10 Secret Beaches In Europe Only Locals Know About
Planning your European summer getaway but worried about the hordes of tourists you’re likely to encounter? (Let’s be honest, they’ll mostly be fellow Aussies.) Europe’s a big continent, but some of the most Insta-famous beach locations can be busier than Bondi on a Saturday morning.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the sunshine. While we can all agree Australia has some of the best beaches in the world, the Mediterranean has its fair share of stellar spots.
So if you’re looking to get off the beaten track and onto the sand, look no further. We asked 10 locals for their best beach recommendations, sans crowds.
#1 Porto Miggiano, Italy
“Spiaggetta di Porto Miggiano in Puglia is a small, rocky cove with a sandy beach. It’s extremely beautiful, and not very well known by tourists.” – Athos
Puglia is one of Italy’s most renowned coastal regions, and about an hour and a half bus ride from Lecce you’ll find yourself in the beautiful town of Santa Cesarea Terme with a population 3000 people. Just south of the town is Porto Miggiano, where the bay forms a crystal clear natural swimming pool with a view of a 16th century watchtower.
#2 Cala Torta Beach, Spain
“My favourite beaches are actually in Mallorca. I love Es Trenc, but the whole island is filled with a tonne of cool smaller beaches like Cala Torta.” – Lindsey
While Mallorca doesn’t qualify as secret by any stretch of the imagination, most tourists on this Balearic island stick to the resort-dominated south coast. On the quieter east coast, there are still plenty of beaches waiting to be discovered. For those willing to brave a bumpy ride through the mountains, Cala Torta beach, near the little town of Artà, is perfect for scuba-diving and snorkelling.
Neighbouring islands Menorca is also a popular spot among locals and tourists alike. Although more low-key than Mallocra, travellers can still expect the same crystal clear and delectably warm waters. For something on the smaller (but equally stunning) side, try Calo des Moro. The tiny stretch of white sand is tucked away in the south east of the island and is often described as one of the ‘last paradises’ of the island.
#3 Queen’s Beach, Croatia
“There’s a small island near Zadar called Nin, where my friend lives and it’s got one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Queen’s Beach. But the best beach there is Bilotnjak, because it is much quieter.” – Paula
Easily reached by a half hour bus trip from Zadar, the historic town of Nin is located on a shallow lagoon that offers plenty of gorgeous beaches. The three-kilometre long Queen’s Beach is home to the largest supply of medicinal mud in Croatia, and just to the south Bilotnjak offers untouched stretches of golden sand and clear blue sea.
#4 Praia De Adraga, Portugal
“Adraga is the perfect beach near Lisbon, about a one-hour drive, and it doesn’t get crowded like the ones closer to the city. It has some beautiful rock formations and caves too.” – Mohinii
Located within the stunning Sintra-Cascais Natural Park at the westernmost point of Europe, Praia de Adraga is just around the corner from the larger Praia Grande beach and can be reached by bus from Lisbon via Sintra. Surrounded by dramatic cliffs and jagged offshore rock formations, Adraga is becoming popular with locals on weekends, but retains the wild feel of a much more remote destination.
#5 Melissani Cave, Greece
“One of the most beautiful spots in all of Greece is Melissani Cave which is on the island of Kefalonia. It’s so picture perfect and peaceful, and you can take a boat tour and swim. Emplisi Beach in Kefalonia is also amazing and usually very quiet.” – Eleni
Skip Santorini and head to Kefalonia by taking a ferry from Kyllini, a three-hour drive west of Athens. Made famous by 2001 film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the island boasts some of the most gorgeous beaches in the Mediterranean, as well as the picturesque lake inside Melissani Cave.
Near the village of Fiskardo is the sheltered, pebbly beach of Emplisi. Locals reckon the big flat rocks that surround the beach are more comfortable for sun baking than the beach itself. Emplisi can be reached by foot or taxi from the Fiskardo and also has camping areas for the adventurous traveller.
#6 Noirmoutier, France
“In Noirmoutier, a small French island in Vendée, is an amazingly wild and quiet beach called Plage de la Luzeronde. The sunsets are the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen in my life, and only people who’ve been going to Noirmoutier for a long time know about this paradise.” – Thaïs
Noirmoutier is located just off the east coast of France, less than two hours on the train from Nantes (the island is connected by a bridge to the mainland). It was settled in 674 and is now famous for the grand 12th Century stone castle known as the Château de Noirmoutier. Travellers also enjoy delicious local food, including ‘La Bonnotte’, the most expensive potato in the world. Even better, Noirmoutier is surrounded by laid-back, sandy beaches that offer a taste of the real French seaside.
#7 Grenen, Denmark
“At Skagen, right at the top point of Denmark, there’s a beach where two seas join each other which is pretty cool to see.” – Mette
Denmark’s northernmost town is a seven-hour train ride from Copenhagen, but the Danes think the views are worth it. The city is Denmark’s main fishing port and has long had a reputation as an artistic community thanks to the impressive natural landscape that surrounds it. At Grenen, a ten-minute drive out of town, you can clearly see the point where the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet due to the different density of the two bodies of water.
#8 Bellevue, Finland
“I wouldn’t say Finland is known for its beaches! But if I were to recommend something I’d have to say Bellevue in Hanko, it’s got a really nice strip of seaside.” – Vilja
Hanko is the sunniest place in Finland, and is easily reached by a two-hour train ride from Helsinki. Beloved by locals, the area’s Baltic Sea beaches are mostly shallow and calm and the water is often unexpectedly warm (depending on wind conditions). Bellevue, on the southern side of the port city, is next to a natural reserve and is a long stretch perfect for renting a bike or going for a stroll.
#9 Saros, Turkey
“On the western side of the Gulf of Saros there are beaches near Koruköy where you can see all the stars you want, including the Milky Way, and swim for free. – Nevzat
For nature lovers, Saros, located a three-hour drive east of Istanbul, is one of the best-kept secrets in Turkey. Boasting unreal sunsets, the area is popular with young people but can be a bit of a trek to get to for tourists without a car (taking three buses is the cheapest option). If you can make it there though, the Saros Beach Club offers affordable camping and facilities.
#10 Cullen Beach, Scotland
“The coastline of Scotland is great to see during summer, but I wouldn’t call most of it beach. There are a couple of spots though; Cullen Beach near Buckie is a really nice place for swimming and wildlife watching.” – Lauren
On Scotland’s north-east coast lies Buckie, a bustling fishing town which can be reached by bus from Elgin or incorporated into a Scottish coastal road trip. Local landmark Bow Fiddle Rock can be seen to the north east of Buckie, and if you’re lucky enough to catch perfect conditions you could even witness the Northern Lights. The nearby beaches are great for walking and dolphin-spotting in Spey Bay, just on the off chance it isn’t swimming weather.
(Lead image: Calo des Moro via Morfheos / Flickr)