If you're looking to relax on the beach, soak up the sun and cool off in the water, there are several seaside destinations you could consider. But, if you are looking for a place in the sun with exciting outdoor activities and off-beaten experiences, read on for some inspiration.
These ten European seaside towns offer cultural fun, pleasure on the water, and authentic (family) experiences besides beautiful beaches and calm holiday vibes.
1. Odemira - Portugal
Nestled in Portugal's Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina and surrounded by mountains and plains, you can find Odemira. It is home to some of the country's most beautiful beaches, such as Cabo Sardão, Vila Nova de Milfontes, Zambujeira do Mar, and Carvalhal. Besides, these towns are famous for their handicrafts such as basketry, ceramics, and pottery. Honey, wine, and sheep and goat cheeses are also typical products made in the farmhouses inland, such as in the farmhouse of Maria. She invites travelers to spend some hours exploring the beautiful forests around her house, listening to ancient stories, and petting her domestic farm animals. You can enjoy a healthy snack of products cultivated in the garden and even make a lovely holiday postcard - with flowers and plants picked during your nature walk. A nice little keepsake of this authentic, loca experience!
2. Breiðafjörður - Iceland
In between Iceland's Western Fjords and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you find Breiðafjörður Bay. The bay has a spectacular setting with shallow seas, small fjords, innumerable islands, and wildlife. Sailing around Breiðafjörður's island lets you enjoy its fantastic landscape, which abounds with birds (over 50 bird species breed here), such as terns, shags, and puffins.
One unique experience visitors can enjoy in the bay is making a ‘Viking Sushi’ boat tour. The tour allows you to absorb the views of the islands and catch shellfish (such as scallops and sea urchins) that you can taste directly on the boat!
3. Acireale - Sicily
On Sicily's terraces above the Ionian Sea, at the foot of Mount Etna, you will find the coastal town of Acireale, a noted spa town since Roman times. Acireale has a selection of great beaches with fine sand and transparent blue water, and its volcanic seabed is home to rare species of fish, octopuses, and more.
If you are in for something active after some hours of relaxation on the beach, you can take a bike and pedal along the so-called Lemon Coast. You will cycle through citrus groves and pass the small fishers' hamlets of Santa Maria La Scala, Santa Tecla, Stazzo, and Pozzillo up to the Fiumefreddo Nature Reserve!
Don't forget on your way to taste a "pane condito", a typical Sicilian bread filled with local ingredients such as cheese, tomatoes, oregano, and anchovy fillets!
4. São Miguel - Azores
The main island of the Azores, São Miguel, is the archipelago's largest and most popular island. It is a unique island with a lot to offer: beautiful beaches, winding coastal roads, volcanic craters, friendly villages, and a lively capital town (Ponta Delgada). If you want to learn more about what makes São Miguel so unique, you can take a boat trip along the coast and learn about the geological process and the cultural heritage of the island... And, you can also taste some local products aboard!
5. Isle of Coll - Scotland
The tiny Hebridean Isle of Coll is the place to reload your energy! You can explore the island at best from the lovely hamlet Arinagour of Coll, with its beautiful white-washed houses. Coll is home to countless stunning beaches that, even in summer, are never crowded! So go for a stroll, surf, kayak, windsurf or relax and take in the sun and tranquility.
Coll is also famous for being one of the best places in Scotland and the UK for star gazing. Indeed, it is an official Dark Sky Island! The island has no street lights, and its isolated location lets you marvel at fantastic starry nights! And that's not it! On cold, clear winter nights, you might even witness Northern Lights that will take your breath away.
6. Porto - Douro Valley - Portugal
The Douro region in Northern Portugal stretches along the river of the same name, about 60 miles inland from the city of Porto at the Atlantic Sea. The Douro Valley is an enchanted valley that offers magic landscapes, listed as a World Heritage Site. Douro wines have been produced here on the hillsides for hundreds of years.
Did you know that the Douro Valley is one of the world's oldest wine regions?
Departing from Porto, the Douro river can be followed in multiple ways by car, on a cruise boat, and in an eco-friendly way: by kayak. You start with a relaxed kayak tour, with time for swimming and moments to enjoy the natural beauty of this stretch of land. Then, you can savour a picnic lunch in a romantic setting surrounded by vineyards (producing famous port wine), and you can make a short hike along the vines to see, touch and smell what makes this region so unique.
7. Taormina's coast - Sicily
Perched on a hill, Taormina is one of Sicily's most popular summer destinations. And for a reason. The chic seaside resort has a beautiful medieval center, breathtaking sea views, and a maze of winding streets with boutiques, trendy bars, and many restaurants.
Did you know? Alexander Dumas, Oscar Wilde, Gustav Klimt, John Steinbeck and Marlene Dietrich all stayed in Taormina.
Not far from Taormina - far away from the crowds - there is a hilltop village called Savoca. The town became famous in the mid-'70s after Francis Ford Coppola filmed some of the most iconic scenes of the movie the Godfather. If you are a fan of this movie or want to explore the calm countryside, you should join the “Godfather” trekking tour. You’ll walk through the Sicilian vegetation, up to Savoca where you can take a drink at the famous bar where the movie was filmed. Apart from an authentic experience, you can enjoy beautiful views while walking over the rolling hills.
8. Inishbofin - Ireland
The small island of Inishbofin - off the coast of Connemara on Ireland's West coast - is perfect for anyone who wants to explore a quiet off-beaten part of Ireland. Inishbofin has some stunning award-winning beaches, such as Dumhach Beach (particularly great for sunbathing or swimming) or the remote East End Bay (a serene spot to unwind). You can also go birdwatching (the island is a special conservation area), take a bike ride, go snorkeling & SUP boarding, and take guided walking tours! During these thematic hikes, you can learn about the history of Inishbofin, its myths, its remains from the Bronze Age, and its fishers and farmers. You can also head to the Inishbofin Farm, a traditional sheep farm offering a unique eco-experience where you can learn about sustainability and permaculture.
9. São Miguel - Furnas Valley - Azores
When visiting the island of São Miguel of the Azores, you should spend at least one day in the Furnas Valley, famous for its hot springs, hiking possibilities around volcanoes, and fascinating landscapes. When you tour the valley, don’t forget to visit the Caldeiras das Furnas, a complex of volcanic thermal pools. Also, the crater lake Lagos das Furnas needs to be on your list. This picturesque lake with a particular green-yellow color is a fantastic place to picnic.
Up north, you find the Gorreana Tea Factory, the oldest and only tea plantation in Europe. The green fields of the plantation contrast beautifully with the blue ocean, and you can learn about the different stages of tea production. And close your trip with a delicious typical Furnas stew, made in a "pot au feu" cooked by the volcanic heat in a hole underground.
10. Giardini-Naxos - Sicily
Giardini Naxos is a beautiful Sicilian seaside town with an ancient Greek history. It is home to a series of enchanting beaches, some sand, some pebbles, and the sea is crystal clear. It has a lively seafront and a relaxed ambiance, making Sicily's Giardini Naxos a fascinating holiday destination. You can enjoy many water sports activities in Isola Bella Marina Park, including diving and snorkeling.
If you like a different experience on the water, you can make an authentic fishing trip. You will embark on a local goiter led by a skilled fisherman who will bring you to Taormina's bays allowing you to catch bass, squid, or garfish. Then, your catch of the day will be prepared for lunch at a local restaurant!
These - and many more - authentic experiences await you to discover during your next holiday at the seaside!