Joshua Tree With Kids – Planning Your Joshua Tree Day Trip

Joshua Tree with kids - Family friendly walks in Joshua Tree National Park

With its mythical landscape, the Joshua Tree National Park ignites the imagination in both young & old. The merging of two deserts – Colorado and Mojave – creates a varied and contrasting canvas, of smooth golden boulders and barbed bushes, of sweeping cactus gardens and skull-shaped rock formations.

At first glance, the unforgiving desert terrain may not seem like the obvious choice for a family holiday. But the well-signposted myriad of short, manageable trails makes it the perfect introduction to desert hiking for little ones. Let me introduce you to our favourite hikes and highlights of visiting Joshua Tree with kids.

Joshua Tree with Kids

It was largely logistics that led us to visit Joshua Tree National Park this summer. We were transiting through the US on our way to New Zealand and had a spare week up our sleeve. As a nature-lover, the National Parks were a major draw-card, but with so many to choose from, where do you start? Our search ended up coming down to where the most affordable flights would take us – San Diego. Just a short drive from the airport would have us in Desert Hot Springs – the perfect base to explore the area’s attractions before we continued on to Los Angeles. For advice on where to stay in Joshua Tree as a family, see the bottom of this post.

Getting to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a doable day trip from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, or anywhere in between. Alternatively, it could easily be incorporated as part of your California road trip itinerary.

There are three entrances to the park – two off Highway 62 in the North & West, and a Southern entrance off Highway 10. Each entrance is well signposted. The main entrance is in Joshua Tree town, and it’s here I’d recommend you start your journey. Stop at the visitor’s centre for your entrance tickets to the park, pick up information about the walks, refill your water bottles, or grab a souvenir!

Getting to Joshua Tree National Park by Car

Essential Things to Know When Planning Your Joshua Tree Day Trip

If you’re new to exploring the National Parks of America (like we were), you may feel a bit lost about how to take it all in, and what you should know before you go. This is true of any park, but arguably even more so when visiting a landscape as unforgiving as the desert.

  • You need to buy a ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the visitor’s centre and cost $30/vehicle – making it quite affordable for families!
  • Be prepared for the weather. While the temperatures aren’t extreme in any season, you can still be caught out by unusually chilly weather in winter (it’s even been known to snow in the park!), or a hotter than usual summer  – the average summer temperature is 38°C/100°F.
  • Fill up with petrol/diesel before entering the park. The park rangers advised us to have at least a half tank of fuel before proceeding into the park.
  • Be aware that there is no cell phone reception throughout the park.
  • There is no lighting in the park. In winter especially, be aware of what time dark falls so you can plan your hikes accordingly.

Joshua Tree at night

How Long to Allow for Visiting the Joshua Tree National Park

One of the great things about visiting Joshua Tree with kids is that you can see so much of it within a single day. If you’re visiting in winter, when the days are shorter, you’ll want to arrive in the morning to make the most of the sunlight.

We arrived in the park after lunch, and although it still allowed us enough time to explore – it was super hot in the afternoon. So I wouldn’t recommend this approach if you can avoid it!

There are several family-friendly walks to do within the park that’ll allow you to cool off and have a break in the car in between. And as they’re all relatively short, you’ll be able to experience several throughout the day.

Best hikes in Joshua tree national park

What to Take With you When Visiting Joshua Tree With Kids

We were missing a few essentials such as wide-brimmed hats and a good daypack when we visited Joshua Tree. Luckily, there is a sporting goods/outdoor adventure store next to the visitor’s centre in Joshua Tree town centre which saved the day. But it was an expensive mistake, so save money and make sure you have these essentials packed before you go:

  • Closed-toe, sturdy shoes. Although the hikes aren’t strenuous, and boots aren’t strictly necessary, it is important to have closed-toe shoes when walking through a desert full of spiky plants!
  • Plenty of water. The official website suggests 4 litres of water per person. We ended up having half this quota for our trip and it was plenty for a half day exploring.
  • Weather-appropriate clothing. Layers in winter. Loose, breathable clothing in summer.
  • Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and sun cream. Protect your skin and eyes in the heat.
  • A baby carrier if travelling with little ones. A full day walking in the sun can quickly become too much for very small children. And strollers aren’t convenient.

Visiting Joshua Tree with Kids

Animals of Joshua Tree National Park

Far from barren, the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park are bursting with life. From long-eared jackrabbits to curious chipmunks, many critters thrive in this unforgiving, yet fertile land. But remember, these are wild animals.

Don’t attempt to interact with the park animals in any way, and try not to disturb their habitat. Simple steps such as taking care not to leave food about, driving slowly (to avoid hitting the slow-moving Desert Tortoise), and staying on the walking paths help protect the animals of Joshua Tree National Park.

Animals of Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree Route Map

This route starts at the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor’s Centre and takes in four family-friendly hikes and two places of interest within the park.

Best Hikes in Joshua Tree for Families With Young Kids

The following trails offer a great opportunity to experience the best of Joshua Tree as a family. Trail length, duration, and the difficulty level are listed below each hike.


The Hidden Valley Trail was our first walk of the day, and essentially, our introduction to the Mojave Desert. An easy 1 mile-loop, it still took us nearly 2 hours to complete as our son attempted to climb every rock face we encountered!

Walking the Hidden Valley Track with Kids

Park in the large carpark and follow the signs to the beginning of the trail. The first bit of track doubles as the exit to the trail, before the loop through the valley begins. The dusty trail then leads you through the fertile landscape of this unique area. A microclimate exists within the Hidden Valley due to its sheltered position within the park. And it was this combination of the valley’s secluded location and abundant vegetation that led cowboys to use the area for cattle grazing before the park became protected.

Today you won’t find cows here, but we did see plenty of chipmunks dashing about. It’s an area hugely popular with climbers, and as you weave between the rocks, you may be tempted to try it out for yourself.

The trail is easy to follow and there are plenty of signs pointing out the various plant specimens you’ll pass on the way. It’s a good place to find the iconic Joshua Tree, but there are plenty of other cacti, trees and shrubs to get acquainted with too.

  • Length – 1.6 km (1 mile)
  • Time – Under an hour (unless you go off course like we did!)
  • Difficulty – Easy
Best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Entrance to the Hidden Valley Track

Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park with kids

Joshua Tree with kids


The barker dam track is a circular track, but it seemed most people walked to the dam and then backtracked the way they’d come. They were doing themselves a disservice, as the second half of the walk is, despite being quite flat, very scenic and varied.

Walking the Barker Dam Track with Kids

Starting at the carpark, you’ll follow the signs to the start of the circular track. The dam, however, isn’t signposted until you reach it, which seemed to be causing some confusion among the other people on the track. Some simply turned around after wrongly assuming that an empty pond was indeed the missing dam.

When we did eventually find the dam (obscured behind innocuous looking boulders as the level was understandably low in the height of summer) it was an impressive sight! Not because it was particularly full or beautiful, but simply because it was there – this large body of water in the middle of the desert! It’s said to attract hordes local birdlife but we weren’t lucky enough to spot any.

If you venture on past the dam, you’ll find further evidence of past habitation within the park, including petroglyphs etched onto a rock wall. The trail is fairly flat, apart from the stairs leading down from the dam, and is pockmarked with burrows – be careful where you tread.

  • Length – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
  • Time – An hour
  • Difficulty – Easy

Walking the Barker Dam trail with kids - Joshua tree national park

Barker dam trail in the Joshua Tree National Park

Best hikes in the Joshua tree national park with kids

Joshua tree with kids - family friendly hikes in JT


The skull rock nature trail takes its name from the skull-shaped rock at the entrance of the walk. Located not far from the Jumbo Rocks campground, it’s a good place to discover the mammoth boulders in this part of the park.

Walking the Skull Rock Trail with Kids

First of all, let me make it clear that the ‘skull rock’ isn’t immediately obvious on this track. We didn’t realise that we had passed it at the beginning of the track, and so we continued walking, trying to spot it as we went. There were several signs along the way, but none alluded to the skull rock*

*That we noticed. I’ve since seen photos of the rock with a bid red sign pointing to it. So, it’s either not there anymore, or it wasn’t all that clear.

The track leads you through a stunning landscape, once again different from the two previous walks we’d done that day. We ended up walking half way and then backtracking – still trying to find the skull. We didn’t realise at the time that the track continues on the other side of the road, past the campground, creating a loop. But Arthur was getting tired by this point, so he hitched a piggyback ride back to the car.

We did eventually discover the infamous Skull Rock – but it takes a little imagination to ‘see’ it. On that basis, I probably wouldn’t stop here solely to see the rock, but the walk itself was really pleasant! The bright orange boulders and gently undulating landscape made it really light up at golden hour.

  • Length – 2.7 km (1.7 miles)
  • Time – 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty – Easy

Joshua tree with kids

Skull Rock Walk, Joshua Tree National Park


This trail leads through the Cholla Cactus Garden, taking in the sheer number of cholla cactus, the sloping view over the lower Colorado Desert and the towering boulder backdrop.

Waking the Cholla Cactus Garden Trail with Kids

The Cholla Garden Trail is very short and an easy one for little legs to undertake. It loops around the garden at an even level, starting and finishing at the carpark. Be aware that the cholla – nicknamed the teddy bear cactus for its appearance – easily latches onto clothes and skin. And it doesn’t come off again easily. So make sure curious hands are kept at bay!

We arrived at the Cholla Cactus Garden at sunset, so whisked through the walk before it was completely black. It’s a lovely time of the day to experience the silhouette of the cactus against a pastel sky.

  • Length – 400m (0.25 miles)
  • Time – 15-30 mins
  • Difficulty – Easy

Cholla Cactus Garden Trail - Joshua Tree with Kids

Cholla Cactus Garden Trail - Joshua Tree with Kids Cholla Cactus Garden Trail - Joshua Tree with Kids

Other Places of Interest Within the Park

Driving around the national park, observing the subtle changes in vegetation and topography, is interesting in itself. But there are a few stops worth taking the time for if you want to make the most of your day in Joshua Tree.


