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10 best beaches in Europe for families, as recommended by parents

Europe is home to some of the world's best beaches. With help from Mumsnetters, we’ve rounded up the best of the bunch for families.

By Kim Gregory | Last updated Dec 21, 2023

Elafonisi beach in Crete

You needn’t travel to the other side of the world to find top-class family-friendly beaches. Europe has more than its fair share, from Crete’s pink-hued Elafonisi beach to Portugal’s paddle-boarding paradise of Praia Dona Ana.

Consulting the Mumsnet forums, we’ve rounded up the best beaches that offer something for everyone. We’ve got rock pools, sheltered coves, epic dunes, shallow waters and kid-friendly cafes covered. We’d recommend reaching these beaches early as sometimes, popular = crowded. Then, prepare for sandcastle building, sunbathing and sunset-watching as you collect more family memories than your kids will seashells…

Here are the best beaches in Europe for families. 

1. Arenal d’en Castell, Menorca

Arenal d'en Castell beach in Menorca

Best overall | Search for Menorca family holidays

"Arenal D'en Castell in Menorca is beautiful with soft white sand and shallow clear waters perfect for children" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Frustratedmummy79 

"Arenal d’en Castell has the most beautiful horseshoe bay. I loved it when mine were tiny. The beach is very shallow and ‘safe’, not great for water sports and there aren’t many restaurants" - recommended by Mumsnet user, CeeceeBloomingdale 

This Menorca resort is home to a picturesque horseshoe bay with great conditions for families including soft sand leading to shallow child-friendly waters. There are handy facilities like toilets, car parking and sun loungers, as well as fun pedalo and kayak hire if you want to turn things up a notch for older kids. Beach bars and cafes are accessible via a pushchair-friendly wooden boardwalk to keep the gang fed and cooled.

Related: The best paddling pools for summer 2024

2. Elafonisi, Crete, Greece

Elafonisi, Crete, from above: pink sand and turquoise waters

Best beautiful beach | Search for family holidays to Crete

"One of the most beautiful sandy beaches I have seen in the world is Elafonisi in Crete. Stunning, beautiful, amazing. I live in Australia, so I have seen my fair share of beaches in Europe and Oceania. So perfect with kids, water is shallow" - recommended by Mumsnet user, KingIrving 

"Chania in Crete is really nice, and Elafonisi beach is so beautiful. Plenty of history nearby and great food"  - recommended by Mumsnet user, MatchaTea 

Mesmerising Elafonisi beach is often listed as one of the world’s best beaches. Pink-ish sand meets Grecian blue waters that are warm, calm, shallow and ideal for families. Tell your little ones to keep their eyes peeled for sea turtles. Endangered loggerheads sometimes find shelter on Elafonisi Island though it’s rare you’ll spot them. You’re more likely to get a sighting elsewhere in Crete, like in Chania. We recommend leaving the journey to popular Elafonisi to the experienced bus drivers, as the roads aren’t easy.

Related: The best beach tents for a sun-safe trip to the coast

3. Croyde Bay, North Devon, UK

Croyde Bay, Braunton

Best for UK surfing | Find family-friendly hotels in Devon

"Croyde Bay, North Devon. Beautiful rock pools for children, sand dunes to roll down, waves for surfing. Oh, I want to go there now! Not many facilities. Basic toilets, cafe, equipment hire, lifeguards etc"  - recommended by Mumsnet user, storynanny 

Explore golden sands and dunes, catch critters in rock pools and enjoy the nostalgia of a brilliantly British seaside spot, whether it’s summer or a windswept winter’s day on Croyde Bay (also called Croyde Beach). Surfing is renowned here due to big waves and rip so enjoying the water is best done in an instructor-led family surf lesson where you'll ride the waves together. Warm up over hot tea in the nearby cafes. There are also toilets, shops, a slipway and a car park. You can take the family pet along between October and April (check out our guide to pet-friendly UK hols).

