 (seriously) and head to the National Park on the other side of Mljet. Once there rent bicycles and explore the beautiful, wild and lush forest. The highlight being the large salt water lake which cocoons a Benedictine Monastery. You can take the hourly boat over to it or swim across yourself.
Sobra 2, Babino Polje
(+385-20) 74 52 22
++385 (0)20 745-222
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