Smaller children will love swimming around on one of the 80 beaches while teens will enjoy the area cultural sights, rugged natural landscape and bustling port towns.
Glitzy Costa Smeralda on Sardinia’s northern coast, with its 55km stretch of beautiful coastline, is known as a haven for A-listers and the global super wealthy: perhaps not the obvious choice for a family break. But with low-cost airlines now flying into nearby Olbia Airport, and a number of child-friendly hotels and villas offering inexpensive family packages, ordinary holidaymakers are finally getting a look in.
Who is it good for? Young children will love splashing around on the beach – there are around 80 idyllic white-sand bays – while the area’s cultural sights, rugged natural landscape and bustling port towns, providing numerous sailing opportunities, will keep even older children and teenagers occupied.
The Costa Smeralda boasts some of the most stunning coastline in Sardinia, so start any family holiday with a trip to the beach. Not far from the beautiful harbour town of Porto Cervo (where boys big and small can marvel at the super yachts) is Rena Bianca ¬– a large white, gently shelving sandy stretch. This family-friendly swimming spot has a beach bar and sun beds, as well as a range of watersports, such as pedaloes and canoes.
La Marinella beach is a good option too, with its tranquil stretch of white sand, buzzing beach bar, restaurant and sailing/dinghy hire.
Rivaling the Costa Smeralda’s white sand shores are the beautiful and secluded coves and bays of the Maddelena Islands, reached via a 20-minute ferry ride from Palau. The main island of La Maddelena also has a quaint, cobblestone street-lined harbour town, choc full of restaurants, boutiques and gelaterias. When the kids tire of building sand castles, head over to forested Caprera Island, linked to La Maddelena by bridge. Best known as the final resting place of the Italian freedom fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi (he bought Caprera, in 1855 and lived there until he died in 1882), it was declared a national park in 1996 owing to the number of rare migratory birds found on it.
Back on the mainland, the kids will adore splashing around at Aqua Dream Waterpark. Located in the town of Baia Sardinia, it has enough slides and spins to keep them happy all day, while younger tots can play safely in the baby lagoon, a castle with fountains, slides and other water games.
For parents and older teens, there’s a large whirlpool and lazy river in which to completely unwind.
Price: Tickets cost €18, or €12 for senior citizens and children under 130cm.
Finally, give the little ones a taste of the history of the region with a trip to Nuraghe Albucciu, one of the Bronze-Age fortresses unique to Sardinia, in Arzachena.
Where to eat
You'll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that isn’t family friendly in the Costa Smeralda. Our top choices are Il Baretto at Capriccioli and La Vecchia Costa, which both have designated children's play areas. Pizzas are always a good option for kids and Ichnos Pizzeria in San Pantaleo do the best around.
If you’re not a fan of inclusive resorts, there are plenty of authentic Italian villas to choose from for a truly unique and independent getaway.
Situated within a few minutes’ drive of the Costa Smeralda’s exquisite beaches, Villa Oro Verde, part of Sardinian Places’ Premium Collection, is perfect for families.
Just outside the bustling market town of Arzachena, it is set among luscious and pristine grounds with mature olive trees, exotic plants and flowers, and a rambling vineyard. The large swimming pool (10m x 5m, depth 1m-1.8m) sits in view of the houseand there is a covered terrace next to the pool area, providing comfortable wicker chairs and a dining table, as well as a large covered barbecue area.
The accommodation has a master double bedroom with en-suite bathroom, double bedroom with en-suite shower room, and a twin bedroom and separate shower room. There is also a large and airy lounge/dining room with flat-screen TV and DVD player, an open corner fireplace and large sofas, and the well-equipped kitchen provides a washing machine and dishwasher - perfect if you have a brood you're catering for.
If you have little ones, there's foldable highchairs and travel cots (excluding cot linen) provided free of charge.
Air-conditioning at Villa Oro Verde is charged at an additional rate of 150 euros per week, payable locally.
Flights from the UK to Olbia take less than three hours, with an hours’ drive up the coast to the Costa Smeralda.
Best time to go
The weather in Sardinia is typically Mediterranean, enjoying mild winters and long hot summers. July and August can see temperatures hitting highs of 35C in Olbia - sometimes a little too hot for small children - while the region is at its glorious best in spring/early summer (April to June) and autumn (September and October) with pleasant, comfortable temperatures up to 28C.
How to get there
easyJet flies to Olbia from London Gatwick, Luton and Bristol, and Jet2 flies there from Leeds-Bradford and Edinburgh airports. Flights cost from around £60 return.
Car hire is included in the package (pick up and drop off is at Olbia Airport), and child car or booster seats (minimum age six months) can be requested at the time of booking at an extra cost of £40 each.
Specialist tour operator Sardinian Places offers seven nights at the three bedroom Villa Oro Verde (part of its Premium Collection) in North East Sardinia from £534 per person. This price is based on four sharing and includes return flights Gatwick – Olbia with easyJet, car hire and a welcome food hamper.
Call Sardinian Places Reservations on 0845 330 2050 or visit www.sardinianplaces.co.uk.
See online feature here: http://www.familytraveller.com/article/sardinia-s-costa-smeralda
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