A little off the beaten path – but this is one detour that’s worth your time. The sweeping views over the Coachella Valley and Mount San Jacinto (where you’ll find the aerial tramway) are remarkable. We also saw plenty of wildlife at Keys View, including mice and jackrabbits.

There’s a very short walk to a viewing platform that’s also wheelchair accessible.

Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park


If you’re passing by Skull Rock, take time to spot the Jumbo Rocks. If you do walk the Skull Rock Nature Trail, you’ll pass by these gigantic boulders. But if not, be sure to pull over and admire their impressive size and form.

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park

Family Friendly Accommodation near Joshua Tree National Park

When we were looking at accommodation options, we wanted something that was close enough to both the Joshua Tree National Park and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. We ended up booking a great little Airbnb in Desert Springs. It was fabulous price wise, and the location was good for access to both attractions, but Desert Springs itself had little to offer.

I’ve listed below the place we stayed, as well as a few other family-friendly accommodation options we were looking at in the Palm Springs/Joshua Tree area.

Desert Springs 2-Bedroom Apartment

The Airbnb we stayed in. The area wasn’t fancy, neither was the exterior of the apartment. But the interior was comfortable with two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a generous open plan kitchen/dining/lounge. It was also very affordable!

Yucca Valley 2-Bedroom Desert Cabin

Enjoy a bath under the stars while staying in this beautifully decorated, light-filled 2-bedroom cabin. The desert is your backyard at this Airbnb, so you can enjoy the outdoors as much as the indoors. I can just imagine sitting outside on the deck with a wine in hand and stargazing once the little ones are tucked up in bed…

If you’re new to Airbnb, use this link to receive €25 (or equiv. in your local currency) credit once you book your first stay!

Joshua Tree 2-Bed Family Room

If you prefer the convenience of a hotel when travelling, the Travelodge hotel in Yucca Valley has you covered. With large family rooms, a pool complex, and an on-site restaurant, it’s a one-stop shop if you’d prefer to spend most of the day out exploring!

Exploring Joshua Tree with Kids

Joshua Tree was a fun family day trip destination from Desert Springs. And it allowed us to sample one of the US National Parks in a manageable way when we were short on time. The incredible landscapes of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts left an impression on the entire family and fueled our desire to visit more National Parks in the future.

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Discover the best of Joshua Tree National Park in just one day. Read about the best hikes in Joshua Tree, worthwhile stops on your itinerary, and what you'll need to explore this popular US National Park with kids! #Familytravel #USnationalparks #Joshuatree #california

Find out how to make the most of visiting Joshua Tree with kids! Everything you need to know about visiting JT National Park with your family, including what to take, where to stay and the best hikes in Joshua Tree for families. #california #USA #Joshuatree #familytravel #hiking

25 Best Beaches in New Zealand – An Insider’s Guide!

Best beaches in New Zealand

Growing up in New Zealand, I was lucky enough to be living a stone’s throw from the beach my entire childhood. It’s no wonder then, that the beaches of New Zealand are close to my heart.

There are few other places in the world where you can be completely alone in nature – free to enjoy the powerful sound of the waves crashing against an untarnished shoreline, and the feel of the fresh sea air hitting your lungs. Fewer still where you can grab a spade and dig your very own thermal hot pool in the sand!

My most recent trip home reminded me of just how blessed New Zealand is when it comes to its spectacular shoreline. So I decided to share some of my favourite hideouts, and I also asked other NZ-loving travel bloggers to share their pick of the best beaches in New Zealand. Enjoy!

Map of New Zealand’s Best Beaches

Click on the markers below to find the names of New Zealand’s best beaches.


The beaches on New Zealand’s North Island are among some of the most famous in the world. Hot Water Beach is renowned for its natural hot springs, and Ohope Beach is often cited as NZ’s most loved beach. But there are plenty of hidden gems among their ranks too. Find our pick of the best beaches in New Zealand’s North Island below.


Gisborne is blessed with an amazing coastline, so it’s hard to choose just one spot to feature among New Zealand’s best beaches. For low key beach days and easily accessible walks, head to Waikanae Beach in town. For a secluded surfing spot, you can’t go past Sponge Bay. And for an epic right-hand point break head to Makorori Point. But there’s one beach that combines all the best bits beautifully together. The Gisborne beach I’m referring to? None other than the iconic Wainui Beach.

Wainui Beach in Gisborne is one of the best beaches in North Island New Zealand

Wainui Beach is a long stretch of pure gold coastline that stretches out from the Wainui settlement at one end, right through to the Makarori headland. The northern end (pictured) is actually called Okitu Beach but it’s often referred to as Wainui as the two are only separated by the trickling Te Rimu Stream.

The Wainui end of the beach is a popular spot during the summer months, with several houses having direct access to the shoreline. The other end, at Okitu, is quieter and backed by grass-clad dunes, offering a more serene experience.


New Plymouth often gets overlooked as a beach destination in New Zealand, but this west coast town offers several family-friendly beaches to enjoy. Fitzroy beach is the most popular, due to its easily accessible location and semi-rural feel. But another favourite with our family is Back Beach, which is a little more wild and secluded – it’s also the perfect place for sand dune climbing competitions!

Fitzroy Beach in New Zealand's North Island is among the best in the country.

Fitzroy Beach is widely regarded as one of the best surf spots in New Zealand. But you don’t need to be a keen surfer to enjoy this long stretch of fine black sand. Kids and adults alike will love spending the day building sandcastles, swimming, and bodyboarding in the waves. In the summer school holidays, the beach is patrolled and safe swimming spots are clearly marked. Do take note of these and swim between the flags – as rips are frequent in this part of the world!

On the town end of the beach, you’ll find the large East End reserve which is a popular spot for local events and shows. On other days it’s the perfect place to set up your picnic rug and enjoy a beachside game of rugby or cricket!


By Cat of Walk my World

Hawkes Bay is better known for its wineries than for its beaches, but that makes them even more special as you won’t have to fight for a spot to lay your towel here! Ocean Beach is a huge sweeping stretch of beautiful pristine sand backed by picturesque mountains, giving it a wild and rugged feel.

Ocean Beach in Hawkes Bay is one of the best beaches in New Zealand.

It’s not a busy beach but if you want an extra special experience then head there for sunrise, when you’re almost guaranteed to have it all to yourself. The soft pastel colours in the sky and silvery tint to the ocean make it a photographer’s dream.

It’s a popular spot for surfers, but if that’s not your thing there are also two walking tracks which you can take – one to Waimarama beach and one to Whakapau Bluff. You can drive to Ocean beach in just over 20 minutes from Havelock North or just under half an hour from Hastings.


By Hannah of Hannah Henderson Travel

Te Werahi isn’t a beach that gets overcrowded in Summer. This beautiful swathe of beach and sand dune is situated on Cape Maria van Diemen, the bay above Ninety Mile Beach, and just below Cape Reinga.

Te Werahi Beach is one of New Zealand's best beaches

Te Werahi is part of the Cape Reinga Coastal hiking trail, and you will need to walk for 2km (30 minutes) to reach it. The walk isn’t particularly taxing, but it adds a level of adventure to visiting Te Werahi – bring a picnic and enjoy the remoteness, there are no coffee shops here!

There is parking off State Highway 1 on the road to Cape Reinga. Like many of the beaches in New Zealand, Te Werahi offers stunning scenery and a chance to see the wild Tasman Sea just before it meets the Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga. If you want a beach all to yourself, this wild part of New Zealand is for you.


By Alex of Discover Aotearoa

Mangawhai is a little town off the beaten track, only approximately 90 minutes north of Auckland. It sits between two beautiful, very opposite beaches.

The beach slightly south of Mangawhai is a little harder to reach. Before you enter the town from Auckland, you need to turn right. There are a few turn-offs, but only one brings you to the beach. Once on the beach, you have many kilometres you can walk. Turning left and walking past the golf course along the rough shore, you will eventually end up in the most beautiful sand dunes.

Mangawhai beaches are among the best in New Zealand

The other beach in Mangawhai is very popular with surfers and dog owners. And it’s the home of one of the most beautiful short walks in New Zealand, Mangawhai Cliff Walk. It’s only possible walk the complete track about 2 hours either side of low tide. The first part takes you high above the water and boasts with stunning views, while the second part follows the rocky shoreline. All in all this beautiful loop walk will take you about 2 – 3 hours.


By John of The Wanderlust Pilgrim

Nestled in the sunny Bay of Plenty region on the North Island, Ohope Beach has been voted “New Zealand’s Most Loved Beach.”

Stretching along 11 kilometres of beautiful New Zealand coastline, Ohope Beach offers opportunities to walk, surf, swim, and stand-up paddle board. Two nearby walks include Tauwhare Pa and the well known Nga Tapuwae o Toi track.

Ohope Beach is one of New Zealand's most beautiful beaches.

Take “Toi’s Track”  for breathtaking views of Whale Island, a protected wildlife sanctuary, and White Island, an active marine volcano. Visitors are able to visit these beautiful, otherworldly gems by booking a tour with local operators.

This track will also lead to Otarawairere Bay, a secluded and peaceful beach surrounded by the bright red blooms of Pohutakawa trees.

After a day at the beach, head towards the shops near West End. Grab a coffee at the hip Moxi Cafe, try some Mexican food at Cadera Restaurant, or check out some of the wares of local artists at 4Artsake Gallery.

Whether slipping into a wetsuit, soaking in the sunshine, or exploring some of the Māori wood carvings resting in the sand, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a small slice of paradise at Ohope Beach.


By Lindsay of Carpe Diem Our Way

Kuaotunu Beach on New Zealand’s North Island is one of my favourite beaches for many reasons. Firstly, when we visited there was almost no one on it and my kids could run around freely! Secondly, there was a super interesting creek running into the water giving them somewhere else to play. Thirdly, there are a couple of great places to eat right next to the beach – check out Luke’s Kitchen for a fabulous lunch. Lastly, it was a great swimming beach as the waves were not as powerful as some of the other beaches in the region!

