Soft sands and a sunset
When the summer comes, there's nothing better than sitting back on a warm beach, listening to the ocean and playing beach games with your family. Having visited many beaches throughout Europe, I've come up with a few options for your next holiday, whether it's a brief weekend-long hop across the channel, or two weeks of bliss in the sun.
A weekend on the beach
Being from France means that I've seen a lot of the country, and when it comes to choosing a place to spend the weekend on the beach, there are some superb options that are great for couples and families alike. The closest beach to Calais that I think is worth mentioning has to be Wissant. It's just over 20 minutes in the car from Calais, and the huge flat beaches here are great for kids. Also, you're surrounded by local history, dating as far back as 55BC during the age of Julius Caesar, so there's plenty to see and do away from the beach.
Plage de Wissant
Gulf of Morbihan
If you're willing to travel a little further, I have to suggest that you see the Gulf of Morbihan. Just six hours from Calais by car, the beaches here are a world away. There are countless small beaches hidden away in coves, and secluded vistas to explore. Meaning "little sea" in Breton, Morbihan is seen by many as one of the world's most beautiful bays. Take a boat trip to the popular islands of Île-aux-Moines or the Île d'Arz, and even head to Gavrinis to see ancient megalithic carvings. Set up camp in the historic town of Vannes and dine on fresh mussels and oysters from the Port de Penerf.
A week by the sea
If you've got more time to play with, a week in the north of Spain is a week well spent. The area of Cantabria is home to some of the most idyllic beaches in Spain, surrounded by green hills that are kept luscious by seasonal rains. Around a 12-hour drive from Calais, Noja is a beautiful, modern town and boasts two beaches, Playa de Ris and Tregandin. The beaches have golden sands and picturesque rocks, and lovers of nature will enjoy a walk through the surrounding nature preserves, such as the Reserva Natural de las Marismas de Santoña y Noja, beautiful wetlands with a range of plants and animals.
Beach at Santander in Cantabria
Further along the coast, you'll enter the Asturias region and the fishing town Ribadesella. This is one of my favourite spots on Spain's northern coast, with the town sitting on the mouth of the river Sella and the beautiful Playa de Santa Marina stretching for one kilometre. The beaches along this stretch of land are a popular spot with Spanish tourists, and the consistent turquoise waters, fine sands and mild climate mean that it's the perfect spot for a week-long beach holiday. Asturias is Spain's main cider-producing region, and the oceans are all popular with water sports enthusiasts, as well as yielding the freshest seafood and fish.
Beach at Ribadesella
Two weeks in the sun
One destination that repeatedly comes up when discussing the perfect beach holiday, especially for families, is the Cote D'Azur. My favourite spot in the south of France has to be Cavalaire, just ten hours in the car from Calais, Cavalaire isn't quite as busy as the other parts of the Cote D'Azur, but the beaches are equally as stunning. Perfect for families with young children, the waters here are great for snorkelling and wreck-diving, and the three kilometre long beach is lined with affordable but excellent bars and restaurants.
If Italy takes your fancy, I've never had a bad holiday in Tuscany. Known as "Italy's wildest beach", the sands of Marina di Alberese, in the Parco Naturale della Maremma offers up dense forests and mountains, and the fact that there are no big towns nearby means that it's often quiet. Set up camp in the charming fishing port of Talamone, and explore the pristine natural beaches in this rural area. Further north, you can find tourist information and walking routes in Albrese. If you're after a more traditional Italian beach holiday, Viareggio has pristine sands, umbrellas orderly dotted along the beach and a selection of great restaurants to choose from.
This summer explore the many beaches of Europe and take some well-deserved time off. A journey from Folkestone to Calais with
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
takes just 35 minutes, so you'll be on the beach in no time.
Plage de Wissant - Véronique Mergaux on Flickr
Île-aux-Moines beach - luna76 on Flickr
Beach at Santander in Cantabria - Yellow.Cat on Flickr
Beach at Ribadesella - Cayetano on Flickr
Soft sands and a sunset - Image by Flickr user Luis Marina