Europe’s best car-free beach holidays - No Paywall | Karta

12 Europe’s best car-free beach holidays

News Jun 11, 2024

Whisper it: traveling across Europe without renting a car is becoming more manageable. Although rental prices have fortunately decreased, a surge in cross-country train networks and alternative transport providers means vacationers can often leave their car keys behind.

Seasoned city explorers already know this. In Europe’s major cities, visitors can typically depend on public transport to move between galleries, attractions, and restaurants without ever needing to drive. However, some may assume a more remote or beach-focused holiday would require a car. This assumption is increasingly outdated. Throughout Europe, numerous picturesque coastal destinations are accessible by foot or bike and can be easily reached via public transport from the airport.

5 Family Beaches in Europe
Source: New York TImes

Opting to go car-free doesn’t mean you have to settle for crowded package-holiday resorts. The trick is to seek out less obvious and over-touristed spots, finding those hidden gems that offer everything needed for a beach holiday: a stunning coastal location, a few local bars and restaurants, and a charming place to stay. Here are 20 delightful destinations in Europe for offbeat beach holidays – no car needed.

1. Ile de Groix

Brittany, France

In this charming corner of France, the beaches resemble those of Cornwall with deep bays, rock pools, and green, heathered headlands. However, being about 200 miles further south, the weather is more favorable – Ile de Groix even boasts its own microclimate. This tranquil, timeless island is perfect for cycling with kids. Grands-Sables is its star beach, a convex arc of fine white sand, but there are many others, including the blush-tinted Sables-Rouges and the secluded nook of Poulziorec, accessible via a scramble down the rocks.

Tourisme et vacances à l'île de Groix : un miracle naturel, le paradis...  bienvenue chez les greks !
Source: Lorient Bretagne Sud

How to do it:

Take the train from London St Pancras to Lorient, then a ferry to Groix.


Hôtel Ty Mad Groix offers 24 rooms, three apartments, a secluded pool, and a nautical-themed restaurant terrace. Doubles start from £80 per night.

2. Porquerolles

French Riviera

The glamour of the French Riviera hasn’t reached Porquerolles, a car-free crescent of land 20 minutes off the Côte d’Azur. This unspoiled and unfussy destination features a sleepy village square, herb-scented maquis wilderness, pine-forested bays with bone-white sand, and little sailing boats all aligned.

Source: Camping des Mûres

How to do it:

Fly to Toulon-Hyères, with fares starting at around £40. Then take a shuttle boat from Toulon/Giens port to Porquerolles.


Blue-shuttered Le Mas du Langoustier is the smartest spot, featuring a Michelin-starred restaurant and gardens leading directly to two beaches. Doubles start from £350.

3. Binibeca

Menorca, Spain

Menorca, with its coves of pale sand and iridescent turquoise shallows, is ideal for family beach holidays. Binibeca, 20 minutes from Mahon, has everything needed for a relaxing stay: a couple of beautiful white sand beaches and a selection of low-key restaurants and beach bars.

What to SEE and DO in Binibeca in 2024
Source: Balearity

How to do it:

Fly to Mahon and take a Flybus shuttle or taxi.


Vintage Travel offers three villas in Binibeca, including Alba Dorat, which sleeps six. Prices start at £2,698 per week.

4. Tropea

Calabria, Italy

Southern Italy’s great sandy beaches are usually hard to reach without a car, local directions, and determination. Tropea, a gem in Calabria, is an exception. Perched on a clifftop, the pink-plastered town is stunningly beautiful yet relatively unknown outside Italy. Below lies a breathtaking curve of creamy sand against the crystalline Tyrrhenian Sea.

Discover historic center of the city with La Dolce Vita a Tropea
Source: La DOlce Vita

How to do it:

Fly to Lamezia with Ryanair, then take a train to Tropea station.


Villa Paola, a 15th-century convent with terraced gardens high above the sea, is one of Italy’s most romantic hideaways. Doubles start from £230.

5. Lopud


On Lopud, driving isn’t an option – this Elaphiti island is car-free. Sunj beach, one of the loveliest on the Dalmatian Coast, is accessible after a hill walk through pine forest. Relaxed beach bars serve grilled fish and cocktails to refresh you after a swim in the Adriatic.

