Europe's coastal hidden gems
We all like a trip to the seaside - but for the classic summer combination of sun, sea and sand, many British holidaymakers leave the UK behind and head to the continent. If you love to come home with a fresh tan and salt in your hair, but don't much fancy sharing a beach with everyone in Europe who feels the same, don't despair - there are thousands of beautiful seaside resorts, a few of which we've listed below, where you can enjoy your perfect holiday without fighting through the crowds.
For this guide, we've chosen just six of the elegant seaside towns scattered along the stretched winding coastline between the Netherlands and Croatia. A couple of towns are popular without being too crowded, but many are small towns where you may not find many other travellers; ideal for a truly relaxing getaway. And what's more, all the resorts below are within a day's drive from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle in Calais, so you can discover the best of the continent without the hassle and expense of air travel.
Although it's not well-known in the UK, Deauville is regarded by the French as their country's most refined and elegant seaside resort. Located in the Calvados region of Normandy, which is noted for its fine cheese, cider and apple brandy, Deauville is the perfect place to absorb some classic French style without braving the heat of Paris in summer. Film fans will be excited to discover that James Bond's adventures at the Casino Royale are believed to be set in Deauville; evening wear is a must, but it's no longer de rigeur to carry a pistol.
Despite being on the Costa Brava, this gorgeous Spanish resort is nothing like the infamous package holiday destinations of the 1970s. Llafranc is a long, low settlement of gleaming whitewashed buildings set against the glowing blue Mediterranean, with not a tourist to be seen except in July and August. The food is simple and delicious, with seafood, tomatoes and nuts as popular here as they are all along the coast of Catalunya. And don't forget to take a sketchbook or notepad - Hemingway and Salvador Dalí were both frequent visitors, so perhaps there's inspiration in the water...
Less than an hour's drive from Calais, the charming Belgian town of Koksijde can be found just past Dunkirk, a few miles over the border with France. The old town is set back two kilometres from the shoreline, with a more modern tourist centre towards the sea. This spot is ideal for more sedate travellers or those who fancy some culture alongside their sunbathing - Koksijde houses a museum to surrealist painter Paul Delvaux and an open archeological dig centred around the town's 900-year-old Cistercian monastery.
Just a few miles down the Provençale coast from Marseilles and Cassis, the beautifully preserved town of La Ciotat offers a truly authentic experience to holidaymakers tired of commercialised resorts. The birthplace of both petanque and cinema, La Ciotat combines delicious local food, stunning architecture and all the fun of the seaside. Its specially built beach contrasts with the soaring rocky bluffs around the town, and when you've finished admiring the view you can indulge in one of many exciting watersports.
The most distant destination on this list, Caorle is a small seaside resort outside Venice on Italy's north-easterly coastline. Its broad, sandy beach is never crowded, and the spectacular Romanesque cathedral stands in striking contrast to the wild dunes that surround the city. Caorle is an ideal base if you want to combine peaceful days by the sea with a few visits to an exciting city, and the beautiful drive through France and Switzerland to get there is a holiday in itself. If you want to maximise your time in Italy, then you can make the journey in a day; for a more relaxed approach, consider an overnight stay in picturesque Strasbourg.
Just half an hour by bicycle from the overcrowded beaches at Scheveningen, Kijkduin is the lesser-known of The Hague's two seaside resorts. A peaceful and family-friendly village, its gently sloping beach means plenty of shallows for children to play in; and when they've had enough of the water, there's a play boat, a lighthouse and the famous ‘Het Hemels Gewelf' artificial crater to explore. Souvenirs, local delicacies and a wide variety of restaurants round off this charming Dutch destination.
No matter where you’re headed, the ideal way to start your introduction to Europe’s best seaside towns is with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Whether you’re heading twenty miles up the French coast or embarking on an overnight trip to the Mediterranean, travelling with Eurotunnel means a quick, competitively priced journey that gives you all the flexibility you need to plan the perfect beach holiday. Fancy taking a camping stove or some surfboards? There’s no maximum baggage allowance and no extra costs! Prefer to travel by night and arrive at lunchtime? Eurotunnel runs all day and night, with four trains an hour at peak times. Whatever you want from your holiday, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle can make it happen.
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