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Sports & Outdoors

Europe’s best quiet and secluded beaches

Europe’s best seaside towns are off the beaten track, perfect for a quiet break away from the crowds.

We all like a trip to the seaside and 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 our favourite elegant seaside towns scattered along the winding coastlines of Europe. 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. 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 limitations of baggage restrictions or possible transfer hold ups that may come with air travel.

Pretty French houses with a path leading down to a sandy stretch of beach under blue skies

The best deserted beaches in France

Let’s begin with France, after all you will arrive in Calais from Folkestone in just 35 minutes.

Deauville

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.

La Ciotat

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.

Plage d’Herlin, Belle-Ile-En-Mer

The island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, lies off the coast of Brittany, in the Morbihan department of France. It’s filled with coves and hidden beaches, but one of the best is Plage d’Herlin. This sandy spot is protected from wind by groups of rocks, and the water is a beautiful blue. If you are travelling with little ones, there is a nearby village for dining out and during the summer there is a lifeguard on duty for safer swimming opportunities. To get to the island is a 13km ferry ride from Quiberon on the mainland to Belle-Ile-en-Mer.

people enjoying the crystal clear waters around a large rocky edge

Calanque de Port-Pin

Calanque de Port-Pin is in Marseille in the Vaufrèges district and froms part of the Calanques National Park, a place popular with hikers and filled with natural beauty. This beach was named for the surrounding pine forests, which protect the cove of sand and shingle from winds. It’s about a 20 minutes' (easy) walk to the beach from nearby Calanque de Port Miou, following the path Le Chemin des Douaniers through the old Port-Miou quarry. This is one of the most beautiful beaches to swim and relax on, protected by the trees so you can choose a shadier spot if you prefer.

Cenitz Beach

Nestled between the pretty towns of Guéthary and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, this beach is for those looking for peace and quiet. As well as a place to sunbathe, this is a conservation area with unique flora and fauna. The beach is separated into two parts, the area next to Guéthary being rockier but offering a car park and restaurant with a panoramic view of the ocean from its terrace. Fewer rocks on the St Jean de Luz side attracts swimmers and the surfers who often come here to practice for larger waves further down the coast.

White roofed beach chairs looking out to sea on a sandy beach in Belgium

Secluded beaches in Belgium

Most of us associate Belgium with medieval towns but its coastline is 68km of sandy beaches to explore too.

Koksijde

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 archaeological dig centred around the town's 900-year-old Cistercian monastery.

Nieuwpoort

This picturesque fishing village, renowned for its fresh seafood, is just 2 km from the beach. Home to the statue created by artists Jan Fabre called Searching for Utopia, this place is certainly on the right track to finding it. After exploring the parks and shops in town, head to the seafront for paddling, swimming, and surfing. This beach tends to attract those looking for activities rather than simply laying in the sun, which could be just the thing if you have younger members of your group looking to be entertained.

Knokke-Heist

Knokke-Heist is a veritable treasure trove of beaches, as it has five coastal villages: Heist, Albertstrand, Knokke, Duinbergen, and Zoute for you to explore. This entire area, however, is considered as sophisticated and chic thanks to the luxury homes and jetsetter locals. Art galleries (there are around 50!), a casino, and a cultural centre are all here, but you’ll definitely want to spend some time on the sand where you can watch cyclists and stylish people of the area strut by along the promenade.

A lit up pier and building at sunrise with sand and sea in the foreground

De Haan

If you like to stay active, try cycling around the De Haan beach in Belgium, which is truly an amazing way to see the Belgian Coast. De Hann features Anglo-Norman style cottages and villas, which will captivate history and architecture enthusiasts. For a little more history, the great Albert Einstein himself stayed here once. It also is known to be one of the quietest beaches, so you can enjoy some peace and quiet. Sunbed rentals are available, so why not spend time reading or listening to the waves? The resort in De Haan is one of the most visited places along this stretch of coast, as it gives you a 360-degree view of the sea, attracting many artists and photographers.

Blankenberg

Blankenberg is great for families as it’s home to Sea Life Marine Park, one of the largest aquariums in Belgium. There’s a golf course and numerous waterside activities available, from jetskiing to windsurfing, but many head straight for the famous pier. Built in the 1930s, this art deco building sits at the end of a promenade that gives you beautiful views of the water, so be sure to bring your camera. Every year, a sand sculpture festival is close to the Sea Life Marine Park, where sand artists create magnificent sand sculptures that are based on a theme, which is well worth seeing if you visit from late June to early September.

sunset on a stretch of beach with blue and orange sky

Secret beaches of the Netherlands

Head for the Netherlands, where beaches are quieter than others across Europe but no less beautiful.

De Kwade Hoek

If you like your beaches on the wild side, De Kwade Hoek, about 32km west of Rotterdam, should be top of your list. Although not the classic experience, its name translates to ‘angry corner’ after all, there is nearly 130km of powdery sand surrounded by wild dunes covered in wild flowers and native fauna. This is a place to take long walks and enjoy delicious seafood, as De Kwade Hoek sits at the tip of an island surrounded by waterways, including the Rhine. This is not a beach to swim at, although it is possible, its perfect for quiet contemplation and some well-deserved R&R. For a taste of traditional Dutch life, nearby Goedereede, meaning ‘safe harbourage’ is absolutely gorgeous.

Schoorl

With sand dunes of epic proportions and a café that has been standing for as long as anyone can remember, the friendly Dutch village of Schoorl has everything you need for a quiet beachy break.

There are over 60km of hiking paths to explore, taking you across beaches, heathland, and forests, or you can cycle to the beaches, popular with many who visit. During the summer months, look out for white orchids and the rare green woodpecker, or simply relax on the sand and listen to the waves. Nearby De Schoorlse Duinen Visitor Centre offers a map of the local ‘Gnome Path’, created for young and young-at-heart visitors, which will take you through the forest and onto the sand dunes in search of gnomes or just a good time.

sand dunes with blue sky and white fluffy clouds in the distance

Hargen aan Zee & Camperduin

Hargen’s beach is popular, but hardly ever overcrowded thanks to its expansive dunes. It offers a pavilion serving drinks and snacks, and many people hire bikes to ride through the surrounding peacfeul pine forests.

Camperduin, as its name suggests, is also surrounded by dunes, but its unique offering is its artificially created lagoon, sheltered from any winds by the mountains of sand. As the historical site of the Battle of Camperdown of 1797, when the Dutch lost a naval battle to the British, this is a great place to relax as well as take in some history. Cycle and walking paths are available, as well as cafes and affordable parking.

De Vooroever

This stretch of the IJsselmeet coast is the ultimate place to lay out on the sand and soak up some sun, or head out into the water for swimming, diving, or paddle boarding if the mood so takes you. At the nearby town of Wervershoof is a watchtower which you can climb, offering unparalleled views of the coastline. It’s also a wonderful place to do some bird spotting, as many of the tiny sandbanks play host to some interesting breeds.

Kijkduin

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.

Discover your secret beach with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

No matter where you’re headed, the ideal way to start your introduction to Europe’s best seaside towns is with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Travelling with Eurotunnel means a quick, smooth journey that gives you all the flexibility you need to plan the perfect beach holiday.

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Discover your secret beach with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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