Europe’s vast and varied coastline makes it ripe for exploration by bike, but with so much choice, I find it hard to decide where to go next. As the summer’s well and truly here (at least in mainland Europe if not the UK) I’ve gone down the coastal route.
So, here are three suggestions of destinations if you want to get out on your bike for a cycling holiday that provides plenty of opportunities to hit the beach.
This was the first place to spring to mind if I’m honest; after all, both the Canary and Balearic Islands are part of the nation, not to mention regions like Catalonia. It would actually be really easy to just list places in Spain that are perfect for cycling trips on the coast, but I’ve narrowed it down to the one that most appealed to me – Catalonia.
In case you don’t know, this is an autonomous region in the north-east of Spain that has an extensive stretch of Mediterranean coast. Further inland you’ve got the Pyrenees too, so there’s loads of variety in terms of landscapes. You can either start your break away from the sea and pedal towards it, or choose a section of coast that attracts you and cycle along it.
And if you’re desperate to inject a bit of culture and excitement from the big city, make sure Barcelona is included on your itinerary, where you’ll have plenty of museums, galleries, bars and restaurants to explore, as well as some stunning urban beaches.
France is a top choice for British travellers partly because of its proximity to the UK – and the fact you can easily access its northern coast by ferry, so no more excess baggage charges if you want to bring your own bike along with you!
With that in mind, Brittany is an excellent option and cycling here will allow you to discover some rugged-yet-beautiful seaside scenery. The sheer cliffs that are battered by the sea are somewhat reminiscent of certain parts of Cornwall, and you can even visit the French equivalent of Land’s End (La Pointe du Raz) on a biking break in the Finistere region of Brittany.
If you’re after white sand beaches, head to the south of Finistere to the Bay of Audierne and Pointe de la Torche, which is a popular spot among surfers thanks to the Atlantic swells that roll in here.
The coastal cycling trails in Italy are about as varied as they are in Spain, with islands like Sicily and Sardinia offering very different experiences to places like the Veneto region in the north of the country. Sicily is a great option if you want to combine your time by the sea with a glimpse into the nation’s heritage, in the form of its many Baroque villages that are dotted around the countryside, particularly in the south-east of the island.
Choose Sardinia, meanwhile, if you want seclusion and isolation, as its south-western corner is not well travelled by foreign or domestic tourists. This is probably where you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches too, as the white sand contrasts wonderfully with the stark grey of the sheer cliffs.
The route from Vicenza to Venice is another option open to you and will, of course, give you the opportunity to explore one of the greatest feats of Italian engineering – the city of Venice itself. You’ll follow the canals and rivers that all feed into the Venice Lagoon on this break, bringing you nicely from rolling countryside to the sea.