A sailing holiday in Sardinia is the ideal way to explore one of the world’s most beautiful seas. Some of the region’s characteristics can be found across the whole island: crystal clear water, spectacular beaches, and the scent of the Mediterranean scrub which floats out to sea on the breeze. However, Sardinia is a large island, offering a variety of different landscapes and features on its northern and southern coasts.
Table of Contents
Northern Sardinia by boat: the beaches we (and the jet set) love the most
The beauty of the islands scattered along the coast have made northern Sardinia a must-see destination. Bays carved out among the granite cliffs alternate with glamorous villages that are a magnet for celebrities, and little harbours bursting with life, boutiques and music, for fun summer nights. For sailors, this area is ideal: no matter which way the wind is blowing, you’re never far from a sheltered bay where you can drop anchor.
Famous the world over for its turquoise waters, its ports visited by VIP super yachts, and its seafront villas: explore it by boat and you can decide when to plunge into the glamorous nightlife of Porto Cervo o Porto Rotondo and when to take refuge in a bay sheltered from the wind and the holidaymakers, where you can enjoy the azure sea and rocky promontories in total peace and quiet. Along your route, between the Costa Smeralda’s most famous harbours you’ll come across dozens of beaches, where the golden sand contrasts with the green myrtle and juniper bushes, bent by the mistral wind.
Don’t miss: Capriccioli beach for a morning dive before it fills up with tourists: revel in the clear, shallow water and the scent of the nearby pine forest.
Maddalena Archipelago (and Bonifacio)
Made up of dozens of islets and cliffs, the Maddalena archipelago has a landscape to rival that of the Caribbean. White beaches, easily accessible bays and sheltered anchorages makes this a yachting paradise. The area is ideal for a sailing holiday because it will keep keen sailors happy (as the mistral blows constantly) along with those who like snorkel at a different beach every day. People who sail in the area often also choose to cruise over to southern Corsica to visit the beach at Rondinara, or even as far as the striking clifftop town of Bonifacio.
Don’t miss: Cala Coticcio, a natural swimming pool on the north-eastern side of Caprera, nicknamed ‘Tahiti’ for its stunning turquoise water and pink, wind-smoothed rocks.
From Palau to Alghero
Another wonderful route for exploring northern Sardinia by boat, when the mistral allows, is the itinerary from Palau to Alghero. To sail back up the Strait of Boniface and reach the island of Asinara, you’ll need to get permission from the wind; but once you’ve rounded Capo Falcone, you can start sailing along the coast, as far as the Porto Conte Regional Natural Park. Beneath the majestic cliff at Capo Caccia, the seabed is teeming with life, for this is a protected marine reserve. Last but not least is Alghero, with its harbour nestled between the old city walls, and plenty of restaurants to try, along the narrow streets of the centre.
Don’t miss: a night at anchor off La Pelosa, beneath the watchful gaze of the Spanish towers on its coast, gently rocked by the same waters navigated by pirates and merchants centuries ago.
Southern Sardinia by boat: the island’s wild side
Southern Sardinia offers wilder scenery and less crowded beaches. The sea’s palette of blue is just as enchanting, while the coastline is lush and green. You might drop anchor in a silent bay even at the height of the tourist season, and it’s not uncommon to come across herds of cows, placidly wandering as far as the beaches. The ancient coastal towers are testament to the area’s past under Spanish rule, and stand high on the clifftop forts.
Carloforte and the south-western coast
Beneath its towering cliffs, the island of San Pietro reveals inlets bathed by transparent water, full of sealife. To take a break from sailing, visit beautiful Carloforte, with its harbour well-sheltered from the dominant winds: the Mistral, Libeccio and Scirocco. You can’t sail past here without stepping ashore to wander among its pastel-hued houses and stalls selling Sardinian sheep’s cheese, fresh tuna or cork handicrafts. A few miles away is the island of Sant’Antioco, with stunning beaches to the south of the island (sheltered from the mistral) and a delightful seaside village with colourful houses, restaurants and craft shops.
Don’t miss: the gorgeous bay of La Conca with its two seastacks, known as Le Colonne (the columns), a rocky seabed and deep water – jump in!
From Porto Pino to Cagliari
This route is ideal for those in search of peace and relaxation. It’s perfect for a chilled-out vacation with plenty of nights at anchor and morning swims. Dream beaches, such as Porto Pino with its white sand dunes, Porto Zafferano, a military zone with cows that wander along the beach as the day draws to a close, and Porto Scudo with its tower on the headland.
Then comes Capo Malfatano which offers postcard-perfect bays, dominated by a tower, Torre Spagnola. Hike up to the tower and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the whole of the south coast. Not far from here is Tuerredda, the beach that has become the iconic image of this area: more than half a kilometre of powdery sand to rival the Caribbean’s finest.
This stretch of coastline offers some interesting on-shore activities, from historic sites to natural parks where pink flamingos nest.
We continue towards the beach of Chia and the bay of Pula, as far as Cagliari, the region’s hub, a seaside city that is rich in history and traditions, to discover as you stroll in the narrow streets of its old town.
Don’t miss: the long beach of Su Giudeu, surrounded by dunes dotted with juniper bushes, and the islet of Su Giudeu, which can be reached by swimming or, at low tide, on foot; visiting the Nora archaeological area means walking among the remains of an ancient city (first Phoenician, then Carthaginian, and finally Roman), set against a beautiful seascape backdrop.
No one itinerary is better than the other; much will depend on the season and on your own personal idea of a holiday. Do you like a bit of nightlife and partying, or do you have your heart set on complete calm, to get away from it all? Is it your first time in Sardinia, or have you already seen the main sights and are looking to venture off the beaten track? If you need any advice, drop us a line. We’ll find the right route, and the right boat, for your next vacation in Sardinia.