Since our last roadtrip through Europe I have become a bit attached to Italy. Besides the emerging Puglia region, Italy has a large number of islands, of which Sicily and Sardinia are the largest. This time I didn’t go on a trip to beautiful Italy, but thanks to my friend Marjolijn, who has been spending over the years her holidays on the beautiful island of Sardinia with her family.
As a true specialist of the island, she shares here her tips on how to best spend your holidays with children and what are nice places to visit in Sardinia. From beautiful azure bay beaches to idyllic Italian villages, Sardinia has it all and is not for nothing called the Maldives of Europe by the Italians themselves. Curious what Sardinia has to offer for young families? Marjolijn likes to share all her tips here with you!
We have lost our hearts in Sardinia
“No, we can not afford a holiday to the Caribbean with our family with three children”, was the answer of my husband to pictures I showed him of beautiful white beaches and clear azure blue water. I told him it was not the Caribbean, but the Italian island Sardinia. As the Italian call it: the Maldives of Italy.
We immediately decided to book a trip to this beautiful looking island. And we were not disappointed, not at all! This summer we went for the 5th time! The island is really amazing! There are a lot of beautiful villages, cities and historical sites, varied landscapes from valleys and forests to mountains, lakes and lagoons, many dream bays and beaches which are very suitable for children, the local people are very friendly, the food is delicious and after all, it is very affordable.
Transport on and to Sardinia
Of course you can fly to Sardinia with several airlines, but you will need a car on the island because of the distances. The easiest way to explore and visit is by car.
Different airlines fly from different airports to Olbia in the north east, but most planes arrive in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia in the south. By plane you can fly from Amsterdam to Sardinia in less than 2.5 hours.
However, you will certainly need a rental car in Sardinia if you come by plane. There are many small, cosy villages, many beautiful beaches, coves and many places of interest on Sardinia, but not within walking distance.
By boat to Sardinia
From Europe it is easy to visit Sardinia with your own car because there are several companies which sail form several ports in Italy, France and Spain. This way you can easily combine a visit to Sardinia with a visit to the Alps, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Barcelona. These are the main reasons for us to travel to Sardinia by car:
- The beautiful journey to it including ferry crossing
- Always own transport at hand
- Bringing back souvenirs
Sardinia Ferries: night boat ferry
This year we started our holiday with a three-day visit to Lienz (Austria) before taking the boat from Livorno to Sardinia. We have had the best experiences with Corsica Sardinia Ferries. The ferries are like cruise ships; restaurants, shops, swimming pool and playground on board.
There are a number of large ferry companies that operate from different ports in France and Italy on Sardinia:
• Corsica (Sardinia) Ferries
• Moby Lines
• Grimaldi Lines
They are all good companies, but the best experiences (sailing on time, good service) we have is with Corsica Ferries. The ferries can be booked directly through the companies. The earlier you book, the cheaper. The longer you wait, the higher the prices become.
Boat trips in combination with a city trip in Italy
There are also nice combinations to make with (mini) city trips in advance, for example:
- Florence, Pisa, Lucca in conjunction with a ferry crossing from Livorno
- Rome in combination with the crossing from Civitavecchia
- Or by boat to the French island of Corsica
Tips ferry crossing to Sardinia
When you enter the port (be present 1 to 2 hours before departure), make sure that your tickets and passports are at hand. You will then automatically be guided to the correct parking area where you will have to wait until you are allowed to drive on board.
At Corsica Ferries and Moby all passengers can stay in the car until the car is parked on the boat. There is a lot of staff on the move with loading and unloading to help everyone.
We often take the night boat and rent a cabin. Usually in the evening departure around 23:00 hrs and arrival around 06:30 hrs the next morning. Saves travel time during the day and it is nice to sleep on board!
Our children really like it on the boat. Most of the times we take the night boat and book a cabin to sleep a couple of hours. Leaving the harbor with sunset and arriving on Sardinia with sunrise….we love it. And besides a wonderful journey, the biggest benefit especially with our kids is, we can take everything what we want as luggage.
Where to stay in Sardinia?
