Italy may not be first on your list for a beach holiday, but Sardinia’s 1,800-kilometre coastline and sparkling turquoise waters might just change your mind. The coast varies between north and south, from pristine Caribbean-style coves to virtually untouched wild shores. There’s plenty in the way of spiaggia libera (free beaches that don’t belong to hotels or beach clubs), and with its long, hot summers and short winters, we think it’s perfect beach break material. Here are five of the best to get you started.
Chia Beach, Chia
Drive an hour or so from capital city Cagliari and you’ll hit Chia Beach, south Sardinia’s answer to the Caribbean. A long curve of pale gold sand, the beach is backed by a swell of protected sand dunes and juniper trees. This gives the beach a little shelter; shielding it from the nearest buildings for a quiet, undiscovered feel. You’ll find a few restaurants in the area, but it’s a good idea to bring your own drinks and snacks if you’re settling down for the day. The shallow water and soft sand make it a hit with kids, too.
La Pelosa, Stintino
La Pelosa is a something of a superstar in North Sardinia. Situated in the region of Stintino, the beach is best known for its tropical beauty and perfectly clear water. The powdery sand only reaches around 300 metres, so it can get busy in summer; aim for April, May or September for uninterrupted views and a bit more towel space. There’s a beach café to keep you in cold drinks, and loungers and umbrellas are available to rent. La Perlosa is named for the medieval tower that runs parallel; well worth a tour if you fancy a break from sunbathing.
Cala Goloritze, Golfo di Orosei
If you’re after a hidden gem, east Sardinia is for you. There’s a cluster of beaches along this dramatic, rocky coast that are only accessible by boat, and Cala Goloritze is the jewels in its crown. Nestled into a towering ravine, it’s a desert island-fantasy kind of beach: pure water with a clean, white seabed that’s easily one of the best snorkelling spots on the island. It’s possible to get a boat from nearby Cala Gonone, or you can brave the hour’s hike from Baunei. Buses don’t stop at Cala Goloritze (which just adds to its charm), so proper walking shoes, water and a good level of fitness are necessary.
Is Arutas, Sinis Peninsula
Is Arutas has the kind of wild beauty that sets Sardinia’s beaches apart from the rest of the Med. Instead of sand, the beach has tiny, round grains of quartz that catch the sun in shades of pink, white and ochre and give the water a green hue. It’s unique, pretty and surprisingly comfy to lay on. Situated in the Marine Protected Area of the Sinis Peninsula, Is Arutas’ biggest fans are surfers. Sardinia’s west-facing beaches catch the best waves, arguably in the whole of Italy.
Arcipelago di Maddalena
We’re cheating a bit here, because Arcipelago di Maddalena is made up of seven main islands with over 150 kilometres of coast, but it’s worth a day trip by boat to see the best bits. One of Sardinia’s most jaw-dropping areas of natural beauty, Maddalena is a geomarine national park in the north west, close to the Costa Smeralda. Largely uninhabited, the must-see beaches include Spiaggia Rosa, famous for its unique rose-pink sand, and Cala Corsara, with its ever-changing sea colour from pale turquoise to deep azure.