Hip, hip, holidays!
There’s nothing much more idyllic on holiday than finding a beautiful beach on which to spend the day picnicking, splashing in the sea or simply lazing around taking in the view, while the kids dig themselves a big hole.
All beaches awarded Blue Flag status have to comply with 32 criteria, including such things as water quality, safety, cleanliness, toilets and showers, disabled access, lifeguards, first aid equipment, drinking water, parking, separate zones for swimming, surfing and sailing, rules about domestic animals and indicators where it’s safe to swim. And they're expected to comply with environmental standards.
The Blue Flag label is awarded to roughly 4,423 beaches in 45 countries around the world, including the UK, Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.
Spain has the most Blue Flag beaches, with 579 along its 5,000 miles of coastline, Greece is second with 446, while France has 389, Turkey 446, Italy 342 and Portugal 320. Croatia has 99, Denmark 224. England has 68, Ireland 81 and Wales 45.
Visit the Blue Flag website for the complete table, plus a breakdown of all the countries into regions and a list of every Blue Flag beach in that region.
Blue Flag status is evaluated annually, so tourist areas work hard to maintain standards.
The Algarve is one of the UK’s favourite family holiday destinations, with warm temperatures all year round and an exquisite coastline. The Algarve also ranks top of the Blue Flag beaches scoreboard with 69 of its beaches awarded Blue Flag status. As the coastline is the meeting point of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the beaches offer a unique mix of tranquility, excitement and natural beauty.
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Top Beach for Families – Praia Dona Ana beach on the west coast of the Algarve is on the outskirts of the family-friendly town Lagos. The beach boasts stunning cliffs, golden sands and shallow water, perfect for safe play and relaxation.
Facilities – Water sports, restaurants, health club
Number of Blue Flag Beaches – 69
Majorca, Balaeric Islands
Nine million people visited Majorca in 2011, confirming the Balearic Island’s popularity and universal appeal. Majorca gives families a lively and traditional summer holiday and the island has its fair share of beautiful beaches. The biggest of the Balearic Islands has 554km of coastline and 3 Blue Flag Beaches.
Top Beach for Families – Camp De Mar beach on the south-west coast offers a slice of Balearic tranquility that parents and young children will enjoy. The shallow waters and soft sands are ideal for safe play, while the wide-open bay is a picturesque sun trap. The beach also has a unique restaurant, situated on a small island opposite the shore. Just walk along the bridge for fresh food and chilled drinks.
Facilities – Pedalos, restaurants
Number of Blue Flag beaches (Balaerics) - 47
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Tenerife remains a popular destination for families, with year-round sunshine and a unique volcanic landscape that’s perfect for exploring. The beaches range from rocky outcrops to long golden stretches and include the famous black volcanic sandy coves.
Top Beach for Families – El Camsion beach is 120ms of golden sands and is designed for family fun. The beach is picturesque, but also has modern amenities including changing areas and places to eat. A line of stones act as a breakwater, making the sea perfect for aqua babies and younger children.
Facilities – Promenade of shops, water sports.
Number of Blue Flag Beaches – 5
In 2011, nearly 1.4 million tourists visited Malta, not bad considering the island is only 17 miles long. Malta is popular because of its warm Mediterranean weather, stunning coastline and rich heritage. Although the majority of Malta’s coast is rocky, you can find breathtaking sandy bays on the north coast and on the islands of Gozo and Comino.
Top Beach for Families – St George’s beach is in the vibrant resort of St Julian’s. The sandy cove is close to al fresco restaurants and bars, has excellent facilities and is perfect for swimming and snorkelling in the clear blue sea.
Facilities - water sports, boats, nearby restaurants
Number of Blue Flag Beaches – 2
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a region with its own language, character and history, and the second largest city in Spain after Madrid. The city itself could keep you occupied for weeks but just outside it are sandy beaches, Sitges and the Montserrat mountain range - so be sure to make time for a few day trips during your stay.
