Sardinia’s beachy and beautiful along the Mediterranean. Dramatic in the mountains, and scattered all over with ancient villages, historic cities, and remarkable natural phenomena. No surprise to find that one family holiday here, almost always leads to another.
Sardinia – Family holiday guide
Closer to Corsica than the west coast of Italy, Sardinia is famous for long, hot summers and a fiercely independent spirit. The cave-lined and cliff-strewn coastline attracts adventurers all year round, and the island has a well-deserved reputation for world-class road cycling. You could spend an entire holiday on the beach, but resisting all other delightful distractions is as good as impossible, so don’t even try.
Direct flights from the UK to Sardinia take two hours and 40 minutes, year round.
North and south coast Sardinian airports
Both Cagliari Airport in the south and Olbia Airport on the north coast have direct, year round flights from the UK.
Southern Mediterranean weather
Sardinia has long, hot summers with average temperatures of 30˚ in July and August. Spring is reliably warm and sunny from early March.
Four very different holiday coasts
Sardinia has beach resorts on each of its coasts so you can choose a different one to suit your holiday type, budget or even the time of year you want to travel.
An island of islands
Apart from the island of Sardinia itself, you can also holiday on the Maddalena Archipelago in the north or pick a base on classically lovely Isola Sant’Antioco in the south.
World Heritage Sardinia
Sardinia’s Bronze Age fort, Su Nuraxi of Barumini, is one of Italy’s oldest archaeological World Heritage sites.
Sardinia has three national parks including spectacular Gennargentu which contains Punta La Marmora, the island’s highest mountain.
Where to go and stay in Sardinia
North West Sardinia
The area for beautiful beaches, best surf, staggering sea cliffs and caves, harbour cities and family resorts. Not anywhere close to the high-maintenance, yacht-laden gloss of Costa Smeralda, the north west coast is great for younger kids and water sport loving teenagers.
Stintino is a wonderful north west holiday base for Sardinia’s whitest sands: secret coves and big, fun beaches. It’s also good for a wide choice of resort hotels, and the village of Stintino itself is charming, and known for seafood restaurants.
Visit Castelsardo, it’s one of Italy’s loveliest towns and the medieval quarter’s enchanting.
The small coastal city of Alghero is another good north west holiday base, with beautiful beaches, and a classic Italian seaside waterfront.
Award winning Bosa Marina is regularly voted Sardinia’s best loved family resort, thanks to gorgeous beaches and captivating 12th century Bosa itself.
North East Sardinia
For some, Sardinia begins and ends on the north east coast. This where you’ll find Costa Smeralda, and Santa Teresa Gallura: the resort town for rich Italians, European billionaires, and mega-yacht owners. See and be seen is the holiday rule on this coast, and the wealth’s conspicuous. But the beaches are very pretty, and the sea’s as green and pure as clear cut emerald: hence the name.
Santa Teresa Gallura is the north east’s most popular resort. The population trebles here in August, and prices rise accordingly. Good to visit in summer for shops and restaurants, but not the best choice of base for a family holiday.
The north east is a favourite party coast too and resorts like Budoni and San Teodoro are famous for late-night bars and early morning clubs.
La Maddalena is the only inhabited Maddalena Archipelago island, great for complete escapism with younger kids.
Unlike almost any other island, anywhere, Sardinia’s less crowded to the south rather than north. Think of this as good news, because the long, white beaches here have been compared to the South Pacific.
As far as great Mediterranean cities go, Cagliari more than holds its own. Spend a day exploring the historic quarter, waterfront, and elegant shopping districts.
Look at Pula for white sands, long hours of summer sun, ancient history, excellent family resorts, and a barefoot, beachy atmosphere for kids.
Villasimius is the definitely the busiest area of the south coast, and with good reason: it’s sheer spectacle from the rugged promontory of Capa Carbonaro to the type of graduated sea greens you associate with the Indian Ocean, and equally exotic beaches too.
Costa Rei is a fabulous slice of escapism for long, unbroken sands; mountain views and delectable Sardinian pine forests too.
Make plans to see cute Carloforte (the food’s wonderful), and cross the bridge to very cool Sant’Antioco on Sant’Antioco island – nicknamed Sulky, which kids like.
What to do and see with kids in Sardinia
The Maddalena Archipelago
This UNESCO World Heritage site off the north east coast of Sardinia is wonderful to cruise round for the day. The only inhabited island is Isola Maddalena, a short ferry crossing from Palau. Good for spotting wildlife, marine life, and exotic seabirds.
Grotta di Nettuno, Capo Caccia The dramatic Cave of Neptune on the north west coast is one of Sardinia’s biggest attractions. A guided tour through the immense, stalactite filled chambers is spectacular. Try to avoid August, when up to 200 visitors can be packed into the caves at one time.
