Every time I come to Sardinia, I promise it will be my last time, but I continue returning to this island as there is yet another corner of glorious beaches that I haven’t seen. Well after La Maddalena I think I’m finally ready to take a break with Sardinia and look at the rest of the world.
La Maddalena archipelago consists 7 larger islands and is praised to have some of the most beautiful beaches in Mediterranean. It has also been a NATO base for almost 35 years (they left in 2008) and army presence is still felt through out every corner of archipelago – abandoned barracks, checkpoints, fences or military buildings constantly reminds you that they were once here. Rumors say that islanders have been heavily relying on the NATO money and haven’t done much for the tourism, well that clearly explains lack of decent hotels or apartments and dated restaurant & bar scene.
My biggest disappointment was beaches, those which you could reach by car were crowded, those which you could reach by boat had time limited access or you were not allowed to step on the beach at all. Luckily, there is a ferry, that can take you to the main island and you can explore beaches of Palau and Costa Smeralada (read more here), when you get desperate in Maddalena.
Of course there is a brighter side of this place – some of the beaches are so gorgeous you don’t ever want to leave, so here are the great and not so great beaches of Caprera, 3 remote islands of Santa Maria, Budelli & Spargi and main island Maddalena all straight from Sardinia.
Caprera is the only island, which is connected to the La Maddalena. Tiny bridge barely gives space for two cars to exchange, but is big enough to give you a chance to explore it on foot, bike or car. The northern side of Caprera is quite mountainous with several tracking trails, that can take you to some of the secluded beaches (like Coticcio, Cala Napoletana accessible on foot or boat only) while the other side of the island is much flatter and has couple quite busy beaches, which you can reach by car.
Spiaggia Due Mari
Spiaggia Due Mari, is the first one on the way from Maddalena and it literary separates two seas with beach on every side. This is the only fully serviced beach on Caprera with parasol hire, trendy beach bar with horrible food, and toilet that does not work. Beach is rather average sandy beach, with too many boats parked in the bay and too much seaweed for my liking.
Parking is free, if you can find an empty spot by the road.
Spiaggia Del Rellito
Next one on the line is Rellito beach, pass the Due Mare beach and follow the road taking a turn uphill, until you reach parking lot, from there you will need to walk few hundred meters until you get to a fully packed beach. The best place to enjoy this beach is from distance, as people just kept coming and coming, leaving less and less space on the beach. Highlight of Rellito beach is a restaurant in the dunes, which looked decent.
Dragging my boyfriend deeper in the island, I was determined to find the beach I saw on the ferry arriving to the Maddalena island (it actually turn out to be located on the nearby island Santo Stefano island, not Caprera). After 10 minutes walk into a heat, we found this deserted strip of sand, which was probably my favourite beach of the entire island. Clear, shallow waters, nobody on the beach and a great landscape of the neighbouring islands. Beach is located after a deserter army checkpoint, and it feels like trespassing.
While laying on our “private beach”, I started noticing people arriving and leaving footpath couple meters away from where we left the car. It started to seem strange, that there are plenty of cars parked on the road, but no people on the beach, making me curious where are they disappearing. I followed the same footpath and 50 meters later these tiny bays appeared. Beach is heavily covered in seaweed, but water was really nice colour and it wasn’t extremely busy.
Spiaggia di Cala Garibaldi
Trying my luck on the Northern side of the Caprera (when I still thought that we can somehow get to the Coticcio beach by car) we arrived to Cala Garibaldi beach. While the beach is less than spectacular, this is the place from where you can get to Cala Serena, a lovely sandy bay just 10 minutes walk through the inland. To get here, follow the only paved road until it turns into the dirt path – continue driving until you see small building stating its private property, and turn right and follow footpath to Cala Serena.
The wild trio – Spargi, Budelli and Isola Santa Maria
Accessible only by boat these three islands are the true gem of the La Maddalena national park, and I wish we have had hired a boat and taken another day to spend little more time on the remote coves of Santa Maria and Spargi islands. Slightly worried about the distance to the beaches and accessibility we went on a tour boat, that drops you on the beaches for couple of hours, the idea wasn’t bad, but at the end we spent more time on the boat than on the beaches. The highlight of the tour boat was really good seafood pasta (with one scrimp inside) and live dolphin show, as we got so lucky to see dolphins swimming in open sea.