Kuaotuno Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula is one of New Zealand's best beaches

Kuaotunu Beach is an isolated spot but not impossible to find! It is past Coromandel Town and over the range, close to Whitianga, and you’ll need to turn off the main road to access this great spot. Plug Kuaotunu into your GPS and you should be able to find it without too much trouble.


By Kylie of Our Overseas Adventures

Tāwharanui Beach located 90 minutes north of Auckland, is a stunning, white sand paradise with great swimming, surfing and rockpools, that’s also home to a marine reserve, and an eco-sanctuary. It’s a great place to visit any time of the year, but particularly in the early summer when the pōhutukawa flowers are in full bloom.

Tawharanui beach is one of New Zealand's best beaches.

The beach is part of the Tāwharanui Regional Park which is managed by the local council, and when you enter you need to go through a specially constructed predator-proof fence which prevents pests from entering. The results of this are a fabulous wild bird population unique to New Zealand – including Kiwi and Bellbirds. If the beach and birds weren’t enough, there is also a marine reserve located at Tāwharanui with over 50 species of fish and lobster, and if you’re lucky you might even spot dolphins and orca.

To visit, turn off State Highway One at Warkworth and it’s about another 20 minutes. Bring everything you need as there are no shops, cafes or restaurants at Tāwharanui – it’s part of the charm! But there is a campground if you want to stay on for longer.


By Nicole of Travelgal Nicole

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and is often an overlooked destination in New Zealand. It’s called the coolest little capital for lots of reasons and even has some beautiful beaches to relax on when the weather is good. My favourite beach is Oriental Bay Beach, right in the heart of Wellington.

Oriental Bay in Wellington can't be bet on a good day.

You really can’t beat Wellington on a good day. This is the motto Wellingtonians live by and on those wonderful no wind days you will find people walking, running, biking along the Parade and even kayaking and swimming around the famous fountain in the ocean. It’s a great place to enjoy a coffee, people watch or have fish and chips or an ice cream on the beach.

We’ve spotted a few whales in the harbour as well. Usually, there are some orcas that come through each summer but this winter we had a southern right whale that you could see playing in the water – a spectacular sight!


By Nicky of Go Live Young

The Coromandel Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean and has some of the North Island’s best beaches. It’s a popular destination for Aucklanders as it’s just a two-hour drive from the city.

Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula is one of the best beaches in New Zealand

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel. Photo Credit: The Coromandel

Hot Water Beach is somewhat unique. For two hours either side of low tide, you can dig yourself a hole in the beach which fills up with hot water bubbling through from the sand – you’re very own spa pool! All you need is a spade and a bit of muscle power. It’s a popular beach at low tide as families, kids and couples are all digging their own spa pool and relaxing in the natural springs.

The beach also boasts some great cafes and art galleries and is just a five-minute drive to another Coromandel ‘must do’, Cathedral Cove.


By Sarah of ASocialNomad

Ocean Beach, Kawhia is one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets. It’s 90 kilometres south of Hamilton and you’re not going to find it by accident! If you want a hot water beach that’s easy to get to then head to the Coromandel. But if you want a black sand hot water beach entirely to yourself, then come here to Kawhia.

Ocean Beach New Zealand.

If the weather is good, the drive here is marvellous. You’ll need to head to the beach at low tide, and the smell of rotten eggs (sulphur) will guide you. Then you’ll get geothermal heated water bubbling up through the sand allowing you to create your own natural spa.

We had the entire beach to ourselves, we could see for miles, and with the shovel borrowed from our campsite in Kawhia, we dug ourselves a perfect natural eco-friendly spa bath. The smell wasn’t too strong, and when the water got a little cold we just dug a bit more and heated it all up again! It’s a stunning beach, made even more so by its undiscovered nature.


By Claire of Backpacking Bella

Around 45 minutes’ drive south west of Auckland lies Piha, one of the best surf spots in New Zealand. There is no public transport to this tiny laid-back village set on a wild and windswept black iron-sand beach, but it’s easy to see why so many people escape here from the city.

Piha beach near Auckland is one of New Zealand's best beaches

The setting for the popular New Zealand reality television show, Piha Rescue, the dramatic scenery includes the iconic Lion Rock. You can climb this ancient volcanic landmark – known in Māori as Te Piha – and enjoy spectacular views in all directions.

After exploring the beach, take a break at Piha Café, a rustic and cool little place that serves some of the best eggs benedict around, as well as incredible chocolate brownies. If it’s a clear day, grab one of the wooden tables outdoors and take in the view of this atmospheric beach.


By Jub of Tiki Touring Kiwi

Waikanae Beach (on the Kapiti Coast) isn’t the kind of beach where you’ll find people sunbathing by the dozen, there seems to be an ever-present sea breeze in the afternoon. But come sunset, you need to be at Waikanae Beach. What makes the sunset so beautiful here is that it dips behind Kapiti Island (approx 5km out to sea) for most of the year, creating the perfect frame. The island allows the rays to streak out into the evening sky, and the South Island is visible on the horizon on a clear night also. It’s a sunset that never gets old.

Waikanae beach sunset.

With the train line now running to Waikanae, it’s easy to access from Wellington. Spend a day trip from Wellington visiting Kapiti Island in the morning, visiting galleries in the afternoon, and ending the day with the sunset and a dinner at Long Beach.


By Delphine of LesterLost

New Zealand is known for the beauty of its landscape and, as a frequent traveller to the land of the long white cloud, I can confirm it doesn’t disappoint. A lot of New Zealand is coastal and reasonably untouched.

When I visited the North Island, I stayed in the Tauranga area. Located on the edge of the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is quite spread out and I did find it a little industrial in places. However, I was fascinated by a sizeable hill in the distance, Mount Maunganui, also known locally as “The Mount”. The small beachside town of Mount Maunganui is quite different from Tauranga, with its beach town feel and relaxed cafes. And further down the coast from Mount Maunganui lies a long stretch of coastal sand called Papamoa Beach.

New Zealand's best beaches.

Papamoa Beach is pristine, with beautiful sand dunes, and goes on for miles. It’s accessed by little sand paths in between clusters of homes, and you can easily park on street behind the beach. Papamoa Beach is the ideal escape from the busy roads of Tauranga and I loved watching the sun go down on Mount Maunganui. From surfing to kite flying, and of course a casual beach stroll, Papamoa Beach will satisfy any kind of beach going.

*Editor’s note: Papamoa is also home to one of the best nude beaches in New Zealand – but you don’t have to worry about stumbling across scantily clad sunbathers, the small permitted area is well signposted!


By Sam of Travelling Sam

New Zealand is synonymous with beautiful countryside, stunning views, and most importantly, some of the most famous beaches in the world. The rugged coastline is full of amazing features from elephant rocks right through to natural hot springs. And while some of the more famous beaches in New Zealand have felt the touch of tourism, the secret is finding out the hidden gems that the locals keep quiet about.

One of these is the shy but stunning Port Waikato beach. It is located in North West Waikato, just over an hour and a half drive from Auckland. On the way here you can savour a taste of real local life. Surrounded by working farms and the mighty Waikato River, Port Waikato has a dramatic volcanic black sand beach that glitters in the shining sun. This is amplified in the receding tide making the entire beach appear as of it was made of tinted glass as it reflects the NZ sun.

Whether your aim is to relax, explore or create new memories, this place should be on your list!


The South Island of New Zealand is a place of diverse landscapes and incredible natural beauty. From the idyllic sun-drenched bays of the Abel Tasman National Park to the wild and remote beaches of the Catlins, the best beaches in New Zealand’s South Island are showstoppers!


Despite many visits to Christchurch, Taylors Mistake is a recent discovery for me. And I suspect it’s this low-key reputation that keeps it a special retreat for locals and visitors-in-the-know. Situated just over the hill from the ever-popular Sumner Beach, Taylors Mistake has all the trappings of a traditional Kiwi holiday hangout, while being super easy to get to from the city.

Taylors Mistake is one of the best beaches in New Zealand.

The Māori name for the beach, Te Onepoto, means ‘little beach’, and measuring in at around 400m, it’s an accurate name for this short but surprisingly deep beach. The sheltered bay makes this the perfect spot to seek shelter when the wind is battering the more exposed northern beaches, and it’s also a popular surfing spot.

Taylors Mistake is also one of the launching points for one of Christchurch’s more popular walks, the Godley Head Walk. It’s a 3-hour loop, or you can simply walk part of the way, drop into a pebbled cove for a breather and then continue back to the beach the same way you came.


World famous for That Wanaka Tree, this sublime stretch of pebbled shoreline has more to offer than photo opportunities. Sit back and soak up the gorgeous lake views from the most central beach in Wanaka. A short stroll from the shops will deliver you to the Wanaka Lakefront where you can relax in this treasured part of Central Otago.

Lake Wanaka is home to some of New Zealand's best lake beaches

A firm family favourite, I still try to visit Wanaka as often as I can when I return to New Zealand. Unlike Queenstown, which is also stunning, Wanaka has managed to retain more of the laid-back charm of yesteryear, while handling the ever-increasing numbers of visitors with aplomb.

For kids, there’s a great little playground right near the water’s edge, and for big kids, there are kayaks and paddle boards available right on the beach. Hire one for an hour or two and explore some more of the lake’s amazing beaches at leisure.


Dunedin’s most famous beach duo – St Clair and St Kilda beaches run in succession along the southern shores of my former hometown in New Zealand’s South Island. Together, they offer some of the best surfing in New Zealand. This popular pastime sees surfers and bodyboarders flock to the beaches at all times of the year. But the sheer size of this stretch of sand means it’s never overcrowded here.

St Clair Beach in Dunedin is one of the best beaches in New Zealand south island.

At the St Clair end, the beach is bordered by a raised promenade which was once fairly rudimentary, but has undergone an upgrade in recent times and is now a pleasant place for a stroll and a spot of coffee. The iconic St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool sits at the end of the beach and is an underrated, but in my opinion, must-do activity while in Dunedin.

Down the beach towards St Kilda, you’ll be rewarded with more sand (the St Clair side can be scarce at high tide), and a more rural experience at the far end where the dunes get higher, and the dwellings further recessed. Take the kids to the Marlow Park Playground near the middle of the two beaches, and ride the Ocean Beach Railway for a truly unique experience!


