Europe's Top Ten Secret Coves
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
It’s fair to say that everyone’s life changed in 2020 and adjusting to our new realities takes a lot of energy. As a result, feelings of stress, depression, boredom, inadequacy and ultimately burnout are being felt by people all over the world. And at the same time a lot of the ways we typically recharge and unwind are not available to us - seeing friends, going out for dinner, going to the gym – most self-care activities are off the table for the time being.
But with a fresh year comes new hope and the good news is we can still dream! In fact, a scientific study from the Georgia Institute of Technology has found that rather than being a waste of time, daydreaming can benefit you in all sorts of ways from boosting intelligence to helping relaxation.
With that in mind we are devoting time to daydreaming right now at SWHQ, specifically, daydreaming about when we can buckle up our Salties and go exploring again. We’re dreaming of following a coast path, discovering a hidden flight of steps down to a little bay sheltered by pine trees with clear blue water moving gently over the shore, spreading our towel on the sand and resetting our body clock in quiet communion with nature and a good book. So daydream with us and book mark this post for not too distant future reference.
Pack your picnic and get off the beaten track with our Top Ten Secret European Coves.
Calanques d'En Vau, Cassis
The Calanques are a 10 mile stretch of steep walled coves situated between Cassis and Marseille in the South of France and the Calanque d’En Vau is thought to be the most beautiful. The contrast of the white limestone cliffs with the turquoise water, not to mention the teeming plants and wildlife make this an ideal spot to relax in nature. Accessible on foot via a hiking trail through some incredible landscape you can also enjoy the area by renting a kayak. The Calanques’s status as a national park means that there are no shops or cafes so make sure you pack lots of water and sunscreen if you’re visiting in Summer.
Elephant Beach, Cote d'Azur
On the coast path between Le Lavandou and Cavaliere, Elephant Beach is one of the most difficult to access on the list, but being off the beaten track has its advantages. It’s a small, wild beach with sparkling white sand shaded by magnificent vegetation at the foot of the Massif de Maures. Only accessible on foot, it’s reached via a path from the Jean Blanc beach where you can park and leave your car.
Vrulja, Makarska Riviera
This picture perfect region on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is blessed with stretches of craggy coastline, aquamarine water and pretty coves tucked into the lush hillsides. Huddled as it is, at the base of the Biokovo cliffs it’s almost impossible to see Vrulja from the road above so it remains a hidden gem. The sea here is crystal clear thanks to a nearby freshwater spring with shade provided by a backdrop of olive groves and pine trees. Actually getting to this incredible cove is quite an adventure and scrambling down the hillside is not for the fainthearted; the safest way to arrive is by boat from Brela.
Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Located in the most Southern part of the U.K on the Lizard Peninsula this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of Cornwall’s most idyllic spots and considered by many to be Britain’s most beautiful cove. The golden sandy bay is sheltered by the wild headlands, the water is pure clear blue and at low tide a series of coves and interconnected caves are revealed with Victorian names like the Ladies Bathing Pool and the Drawing Room. One rock is named after Prince Albert who came ashore here with his children in 1846. There is no public vehicle access to the cove so park at the National Trust car park and arrive on foot via quite a steep path. Alternatively, you could take the scenic route and walk around the coast path from Lizard Point about 2 miles away. It’s also important to plan your visit in accordance with the tide as it is possible to get cut off. There is a café which has operated here for nearly 100 years.
Broadhaven Coves, Pembrokeshire
Broadhaven Beach is one of Wales’s finest in terms of the water quality, it’s south facing location and the dramatic views. The one mile walk from the National Trust car park in Bosherston village takes you along boardwalks through the enchanting lily ponds (look out for otters) and out onto Broadhaven beach with it’s limestone sea caves and freshwater stream. Just to the west of the beach lie two secret coves, Trevallen and Little Horn. Connected by a sea cave, they are a joy to discover and especially fun for wild swimmers.
Langamull Beach, Isle of Mull, Scottish Inner Hebrides
This place is one of Mull’s best kept secrets with its white shell sand, hidden coves and glistening clear water. From the Langamull Wood car park near Dervaig it’s a beautiful 2 mile walk along a track, well worth the effort for the unspoilt charm of this secluded bay. Perch on the rocks for a picnic and enjoy the view, on a clear day you can see over to Skye and maybe spot a seal in the bay.
Spiaggia del Principe, Costa Smeralda, Italy
The remote coastline of the Costa Smeralda is stippled with unspoilt beaches and secret coves embraced by the warm waters of the Mediterranean. The Spiaggia del Principe, also known as Portu li Coggi, is one of the prettiest. There is a car park and then a 10 minute walk along a rocky path to reach your reward - a breath taking crescent of fine sand enclosing a ravishing blue-green bay. Principe is divided by rocks which stick out into the ocean and several species of small rainbow fish swim around them making it an ideal spot for snorkelling. There is also a small bar.
Sansone Cove, Elba, Tuscany
Islands sit well with the notion of daydreaming and escapism and there are several on our list. Elba Island is part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago in the Tyrrenean Sea. Not as well known as Sicily or Sardinia, if you can avoid the month of August you’re likely to have this idyllic cove all to yourself. The beautiful white pebbled beach is one of many enchanting inlets in the North of the island. Lapped by pristine turquoise water and accessed by wooden steps on the side of the road, there are no facilities so bring everything you might need.
Praia das Figueres, Cies Islands, Galicia, Spain
The Cies Islands form part of the Islas Atlanticas National Park and are rigorously protected. Accessible via the Mar de Ons ferry from mainland Vigo harbour, cars are not allowed and visitor numbers are limited resulting in a wonderful back-to-nature tranquility. Legend has it that the fleet of Francis Drake used to hide out in the islands secluded coves. Praia das Figueres is tucked away in a magical setting, surrounded by rocks and forests with snow white sand and sparkling blue water. Best to visit in September or October when the Atlantic is at its warmest.
Fteri, Kefalonia, Greek Islands
The Ionian Islands are well known for their sheer cliff beaches and the dramatic jewel toned colour of the water. The most famous in Kefalonia is Myrtos but not many people know that there are many equally beautiful coves tucked away in the North of the island and Fteri is a paradise on earth. Caribbean colours, bright white pebbles and not a man made structure in sight. You can reach it by walking along a mountain path but the easiest way to get here is by water taxi. If you time it right it could just be you and your towel.
A final heads up – being secret and off the beaten track, most of these coves are not monitored by life guards, plus their remote locations mean they can be popular with the clothes optional crowd. Make sure you check the tide time tables before your visit and pack plenty of water and provisions. And as mentioned previously, this list is for future reference and current daydreaming only. Please stay safe until we’re permitted to travel and explore again. And when we can - don't forget to pack your Salties!