Top beach for families - Barceloneta beach, Barcelona – A welcome spot to relax after a day of enjoying the hustle and bustle of busy Barcelona, Barceloneta beach is a long and clean sweeping stretch of golden sand that is a short walk from the famous La Ramblas. Excellent for kids to splash and plenty of places for ice creams and adults refreshements.
Facilities – Restaurants, bars, cafes, pedestrian walkway, disabled access
Number of Blue Flag beaches (Catalonia) - 87
Despite Greece’s faltering economy the ancient country still remains a favourite with tourists. Capital city Athens offers visitors faciniating insight into the country's vivid history, while island resorts such as Kefalonia offer a dream beach holiday location.
Top beach for families - Myrtos beach, Kefalonia - a natural pebble beach of incredible beauty, which makes the bay one of the most visited beaches in Kefalonia. The cliffs surrounding the bay create a natural wind breaker that give families perfect conditions to play in.
Facilities – Beach snack bar, car parking, and sun loungers
Number of Blue Flag beaches (Kefalonia) - 11
Antlaya is on the south-western coast of Turkey and is a fascinating mix of natural beauty and history, perfect for culture-seeking families. The resort has a good mix of rural and commercial beaches for young families, while the local aqua park offers the whole family water-inspired thrills and spills.
Top beach for families - Keykubat Plaji, Antalya – Antalya is home to 190 blue flag beaches. The 3km- long Keykubat Plaji beach is a firm favourite with locals and tourists. The beach is surrounded by mountains that act as natural windbreakers, so the water is calm and the beach serene.
Facilities – Water sports, sun loungers.
Number of Blue Beaches (Antalya) - 190
With the current trend for 'staycationing', Bournemouth is great for domestic breaks, with its mix of seaside charm and modern attractions. Spend relaxing days on the golden beach at Durley Chine or visit the nearby Monkey World for a fun-filled family day out.
Top beach for families - Durley Chine, Bournemouth – Durley Chine is one of the most popular beaches in Bournemouth, hopefully giving families some domestic sunshine! With a wide expanse of golden sands and the Jurassic Coast in the background, it is an exotic destination to enjoy.
Facilities – Traditional huts and deckchairs are available to hire by the day, toilets, kiosks, onsite parking.
Number of Blue Flag beaches in SW England - 27
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the capital of Ontario. Sitting on the north-western shore of Lake Ontario, the modern city offers a mix of exciting city attractions, local culture and natural beauty and is great for fun-seeking families.
Top beach for families - Centre Island Beach, Toronto, Ontario – Part of the Toronto Islands, an area spanning 570 acres, great for families, with a big amusement park called “Centreville” open throughout the summer with attractions such as a vintage carousel and a miniature railway. With a marina and the fantastic beaches, this family-friendly Canadian destination also offers bike and rollerblading trails, picnic areas, a miniature golf course, and even Far Enough Farm - the island's petting zoo!
Facilities - Changing rooms and toilets, bike rental, restaurants, breakwater
Number of Blue Flag beaches in Ontario - 14
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
St Thomas is one of the most picturesque resorts in the Caribbean. The beaches are renowned throughout the world for their postcard beauty - but it’s not all about relaxation. As a former settlement for pirates, there's plenty of adventure and history on offer to families.
Top beach for families - Great Bay (Bluebeard’s Beach), St Thomas, USVI – With 40 major beaches along its sun-drenched coasts, St Thomas deserves its Blue Flag status. There are strands with crystal blue water and swaying coconut trees just to remind you that you're are in paradise. Surrounded by palm-lined walkways, restaurants, bars and luxury accommodation, the beach is accessible to the public through a public access road. Walking distance from Turtle Grove, this truly is a Great Bay.
Facilities - Sun loungers, toilets, disabled access, plus food and drink entertainment.
Number of Blue Flag beaches - 4