By Gábor of Surfing the Planet

You will find one of the most beautiful coastal areas in New Zealand in the Abel Tasman National Park, situated in the Northwest tip of the South Island. This area reminded us of the Costa Brava, close to Barcelona, with its landscape where the rocky coast and sandy beaches alternate each other. Such a wonderful combination!

Torrent Bay in Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand's best beaches.

There are many beaches in this area, and you can get a boat from the Southern end of the national park to your desired place and then you can walk back from there. One of our favourite areas is Torrent Bay, special for its large tidal lagoon. At low tide, you can cross the beach on foot, whereas at high tide you need to take a detour through a large suspension bridge.

At low tide, it’s a perfect place for sunbathing, and it’s protected from the waves, so it’s usually great for swimming too. The views of Torrent Bay and Bark Bay situated nearby are simply picture perfect. If you want to spend more time in the area, you can rent a holiday home in Torrent Bay or stay at the protected camping site in Bark Bay.


By Sam and Natalia of Something of Freedom

Queenstown Bay beach is one of the must-see places in New Zealand. The beach is in the centre of the town, meaning it’s easy to get to and hard to miss during your stay!

What makes Queenstown Bay beach so special is the incredible nature surrounding it. The beach is found at the shores of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu – a vast glacial lake covering almost 300 square kilometres, making it the third largest lake in the country!

Queenstown Bay is one of the best beaches in New Zealand

From Queenstown Bay beach, the backdrop to Lake Wakatipu is the towering Remarkables mountain range. These stunning peaks make for an incredible view from the beach, especially during winter months when the mountains are snow-capped!

With such an incredible view, it’s a great beach to visit at any time of day. Later in the day, it’s common to find travellers and locals enjoying a few drinks on the beach as night falls over Queenstown. It’s hard to find a more picturesque spot to pass time with friends or just sit and watch the world go by!


By Jon at See the South Island

The rugged Catlins coast features several stunning beaches, a handful of waterfalls and some great viewpoints. One of the best places to visit in the Catlins is Tautuku Bay, a wide expanse of white sand backed by trees.

Tautuku Bay is one of the best beaches in New Zealand

The best place to see Tautuku Bay is from the viewpoint above the beach (Florence Hill Lookout). It’s one of my favourite coastal viewpoints in New Zealand – you can’t beat that perfect ratio of white sand, clear blue water and bright green trees. It’s also worth going down to beach level where you can walk along the sand and then explore the area behind the beach, which features a small lake and a boardwalk through a salt marsh.

Dunedin is the gateway to the Catlins — you can easily do a day trip and see the highlights but it’s worth spending a night or two in the area if you have the time.


By Yen of Swing Abroad

Wharariki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world. You’ll be familiar with this beach if you’re a Windows user, as there’s a popular wallpaper featuring this beach with a woman running along it.

Wharariki Beach is located at the northern end of South Island near Golden Bay. It’s a remote beach which can only be accessed by your own vehicle and requires some walking across the sand dunes. The huge arch-like rock has been attracting locals and tourists for decades. It’s a popular spot for photographers as well.

Wharariki Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand

Did I mention the sand dune is full of fun too? Bring a board for some of the best sand surfing out there. You’ll enjoy sweating while filling the air with laughter!

While visiting this beach, be sure to check the tide. Large parts of the rocks can only be accessed during low tide period.


By Suewan of RTW Families

Allans beach in Otago is one of the most incredible beaches we’ve ever been to. It is well known for being a sea lion haven. We had never seen sea lions in the wild before so we were really excited to head there. The beach is well signposted, however, there is a very small car park and then you have to climb over some gates and walk about 100 metres through a field to get to there.

Allan's Beach in Otago is home to many species of wildlife

At the very entrance to the beach, there are some signs advising you about how to behave around the sea lions. Really useful info for tourists like ourselves! There were only about 3 or 4 other people there when we went and we came across at least a dozen sea lions. Mostly we saw the adults lounging around on the beach, soaking up the sunshine. We did also see some baby sea lions playing in the sea and chasing waves!

It is a beautiful, secluded place and I would recommend anyone heading to the South Island to visit Allans Beach.


By Thais of World Trip Diaries

Among the many, many stunning beaches of NZ, there’s one that’s so cool. It’s Koekohe Beach, in Moeraki, with its amazing Moeraki Boulders.

It’s a beach with around 50 perfectly round boulders, the biggest measuring around 2 meters (6,5 ft) in diameter! You can climb on them, and get some pretty cool photos. Some are broken, so you can also see how they look on the inside. They take millions of years to form, and they’re one unique sight on a beach.

Moeraki Beach, New ZealandWhile 50 boulders aren’t too many, it’s well worth the stop. They’re all close together and you may need to walk for a few moments before you reach them (around 5 minutes from the free parking, and a nice staircase from the café). The beach is clean, beautiful, and it offers the amazing views only NZ’s South Island has. It’s close to Moeraki and Hampden – just drive on SH1. It’s around halfway between Dunedin and Timaru, an easy drive.


By Alana of Family Bites Travel

Some beaches are all about the sugar-white sands and blue-hue waters. Whereas, other shorelines are rocky with glorious clifftops. Enter, Ohau Point, Kaikoura. The main selling point of Kaikoura peninsular is the impressive array of sea life along this beautiful cliff coastline.

Ohau Point in Kaikoura is a great place to visit marine mammals in New Zealand.
An entire colony of seals calls Ohau Point home. The seal species found here are the aptly named the New Zealand Fur Seal. These seals give birth between November and December.
You can either walk along the Kaikoura Peninsular Walkway or drive along the road to see the colony. Following the recent earthquake, care must be given to where you access the beach. By all accounts, the coastline roads are still being repaired, but it is still possible to locate the seal colony.

If looking at cute seals gets tiresome. The waters off Kaikoura are home to year-round populations of sperm whales and dusky dolphins, among other whales and bird species. Kaikoura is one place you can swim with wild dolphins. We swam with no less than 500 dolphins. It was nothing short of magical.

Kaikoura Peninsular and Ohau Point should definitely be on your list of places to explore in New Zealand!

Whether you’re after the best surfing spots in the country, a perfect golden cove, or a dramatic cliff-backed beach, New Zealand has something for everyone up its sleeve.

So, the next time you’re heading out for some fun in the sun, why not add one of the best beaches in New Zealand to your itinerary!

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New Zealand's coastline is home to many incredible beaches. We reveal the best beaches in New Zealand, as voted by those in the know! From the where to find the best surf spots in New Zealand, to the most famous beaches in New Zealand, we're got them all covered. #newzealand #beaches #surf #hotwaterbeach #northisland #southisland #swimming #beachholiday
We've compiled all of New Zealand's best beaches into one epic list for you! Discover the very best NZ beaches in both the North & South Islands. #newzealand #beaches #nz

Life in France Update. Where is Home?

Life in France update

This isn’t my usual kind of post. I normally share little snippets of our daily life on Facebook and Instagram, but sometimes, circumstances warrant more than a quick caption. Our life in France was challenged by recent events, so I thought I’d write a life update for those of you interested…

Or maybe it’s just to jot down the whirlwind that has been my mind lately.

Where is home?

It’s a question I’ve been mulling over. Recent events have left us not exactly homeless, but feeling a bit ‘root’-less in the world.

This summer we were meant to be returning to Saintes for a final summer fling in our first French home, before packing up one last time and moving our belongings to a new home in Provence.

But an email received mid-July changed everything. Our buyer’s mortgage had fallen through.

The house sale was off.

With a heavy heart, we informed the owner of the Provence house we were in the process of buying that we wouldn’t be able to proceed. They relisted, and the house sold again immediately. It further cemented what we thought – that house was a real find.

We also relisted our house immediately, but we knew houses in this part of France take a lot longer to move on the market.

Enter the summer of indecision.

Life in France update.

With no new house to look forward to, returning to Provence wasn’t the pressing desire it once was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still where we want to live (at least, if we can make it work), but the urgency to return had dissipated.

We love our country house in Charente-Maritime, and Saintes is a true gem of a town, but we’d long ago come to the conclusion that if we were going to stay in France long-term, this wasn’t the place for us.

So, we still had a house to sell before we could move on.

But what if this was a sign? If missing out on the house in Provence (which, if I’m to be totally honest I was never 100% sure about) was an indication that it wasn’t the right move to make.

If you’re not into ‘signs’ this may sound a bit woo-woo, but I do believe things happen for a reason. In any case, it helps me accept unexpected changes in life.

I started to think about the alternatives.

Staying in Saintes. Returning to our little rental house in Provence until we could eventually buy again. Moving to the UK. Moving somewhere completely left-field like Costa Rica and becoming true ‘digital nomads’. Or even going home to New Zealand.

Sometimes having too much choice is a bad thing.

The only things restricting us is our son’s schooling and making sure the dogs can come with us wherever we go.

So where do you go when you can go (almost) anywhere?

My heart is still in Provence.

Life in France update - Provence

And I think it always will be. I’ve been gone two months now and every time I see a picture on my Instagram feed I experience a pang of longing for the landscapes, the culture, the atmosphere of this region that has fast become familiar to us.

But houses in Provence cost twice/close to three times as much as houses in Charente-Maritime. This isn’t true of everywhere in Provence, but if we want to keep Arthur in his school, then we need to be close to Aix-en-Provence. Problem is, that’s where everyone else wants to be too.

Buying a house in Provence requires us to take out a mortgage – something we managed to avoid when we first moved to France.

It means having to have a steady (high) income. Something that two freelancers can’t take for granted.

And it means staying put for a few years, as the cost of buying and selling in France prohibits moving frequently.

My adventurous nature sides with becoming nomadic.

Once we sell our house, we’ll have no physical ties to France. Julien and I can work from anywhere. And there are a gazillion places I can think of where we can live for less than in France. Potentially allowing us to save for our dream Provence property.

But when I start mulling over that option, all the (im)practicalities come tumbling down on me.

