You’ll find sun-kissed stretches of baby-soft sand, turquoise waters, historic sites–including shipwrecks–and a chill summery vibe that invites you to settle in and soak up the good times. Go for a Mediterranean cruise out of Southampton sailing such southern European countries as Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Croatia, where picture-perfect beaches and captivating towns await.
From secluded coves to popular umbrella-dotted destinations, and gentle sandy shores to rugged rock formations — there’s a beach for your every mood and preference. So hop onboard and let’s go explore these top sunbathing gems!
Head to the southern coast of Spain to experience a beauty-of-a-beach, the bucket-list-worthy Cala Mitjaneta. In this sunny wonderland, framed by emerald cliffs and powdery sand, the gentle, crystal clear waters are ideal for snorkelling and swimming.
Explore underwater caves in the adjacent Cala Mitjana, an equally beautiful, but more crowded, beach. And make sure to pack a picnic lunch and refreshments as there are no restaurants or tourist amenities on the beach itself. One of the most popular beaches in Menorca, parking fills up quickly, so arriving early is a splendid idea.
A destination that can only be accessed by yacht or powerboat, Navagio, is a romantic little cove in Greece’s Ionian islands. Nicknamed the Smugglers Cove, this white sand beach is hugged by towering limestone cliffs and stunningly blue waters–and also features its very own shipwreck marooned on shore! As the tale goes, in 1983 the crew of the Panagiotis were smuggling cigarettes and spirits when alert officials went in hot pursuit, running them aground. It may be hard to decide whether the shipwreck and its colourful story or the extraordinary natural beauty are more appealing, regardless, this beach will ignite your sense of adventure and love of the high seas.
You'll need to swim a short distance to get to shore, so having your bathing suit on is a good idea. Tour operators usually run boat tours for the full day and you may be able to arrange a champagne sunset at sea for your departure ride.
You could probably cruise around the world and never find a beach anywhere as unique and distinctive as the fabled Turkish Steps, or Scala dei Turchi. Weathered by thousands of years of wind and water erosion, the entire facade of the white limestone and Marl cliff is covered in enormous climbable steps. According to the old Sicilian story, black-hearted pirates would dock their ships in the moonlit bay, swarm up the cliff and raid local villages.
Cross the sandy beach to explore the steps and, as you near them, they will appear to loom over you, a massive white sculpture in stark contrast with the sapphire sea. Go the way of buccaneers climbing up the steps, then dip into the sparkling water for a refreshing–and one of the most picturesque–swims of your life.
As an added perk, the eroded stone (specifically Marl) creates a clay mud that is reportedly excellent for your skin. Cover yourself in clay, let it dry, wash off with another swim, and presto, you’ve had an invigorating spa treatment courtesy of mother nature!
One of the most beloved beaches in Spain, Barceloneta offers more than three kilometres of pristine sand against a backdrop of modern city buildings. It's cosmopolitan, bustling and full of exciting things to do.
When you’ve had your fill of tanning and swimming, take a kite or windsurfing lesson, hop on a yacht or grab a bite to eat at one of the many beachside restaurants. Add to your can’t-miss list a stroll over to the 52 metre El Peix metal fish sculpture, an iconic Barcelona landmark by renowned architect Frank Gehry.
In the evenings, swimsuits are swapped for party-wear as locals flock to popular clubs like Pacha and Carpe Diem. Join them and you’ll discover why Barcelona is a veritable treasure-trove of night and day play.
Just outside the romantic town of Budva, Jaz Beach is the perfect spot to slip off your thongs and launch into lazy holiday mode. The gentle curve of the beach is framed by verdant mountains and aquamarine water that captivates tourists and locals alike.
Stretching over 1.2 kilometres, the pebble and sand beach offers ample room to spread out and avoid crowds. Many popular concerts are held here, with such artists as Madonna and the Rolling Stones rocking out memorable rhythms.
The largest beach in Villefranche and prized by those who crave sandy beaches, the scenic Plage des Marinières is approximately a 20 minute ride from the Nice city centre.
Flanked by the old town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, the beach is tranquil and relaxing, with calm, warm waters protected by anti-jellyfish nets. After recharging at the “belle plage”, sightseeing in charming Villefranche-sur-Mer is an absolute must. One of the most delightful and colourful towns in the French Riviera, you’ll stroll narrow cobblestone streets as you make your way to excellent restaurants, shops and the 16th century citadel perched on a hilltop.
Nearby you can also visit the even quieter Plage de l'Ange Gardien beach or sail to the sparkling waters of Plage de la Darse.
If you've seen a picture of Dubrovnik or watched "Game of Thrones," then you've probably already laid eyes on Banje Beach, a year-round tourist attraction and iconic destination. From your rented deck chair, you will take in incredible views of historic Old Town, the sparkling blue waters, and the alluring mash of various European cultures decked out around you.
Adventure calls in the form of yachting, parasailing, jet-skiing, and banana boat and paddleboard rentals. The protected bay is gentle and ideal for swimmers of all ages and skill levels. When the need to refuel strikes, you’ll find various eateries conveniently located on the beach, as well as public restrooms, open-air showers and disability access. Banje Beach’s location in front of the eastern entrance to Dubrovnik Old Town (Ploče Gate), makes it a breeze to explore this fascinating location, mixing a day of chilling on the sand with the thrill of historic discovery.
Santorini's Red Beach claims its place as one of the most striking beaches in the Mediterranean. Set on the shore of a dormant volcano near the famous Akrotiri archeological site, the beach is both a lesson in history and a natural wonder. From the cliffs to the pebbled sand, the predominant colour is a deep rusty red with accents of black volcanic rock. Check out the juncture of the cliffs and sky as well as where the sand meets the sea–the stunning contrast in colours is Instagram-worthy.
Red Beach is tourist-friendly but not overcrowded. You'll find chaises and umbrellas for rent and can stock up on refreshments at one of the canteens just off the beach. The translucent dark blue waters invite snorkelling and are teeming with intriguing rock formations and marine life.
What makes the Mediterranean such a marvellous summer holiday destination? Perhaps it's the captivating culture and history, the delicious dining and sun-drenched wines. Or perhaps it's the warm, gentle waters of a sea almost entirely enclosed by land. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain — the Mediterranean holds some of the world's most amazing beaches. And in such proximity to the UK that visiting them all is a possibility well within reach!