The first time we went to Sardinia, we booked accommodation at a Sardina4all agency. During this stay we discovered that the locals are very friendly and reliable. That’s why we now always book private houses with Airbnb or Booking.com. Very affordable and lots of choice.
Each holiday we first choose which part of the island we want to visit and what we would like to do. Then we search for a house in that part. We always stay 2-3 weeks and as family we have a few requirements for the accommodation. Swimming pool, air-conditioning, washing machine and not too far from a village and beach! We always found a match!
Rent a luxury villa in Sardinia
You can also rent your own (luxury) villa on Sardinia. L’e Marquis Sardinia has a wide range of luxury private villas complete with its own cook, babysitter and private driver on request. Prices are from €3,000 per night.
Prices in Sardinia
Life in Sardinia is very affordable, often even cheap. Eating out with the family for a few tens, cappuccino for less than 2 euros and a carafe of good Sardinian wine around 7 euros. Only around Villasimius and the Costa Smeralda are the prices significantly higher.
There are many local supermarkets, certainly not expensive, but they also have the Eurospin in many places; a Lidl-like shop. Parking is generally cheap or free. There is good public parking. Only on popular beaches the price is a bit higher. There is usually mandatory parking on closed parking lots.
Village festivals and wine festivals in Sardinia
Three years ago a friend in Sardinia told us about a wine festival in the small mountain village of Monti. Sagra del Vermentino. It is not far from Olbia. We decided to go there and t was fantastic!
On the ground of the wine company (cantina) you can buy a small bag with a wine glass for a low price. With that glass you can taste the new young Vermentino wine, straight from the barriques. Unlimited!
You can also taste Sardinian cheese and sausage for free. There are folk dancers and folk music, but there is also a DJ. Later in the evening there’s a big open-air dance party on the winery grounds! The atmosphere is great and everyone is in a good mood 😉
Every time we get there, we visit this festival! The children also like it very much. So much to see! In the main street of the village is a market with local products (also to taste) and souvenirs. And there is always a stall where they make some kind of churros! A typical Sardinian tradition with festivals is the grilling pigs on the spit. Very special to see!
If you are on the island, you will discover that there are more wine and village festivals. Just ask the people or look at the kiosks for flyers!
Sightseeings on Sardinia
Olbia, San Teodoro and Budoni are beautiful places to visit on the east coast! Shops, restaurants, bars and in high season every evening market with local products, jewelry and souvenirs. Cozy crowd!
We love these places, which is why we spend at least a few days here every holiday. But also in the west for example Alghero is a very nice city to visit.
Another very beautiful city at the waterfront to visit is Bosa. This beautiful town is located about 45 km below Alghero in the northwest of Sardinia on the river Temo.
The road down the coast alone is worth a visit to this very beautiful town with its colourful houses.
Medieval village of Castelsardo
This year we stayed one week in the medieval village Castelsardo at the northwestcoast. The village is situated high on a cliff with a castle on top. The view is amazing! It was very nice to visit the castle with the children, a lot of old war equipment to see. Free history lesson!
The town of Castelsardo also has a nice small centre with restaurants, shops and bars and a very nice atmosphere. Because of the gently sloping sea, the east coast is the best part to visit with children.
White beaches & azure blue sea
Beach, culture, shopping, going out… It’s all to be found in Sardinia, but…. scattered! The range of beautiful beaches is enormous. And then really beautiful beaches; the Italians call Sardinia ‘the Maldives of Italy’ for a reason. Crystal clear water, white beaches … what more can you wish for?
Our most favorite beach is Cala Brandinchi. A beautiful lagoon! The sealevel is so low, the children can build a sandcastle in the water! And mama is sunbathing next to it, while dad is snorkeling in deeper part of the bay to look at the many beautiful fishes!
Most beautiful sandy beaches of Sardinia
The most beautiful beaches can be found on the east coast between Olbia and Villasimius. Many bays with slow sloping beaches. Perfect for families with small children. Some of them can only be reached by boat and you can only book a day trip.
Many beaches in Sardinia are child-friendly and slowly descend that you are only 50 meters away from your waist in the water. It’s great to float in on an air mattress, play beach volleyball or relax in the rippling surf. There are also plenty of quiet beaches to find, even in high season!
