Lifestyle & Culture

Expat travel: Jackie Harding’s Top 7 off-the-beaten-path beaches in Europe

Port de Pollença

(Editor’s note: British expat travel writer/photographer Jackie Harding travels extensively and often from her base in Eindhoven. Jackie knows her beaches.)

As the saying goes, “May you always have a shell in your pocket and sand in your shoes” and that is my goal in life!

These are some of the lesser-known and sometimes hard-to-reach beaches in Europe that I’m prepared to share with you … some are just too perfect to make public!

MALLORCA

Calo des Moro, Santanyi is a secret beach that everyone knows about, so don’t expect it to be quiet on a sunny weekend. Still, it can be a refuge from the crowds.

Part of its deterrent is the descent through the woods, which, in itself, can be delightful on the way down but less so on the way back up.

The small cove is mostly rocks with a tiny sandy beach but the water is clear and turquoise and oh so inviting. Come with the idea of just swimming and enjoying the amazingly clear water, if it’s busy you will be perching on a rock to dry off.

Downside: There are no facilities and it is definitely not child-friendly.

TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4.5 stars out of five. (688 reviews.)

Port de Pollença is a family resort in the north west of the island with a long 1.5-kilometre sandy beach. At the town end you find a marina, restaurants, cafes and facilities. But if you keep walking south the beach becomes narrower with sand and pebbles, and lovely old twisted pines, known as Passeig Voramar (Pine Walk Promenade), and here you can find a peaceful spot.

The bay is very sheltered and the tranquil water is like a mirror. The local military base often provides entertainment with the practice runs of seaplanes.                                                                                                       

Downside: In high season, the area is very popular. Too popular.

TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4.5 stars out of five. (1,827 reviews.)

SICILY

Calamosche, 11-kilometres from the city of Noto, is a tiny secret cove found in the nature reserve of Vendicari. Once you have parked your car you have to take a 1.5-kilometer walk through the lovely reserve to get to the beach.

The small beach can get crowded at peak times and there are no facilities so you must carry in and carry out whatever you need. The beautiful calm seas are great for snorkeling and swimming.  

Downside: If you have small kids and lots of beach equipment, the walk can be looong on a hot day!

TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4.5 stars out of five. (1,827 reviews.)

TURKEY

Kaputas, 7 kilometres from the resort town ofKalkan, is another tiny beach that can get very crowded so head there out of season or early in the morning.  The water is the most incredible shades of blue and, despite the 170 steps down the cliff side, is a super spot to take a swim and soak up the sun on the few sunbeds available to hire. There is café and toilets at the back of the beach.  

Downside: This is a popular spot for photos and on a major road. So parking is limited on busy days.

TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4.5 stars out of five. (3,108 reviews.)

Patara, 17 kilometres from Kalkan, is a 17-kilometre length of unspoiled beach, a rarity in these days of enormous hotels and development. The reason this idyllic beach remains so is the ancient city ruins that are situated at the back of the beach, the rich bio diversity area and the protected Loggerhead turtles that have used the beach to lay their eggs for centuries.

There is a small charge to enter the beach area and to visit the historic Lycian city ruins, and on the beach a locally run café that rents out sunbeds and parasols. The beach seems endless and if it is peace you are looking for this is the one, just walk away from the café and before long it’s just you and the crashing waves.

The local town of Gelemis/Patara is small and undeveloped with little cafes and restaurants run by the residents.

Downside: The beach is closed after sunset until 08.30 to allow the turtles to lay their eggs in peace. Not much of a downside!

TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: Four and a half out of five. (1,098 reviews)

PORTUGAL

Ilha de Tavira, Tavira, Algarve. Tavira is located on the Gilão River and to get to the beach, which is located on a barrier island at the mouth of the river, you must take a ferry, which shuttles back and forth all day. Such a great way to go to the beach! The beach is 11-kilometre long and at one end has a selection of fresh fish restaurants, which you must pass by to get to and from the ferry.

On the beach you can also find sunbeds and umbrellas or if you wish for a more peaceful spot just keep walking…you have 11km to choose from! Toilets can be found in the restaurant area.                            

Downside: The ferries are busy at the end of the day so there is some waiting in line.

TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: Four and a half out of five. (1,098 reviews)

NETHERLANDS

My go-to beach here in the Netherlands is Nieuw Haamstede, Zeeland. Bear in mind that most of the Dutch coastline is sandy beaches with dunes as coastal flood barriers. So it’s not difficult to find some sandy place to sit and relax.

The beaches stretch for kilometres with the occasional beach bar perched on stilts to provide you with a cold beer and some kibbeling (fried fish pieces). The beaches are all clean and the dunes provide you with a good walk before you set up your chair and umbrella for the day.            

Downside: The ocean is murky looking (it is clean, just churned up sand) and can sometimes supply small jellyfish to make life interesting. Also unless you enter the beach at a popular spot there is a good chance it is a long walk to the toilets.

TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: Not rated

About the author:

Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston for 12 years, and in the Netherlands for the past eight years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States for as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Writing for Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.

She also covered Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here

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