Related: The best beach toys for summer 2024

4. Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca

Puerto Pollensa beach, Mallorca

Best for amenities | Search for family holidays in Mallorca

"Puerto Pollensa! Upmarket and relaxed. We adore it and have returned for many years. The beaches are great and have incredibly calm water. We normally stay at the Puerto Azul Hotel which is fabulous, especially for kids"  - recommended by Mumsnet user, clipclop5 

North Mallorca is home to one of Europe’s best beach resorts: Puerto Pollensa. The main beach is a long, vast stretch of soft sand backed by palm trees and mountains. There are sections with sun loungers and some without. Expect an easy, relaxing family beach break thanks to amenities like the on-the-sand playground, beachfront eateries, pushchair-friendly promenade, showers, toilets and parking. Head to the harbour for fun family boat trips.

5. Praia de Alvor, Algarve, Portugal

Praia de Alvor beach in the Algarve

Best for exploring | Find family holidays to the Algarve

"Alvor Portugal. Lovely old town and harbour, lots of restaurants and the best beach on mainland Europe"  - recommended by Mumsnet user, WhizzFizz 

"Alvor in Portugal has a perfect beach" - recommended by Mumsnet user, secretscwirrels 

There’s two miles of seriously soft sand at Praia de Alvor in the Algarve making it a great base for kids to play. Even with crowds, you’ll find somewhere to unwind. The Atlantic Ocean here is gorgeous to look at but has currents, some rocks and is generally pretty darn cold, so it’s best suited to confident swimmers. But what makes it special is the boardwalk, on which you can stroll into the surrounding protected dunes and nature reserve, spotting unusual birds as you explore. Wildlife-lovers in the family? There are also dolphin-spotting tours nearby. If you can keep the kids up long enough, stay until sunset. You won’t regret it.

6. Spiaggia Capriccioli, Sardinia

Spiaggia Capriccioli beach in Sardinia

Best for snorkelling| Find family holidays to Sardinia

"Costa Smeralda - Sardinia. Beautiful white sandy beaches with clear seas and amazing food" - recommended by Mumsnet user, LilyE1234 

"Sardinia. Beaches to die for - and I have been all over"  - recommended by Mumsnet user, Portofino 

Spiaggia Capriccioli is one of several picturesque beaches on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda. The water is so clear, you can paddle at the shallow shore and watch fish flitter around your feet. Adventurous families can take to the water for great snorkelling. The beach is small (200 metres in length, so it can get very crowded) and it’s split in two by granite rock. Relish views across the sea to the islands of Soffi, Le Camere and Mortotio. Facilities here are sparse but there’s a hotel cafe and a car park above the beach. Be prepared for pricey sunbed hire.

7. Megali Paralia, Lindos, Rhodes

Lindos beach with the town above

Best for history buffs | Search for family holidays to Rhodes

"Lindos in Rhodes is super pretty" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Esbm2015 

"Lindos definitely. Close enough for a day trip to Rhodes old town too. The sea is much better around Lindos end though" - recommended by Mumsnet user, catfunk 

Greece has its fair share of gorgeous beaches but this one is special as it's crowned with a picturesque old town and acropolis. Soak up views as you sunbathe on the main beach, Megali Paralia, which you’ll walk to from town, though it might seem far to cranky tots. Once there, you’ll have all your family could need: sand, clear water, sunbeds and umbrellas, watersports like pedal boats and canoes, and seafood-serving tavernas with lovely views. Make time to see Lindos town’s classic white houses and narrow alleys.

