Date of visit: June 2015
Sardinia is a large Italian island in the Mediterranean located to the south of French owned Corsica and to the west of Italy. Sardinia is surrounded by warm and incredibly clear sea which is fringed with stunning white sandy beaches.
We had a week in this gorgeous island which is just a couple of hours by plane from the UK. There are three main airports in Sardinia; Cagliari in the south, Olbia in the north east and Alghero in the north west. Together with our three daughters (Annabelle, Charlotte and Zoe) we flew into Olbia from where we rented a car for the week and drove to our two apartments in Orosei on the east coast.
Driving in Sardinia was mostly a real pleasure; firstly because outside of the main towns and cities there was little traffic; secondly, the roads are well maintained and thirdly the scenery is stunning. I say ‘mostly’ a pleasure… upon arrival the signposts coming out of the airport were somewhat confusing and with the added complication of a road block it did take a while before we were on our way (in the dark) in search of Orosei and the apartments!
Below, and in no particular order, are some of the highlights we found as we explored the east coast of Sardinia…
Hire a speed boat
One of the best days of the trip was the day we hired a speedboat and spent the day exploring the coves and cliffs of the Golfo di Orosei, a sweeping, beautiful yet remote coastal stretch of Sardinia.
Well, actually the ‘speedboat’ was a dinghy with a motor… After some careful instructions about when and how to use the motor; how to navigate into the coves; how to use the anchor and where we were/were not allowed to go, we set off with Captain Chris at the wheel!
We drove the boat for about an hour, exhilarated as we zipped through the sparkling sea and past craggy coves and stretches of sandy beach.
Our plan was to drive to the end of our permitted stretch of coast and stop at different places on our way back. As with any tourist activity we were not the only ones so there were other small dinghies and the odd tour boat all vying for space to anchor at the beaches.
Above is the imposing rock at Cala Goloritze, which was the furthest point we were allowed to take the boat. We turned around and drove more slowly back along the coast looking for somewhere to stop.
Where there was no buoys you were allowed to drive the boat to the beach, ensuring you switch off the engine and use oars within 50 meters of the beach and you must lift the engine out of the water so as not to damage it.
Where a beach or cove was marked out with buoys you had to drive up a marked channel, drop your passengers off, drive back and anchor the boat 200 meters from the shore.
We experienced both types of beach arrival… driving up to the beach was easy enough. We disembarked from the boat and had a snack on the beach where thankfully a tour boat full of passengers was just leaving which cleared the beach from people. However after the snack, trying to row ourselves back out to sea, against the waves and current was a different matter…
We made it eventually and continued driving the boat for a short distance until we stopped at our next cove. This time we had to drop the girls off at the beach, take the dinghy to the anchor point, drop the anchor ensuring (and praying) the anchor held properly and swim the 2oo meters back to the beach! Oh, and all in reverse an hour or so later in order to leave the beach…
All of the beaches along this stretch of the coast are remote and only accessible by boat or a lengthy coastal trek. A couple of them had restaurants where we were able to have a refreshing drink. At the beach above, the restaurant is located a couple of hundred meters back from the sea.
Overall we had a brilliant day and returned the dinghy safely back to the rental company in Cala Gonone. The company was Cielo Mar who gave us clear instructions, a list of 18 safety points and provided insurance for the boat.
Visit the Grotta del Blue Marino
On a separate day we took the short boat trip (not us driving this time) from Cala Gonone to visit the Grotta del Blue Marino, where you can walk through the first 1 km of the 17 km cave! The vastness of just this section of the cave was quite spectacular but unfortunately we were only allowed to take photos at the entrance.
Oasis Bidderosa nature reserve
North of Orosei is Oasis Bidderosa a gorgeous nature reserve consisting of 5 beaches. You need to book in advance (via your accommodation) and you then drive for 6 km through the reserve whilst choosing which beach to start with. We began with beach no. 5 which was uncrowded and fairly remote. We then made our way to each of the other beaches each time parking nearby and walking the short distance to the sea. All of the beaches are clean and the sea is crystal clear. There are food and drink kiosks available near a couple of the beaches and you can spend your day swimming and trekking through the nature reserve.
Serra Orrios are the remains of a nuraghic village which was occupied between 1500 and 250 BC. This is quite a large and interesting site and contains around 70 circular shaped stones which were previously huts. For only 5 Euros each this is worth visiting.
Just north of a town called Dorgali we visited the Grotta di Ispinigoli, a cave containing the world’s second tallest stalagmite which is 40 m high. We were not allowed to take any photographs however above is the view of Sardinian landscape from the cafe outside of the caves!
A short drive north from Orosei was Cala Ginepro a cute little cove with a couple of beach bars. We snorkelled near the rocks and while we saw some fish there wasn’t a huge number.
We based ourselves for the entire week in Orosei a small town with a modest number of hotels, apartments and restaurants. An un-commercialised town, most of the restaurants are Italian which gives a real authentic feel. The prices are reasonable too… we had coffee and a croissant each morning for a couple of Euros and an evening meal was around 10 Euros per person.
Olbia is the gateway to the ‘Costa Smeralda’ the classy hotspot hang-out for the rich and famous. As a result, prices are much higher in this part of Sardinia. We had a couple of hours in Olbia on our last day, before we had to take the car back to the airport.
Making it happen…
Our return EasyJet flights from Luton to Olbia were £135 each and our accommodation at the Residence Marina Palace was 273 Euros for a 3 bed studio and 214 Euros for a 2 bed studio. A car is essential for this type of trip and the Group 6 car we hired from Avis for the 5 of us was around £300. So the total cost per person: £278.
All in all we loved our week in Sardinia and would happily consider a month long road trip, driving all around the island in the future. Sardinia also has a number of trekking opportunities, so some treks would be good too…