Lopud Island - The Complete Travel Guide
Source: CroatiaSpots

How to do it:

Fly to Dubrovnik and take a ferry to Lopud (55 minutes).


Lafodia Sea Resort offers rooms from £215 per night.

6. Formentera


On this idyllic Balearic island, all you need is a bike. Trails connect beaches of white sand and turquoise water, with Ses Illetas resembling the Caribbean more than the Mediterranean.

Best hotels in Formentera | Telegraph Travel
Source: The Telegraph

How to do it:

Fly to Ibiza, take a ferry to Formentera, and rent a bike.


Gecko Hotel & Beach Club offers morning yoga and DJ sets at its beach club. Doubles start from £512. Alternatively, Hotel Casbah, a five-minute walk from Playa Migjorn, offers doubles from £197 per night.

7. Göcek


The Turquoise Coast remains largely untouched between resorts, with serene coves and forested peninsulas accessible mainly by boat. Göcek, spared from mass tourism, features waterfront tavernas where you can dine with your feet in the sea and a marina frequented by the superyacht set.

Is Göcek worth visiting? A guide to Göcek on the Turkish coast.
Source: Simply The West Prints

How to do it:

Fly to Dalaman and take a taxi to Göcek.


D Resort Göcek is stylish enough to attract international stars, with fabulous restaurants, bars, a spa, and a sandy beach. Doubles from £143 B&B.

8. Serifos


This lesser-known Cyclades island is where savvy Athenians go for crowd-free beaches that surpass those on Santorini or Mykonos. It features discreetly stylish places to stay.

Serifos Island Guide
Source: Don't Lose Your Head Like Medusa

How to do it:

Fly to Athens, then take a Seajet from Athens Piraeus port to Serifos.


Nostos Hotel offers contemporary Cycladic aesthetics with soothing neutral tones. Rooms start at £135.

9. Ischia


Once as glamorous as Capri, Ischia has become a popular multi-generational holiday destination with golden sand bays, thermal springs, and buzzing seaside trattorias. A ferry across the Bay of Naples offers a scenic journey.

Ischia, Italy: the ultimate guide to Capri's romantic sister island | House  & Garden
Source: House and Garden

How to do it:

Fly to Naples, then take a ferry to Ischia. Circolare buses operate around the island.


Mezzatorre, created from an Aragonese lookout tower, is part of the prestigious Pellicano group. Doubles start from £314 per night.

10. Naxos


The Cyclades island of Naxos, once a playground for the gods, now attracts holidaymakers with its wonderful and accessible beaches. Agios Prokopios is a short walk from town, while wilder Plaka beach is a couple of miles south.

Where to Stay in Naxos - My favorite towns & places
Source: Santorini Drive

How to do it:

Fly to Athens, then to Naxos with Olympic Air, or fly to Mykonos and take a ferry to Naxos.


Medusa Beach Resort on Plaka offers dazzling white suites in palm-shaded gardens. Doubles from £154 per night.

11. Ile de Ré

Charente-Maritime, France

The Ile de Ré, popular with Parisian families, extends from La Rochelle into the Atlantic with golden sand and aquamarine shallows. Enjoy cycling coastal paths, horse riding on beaches, and dining in waterfront restaurants and oyster shacks.

Ile de Ré Guide | Best hotels, restaurants, beaches and shops
Source: CN Traveller

How to do it:

Fly to La Rochelle, take a bus or taxi over the bridge, and rent a bike.


Hotel Senechal offers charming, artistic rooms. Doubles from £125.

12. Biarritz


Before the advent of car rentals, les rosbifs had to choose holiday spots within walking distance. Biarritz, the pearl of the Basque Coast, had it all: grand hotels, cocktail bars, and beaches. Now it’s reborn as France’s cool surf capital, with new bars and Basque restaurants.

Where I'm Traveling in My Mind: Biarritz, France

How to do it:

Take the train to Biarritz, changing in Paris.


Oliver Hughes

Oliver has over 15 years of experience in travel journalism. He focuses on European travel, providing expert reviews of vacation rentals and cultural experiences across Europe.