Castello Malaspina, Bosa The long, steep staircase to this 12th century hilltop castle is a bit of a hike, but the views are sensational, and rambling round the ruins is fun. Don’t miss tiny Chiesa di Nostra Signora, even kids appreciate the dramatic medieval frescoes.
Aquadream, Costa Smeralda Sardinia’s original waterpark is a mix of gentle splash-about fun for younger kids, and enough wild chutes, slides, and lazy rivers to keep most white-knuckle fiends happy.
Diverland Aquatic Park, Cruxi Lilliu 100,000m² Diverland is the island’s biggest waterpark, just 20km east of Cagliari. The slides are extreme, under fives have their own club, and there’s a summer calendar of family events.
Mountain bike tours, Sardinia Cycling
Serious cyclists from all over Europe love Sardinia’s heroically demanding terrain. Teens should try Sardinia Cycling’s legendary Ogliastra Cross tour to test their toughness. The company also does easy-going guided tours for families, and bike hire.
Dolphin watching, Golfo Aranci Sardinia’s one of the few places in Europe with a non-migratory pod of dolphins. Glimpse them in the Tavolara Marine Reserve on the island’s north east coast, or take a licenced cruise for even closer encounters with the confident creatures.
Golfo di Orosei National Park
Deserted white sand beaches, grand mountains and lots of wildlife, are what to expect here. The park’s Gorropu Canyon is the deepest in Europe and a doable hike for older kids, or try the foothills of Punta la Marmora, Sardinia’s highest peak.
Sea kayaking day tours, Punta Negra beach Sea Kayak Sardinia tours round Capo Caccia Nature Reserve are a great way for non-sailors to experience the full impact of the island’s coastal drama with local guides.
Molentargius Natural Park, Cagliari Sardinia’s most famous nature reserve is packed with flocks of pink flamingos in summer. Donkeys used to be the best way to get about in the salt-industry era, but bikes or feet work much better these days.
Educational value for kids
Take a tour of Torre dell’Elefante in Cagliari’s historic quarter. It’s the city’s most imposing medieval tower, takes its name from a sculpted elephant on the upper storey, and bloodthirsty kids will be thrilled by torrid tales of severed heads hung round the battlements in less peaceful times.
Sardinia has a remarkable collection of well-preserved Bronze Age burial chambers. Known locally as Tomba del Giganti (tome of giants), the most monumental can be seen just outside Santa Teresa di Gallura on the north coast.
Tired of kitesurfing envy? Sardinia’s so good at the sport, it has dedicated kite camps, and kitesurfing holidays. Kids as young as 12 can pick up the basics in a few hours with the experts at Porto Pollo beach on the island’s north coast.
Explore Usinavá Forest in north east Sardinia with kids, mountain bikes and great local guides. It’s the best place to spot shy island hares, wild boar, and ridiculously fluffy Mouflon sheep. The trails are good fun, just tough enough for an adventure, but not too challenging for kids from eight and over.
Visit for the King’s Day celebrations (an entire weekend in mid-April) and kids can see their Dutch counterparts being market traders for the day at the huge, children-only flea market in Vondelpark.
Artis Zoo has family nights on Saturdays throughout the summer where kids can learn about the animals and be brilliantly entertained by local theatre groups, performers and musicians.
Make the journey from the medieval city centre to the 500 year old Centrum area and you can travel through Amsterdam’s entire history in an afternoon.
Take teens to see the Orgosolo Murals. Known as the ‘silent voices’, their painted and written protests were created by the anarchists of Barbagia, and are now a world renowned record of 20th century political dissent.
The mountain town of Gavoi is where to head for the Isola delle Storie (Island of Stories) annual literary festival. Started as a small gathering 13 years ago, today it’s one of Sardinia’s most colourful, creative and interesting international events, and always packed with inspired family activities.
Beaches are Sardinia’s biggest draw but, for a change of pace and a glimpse of the real island, spend some time exploring local villages too: try Aggius for ancient festivals; Castelsardo for sea views and traditional crafts; Sorgono for over 50 natural springs; and Orroli on Lake Mulargia for end to end heritage.
Getting about with kids in Sardinia
Ask how to get about Sardinia with kids, and the short answer is invariably: hire a car. It’s not a small island, and relying on public transport could eat up quite a bit of holiday time. You also don’t want to miss out on the remarkable interior, historic villages, and at least a few of the breathtaking mountain roads – all aimed at drivers. Towns and cities are easy to explore on foot, and Sardinia has more boat trips and guided tours than you’re ever likely to exhaust.