Where would Arthur go to school/do I have what it takes to homeschool? How would our ageing dogs handle another international move? What about this blog – which I’ve focused primarily on travel in France/Europe. Could I adapt it to encompass another (likely very different) country?

What about having a home? For as much as I live to travel, I love having a place to call home.

And then there’s New Zealand

Life in France update - New Zealand

My native home. The country where Arthur was born and where Julien has permanent residency. The place where everything is so damn easy. And the language isn’t a daily struggle.

My god, it’s tempting sometimes.

But on investigation, we realised even our Provence house budget would barely buy us a modest house in Auckland’s suburbs. While doing our research, we stumbled upon a 3-bed house we sold in 2008 for $575k had just been bought again for $1.16m.

We’d missed that boat.

And to be honest. I’m not ready to go ‘home’. New Zealand is just so blimmin far from everywhere else. I’d miss Europe. I’d miss the ease and low-cost of travelling. I’d miss living somewhere with history.

So where to next?

We spent the summer cleaning and scrubbing. We had plenty of people visit our house, but most it seemed, were window shoppers.

We decided to re-focus and do what we often do when faced with a dilemma – travel.

Julien had been invited to a conference in the US many months ago, but it was bad timing with the (supposed) house move and the start of school. It’d been put on the back burner.

Then there was the semi-planned trip to New Zealand (again for Julien’s work) that was due to take place in October.

We decided to combine the two and do a family trip to the States on the way to New Zealand. We’d be gone for a smidge over six weeks, and Arthur would miss his entire first term of school, but it’d be an opportunity to think about our next step and escape the stress of selling our house.

Enter a few weeks of intensive late-night holiday planning.

And now?

Life in France update - US

I’m currently writing this while on a flight from Raleigh to San Diego! We’re flying Frontier, which is like the US equivalent of Eazyjet, so it’s a rare pocket of time to write – without distractions.

Our little US holiday is half over and we’re headed to NZ in a week. It’s been loads of fun hanging out with Arthur while Julien has been at his conference. It almost felt like we’d stepped back in time to when he was two and at home with me full time.

And while it’s hard to find time to work on the blog between busy days and jetlagged nights, I’m glad we have this opportunity to spend quality time together before ‘real’ life takes hold again.

What will we do when we get back?

We were as surprised as anyone when we managed to sell our house a week before departing on holiday.

Once again, we’re at the mercy of the buyer until the sale becomes unconditional mid-October. But all going well, we’ll be moving out at Christmas.

We’ll be returning to our little village house in Provence when school starts again at the beginning of November and most likely, will resume our property search.

Unless that is, the pull of other pastures becomes too great to ignore…

Where to Find the Best Lavender Fields of Provence France

Ultimate Guide to the Best Lavender Fields in Provence, France

To some, there’s nothing that epitomises the appeal of Provence more than the purple rows of lavender that pepper the landscape every summer. The lavender fields of Provence represent a change of seasons, a ripening of the earth, and a time where life slows to the mercy of the sun’s strong rays.

The Provence lavender fields are among the best in the world, and they’re certainly the most famous. Come early summer, when the spring poppies have all but disappeared, bright lavender flowers start to transform the already beatific landscape into a patchwork of colour.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll introduce you to the best fields of lavender in Provence, France.

Lavender fields of Provence, France

Lavender Season in Provence

When does lavender bloom in Provence? This is the question I (and I’m sure all other Provence locals) get asked a lot! And unfortunately, there’s no exact answer. The best time to see lavender in Provence is different depending on where you are in the region, but it also changes year to year. This year, for example, the Provence lavender season started later than usual because of the unusually wet spring we had.

Despite these variables, here are some guidelines about the best time to visit Provence for lavender:

Provence Lavender in June

  • By late June most Lavender in Provence is in bloom.
  • The fine lavender grown in the highest altitudes of Provence is the latest to bloom.

Provence Lavender in July

  • Early July is the best time to visit lavender fields in Provence. The entire region is peppered with vibrant purple fields. And, if you get in before the school holidays (which normally start after the first week of July), you’re more likely to beat the crowds.
  • From mid-July lavender fields start to be harvested.
  • The upper Luberon lavender fields and the Château du Bois fine lavender are generally harvested around the 15th of July.
  • The lower Luberon (around Lourmarin), the Valensole lavender fields and those in Grasse and around Sisteron are harvested later in July, typically around the 25th of July.

Provence Lavender in August

  • If you’re visiting Provence in August you may be worried about missing out on seeing the lavender fields at all, but there are still a few lavender fields in bloom in August.
  • Aim for the Sault lavender fields or around Banon to find lavender in bloom until the 10th of August.

Lavender fields of Provence, France

Best Places to find Lavender in Provence, France

Fragrant lavender fields can be found popping up everywhere in Provence in summer. It’s the most famous crop of the region and one that has held significant importance for the people of Provence for centuries. But the lavender fields of Provence aren’t just a source of pride for the locals; they’re also a key Provence attraction that draws in visitors from around the world, year after year.

I’m going to introduce the best places to see lavender in Provence, focusing on three main areas: The Valensole Plateau, Sault Plateau, and the Luberon Valley.

Provence Lavender Fields Map

The below map illustrates where to see lavender fields in Provence. There are other areas, but these regions have the highest concentration of lavender farms in Provence, so you won’t waste your time traversing the landscape unnecessarily (unless you want to)!

where to find the best lavender fields of Provence, France

Valensole Lavender Fields in Provence

The Valensole Plateau is famous the world over for its lavender fields, but it’s also home to impressive historical sites, golden fields of wheat and sunflowers, charming Provençal villages, and deep turquoise lakes.

Perhaps the most famous village in the Valensole Plateau is deservedly that of Valensole. This colourful village sits elevated above the plateau, with the 11th century St Blaise church at its helm. Pastel coloured houses crowd the narrow streets and the hidden gardens beckon you to discover their secrets. Take pause here on your tour of the lavender fields of Valensole to take a stroll, sample lavender-laced delicacies, or sit in a curbside cafe for lunch.

At the other end of the Valensole Plateau lies Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, a picturesque village hanging on the hillside overlooking the vast lac de Sainte-Croix.

Valensole lavender fields.

Valensole Plateau lavender fields, France

Lavender fields of Valensole, Provence, France Sunflower and lavender fields in Provence, France

Map of the Valensole Lavender Fields

There’s no doubt that the Valensole Plateau creates the most popular Provence lavender route. Some of the most amazing lavender farms can be found here among the fields of golden wheat and full-faced sunflowers. And it’s the birthplace of many an iconic photo of Provence lavender.

The landscape here is fairly flat but it has just the right amount of gently swelling soil to give the rigid rows of lavender some dimension, creating the swoon-worthy fields you’re no doubt longing for.

To make the most of this photographic region of Provence, you’ll need a car to get around. You can hire one here.

*To see each field number, click on the markers on the map above.

Field #1

This lavender field is bordered by sunflower fields, which just makes the experience even more magical. Park opposite the lavender field and take care crossing the road. Wander up the divide between sunflowers and lavender and you’ll find respite from the crowds, and another less frequented lavender field behind. This lavender field is a great place to photograph the contrasting colours of yellow and purple.

Field #2

A short stroll past the sunflower fields will have you arriving at Lavandes Angelvin – home to some of the more famous Provence lavender fields. With seemingly endless rows of purple perfection, only interrupted by a few well-placed trees, it’s a spot that well deserves its reputation.

Field #3 

This is one of my favourite Valensole lavender fields. With a gently swelling landscape (the hill becomes more pronounced on the eastern end), bright orange soil, and a rugged mountainous backdrop – its one not to miss!

Field #4

Between Riez and Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, rows of lavender hide behind a canopy of trees. It’s a good place to escape the crowds and find solitude among the buds.

Field #5

Just before Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, you’ll find another lavender farm framed by sunflowers. There are two main fields here. The first you’ll come to is situated right by the road, and a little further down you’ll find another set back off the road a little. It’s opposite a sign advertising lavender honey.

Field #6

On the way towards Puimisson, from Riez, you’ll find a remarkable lavender field (see the picture at the start of this post) with an amazing traditional stone house placed perfectly among the purple rows. For the best vantage point, drive up the small road to the left of the field.

Field #7

There are expansive lavender fields on the opposite side of the road to where I’ve placed this marker, however, what makes this lavender field special is a crumbling cottage set within the lavender.

Sault Lavender Fields in Provence

The fortified village of Sault sits on a ridge wedged between a thick wooded forest on one side and a rolling agricultural valley on the other. Well-preserved and brimming with history, it’s worth wandering through the medieval streets to sample the unique flair of this northern Provençal village.

Be sure to pop into the nougat factory for a taste, and pick up a walking tour map from the local tourist office, which will guide you around the old town.

Map of the Sault Lavender Fields

The road leading to Sault offers views over a plateau awash with lavender. It’s here that you realise the immense scale of lavender production in this region of Provence. More concentrated than in the Valensole Plateau, the lavender fields of Sault are best explored on a bike, or by foot.

There’s a 5km “lavender path” that will lead you through some of the finest fields. To walk it, park at the public car park just after the Vallon distillery on D164. If exploring by bike or by car, follow the suggested lavender route below.

*To see each field number, click on the markers on the map above.

Field #1

This lavender field situated opposite La Bastide des Bourguets is absolute perfection! Bordered by a mountainous ridge and fields of fluffy golden wheat, it’s a delight to wander through. There’s even a small stone hut near the centre to add a little more interest.

Field #2

A petite field, it’s no less impressive as it perfectly frames the hillside village of Aurel.

Field #3

On one side of this marker, you have a beautiful large field with a little hut at one end. And on the other, there’s another gently swelling field with two well-placed trees at its highest point.

Field #4

Rolling fields on either side of this road. Perfect purple fields, as far as you can see.

Field #5

To find these fields, park on the road and wander up behind the field of trees. Here you’ll find a patchwork of lavender fields, some with old cottages tucked between the rows.

Luberon Lavender Fields of Provence

The Luberon valley is my favourite area of Provence. A place where hilltop villages collide with dramatic scenery and history is ingrained in its soul. A place to go for a drive through whimsical roads, a walk through fragrant foliage, or to explore the cobbled lanes and advantageous views of its villages.