8. Praia Dona Ana, Lagos, the Algarve

Rock formations at Praia Dona Ana

Best for watersports | Find family holidays to the Algarve

"Lagos in Portugal. Paddleboarding is huge over there and you can SUP into the caves which is very cool. They also have boat trips and other watersports" - recommended by Mumsnet user, TeetotalKoala 

"Lagos in Portugal (old town, marina, beaches, stunning coastline)" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Gherkingreen 

Green-topped limestone cliffs rise from sparkling turquoise waters at picturesque Praia Dona Ana. Travelling with a teen? There’s no better way to explore this gorgeous stretch of coast than on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) tour where guides will take you out to Lagos’ famous grottoes and sea caves. Expect memorable hours of fun with epic views. Some tours meet at Praia Dona Ana in south Lagos (there are steep steps down the beach so it’s probably best for older kids) but there are others in the area too. Speak with guides beforehand about your child’s age and abilities to ensure it’s suitable.

9. Plage de Longchamp, Brittany, France

Plage de Longchamp, Brittany

Best for sandcastles | Find family holidays to France

"Brittany… There is a really lovely resort called St Lunaire" - recommended by Mumsnet user, TheHuntingoftheSnark

"My vote is for the beaches around Dinard/St. Malo - St. Lunaire for example" - recommended by Mumsnet user, saltyseadog

Pretty Brittany is popular on the Mumsnet forums. Head north to the Emerald Coast and you’ll find Saint-Lunaire, a former fishing port come charming resort. Plage de Longchamps is a stretch of sand that’s impressively big at low tide and is begging to be played on (avoid at high tide) so make sure you’ve packed the buckets and spades! There are also rockpools, surf schools as it's known for water sports (though not swimming). The cafe serves up crowd-pleasing ice cream. End fun-filled days with lovely sunsets. Longchamps is within reach of St Lunaire's main beach, La Grande Plage which is often more sheltered.

10. Kidrak Beach/Paradise Beach, Oludeniz, Turkey

A picture from above of Oludeniz, Turkey

Best for nature | Find family holidays to Oludeniz 

"Oludeniz is wonderful. My tip is to skip the main Oludeniz beach and catch a dolmus to the lagoon beaches around the corner. Paradise Beach is probably my favourite place of all time" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Cheeseandlobster 

Oludeniz in southwest Turkey has a long, sandy main beach near lots of shops and restaurants. The area has a panoramic cable car that's free for kids under eight and little ones can have fun looking at the pirate ships docked in the bay from their spot on the beach. For something quieter and even more beautiful, take a boat or taxi to Kidrak Beach, also known as Paradise Beach. Set within a national park (with an entrance fee), you’ll lounge under pine trees on finely pebbled sand, soaking up mountain views. Expect hot summer sun but the blue waters, that are cooler here than at other nearby beaches, will help soothe fussy kids. Watch out for deep, unruly waters though - it might be best for teens. Sun loungers and a beach cafe mean you can make a day of it.

What’s the best destination in Europe for a beach holiday?

Europe is packed with beautiful beaches for memorable holidays, from relaxing Elafonisi beach in Crete with its pink-hued sand; to Lagos in Portugal with its fun SUP tours along the unique coastline. We hope our list inspires a beach break.

Where is the cheapest beach holiday in Europe?

From our list, we’d say highlights are Croyde Bay as you won’t have to pay for a flight or Elafonisi as Crete usually offers well-priced accommodation and food. Definitely not Capriccioli, Sardinia, which is on the pricier side. As for the whole of Europe? We recommend some online research including guidance from our Mumsnet travel forums. This thread about cheap European holiday destinations is particularly useful.

What’s the best beach in Europe for families?

It depends what you want. A break close to home? Croyde Bay, North Devon. Easy, convenient facilities? Puerto Pollensa, Spain. Spectacular scenery? Elafonisi, Crete or Capriccioli in Sardinia. We reckon Arenal d’en Castell, Menorca, has a bit of everything.

How we chose our recommendations

First we consulted our Mumsnet forums, relying on the views and opinions of real parents who have visited these beaches. We then researched each one online on trusted websites including official tourism sites, other travel publications and blogs. We also looked at reviews on TripAdvisor to make sure most visitors were satisfied. Then, we used the research to create our shortlist of the most family-friendly European beaches in the hope of inspiring your trip.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.