With the summer holidays at your doorstep, you might be looking for a nice seaside spot to unwind for some days. A place in the sun, with a beach, good food, charming villages, and some activities to keep you moving (hiking, biking, snorkeling, or surfing). Now, we've come up with some European seaside destinations where to enjoy fabulous beach moments and grand adventures at the same time!
Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve (Sicily)
Lo Zingaro Natural Reserve is a spectacular secret spot known to few tourists. The reserve (situated on the northwestern tip of Sicily) stretches for 7 km from the village of Scopello in the east to San Vito Lo Capo in the West. A balanced mix of pristine beaches, elevated hiking trails with spectacular sea views, and a wide variety of flora and fauna make this site one of Sicily's most impressive locations. The park attracts both walkers and bathers alike. You can walk for half an hour and find delightful pebbly coves and transparent turquoise waters to cool off from your hiking trip or spend the rest of the day in peace. At both entrances of the reserve, you can get maps showing you the walking paths and the various bays you can explore.
If you want to stay a few days in the area, San Vito lo Capo is the place to be. It boasts a half-moon bay with a long white sandy beach, crystal clear turquoise water, a quaint center with white-washed houses, and an undeniable influence of Arabic culture. You won't find wild nightlife here but a laid-back atmosphere with great places to have a drink or eat its famous couscous!
Snæfellsnes Peninsula (Iceland)
Snæfellsnes is a large peninsula, often nicknamed 'Iceland in Miniature.' It has a bit of everything. Diverse natural resources, calm fishing hamlets, and a rugged coastline with rocks protruding from the Atlantic Sea. On the border of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, you can find the charming village of Grundarfjörður. It is the perfect home base for exploring the beauty of this peninsula, moreover, it is just a 2.5 hrs drive from Iceland's capital. From Grundarfjörður, you can reach the most famous beaches of Snaefellsnes; such as Djúpalónssandur beach, with black, volcanic sands. It is known for its four lifting stones that have been there for a long time. Fishermen used the stones to measure their strength! Another rather unique beach in this area is Skardsvik Beach. It is a golden sand beach surrounded by volcanic cliffs, a perfect place to stop and have a picnic! In Grundarfjörður, you can also rent kayaks and paddle gently into the glacial waters among flocks of seabirds and playful seals while soaking up the views. You will be surrounded by green slopes and mighty mountains such as the iconic Mount Kirkjufell, which rises like a pyramid out of the surroundings.
The North Coast (Scotland)
The North Coast comprises an area of wild scenery, secluded beaches, and historic castles in Scotland's Northern Highlands. In 2015 a 500-mile loop was launched that goes around the coastline of the North Coast, passing some of the country's best scenery and off-beaten places! You can make this circular ride by car, but it is also an ultimate cycling challenge! Most people start the route from Inverness, but if you like to combine some strenuous biking hours with days of relaxation, you might want to stay in the charming small village of Durness. It is surrounded by sheltered coves and has some impressive beaches, one of the best is Durness Beach, with kilometers of sandy coastline. It is a perfect place for a picnic on a sunny day or a walk along its turquoise waters. You might even spot surfers catching a wave. What do you need more for a perfect holiday feel?
Only one hour from Stavanger, on the southwestern coast of Norway, you find the
historic town of Egersund. A charming seaside spot with wonderful wooden houses, good restaurants, niche shops, and a beautiful coastline. Besides, it has some fantastic bathing areas with sandy beaches which are perfect for spending a sunny day. One is Skadbergsanden, with more than 500 meters of beach and small dunes.
But Egersund has more coastal attractions and activities to explore. Head to the island of Eigerøya with its charming lighthouse or explore the Magma Global Geopark (a UNESCO site). It is the perfect spot for some hours of coasteering. Work your way along the coastline and explore the moonlike landscape with spectacular rock formations, this unique experience you cannot miss!
The traditional fishing village of Nazaré on Portugal's Silver Coast (Costa de Prata) has become an attractive seaside resort in recent years. About an hour north of Lisbon, it is a traditional holiday getaway for the Portuguese. And for a reason! It has a beautiful crescent-shaped beach, the perfect place for sunbathing and playing with the children. Besides, along the boulevard and in the narrow streets, you will find many restaurants that will seduce you with their fresh fish. But that's not all. Nazaré is a real surfer's paradise - its colossal waves are perfect for extreme surfers! All days a year, you find surfers hitting the waves… Just sit on the beach and enjoy the beautiful scenery and the ocean breeze. If you want to learn to surf, head to the bay between Baleal and Peniche (65 km south of Nazaré). Especially between April and September, the waves are friendlier and smaller, thus ideal for beginners!
