After a taste of island life on your next getaway? There’s no need to jet off as far as the exotic Pacific islands! In fact, Europe is packed with dozens of idyllic locales featuring picture-perfect, palm strewn beaches, including the dreamy Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Located off Italy’s west coast, both are blessed with balmy climates, gorgeous coastlines and laidback cultures, making them the ideal destinations for relaxing summer retreats. Some of their beaches have been compared to Caribbean coves, plus there’s somewhere to suit every kind of traveller – whether you want to surf, snorkel or simply laze around on the sand.
Wondering which beaches are the pick of the bunch in Sicily and Sardinia? Clue yourself up with our expert guide below:
Sublime sandy stretches in Sicily
The largest of the Italian islands that’s famed for its rustic cuisine, Sicily is the perfect pick for those after a getaway filled with good food and gorgeous vistas. When it comes to beaches, you won’t be disappointed by its wide sandy stretches and hidden coves featuring brilliant blue waters and the occasional friendly café where you can sample mouth-watering local delicacies like cannoli and arancini.
1. For jaw-dropping sunsets and easy-to-reach treats, San Vito Lo Capo is the top spot
For a taste of the Tropics close to Trapani, you can’t beat San Vito Lo Capo on the north coast. This sheltered white-sand bay is in the shadow of a craggy mountain and boasts some pretty spectacular sunsets. There’s plenty of amenities in the small seaside town itself, while the beach is dotted with palm trees and has some of the clearest sea water on the island. Need to cool off? Plunge into the balmy Mediterranean or grab some granitas (fruit flavoured ice) from a beachside vendor.
2. For stunning sand dunes and lots of space to stretch out, Sampieri can’t be beaten
Sicily’s south coast is inundated with lovely little coves, including Sampieri just beyond the seaside villages of Modica and Ragusa. This sleepy beach offers up several miles of sand dunes to lounge around on as well as crystal-clear, shallow water ideal for swimming in. After a little more comfort? You’ll find a couple of places where you can hire deck chairs in the village of Sampieri itself.
3. For snorkelling and swimming well away from the crowds, hideaway at Calamosche
Located on the eastern edge of the Vendicari Nature Reserve, this pristine beach is a little off the beaten track yet well-worth a visit! It’s rarely overcrowded, plus the sand slopes gently into the water, making it a good pick for kids keen to swim or snorkel. You’ll have to pay €1 to enter the reserve itself and it’s then a 20-minute walk down a scenic path to reach the beach. If you get peckish, there’s a local restaurant at the top which serves up simple regional dishes and ice-cold drinks.
4. For turtle spotting and a little off-road driving, put Torre Salsa at the top of your bucket list
If you’re hoping to immerse yourself in the island’s natural wonders, Torre Salsa is the beach for you. It’s managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature and is the natural habitat of a handful of amazing creatures, including loggerhead turtles. Torres Salsa is lesser known than most of Sicily’s beaches and lacks any facilities, however, it’s the ideal place for some peace and quiet. Due to the dirt track you have to drive down to reach it, you’ll want to make sure your hire car is suitable for off-road journeys before you set off!
5. For people-watching and plenty of water sports facilities, Mondello is the one
All about convenience? Mondello 20km from the island’s principal city, Palermo, is always a hit with its miles of golden sand and range of amenities. But your search for a lazy day on the sand means you’re not alone, as Mondello is extremely popular in the peak summer months due to its location and great water sports options, however you’ll find it’s a sunny paradise during the quieter shoulder seasons, too.
Brilliantly balmy beaches in Sardinia
Sardinia has a seemingly endless list of stunning sandy beaches to enjoy, including numerous options dotted along the popular Costa Smeralda on its east coast. If you’re holidaying in the summer months and want to escape the crowds, there’s also a selection of more secluded bays where you’ll see no umbrellas or beachside stalls – only sun, sea and sky.
6. For awesome Instagram snaps that definitely won’t need filters, Is Arutas is super dreamy
Nestled along Sardinia’s Sinus Peninsula, Is Arutas is widely considered one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Picture white pebbles so fine that they look and feel like sand, as well as an ocean that’s the brightest shade of blue – even before you add any filters to your photos! Is Arutas is only reachable by car along a very scenic stretch, plus it’s a short 20-minute drive back to the nearby resort of Putzu Idu where you’ll find a range of eateries and surf schools.
7. For flamingo lovers and families with little ones, it’s all about Chia
A slightly more popular seaside spot is Chia on Sardinia’s south coast. The resort town has two sweeping beaches featuring calm, shallow water and soft sand, making them a great pick for families who want a range of facilities within walking distance. A fan of all things pink? Sardinia is famed for its colonies of flamingos which you may just be able to spot in the lagoon directly behind Chia’s beaches!
8. For epic sun tanning and historic viewpoints, you need to check out Spiaggia Della Pelosa
Less than an hour’s drive from Alghero (one of Sardinia’s main cities) is where you’ll find this beach that’s well-known for its bright white sand. The water is wonderfully shallow here for tens of metres beyond the beach and it’s overlooked by the Torre Della Finanza – a 16th-century watchtower built by the Catalans and Aragonese. If you need a break from sunbathing and swimming, hop on the boat to Isola dell’Asinara just offshore to see the island’s resident donkeys!
9. For thrilling adventures well off the beaten track, Cala Goloritzè is one to keep to yourself
For a mix of leisure and adventure, put Cala Goloritzè on your Sardinia beach bucket list. The remote cove situated in a protected marine park on the east coast is blessed by clear ocean waters and beautiful limestone rock formations, including the Aguglia. It towers nearly 150m over the beach and is a hotspot for keen climbers! Do you dare? You can only reach this beautiful bay by foot along the Cala Goloritzè trail from Altopiano del Golgo or via boat from Cala Gonone.
10. For rock pool explorations and unspoilt charm, you just can’t miss Costa Rei
This beach resort is found further down the east coast and not far from Cagliari. It’s home to a selection of beaches which are equally as lovely, and arguably more untouched, than those found along the Costa Smeralda. A top choice is Santa Giusta beach where the water is naturally sheltered to form a pool that’s wonderfully balmy in the summer months. There’s also plenty of granite rock pools nearby – perfect for kids who love spotting fascinating sea creatures in their natural habitats!
Getting to and around Sicily and Sardinia
You can access Sicily and Sardinia within a few hours from numerous UK airports. Once you’re on your chosen island, all you’ll need to do is pick up your hire car and hit the road. Remember to refresh your memory on the driving rules in Italy first to ensure you trip goes as smoothly as possible.