Top 10 most family friendly beach holiday destinations in Europe

The numbers are in. As millions of families begin planning and booking their holidays for the year ahead, a study by On the Beach, the UK’s leading beach holiday specialist, has calculated and ranked Europe’s top 50 family beach holidays destinations – according to the criteria that matter most to parents.

The Family Beach Index, which lists Europe’s most family friendly beach destinations, places the Greek island of Crete in the top spot.

The online travel agent compared Europe’s top beach destinations across ten countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Turkey), looking at five criteria – each listed by parents as important considerations when choosing their family holiday destination.

Combined and weighted to calculate an overall score out of 100, the five Family Beach Index criteria were:

Average temperature
Average sea temperature
Family friendly attractions (waterparks and theme parks)
Flight duration
Average cost for a family of four during 2018

The study was conducted by On the Beach to help families find their perfect beach break and the sun-kissed Greek island of Crete – which welcomes more than four million visitors to its shores each year – grabbed the top spot with an index score of 85.2 (out of 100). Crete boasts the highest number of family-friendly water and theme parks (10) out of all destinations in the study, and enjoys average temperatures of 24 degrees C during the summer months.

Taking second place behind Crete – and topping the long list of Spanish destinations featuring in the top 50 – the Costa Blanca region is named the second most family friendly beach destination in Europe, with an index score of 84.3, due to its short flight duration from the UK, warm sea and air temperatures, and large number of water and theme parks (seven).

The ever-popular holiday island of Cyprus takes third place, with an index score of 83.2. Despite having a longer flight time, the Eastern Mediterranean island scores highly for its warm sea temperatures, numerous water and amusement parks, and the low average cost of a family holiday.

Named the overall best value destination and the hot spot with the shortest flight duration, Spain prevails once again, with the Costa Brava grabbing fourth place (with an index score of 82.9), followed by the Costa Dorada region in fifth, also scoring high points for its how average holiday price and short flight duration, giving it an index score of 82.8. In total, 16 Spanish beach destinations feature in the Family Beach Index top 50.

Top 10 most family friendly beach holiday destinations

Crete: 85.2
Costa Blanca: 84.3
Cyprus: 83.2
Costa Brava: 82.9
Costa Dorada: 82.8
Majorca: 82.6
Malta: 81.9
Corfu: 80.6
Sardinia: 82.6
Costa De la luz: 80.5

Along with the overall destination scores, the Family Beach Index allows families to sort destinations according to the criteria that matters most to them – whether that’s hot weather, warm seas or a shorter flight, often sought by those with younger children.

Best by category – average temperatures

Destinations across Turkey grabbed the top spots in the average temperature category, with Gumbet, Belek and Bodrum all enjoying averages of 25 degrees during the summer months.

The Turkish resort of Alanya ties fourth spot, alongside the Spanish Mainland region of the Costa Blanca, with both destinations averaging temperatures of 24.5 degrees between May and October.

Best by category – average sea temperatures

For those looking for warmer sea temperatures, perfect for swimming with younger children, resorts across Turkey also score highly, with Antalya, Alanya, Belek and Side all enjoying averages of 25 degrees. Cyprus is named fifth best destination to visit in terms of comfortable swimming, with an average sea temperature of 24.5 degrees.

Best by category – number of water parks and amusement parks

Crete, Greece’s largest island, comes out top with 10 parks, including the ever-popular WaterCity, the largest Waterpark in Crete, located in the beautiful Anopolis Mountains.

Cyprus grabs second place with nine attractions, including the award-winning Fasouri Watermania Water Park in Limassol, which is home to 30 attractions, three restaurants and 2,000 sun beds.

Popular regions across Mainland Spain also offer a variety of park options for families, with the Costa Blanca, Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada all having seven water or amusement parks. Sardinia, Italy’s largest island, the ever-popular Portuguese region of the Algarve, and Tenerife are also home to seven parks.

Best by category – flight duration from the UK

Avoiding longer flights is top of many families’ lists when planning their break in the sun, so for those looking to enjoy a beach break with limited travel time, the Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada regions of Spain both average flight times of under two hours and five minutes from the UK.

The sun-kissed Balearic island of Majorca is also a great choice for families looking for a destination closer to home, with an average flight time of 2 hours and 25 minutes.

The Costa de la Luz region of Spain, with its sleepy villages and uncrowded beaches, is also perfect for families looking to reach their resort in super quick time, with an average flight time of just 2 hours and 30 minutes. Ibiza and Sardinia average the same journey time.