Vík - Iceland
The small fishing village of Vík, on the South Coast of Iceland, is perfectly set on the seafront at a dramatic stretch of coastline. It has some of Iceland's most beautiful black sand beaches, such as Reynisfjara! Unfortunately, you cannot swim at this beach due to the tides and conditions. Still, it is a stunning spot with breathtaking views of its famous basalt columns that stand proudly in the sea! Another way to admire the views is on a horseback ride. Vík is a starting point for various tours, including family riding tours - ideal for younger, inexperienced horse enthusiasts - going at a slower pace.
The coastline of Connemara in Ireland is a jewel! It comprises multiple peninsulas, all remote and wild, and it has some beautiful beaches along the Wild Atlantic Way. White Strand Beach, for example, is one of the best swimming beaches in the area as well as the breathtaking Coral Strand Beach with its crystal clear waters.
Connemara provides visitors as well with an abundance of sportive activities, from walking and cycling to horse riding and kayaking.
However, there is a quite new and unique activity that attracts as well people to Connemara. Foraging! Foraging is searching for nutritious foods in the wild. At the coast of Connemara, there are excellent places to go foraging! And the kids will love it too! As you walk along the beach, you'll not only learn about the area's ecology and geology but also pick edible seaweeds and spot local wildlife. If you're lucky, you can even see otters, seals, and dolphins.
Santa Maria (The Azores)
Santa Maria of the Azores archipelago is known as the "island of the sun." With a warmer and drier climate than the rest of the islands of the Azores, it features a varied nature, from green pastures and vineyards to rocky cliffs and mountains. But the most impressive characteristic of Santa Maria is its stunning Caribbean-like white-sand beaches and crystal waters! Praia Formosa is one of these gorgeous beaches of Santa Maria. It is a sparkling, near-white stretch of sandy beach that sits amid a scenic landscape of lush green hillsides and stunning seaside cliffs. Another jewel is São Lourenço Bay. It has the unique shape of an amphitheater and is backed by terraces of green vineyards that contrast the blue hues of the sea and white-washed houses at the seafront.
But there is another reason for putting the island of Santa Maria on your bucket list. It is one of the best spots in Europe for diving and snorkeling. It has excellent conditions and underwater visibility, and its waters are home to vast numbers of manta rays that will accompany you on your underwater adventure. Santa Maria's Baixa do Ambrósio is the place to spot these unique creatures. Snorkelers, what are you waiting for?
Norway is home to some fantastic hidden seaside treasures. One of our favorites is Hoddevik, nestled in a green valley on the Norwegian west coast! The road to the small fishing town is spectacular, descending from a mountain pass with hairpin bends down to the sea. Opposite the village, you find the stunning one-kilometer-long Hoddevikstranda Beach with white sand, transparent water, and even in summer, zero crowds! Isn't that paradise? It is not only renowned for its beautiful scenery but as well for its ideal surfing conditions, thanks to the high mountains that protect the beach from strong winds. A few surf schools in the area offer classes and material, so if you love surfing and head to Norway, plan Hoddevik in your schedule.
Costa Vicentina (Portugal)
The attractive coastline of southwest Portugal combines phenomenal beaches such as Vale dos Homens, Carriagem, Amoreira, and Monte Clérigo with unspoiled nature. One example of natural beauty is the Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, boasting dramatic cliffs and fine sandy beaches with plenty of flora and fauna. Inside the park, you find an extended network of stunning walking trails, including two long-distance routes. The 230-km-long Historical Way runs mainly in the region's interior, while the 120-km-long Fishermen's Trail follows the coast and offers breathtaking views. All trails are well marked, suitable for hikes without a guide, and adjustable to the needs of all kinds of walkers, including families. And after some active hikes, you can enjoy the fine sand, a cool dip in the sea as well as good food, and unique artisan handwork in the authentic villages nearby.
Kenmare Bay (Ireland)
Kenmare Bay is a remote and tranquil area on the rugged west coast of Ireland with islands, coves, rivers, and bays. An excellent way to explore the coastline of Kenmare Bay is on a paddle board. The sheltered coastline provides perfect paddle conditions and offers a chance to meet inquisitive seals and other sea wildlife surrounded by the scenery of the Wild Atlantic Way. Those who like it a bit more adventurous can meet marine life as well underwater. Kenmare is a popular diving spot! Exploring the beautiful reefs is a marvelous experience. With a handful of diving sites, there is an interesting one for everyone.
The best home base for staying at the bay is the tranquil town of Kenmare. It has pretty streets, charming restaurants, and some stunning beaches nearby. Our favorites are White Strand Beach (a 45-minute-drive) and Derrynane Beach.
If you plan a summer holiday or an autumn break, these destinations offer the perfect combination of relaxing leisure and active adventures!