The Luberon is an artist’s earthy toned palate. It’s where fiery red canyons slice through a dark green forest. Where serrated hills meet preened vineyards. And golden stones create both ancient conical houses and modern-day mansions. In essence, it’s the perfect place to get acquainted with the ‘real’ Provence.

Lavender of Provence, France

Map of the Luberon Lavender Fields

Lavender fields in the Luberon Valley aren’t as highly concentrated as those in the Valensole or Sault plateaus. But this means finding them is as easy as going for a Sunday drive. Winding through country lanes, you’re sure to find a field or two between the vineyards and olive groves.

There are a few spots where you’re guaranteed to find Luberon lavender fields in bloom every year though, including some of the most iconic lavender fields in Provence!

*To see each field number, click on the markers on the map above.

#1 Sénanque Abbey

This monastery set into a wooded valley not far from Gordes is one of the best places to see Provence lavender. The unique backdrop of the stone abbey offsets the purple lavender beautifully. During the Sénanque Abbey lavender season, crowds descend on the Luberon to get a glimpse of this iconic scene. Combine it with a trip inside the Sénanque Abbey for a truly memorable trip.

#2 Between the villages of the Luberon

At the midway point between Gordes, Lacoste and Bonnieux, you’ll find a large cluster of lavender fields that are perfectly framed by the three villages. One in particular (where the marker is) is home to a beautiful large stone mas, which breaks up the purple perfectly.

#3 Rustrel

Between the pretty, petite village of Rustrel and the incredible landscapes of the Colorado Provençal, you’ll find lavender fields crisscrossing between the bucolic country lanes.

#4 Château du Bois

The Château du Bois lavender farm is located high in the Luberon, at 1100m above sea level, in a village called Lagarde-d’Apt. Growers of true lavender, it’s here you have a more delicate bud and a finer fragrance, than in the lower elevations of Provence. The Château du Bois lavender farm can only be visited by an organised private tour in early July – read more about the experience here.

Where to Stay to Explore the Lavender Fields in Provence France

In order to make the most of your time in Provence, I’d recommend staying central to explore the other delights of the region. Here are some suggestions, or you can read my full guide to the best places to stay in Provence.

The Luberon Valley is a great place to see the lavender of Provence, France

Aix-en-Provence is a fabulous city full of culture, festive ambience, and Provençal charm. It’s an excellent place to stay to take day trips around Provence, and it’s not too much of a drive to all three lavender regions detailed above. Alternatively, you can take a lavender tour from Aix-en-Provence.

Best places to stay in Aix-en-Provence

Avignon is a city brimming with history and old-world grandeur. Like Aix, there are many day trips from Avignon that will round up your perfect holiday in Provence.  Avignon is closer to the Sault and Luberon lavender fields, but it’s still possible to drive or take a tour to the Valensole lavender fields.

Best places to stay in Avignon

If you want to be knee deep in French village living, head for the Luberon Valley. Take your pick of charming hilltop villages to stay in and enjoy driving the country lanes lined with lavender fields.

Best places to stay in the Luberon

Provence Lavender Tours

If you don’t have a car to explore the lavender farms of Provence on your own, it’s entirely possible to visit some of the finest fields with a half or full day lavender tour. See some options below, or click on the links to find the perfect lavender tour to suit you!


Visiting the Provence lavender fields is an incredible event that will leave you spellbound. Whichever of these lavender routes in Provence you decide to take, or indeed if you experience them all, you are sure to have an unforgettable time in Provence.

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Looking for the best lavender fields in Provence, France? This comprehensive guide to the Provence lavender fields details where to find the best lavender fields, where to stay, and the best lavender routes in Provence!

If you're heading to Provence to experience the incredible lavender fields, read this first! This detailed guide gives you the low down on where to go to see the best lavender fields in Provence, France

The Reality of Being a Vegan in France & Tricks for Surviving in a Land of Foie Gras

The Reality of Being a Vegan in France & Tricks for Surviving in a Land of Foie Gras

While the rest of the population hails France as being the ultimate foodie destination, vegans are often left bereft at the thought of yet another bare baguette. In a country where eating cheese is almost a religion, meat is seen as an essential element of any meal, and the yoghurt aisle of your local supermarket is so long it could double up as a small town landing strip – being a vegan in France can seem like an uphill battle.

My husband and I made the decision to adopt a plant-based diet around 6 months before we moved to France.

Dick move.

Just as veganism was hitting the mainstream in New Zealand, France, on the other hand, still had its head firmly stuck in the sand.

I’d experienced a taste of being a vegetarian in France during previous travels, and it didn’t leave me full of hope. Between being served a plate of plain pasta at a Michelin-starred restaurant, to finding lardons (ham) in my salade végétarienne – I knew I was going to be up for a challenge if I wanted to not just survive, but enjoy living in France as a vegan.

Living in France as a vegan.

Attitudes to Veganism in France

While the large majority of French are very firmly in the meat and cheese eating camp, in the 2 and a bit years we’ve been living in France, I’ve seen the sands slowly start to shift. Naturally, Paris has been more progressive than the rest of the country when it comes to vegan eateries and attitudes. And it is starting to filter through to the rest of the country.

A nationwide vegan movement has started to gain momentum, but not always with the right consequences.

As with everything the French do, they do it with a healthy dose of passion. But lately, an unhealthy trend has seen animal activists getting a bit heavy-handed with their message in Paris, where butcheries are increasingly vandalised and butchers threatened.

While I see the benefit of peaceful protests and cube of truth demonstrations, I don’t believe violence is an effective way of getting a message – that is ultimately about peace for all – across to the masses. And it adds to the unfair attitude towards vegans that we’re all a bunch of hot-headed fanatics.

But I digress.

For the large part, the worst you’ll get if you tell someone in France that you’re a vegan is a blank stare, a look of confusion, or an attitude of indifference. Oftentimes, people are genuinely interested as they can’t fathom how one survives without eating animal products, or indeed, why you’d want to!

Tips on Surviving in France as a Vegan

General attitudes aside, it’s entirely possible to survive France as a vegan – even outside of the big cities! Whether you’re heading to France for a holiday and worried about how you’ll fare, or you’re thinking about making the move more permanent, here are my insider tips for being a vegan in France – and why you needn’t worry!
Eating out as a vegan in France.

Eating out as a Vegan in France

The biggest fear many vegans travelling to France have is how they’ll manage when it comes to eating out. And it’s a valid concern. Not only do you have to deal with un-vegan friendly menus, but you somehow have to get your desires for an animal-free meal across in another language. It’s enough to make many a vegan tremble in their faux-leather boots.

But with a few tricks up your sleeve, eating out in France as a vegan doesn’t have to mean side salads and fries!


How to find vegan-friendly eateries in France

Although rare, especially in rural areas, vegan cafes and restaurants do exist in France. They’re becoming more popular in larger cities, and with a little help, it’s not hard to sniff them out. Try these methods for starters:

  • Happy Cow. If you’re a travelling vegan, do yourself a favour and download the Happy Cow app now. I use it everywhere in the world for finding vegan-friendly eateries. You can search by location, or enable geotracking and let the app find your nearest options for vegan eats!
  • Ask on local vegan Facebook groups. Why not ask the locals? Suss out any national, or local vegan Facebook groups and ask people for their recommendations on places to eat around the country. Look up “English speaking vegans in France” or “Veggies and vegans in France” for English-speaking local vegans. Or if you speak French, type “vegans” and the name of the city you’re travelling to in the search bar to see if there are any local groups to join.
  • Google it. This seems obvious, if you’re unfamiliar with French you may not think of simply typing ‘vegan food in..’ in English in your search bar. But more often than not, it’ll bring back some worthy results.
  • Try Tripadvisor. Did you know there is an option to filter restaurants by whether they have a vegan option on TripAdvisor? Neither did I until recently, but it’s a fab way to find restaurants in any city.
  • Turn to other cuisines. There aren’t a lot of accidentally-vegan dishes in French cuisine (as seen below), so sometimes the easiest option is to turn to other nationality’s offerings instead. Italian, Turkish, Asian and African dishes are all naturally a little more vegan-friendly.

Eating out as a vegan in France.

How to veganify popular French foods

Here are a few french staples that are accidentally vegan, and some that can be made vegan with a few small tweaks.

  • The humble baguette. Yep, this French food staple is vegan. Thank goodness.
  • Croissants. While you may not find vegan croissants in the boulangerie, many supermarkets stock accidentally vegan versions of this popular pastry. Just look for the ones made with ‘huile de tournesol’ (sunflower oil) and avoid the avec beurre versions.
  • Sorbet. You’ll be thankful for this one come summer! Most ice cream stands have a large selection of sorbet which has been a godsend for my ice cream loving son (and his ice cream loving parents!).
  • Ratatouille. This dish from the South of France is one of the rare dishes that is entirely vegan – entirely by accident! So you can chow down on this classic dish as much as you like.
  • Pizza. Ok, so pizza should really be under the Italian section, but as far as I can tell (if the number of pizza vans/shops in every village are anything to go by) the French adore their pizzas. Simply ask for a vegetarian pizza “sans fromage” and you’ve got yourself a vegan pizza! Another nifty bonus is that when you order pizza in France, it almost always comes with a sachet, or bottle if you’re eating in, of sauce piquante – a chilli infused oil that makes even the plainest of pizzas taste amazing, and combats any cheese-deficit dryness.
  • Salad. This one won’t win any awards for originality, but at a push, a salad can do just fine for lunch. Ask for a salade végétarienne (sans fromage, sans oeufs) – with the dressing on the side if you’re unsure of its ingredients. Then drizzle some olive oil over the top, et voila, you have yourself a vegan meal.
Ratatouille is an accidentally vegan French dish.

Ratatouille is an accidentally vegan French dish.

Types of restaurants where you’re more likely to find vegan menu items (intentionally or not)

In time, we’ve learned there are certain types of restaurants that are better to bypass. And likewise, there are those in which we know we’ll find a vegan option or two. The latter normally involves looking past traditional French cuisine, and instead to other global foodie influences.