Best by category – cheapest holiday prices (for a family of four)

In a survey of 1,000 British families, overall value for money was the number one consideration when choosing a family holiday destination for more than half (54%) of parents. When it comes to the lowest cost holiday destinations, breaks to the lesser known Canary Island of La Palma offers the very best value for money for families looking to grab a bargain summer holiday, followed by the Costa Calida and the Costa Brava on the Spanish mainland.

The beautiful Greek island of Kefalonia is named the fourth best value holiday destination for families, followed by the Algarve.

Comments (12)

  1. Andy says:

    Did they consider suitability of the beach for football? Some flat beaches, with a shimmer of water, make better pitches than grass. Though, I remember once playing on the Roker beach in Sunderland, just a free kick from where the old Roker Park football stadium used to be. The tide had gone out leaving a corrugated effect I twisted my ankle and never dared play there again.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      No, don’t think they considered that one! I have to say, one area that I think is glaringly missing in the assessment is how busy the beach is. Then you could also get on to beach cleanliness, nature of the beach (sand, shingle, etc.). I feel they could go quite a bit further than just the criteria they’ve chosen and, for me, one key factor that would be important is how busy it is. Who, for example, wants to go to a beach that’s horribly overcrowded, regardless of how great the sea temperature might be?

    • Steve Smith says:

      Yes, there’s a lot more that I would want to know. How easy is parking? How easy is access? Crossing a major road with deckchairs and beach kit can be dangerous.

      Are there loos nearby? Cafes for food and drink? Showers? Changing facilities?

      Forgive the pun but this report is barely putting its toe in the water.

  2. Piers says:

    So someone goes round inspecting these beaches? That’s my sort of job!

    • Paul Johnson says:

      I suspect it’s not quite like that. Probably more just a case of asking a load of people to fill out a questionnaire. ;-)

    • Steven Ham says:

      Surely there must be a university somewhere that does a Beach Studies degree to train the next generation of Beach Inspectors for the job?

      I’m only half-joking. Monitoring water quality and encouraging marine life would make it a very skilled and scientific job. Definitely a BSc in my book.

      Then maybe they could go on to a MSc or a PhD. We definitely need to take more care of our beaches.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      There are definitely plenty of opportunities in that line – eg. an environmental science or geography degree. My own degree was in geography and geology, and I followed that up with a PhD in glaciology (not quite as popular as ‘beach studies’, I’m guessing!). I’m sure there are similar opportunities in coastal geography, though.

  3. Liz says:

    I feel that there’s scope for a book here. Some of the beaches have amazing stories to tell. Although Torremolinos once exhibited the worst excesses of package tourism it was the very elegant place to be seen in the 1930s and now, once again, is a very pleasant place for enjoying the charms of the Mediterranean.

    Then again, I expect that an author somewhere has already had a lot of fun researching such a book.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Quite frankly I’m appalled that this seems to have come down to a tick box and form filling exercise. In my book, proximity to water-parks is usually an indicator that the beach and approach roads will be packed. Paul, I’m definitely agreeing with your comment that most people don’t want a busy beach.

    There is far more to beaches than these criteria suggest and I accept that they are looking at the needs of a typical family.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Yes, we must bear in mind that this is coming from a family travel perspective and that On The Beach caters for the mass market, rather than having a luxury focus. That said, I’m sure there are still families out there (mine for one!) who would appreciate beaches that are not overcrowded, that are clean, have nice sand, have nice places to eat nearby, etc. and all the other variables people might want to consider.

    • Brian says:

      This discussion has opened up a can of worms. We all have our favourite beaches. (And why is it that so many of us want to retire to the seaside?)

      There are so many different types of beach. Some of those long desolate beaches on Norfolk’s wind-blown coast are among my favourites. Then again so is the white-sand Caribbean paradise beach of Crane in Barbados, just a few miles along from the reggae and Banks beer of Accra beach. At different times we have a need for different types of beach.

      Oh and I mustn’t forget the surfing machismo of Bondi.

  5. Lesley Alexander says:

    I know that I’ve travelled a long way from the spirit of the original survey but I think that all Europeans and Americans ought to see the Normandy Landing Beaches at some point in their lives. They are a part of our history.

    Although they are beautiful sandy beaches in their own right there is still an eerie atmosphere to these beaches. You just can not forget how many men gave their lives to free Europe on those beaches in June 1944.

    Then just in land you’ve got the museum’s and memorials to visit.

Leave a reply



Your actual name, not your online persona, website name, company name or keywords, otherwise your comment won't be published





Please do not advertise and make sure your comment adds value, otherwise we regret that it won't be published. Links are not allowed here - if you would like to advertise, please contact us for details.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

Our readers also enjoyed these posts…