Remember the classic Bounty bar adverts, with a woman cracking coconuts and wading into the waters of a tropical white sand beach? Well that beach may have looked tropical enough, but it was actually in Europe! – If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. Europe offers some truly fantastic beach holidays and whether you’re looking for somewhere for the kids to let off steam, or hoping to come as close to seclusion as possible a stone’s throw from a bustling tourist resort, you’ll find it all just a short flight away.
Es Grau, Menorca, Spain
Here’s one for the kids! The shallow waters of Es Grau stay shin-level for around 130m, which makes it ideal for paddling tots. Adults and older children definitely won’t be bored, with snorkelling, paddle-boarding, and kayaking opportunities all available further down the bay. The pretty beach backs onto the S’Albufera des Grau nature reserve and there are walking and cycling routes along the coastal path. The island’s capital, Mahon, is six miles away and visitors can enjoy scenic boat trips around the old harbour or visit the Xoriguer Gin Factory.
Llafranc, Costa Brava
Spain’s Costas can get crowded during the summer months. But while it can be hard to jostle for space in the more popular resorts, such as Benidorm and Alicante, lesser-known Llafranc manages to stay somewhat serene. Throughout the 20th century, film stars and artists such as Salvador Dali flocked here for a little r and r and it’s easy to see how they fell for the charm of this pretty fishing village. The hilly coastline is ideal for walking, but you’ll be forgiven for wanting to spend the majority of your holiday on a sun lounger just taking in the azure blue waters.
Vai beach, Itanos, Crete
The locals refer to this as the ‘Taste of Paradise’ beach as it’s where Bounty filmed THAT advert in the early 1970s. The palm trees are still there, and you’ll find plenty of them as the beach backs onto Europe’s largest natural palm grove. If you go for a walk in the forest, keep an eye out for the elusive Cretan Marten, a small stoat-like creature native to the island. Legend has it that the palms grew from seeds left by Saracen pirates nearly 2000 years ago. A popular taverna, owned by the nearby monastery, serves up meals on the beach, while facilities include scuba diving, windsurfing and jet-skiing.
Praia da Marinha, Portugal
This is one of Portugal’s most popular and recognisable beaches. Not only has it been awarded the prestigious Golden Beach award, but the Michelin Guide considers it one of the Top 10 Best Beaches in Europe. Its sandstone cliffs and arches may be beautiful, but the quality of the water has also been highly commended. Getting to the beach can be a bit of a hike, but that only makes it all the more worth it. It really has to be seen to be believed. The beach has a small restaurant onsite and travellers can also book boat trips to explore the neighbouring caves.
Laganas Beach, Zante, Greece
The island of Zante in Greece is the most important breeding ground for the European loggerhead turtle, and if you travel to Laganas Beach during the summer months you may very well come face-to-face with one. An area of the sandy beach is protected and there are measures in place to ensure the safety of the turtles. Although watersports are banned, holidaymakers can take turtle-spotting boat trips out to sea, or rent a canoe or pedalo to take to the waters themselves. The shallow waters also make this a perfect beach for children.