James Day examines some of the best beaches and coastline attractions for groups.
For over 20 years, Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean have been welcoming groups of every size. Sandals offers 15 properties on six islands. The resorts are the perfect fit for meetings, incentive programmes, executive retreats and destination weddings, and the company offers discounts on group travel to its resorts in Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Bahamas, Grenada and Barbados.
Sandals Resorts offer the ‘Luxury Included’ holiday experience, with more quality inclusions than any other resort in the world. With its all-inclusive group holidays to the Caribbean, guests will enjoy the impressive services and amenities found at a five-star luxury resort. Groups booking between five to nine rooms receive the following concessions: a complimentary upgrade for a VIP. Groups of 10 or more rooms receive the following concessions:
● One complimentary upgrade for every 25 rooms paid; ● One complimentary room for every 19 rooms paid – 20th room free; ● Private group check–in (based on majority of the group arriving at the same time); ● Complimentary hospitality desk with in–house phone extension, easel, flipchart and markers; ● Complimentary use of meeting facilities and basic A/V equipment: microphone, podium, LCD projector and screen; ● One complimentary cocktail reception with hot and cold hors d‘oeuvres and open bar (one hour) ● One complimentary group dinner for two hours; and ● Complimentary coffee break/s per day during scheduled meetings.
Wells-next-the-sea is about a mile or so away from the beach, but groups can hop onto the miniature steam train, which takes them from the town to the coast. The beautiful sandy beach, bordered by a pine forest and featuring sand dunes and colourful beach huts, stretches for miles towards Holkham and was famously featured in the film Shakespeare in Love.
The wide, flat beach is ideal for collecting shells. Guests can spot oyster catchers and ringed plovers who nest on the beach, along with some common and little terns. With its salt marshes, sand dunes and pines, Wells attracts a rich variety of bird life throughout the year. Nestled between the famous bird reserves of Titchwell and Cley, it’s a haven for birdwatchers. The pine woods can be accessed via the Wells beach car park, or directly from the beach via wooden steps. The mature pines were planted over a hundred years ago and have been joined by other trees such as the silver birch and sycamore. The woods are home to wild flowers, rare birds and grey squirrels.
Another good option for coach groups, as long as a bit of a walk isn’t a problem, is to park at Holkham, where pre-booked groups of 20 or more receive a 10% discount of entry to the nearby Hall, Bygones Museum and Walled Gardens, as well as free admission for the GTO and coach driver and a refreshment voucher for the driver. Tucked behind the dunes, near the Pinewoods caravan site, is Abraham’s Bosom, an outdoor leisure area by the side of a natural five-acre boating lake, where guests can hire canoes and rowing boats.
Burriana beach, or Playa Burriana, is a large, sandy beach situated at the eastern end of Narja and is the town’s premier bathing location, ideal to fill a full day. Playa Burriana has, until 2014, been a regular recipient of the prestigious ‘Blue Flag’ of excellence, awarded by the European Union, and the ‘Q for Quality’ flag issued by the Spanish authorities. In 2014, no beaches in Nerja were eligible for consideration for the ‘Blue Flag’ due to the lack of a water treatment plant.
It is a modern area, almost a separate village or resort in many ways, with just about every conceivable facility available to the thousands of visitors, both Spanish and foreign, who flock there every year. The stretch of beach is lined with a number of bars, cafes and restaurants, and if guests go on the right day, they can enjoy paella cooked on the beach in a giant paella pan.
The main vehicular access to Burriana beach is via calle Filipinas, a long, steep hill leading down from Avenida de Pescia and known locally as ‘Cardiac Hill’. Thrill seekers can also enjoy banana boating, although it might be a good idea to check whether there are jellyfish about first.
Coral Bay, on Cyprus’ southeast coast, was a bit of a latecomer to tourism on the island. There are plenty of rustic tavernas and olive groves in the area. The resort has two beaches and plenty of bars and restaurants – not to mention the town Paphos, which is a short trip away, so groups won’t feel isolated. Coral Bay has 600 metres of golden, Blue Flag-winning sand. The main beach is pale and fringed by limestone cliffs, and has a couple of bars and tavernas around its edge. There’s also windsurfing, catamaran trips and dive excursions available. A short walk away, in its own little bay, is the calm Corallia Beach. With shallow water, it’s perfect for youngsters.
Rhossili Bay is the first beach to be awarded Britain’s Best Beach by TripAdvisors Travellers’ Choice two years running. It's the third best beach in Europe and ninth best in the world, with three miles of sandy shore encompassing one of Gower’s most famous landmarks, Worms Head. Watersports, in particular surfing, benefit from the Atlantic swell, whilst sand-castle builders benefit from its fine golden sand. The views are incomparable and can be enjoyed from one of the many walking routes. Groups may even see some basking seals or dolphins playing in the surf.
Rhossili Bay is accessed via steps from the small village of Rhossili, although the original route has suffered from erosion from winter storms and an alternative route is signposted. It is a fair way down, and unfortunately there is no access for wheelchairs. Parking, public transport and refreshments are all located roughly 400m from the bay itself.
Located to the southwest of the Greek island of Crete, Elafonisi has become a very popular destination for day trippers. Its main attraction is the unique feeling of being in a South Seas lagoon, whilst enjoying a holiday in the Mediterranean. Although the popularity of Elafonisi has removed some of its wild beauty, with sun beds now tightly packed along the beach and hundreds of people present, it is still possible to get a taste of the wilderness by wading across the lagoon to the island (a protected nature reserve where no sun beds are allowed). The location is accessible by a small dirt road, which means it isn’t suitable for larger vehicles and is best for small groups.
This beach takes its name from the fascinating gouged red cliffs that form a backdrop to the endless stretch of sand. As the cliffs are not very tall, it makes access convenient, while acting as a suitable barrier to any winds from the north during the 'out-of-season'. This beach is to be found west of Vilamoura before reaching Olhos de Água. The golden sand of the beach stretches for five miles. Pleasant sea breezes will refresh guests, cooling the heat of the Algarve. The wind is also great for windsurfing, one of the most popular sports in the area, and many other activities, such as water scooters, banana boats and water skiing.
Iztuzu beach is a 2.7 mile arc of golden sand stretching from the base of a pine-clad mountain to a river delta, with not a single house, shop or hotel in sight. The tourist facilities at either end of the beach are sympathetically designed to minimize environmental impact. The cafes, cabins, sunbeds (which are nearing their permitted maximum of 850) and boardwalks are made of wood, and the roofs from reeds. Brackish water is used for the showers, toilets and cafés, and the waste water is removed daily. There are plenty of litter bins, with separate containers for recycling waste at the delta end. The Belediye, (Municipality) which manages the facilities, uses the revenue from the sunbeds, beach entry fees and cafes to clean the shore daily. There’s a co-operatively run dolmus (minibus) service which ferries groups of people to the beach.
For a different take on the beach, why not take a tour of Normandy in northern France?
Five beaches in Normandy were used as landing sites during D-Day, which recently passed its 70th anniversary. There are several museums, memorials and old wartime fortifications which interested groups can visit to learn more about the events of June 6, 1944. One such example is the Overlord Museum near Omaha beach, the bloodiest of the five landing sites.
This new museum is the result of over 40 years, compiling a collection of over 10,000 pieces found mostly on Normandy soil to retrace the history of the Normandy Invasion to the liberation of Paris. From soldiers’ belongings to the period’s biggest tanks weighing up to 50 tons, the six armies based in occupied France appear here in full-scale reconstructed scenes using vehicles, tanks and cannons. Adult groups can enjoy reduced entry rates, at €4.70 per person.