Cala Santa Maria
Santa Maria island is located furthest from Maddalena town and has probably the longest beach of the entire archipelago. It took us a good hour on a medium size tour boat to get there, so I could only imagine that on a smaller hire boat it would probably take you bit longer. With very little of no traffic, tour boats seemed to be only one’s bringing people here, and by 1 pm, when the boats left beach was left empty.
Apparently there is an exclusive villa & restaurant on the island, that offer a very remote and exclusive island experience (www.lacasitta.com), which as all things exclusive involves serious parting with cash.
The next stop was natural pools between the Santa Maria and Budelli islands, with super blue waters that are so clear that you almost think you can touch the sea bottom. Tour boats entertain their guests by allowing to jump and swim in this large swimming pool, but be careful as there might be one or two jellyfishes.
Budelli island is considered to be one of the most beautiful islands of the Mediterranean, famous for its Pink beach which has rose colour sand, it actually was sold to a private owner in 2013 for 2.94 million euros. The New Zealand nature enthusiast has intended to protect islands ecosystem, following its close destruction after years of irresponsible tourism and people stealing sand from the beaches. Today Italy is trying repossess the island, and the access to the island remains limited.
Spiaggia dei Cavalieri
Couple of tour operators have the permission to park at the Spiaggia dei Cavalieri for a short period of time, and take people to guided excursions to Spiaggia Rosa. It’s a beautiful light sanded beach, which overlooks natural pools between the neighbouring islands and is very popular spot for sailing boats.
Spiaggia Rosa is probably most famous Sardinian beach, yet you can see it only from afar. The sand stealing problem has gone to the level, that beach pink colour sand was about to disappear and access to the beach was completely forbidden. The only way to see it is with tour guide, through Cavalieri beach.
Spargi island is the last one in the line, and has the most potential from the three of them considering that almost all the beaches has public access. It is conveniently close to Maddalena town therefore getting on your own boat wouldn’t seem so scary, plus beaches here are absolutely stunning and empty.
Cala Granara finally makes me feel, like I’m in Sardinia, remote secluded bay with Caribbean colour water and sand intimately enclosed by pine grows, where your only worries are getting a little swim. There are no restrictions of staying on the beach, so your only problem is getting on it, so hire a boat and get here every day.
My absolute favourite was the last beach of Spargi – Cala Corsara, unfortunately also this beach had limited time access, as only one tour boat can be parked at the time and we had a quick 30 minutes glimpse of this paradise location NATO once called home in La Maddalena (building in the back was main office). This beach has several bays, and while access to the boat parking was limited to tour boats only, public access was possible from the other side, where you could park your boat and swim to the coast.
And finishing this “dream destination” is the La Maddalen island itself. Biggest island in the National park it is a base to the many tourists like us, and while there are no beaches around the town there are couple decent bays on the Northern side of the island. Best way to get to the beaches is by car or scooter (too much uphill for average cyclist) and by following signs you just can’t miss them.
Spiaggia di Spalmatore
On our way to the other side, Spalmatore beach was one who seemed worth mentioning. Decent size, dark sandy beach, not bad, but not great either.
Spiggia Monto dell’ Arena
One of local’s favourite is Arena beach, famous for watching sunsets – it consists of two medium size beaches, with rather dark yellow sand. Again, not amazing, but would do if you are wondering around this side of the island.
My favourite of the La Maddalena is Trinita beach, several shallow bays with white sand and tranquil clear waters, excellent for kids, adults and anybody who enjoys the beach life. The only beach bar in the area was just above the dunes and it offers refreshments and range of local sandwiches, plus it has a fantastic view over the bay. This was a place which was worth coming twice.
How to get there?
Closest airport is Olbia, from where you need to get to Palau port and take a ferry to Maddalena island. Ferry takes 20 minutes and is around 20 euro including the car ( main ferry lines Maddalena lines, Delcomar). Absolutely no need to book in advance as ferries leave almost every 15 minutes and they are not busy. Getting around the island is straight forward as the size is quite small, but car seems to be a much more practical solution than bike or scooter. Boat hire is possible, but quite a busy sea traffic (ferries, different size tour boats) and quite rocky sea terrain around Caprera island was really setting me back in trying my luck.
Where to stay?
La Maddalena is realistically the only base option, even it doesn’t have great choice of hotel or apartment. Staying in the town, will give you access to the port and restaurants & cafe’s, while staying in remote apartment villages could mean 10-20 minute drive to the town.
Where to eat?
There are several restaurants in the Maddalena town, but majority of them is a hit and miss and I was slightly disappointed with the food, considering that we were in Sardinia.
Find all the beaches on the map