Top 10 beaches Sardinia
- Capo Coda Cavallo, east of Olbia
- Cala Brandinchi, San Teodoro
- Cala La Cinta, Stagno di San Teodoro
- Cala Mariolu (only accessible by boat)
- Cala dei Gabbiani (only accessible by boat)
- Cala Goloritzè, Baunei (only accessible by boat)
- Spiagga di Porto Giunco, Villasimius
- Spiaggia della Pelosa, in front of Isola Piana
- La Pelosa,north coast of Sardinia
- Cala Gonone, see picture below
The only thing in high season is….be there before 9.30 am. In high season it is crowded, but we love to socialize with the local people and tourists. 95% is Italian. The beaches are never too full, an Sardegnan or Italian will always make space. Next to the most crowded beaches there are a lot less crowded beaches. We always use Google Maps to find them.
Getting around Sardinia by car
Sardinia is a big island. It is larger than for example Belgium and there are only 2 motorways. From north to south you drive by car in 3 hours. So it is impossible to see the whole island in one visit. Because the island has a very strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea, it has been an important part of a lot of empires.
You can find traces of this history everywhere, not only on the archeological sightseeings but also in the daily life. A nice example are the Spanish influences which resulted in Sardinian Sangria and Churros in the West of Sardinia.
Top 5 excursions Sardinia
Because of the size of the island and the big variety of sights it isn’t possible to mention al our highlights in just one blog so we I just mention the top five.
1. The La Maddalena-archipelago
Starting in the port of Palau, there are several organizations that offer day trips by boat to the Archipelago of Maddalena. Another nice excursion that starts in Palau is “Le Trenino Verde”. An old train that travels through caves and along deep gorges to Tempio Pausania. It’s like walking into a cowboy movie.
2. Coast of Orosei
You can only visit this beautiful coast by boat. We have chosen to go with an organized day trip from Arbatax, but it is also possible to rent your own small motorboat. The coast is really great.
Giant cliffs, caves and the most amazing beaches. The highlight was Cala Mariolu where I jumped from a rock, 6 meters above the sea into the clear water. The boat trip is really suitable for children because of the variety of beach stops.
3. Alghero and a visit to “Grotto di Nettuno”
Alghero is an old city with ancient city walls and many Spanish influences. On top of the walls you have a great view of the sea and there are many old catapults and cannons to see. From Alghero you can make a small trip to “Grotto di Nettuno“. This is a large stalactite cave and has been used by pirates to hide their treasures.
4. Capital of Cagliari
This city with its beautifully coloured colonial houses gives you the feeling that you have travelled to Cuba instead of Italy. It is a fantastic city with many different archaeological sites, nice shopping streets, restaurants and a large harbour. We parked our car in the harbor, it is less than 5 minutes walk to the center of the city and very cheap.
5. Nuraghes, Bronze Age towers
Something you will only find in Sardinia is the Nuraghes. Our children like them very much, they imagine the lives of the people who lived here thousands of years ago.
Nuraghes are buildings of the old inhabitants of the island who built it in the Bronze Age. Stone structures that can be found everywhere on the island. This year we visited Nuraghe Palmavera near Alghero in combination with the Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju (3,000 years before Christ).
Best travel time Sardinia
The best time to travel to Sardinia with children is from May till with September, but October is also a very nice month to visit Sardinia. The average temperature is between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius. Moreover, it is warm enough to swim in the sea during high season and you have the least chance of rain in these summer months.
⇒ Good to know
Since 2017 it is forbidden to take home Sardinia’s white beach as a souvenir! Even taking a small bottle filled with sand can result in a heavy fine. Be suspicious and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
Why go on holiday to Sardinia?
“We really love Sardinia and it feels like our second home. We really love it, not only because of the climate and the beauty of the island, but also because of the nice and warm people who do everything they can to help you, although they often only speak Italian and we don’t… We have just returned from our last holiday and are already planning our next one. Next year we would like to combine it with a city trip to Barcelona.”
Did you like to read it and do you have any tips of your own? Leave your comment or follow me on Instagram below.