As usual, Iceland is unusual: here in the Northern Atlantic you can walk on black volcanic sand beaches or go pony trekking on the lighter sands of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Jules Verne used the glacier on this peninsula as the setting for Journey to the Center of the Earth, so you know it’s an inspiring landscape. These beaches cry out for picnics, and the terrain is such that all ages can enjoy exploring around that next bend in the trail or over one more intriguing hill.
Start heading south and you’ll find over 1400 km of spectacular coastline in Ireland. As well as towering cliffs, clear fresh waters, pristine sandy beaches, and an abundance of opportunities for the water sports enthusiast, the coastline features lively fishing villages with some bewitchingly delicious seafood.
And then there are the famous beaches of Spain and Portugal, including the delights of their Atlantic islands. For spectacular family beaches, head to the Algarve in Portugal, where long beaches are interspersed with irregular rock formations including mysterious caves that you can reach only from the ocean. Portugal’s longest stretches of beaches are along the coast of Aveiro, Figueira da Foz and Leiria – wide expanses bordered by dunes and sheltering pine groves. Madeira and the Azores are beautiful islands of green and gold with some of the Atlantic’s most beautiful waters and beaches to match.
Spain’s Atlantic coastline offers a world of beach possibilities including an enormous number of Blue Flag – meaning the ultimate in pristine – beaches. The rugged northern beaches are set against a dramatic backdrop courtesy of the Pyrenees, and give way to sandier stretches yet some massive waves as the coastline winds west and then south. On the Costa del Luz on the southern curve of Spain’s Atlantic border, enjoy endless golden sands as you look across to Africa.
On perpetually sunny Gran Canaria enjoy the large and popular stretches of sand at Maspalomas and the Playa del Inglés, or go for a more tranquil time at the smaller and quieter beaches such as Taurito and Amadores in Mogán. At constant “t-shirt” temperature, you can’t resist smiling and relaxing in the sparkling ocean air.