  • Japanese. Sushi is a staple for us when eating out. Luckily, our son loves it, so it’s always his first pick of where to eat anyway. Just be aware – the French do have a weird habit of adding mayonnaise and sometimes even cheese to their vegetarian sushi – so it’s best to clarify before ordering.
  • Indian. The Indian restaurants we’ve been to in France haven’t been amazing – they tend to tone down the flavours a lot to cater to the French palate. So if you like your curry spicy, you need to ask for it hot! Also, check that they don’t use ghee in the dish you’re ordering.
  • Moroccan. A vegetable tagine makes for a delicious vegan meal if you can find a Moroccan restaurant on your travels.
  • Italian. Apart from the obvious choice of pizza (minus the cheese), many Italian restaurants will also serve a simple tomato-based pasta, or try my favourite – spaghetti aglio e olio!
  • Turkish. Kebab shops can be found in most French towns of a reasonable size. Order a falafel kebab – just watch that the falafel isn’t made with egg.
  • Ethiopian. Ethiopian food is generally very vegan-friendly, and amazing! But a little harder to come by in France unless you’re in a city.
  • Vietnamese. Vietnamese food is typically heavy on the meat, but there are several dishes that lend themselves well to the vegan diet. Try a papaya salad, spring rolls, or a classic spicy tofu chilli dish.
  • Thai. Our local Thai restaurant doesn’t have a single vegetarian menu item, let alone vegan. But I have found amazing vegan Thai food on menus around the country – so just do you research before you go.

Vegan restaurants in France.

– Ordering Coffee in France

For all you coffee addicts out there – sorry, but you’re going to have to get used to taking your coffee black! I’m yet to find a ‘regular’ French cafe with any cow milk alternatives on the menu. Like I said above, vegan-friendly cafes do exist, but if you’re outside of the main centres you’ll be out of luck.

I was a bit of a coffee aficionado before moving to France, so as you can guess, the first thing I do when I step foot in another country (sometimes, if I’m lucky, before I even leave the airport!) is order a large almond latte!*

*And as a responsible vegan, I always make sure to have my KeepCup on hand.

– Eating Vegan on the Road

One thing to be aware of when travelling in France as a vegan is that if you’re driving long distance, you’re going to want to take some vegan eats with you! The service stations on the motorway seem to be slower than average with catering for a range of diets and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything other than crisps and a packet of Oreos to nibble on.

Another thing to note is the standard eating times. Outside of very touristic areas, you’ll struggle to find anyone serving lunch past 2.30pm and anyone serving dinner before 7pm! And most supermarkets are also closed on Sundays, so stock up on Saturday just in case.

Shopping as a Vegan in France

If you’re staying in France for a while, or you’ve booked self-catering holiday accommodation, you’ll be able to take advantage of the amazing farmers’ markets and bio (organic) shops throughout the country.

Farmers’ Markets

It’s very much part of the French way of life to visit the farmers’ markets throughout the week to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies. Every village (of a certain size) has a weekly market, and they alternate days so you won’t have to venture far to find a market on any day of the week.

If you’re in a larger town or city, you’ll find they often have daily markets. It’s the best place to buy seasonal produce, as well as other goodies like bakery goods, deli items, and occasionally bulk grains.

French farmers markets are a great place to shop as a vegan in France


French supermarkets don’t generally have a huge range of vegan goods. But they are the cheapest place to buy vegan milk, yoghurts, dark chocolate, hummus (watch out for added milk or cheese!) bulk nuts and grains, and staples like pasta and noodles. Most supermarkets will have a decent sized organic section too, and the allergens aisle is often stocked with vegan-friendly finds.

While I have found things like tofu and mock meats in the supermarket, the ones I’ve tried leave a lot to be desired! You’re better off heading to your nearest organic shop to find ready-made vegan goods.

Organic Shops

The organic movement is huge in France, so you’ll find organic shops (magazin bio) easily. All the stores I’ve tried have had a good selection of tofu and seitan products, plus they’re generally just amazing for nuts, grains, milk, parmesan-free pesto, vegan treats, even raw cakes!

Oh – and they’re the only place I’ve found sriracha sauce in France!

Organic shops in France are great for vegan food options.

Online Shops

France has some great online vegan stores. My favourite, The Vegan Shop, sells the most incredible artisan nut-cheeses that taste just like the real deal.

Some other online shops include:

  • Boutique Vegan – A mega vegan store where you’ll find anything and everything! Based in Germany, but ships to France.
  • Un Monde Vegan – Well stocked online shop as well as two real-world stores in Paris and Lyon.
  • Naturalia – Their online store isn’t strictly vegan, but they do have a good range. They’ve also recently opened their fourth vegan supermarket in Paris!
  • Graine de Vegan – French online vegan shop that’s well stocked with all the essentials – everything from baking goods, to baby products.
  • Veggie Shop 24 – An online shop based in Bavaria that ships throughout Europe.

Vegan Fashion in France

This is where I admit that I haven’t made a massive effort to seek out vegan clothing and shoe manufacturers in France. The French website Vegan Pratique has you covered here though, with their thorough list of vegan-friendly clothing and accessories shops.

My favourite international vegan accessories brand, Matt & Nat not only make beautiful wallets, handbags and shoes, they also do their bit for the environment by using eco-friendly fabrics. Plus their linings are made from recycled plastic bottles – how cool is that?

Shop my favourite Matt & Nat looks here

Raising Kids Vegan in France

Bringing your vegan kids to France for a holiday is one thing, but what’s it like living here with little vegans? Although there’s plenty of evidence to support veganism as a healthy diet for growing kids, French medical practitioners, in general, aren’t open to the idea.

You’ll also have a hard time in public schools, where lunches are catered, and always contain meat and/or dairy. The only options for vegan parents with school-aged children is to either pick your kids up and take them home for lunch every day or get a medical certificate to allow your child to take a packed lunch.

Private, or semi-private schools sometimes allow a bit more flexibility. Some, such as the first French school our son attended, don’t cater lunch at all, so every child had to bring their own. And some offer a bit more flexibility around catered menus. Steiner schools routinely offer vegetarian lunches as standard and can often be accommodating to the vegan diet.

Being a vegan in France can present challenges, and often some frustrations, but it’s absolutely doable! I hope this guide has given you some ideas for thinking outside of the box when it comes to visiting France as a vegan. One thing is for sure, when you do find amazing vegan food in France, you’ll appreciate it all the more!

Happy travelling x

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If you're a vegan travelling to France, you may be worried about how you'll get by in a country renowned for meat & cheese! Being vegan in France doesn't have to be difficult - if you know what to look for! Read our complete vegan travel guide to France and download your free French vegan phrase printable!


Inside Guide to the Best Puglia Beaches and Swimming Holes

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

Visitors to Puglia will be amazed by the unspoilt nature of Italy’s heel. Gnarled, centuries-old olive trees give way to whitewashed villages that wouldn’t look out of place on a Greek Island. Down dusty rural roads, you’ll find the unique Puglian architecture is a curious mix between tipi-topped Trulli and the rectangular robustness of the traditional Masseria. And the fresh flavours of the local food and produce will leave sweet memories on your tongue long after you’ve departed.

But perhaps the best-kept secret is Puglia’s beaches. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the beaches in Puglia are among the best in Italy. With the longest coastline in the country, bordered by the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Ionian Sea on the other, the swimming holes and beaches of Puglia are undoubtedly remarkable, yet they remain too-often ignored by foreign visitors.

Here is why I think you’d be remiss to skip this incredible region, and where you should go to find the best beaches in Puglia Italy!

Best Beaches in Puglia Map

Click on the icons below to find the names of the beach beaches in Puglia, and their locations.

Where to Stay to Enjoy Puglia’s Best Beaches

Apart from its sublime shoreline, Salento is brimming with amazing villages and towns to discover on your holiday in Puglia. In order to discover the best of the region, it’s wise to stay central and take day trips to the Puglia attractions that most appeal to you. You’ll find that if you stay at any of the suggested Salento hotels and B&B’s below, you’ll be no more than an hour from Puglia’s best beaches and swimming holes.

Top Choice:

The Aia – This is where I stayed on my most recent visit to Puglia – you can read the full review here.

The Aia is a charming retreat venue and B&B tucked away at arm’s length from Nardò, with a relaxed vibe and plenty of events and activities to keep you busy. It’s the perfect place to explore both the Puglia coast and the villages and towns of Salento. Check prices and book here.

At the Aia - retreat venue in Puglia, Italy

Other great places to stay in Puglia:

  • Palazzo Sant’Anna Lecce – An amazing, character-filled hotel in the heart of Lecce. If you want the best of both worlds – city living by night and beachcombing by day – then this affordable-luxury hotel has you covered. Check prices and book here.
  • Masseria San Cosimo – For a budget-friendly stay in a traditional Masseria, this Puglia accommodation is ideally located to explore the best of Puglia. It’s roughly equal distance from the charming Puglian towns of Otranto, Lecce and Nardò. Check prices and book here.
  • Montirò Hotel – In the deep south of Puglia you’ll find this charming hotel built in a traditional style, but with all the modern luxury amenities you could ask for. The ideal place to explore the best beaches in southern Puglia. Check prices and book here.
  • Antica Masseria Del Fano – If you want to stay in style near the Puglia coast, then this character-filled property could be just what you’re after. Situated close to the Maldives of Salento, you’ll be in a great position to explore the best beaches of Puglia. Check prices and book here.

How to visit the beaches of Puglia, Italy

In order to see the best of Puglia, I’d highly recommend hiring a car! Public transport will allow you to visit Puglia’s towns and cities, but to find the best secret beaches in Puglia you’re going to need your own wheels. Both times I’ve visited Puglia, I’ve rented a car from Avis at Brindisi airport. Their service is outstanding and the vehicles have been modern, clean and a joy to drive. Book your rental car here.

Just remember, like most places in the world, it’s not a good idea to leave valuables in the car while you’re enjoying the Puglia’s beaches. Try one of these tips to keep your things safe instead.

Best beaches of Puglia Italy

When to visit Puglia Italy

Obviously, the warmer months are ideal for enjoying Puglia’s best beaches, but you’ll enjoy the experience more if you plan to visit Puglia outside of the peak summer season. That’s not to say you shouldn’t plan a vacation in Puglia in July or August, but be prepared for busier beaches, higher prices, and fewer chances of finding a secluded swimming nook just to yourself.

The ideal time to enjoy the beaches of Puglia is in the shoulder season of May/June or September/October. It’s in these quieter months that you’ll experience Puglia at it’s finest. My most recent visit was in early June when the weather was just perfect for both sightseeing and swimming!

Top 10 Puglia Beaches and Swimming Holes

Let’s get acquainted with Puglia’s best beaches and swimming holes, listed below in no particular order…

#1 Lama Monachile, Polignano a Mare

A river used to flow through the picturesque town of Polignano a Mare, but the only remnants today are a stately roman bridge and the dry dusty path that leads to Lama Monachile. A deep and narrow beach, what Lama Monachile lacks in size, it makes up for in setting. On either side, sea-battered rock creates the foundation for the old town. Tall buildings sit so near to the edge you’d be forgiven for thinking twice before laying your blanket too close to the old walls.
Polignano a Mare is one of the best beaches in Puglia, ItalyThe white sand beach is a popular spot in summer, not only because of its remarkable surroundings but also because it sets the stage for the annual cliff diving world championship (see a sample of the action below).

It’s one of the best places in Puglia for swimming and snorkelling, as the water is calm, clear, and there are plenty of caves and tunnels to explore around the bay.

#2 Maldives of Salento

When a stretch of coastline is nicknamed the “Maldives of Salento” it has a lot to live up to. I haven’t been to the Maldives, so I can’t remark on its similarity, but I can tell you that it’s a divine stretch of shoreline. This area, close to the southern tip of Italy and hugging the Ionian Sea, is home to some of the best sandy beaches in Puglia. The sea is tiffany-blue and the fine sand melts under your feet like butter.

best beaches in salento puglia

It’s one of the few popular stretches of coastline that still has free space to stretch out and pitch your own umbrella. There are also plenty of private areas where you have to pay to play, but they come with their own benefits such as a bar service and a little more security for your stuff while you’re swimming.

The Maldives of Salento stretch from Torre Pali in the north, through Pescoluse (the heart) and ending in Torre Vado. I took the below photos in June and the beach was mildly busy at best, but I’m sure come the peak holiday season it’ll be thronging with visitors. So be sure to get there early to nab the best spot.

The Maldives of Salento is one of the best Puglia Beaches.

#3 Grotta della Poesia, Roca

The Cave of Poetry is a natural sinkhole not far from the beachside town of Roca. Swimming in this sheltered natural pool is an incredible experience that needs to be on your Puglia itinerary. The deep pearl-shaped cave is separated from the sea by a thick sheath of rock that doubles up as an excellent viewing and sunbathing platform between swims.

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

Jump 15 feet into the crystal clear water below, or take the stairs etched into the wall of the Grotta if you’re not so daring. Keen explorers can swim out to the sea from the cave and investigate the surrounding weathered coastline with its pockmarked sea walls.

Get there early to enjoy the cave before the crowds of locals descend for the day, and be sure to walk around the coast to discover the ancient cave network nearby.

rotta della Poesia, Roca is one of the best swimming holes in Italy

#4 Beach of Purity, Gallipoli

Gallipoli’s most central beach, the Beach of Purity, is one of the most charming Puglia beaches to discover. True to name, its golden-tinged sand and gently lapping sea is some of the cleanest and purest in Salento. Surrounded by ancient city walls and overlooking Sant’Andrea Island with its iconic lighthouse, this beach in Gallipoli is one to remember.

Beach of Purity in Gallipoli is one of the best beaches in Salento, Italy.

Located on the western shores of the island, next to the port, it’s a beach to enjoy in between browsing the charming streets of the old town. Wander through the historical centre, sample the lively atmosphere and grab a mouthwateringly tasty gelato before hitting the beach for a siesta in the sun.

For a Puglian experience like no other, head to the beach itself, or one of the many beach bars overlooking this Gallipoli beach at sunset to see the sky light up in a magnificent array of fiery tones.

Purity beach in Gallipoli is one of the best beaches in Puglia, Italy

#5 Santa Maria al Bagno

The beach at Santa Maria al Bagno is a sheltered and scenic respite from some of the more popular stretches of Ionian coastline. This clean cove of fine white sand is surrounded by sea walls, creating a secluded enclave perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

Best beaches in Puglia, Italy

Although there isn’t a huge amount of space on the beach, locals make use of the opposite rocky ledge to launch themselves into the turquoise water below. The water is so clear and calm here that it’s like swimming in a luxurious infinity pool.

After spending the morning splashing around in the sea, simply walk across the road to enjoy lunch with a view before resuming your beachside sojourn.

Santa Maria al Bagno is one of Puglia's best beaches.

#6 Mora Mora Beach

A stone’s throw from Salento’s capital Lecce, on the Adriatic coast between Torre Specchia Ruggeri and Roca, you’ll find the tranquil oasis that is Mora Mora beach. The pearl-white sand is bordered by dense shrub on one side and the gently swelling sea on the other. It’s this semi-rural appearance that cements its reputation as one of the nicest beaches in Puglia.

Mora Mora is one of the best beaches on the Adriatic coast Italy

At the car park end of the beach, you’ll find Mora Mora Bistro’ del Mare – an upmarket beachfront bar and restaurant serving up gourmet treats and hand-mixed drinks with a view. If you’re after something a little more laid back, set yourself up in one of the sun loungers on the beach and order a beverage from the conveniently located kiosk.

If paying to lounge on the beach isn’t your style, wander on past the rows of loungers and you’ll soon find yourself a free spot to soak up some rays. Likewise, on the other side of the car park, you can find a few secluded nooks and sheltered swimming spots away from the crowds.

Best secret beaches in Puglia Italy

#7 Salsedine Beach, Santa Maria Al Bagno

Salsedine Beach is a man-made beach/swimming hole positioned just around the corner from Santa Maria al Bagno (whose swoon-worthy sandy cove is also featured on this list) and within gawking distance of the photogenic Four Columns.

Salsedine is one of the best places to swim in Puglia.

Although not a beach in the traditional sense of the word, it’s the perfect place to swim in a natural inlet – in true Salento style – minus the typically required cliff jumping! The folks at Salsedine beach have created a fun and hip space where you can spend the afternoon sipping on cocktails or taking a dip in the spa in between immersing yourself in the cool, inviting water of the Ionian Sea.

Relax to a subtle soundtrack of chillout lounge vibes as you work on your tan and enjoy the view.

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

#8 Costa Merlata Beach

A twenty-minute drive from the white city, Ostuni, through an endless meadow of olive groves, is where you’ll find the beaches of Costa Merlata. The serrated coastline shelters a series of secret coves and idyllic swimming nooks between its rocky ridges.

Costa Merlata Beach in Puglia italy

Park anywhere near Santa Lucia, or indeed further north or south of the petite settlement and walk the coastal path until you find a beach or basin of crystal clear water that you just can’t resist. Then take the plunge and enjoy the tranquillity of Puglia by the sea.

The entire coastline here can be traversed, leaving you to explore at will. Walk through the low shrub, over wooden walkways and around jagged cliffs, stopping to admire the scenery, for a drink at a beachside bar, or to inspect the fallen 16th tower at Torre Pozzelle.

Puglia's secret beaches.

#9 Torre Dell’Orso Beach

Halfway between Lecce and Otranto is where you’ll find the forest-fringed beach of Torre Dell’Orso. While there’s no denying this beach is one of Puglia’s worst kept secrets, you are still able to find calm among the canopies. The southern end of the beach is quieter than the northern end – where the beach meets the resort-town. And if you wander around the bend, you’ll find a secluded nook tucked away between rocky walls.

best beaches in italy adriatic coast

Approach the beach from the informal car park marked on the map below and after a short walk through a shaded natural park, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of The Two Sisters. These twin rocks just off the coast can be easily accessed if you’re a good swimmer (alternatively hire a kayak and paddle out) and make a popular spot for cliff diving.

Where to park at Torre Dell'Orso Beach

If you’ve got the time and energy to spare, walk south along the coastal trail to find the spectacular Torre Sant’Andrea. Natural limestone sea stacks rise from the sea to create a fabulous backdrop for an afternoon frolick. Access to the sea is from the tiny, but perfectly formed Torre Sant’Andrea Beach, but the locals prefer to dive off the cliffs to explore the sea caves and islands below.

Best Puglia Beaches, Italy.

#10 Torre di Roca Vecchia, Roca

A short stroll away from the more famous Grotta de Poesia, the Torre di Roca Vecchia is a quiet treasure trove of caves, coves and craggy limestone islands. Between the shore and the street lies an archaeological site that has been carefully excavated to reveal Bronze Age architecture and Mycenaean pottery over a period of almost 30 years.

Best Puglia Beaches and swimming holes.

Beyond the fenced-off site, plenty of ancient caves and dwellings remain to be explored. Walk down the stone stairs then swim through a narrow channel to explore a long-deserted island with its old watchtower – the Tower of Maradico. Climb down to hidden beaches between battered bluffs, or walk around the coast to find the perfect cliff diving launch pad.

Torre di Roca Vecchia is the perfect spot to escape the crowds while still revelling in the scenery and spirit that is ever-present on the Salento coast.

Best Puglia Beaches and swimming holes.

Final thoughts on Puglia beach holidays

After exploring Puglia’s beaches and swimming holes, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the raw beauty and untarnished nature of this exquisite part of Italy. Do yourself a favour and visit the best beaches in Puglia on your next Italian vacation!

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Puglia's beaches are among the best in Italy. Find out where to find the best beaches in Puglia, Italy, here!

Puglia is home to the longest coastline in Italy. It's no surprise then, that it's also home to some amazing beaches and swimming holes! Find the best beaches in Puglia, here.
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