Our tipsters pick beach bars for lazy days, fantastic seafood and one last cold beer near the airport before flying home
Winning tip: Better than paradise, Portugal
A short boat ride from the town of Olhão, on the quiet side of the Algarve, is the island of Armona. After a walk along the beach path to the far side of the island, you are greeted by a sign for Camaleão Beach Bar that says “Welcome to Paradise” – but it’s better than that. Shaded seating areas perch in the white sand, along with a chilled jazz/reggae/house soundtrack and stunning views, creating the perfect place to spend a day or three. Great cocktails and Portuguese beers at low prices make it even better. Stagger back across the island to catch the last boat home.
Seafood special, Tynemouth
Riley’s Fish Shack on King Edward’s Bay has become a north-east institution. Visitors without the famous “Geordie shield” should be warned – queues are often long and there’s no indoor seating. Those in the know wrap up warm and grab a hot chocolate from nearby chocolatier Gareth James. The food is worth the wait, though. With a changing specials menu, you might find traditional fish and chips alongside spicy fish tacos or seafood empanadas, all to take away and enjoy picnic-style on the beach.
Urban chic in west Cornwall
The Hoxton Special, a beachside cafe on the coastal path just west of Marazion, serves much more than great coffee in china cups (Marazion is plastic-free). It has fantastic views across to St Michael’s Mount and Penzance, and a blackboard lists daily activities, from kite-surfing and paddleboarding to chill-out yoga, with equipment hire and training from certified instructors available. For the less energetic, pull up any of the random, donated seating options, savour the coffee from Olfactory in Penryn and soak up the rays.
Chilled out in south Devon
Beachhouse on South Milton Sands near Kingsbridge is a shack really. But it’s a shack with excellent local seafood, a fun ambience and delicious cocktails and wine. Interior bench dining is sociable, with small boxes of Trivial Pursuit cards to entertain while you wait for the tastiest, freshest grub. And if you can’t get a table (always book ahead), you can sit outside or take away. Breakfast is also a must try.
Last drink before flying home, Croatia
Once you’ve checked in your bags at Split airport, walk 1km south along a road called Put Divulja (opposite the airport with greenhouses both sides of the road). Follow the road to the right and in a few metres you will come across the delightful Cafe Tsunami on Kastel Stafilic beach. This cafe-bar, raised slightly above the beach, commands superb views across the bay and is a decidedly more relaxed way to wait for your flight. Sit in the bar and sip delicious cocktails or recline on a lounger before taking one last dip in the Adriatic.
Moules on the sand, Normandy, France
La Cale in Blainville-sur-Mer is a shack right on the beach. Wobbly mismatched tables sit in the sand and unusually for France there isn’t much service : you order at the bar, collect your cutlery and even cut your own bread. The menu is simple – moules frites or sausages cooked on an open fire, but the atmosphere is always fantastic, it’s always busy with lots of families and sometimes live music. Some reviews are sniffy about how basic and idiosyncratic it is, but it is my all-time favourite restaurant.
Hippy hangout, Folegandros, Greece
Papalagi Seafood beach bar in Agios Nikolaos bay overlooks gin-clear sea and a beach you can only reach by boat or a sweaty walk (this keeps the beach mellow, with an alternative crowd). Clothes are optional and a few hippies live in tents under the olive trees for the summer. After a morning swim, long lunches with ice-cold white wine (dubious quality – but it’s cold) and fresh seafood followed by a game of cards provide the best lazy afternoons. It’s all served by a couple of grizzled locals living life in the slow lane. If I ever get the balls to drop out of the rat race, this is where I’m heading.
On the rocks, Mallorca
Bar Sa Punteta sits right on the craggy rocks by a hidden beach, an impossibly beautiful 40-minute meander (or five-minute drive) through ancient terraced farmland from the unspoiled Tramuntana mountain village of Estellencs in Mallorca. Every twist and turn of the road brings a new view – of sea, cliffs, forest, almond groves or donkeys – and by the time you’ve reached the rustic beach bar, sipped a cold beer under the bamboo shades and sat watching local kids jumping off the rocks into the crystal-clear sea, it’s all but impossible to leave.
Down the strand, the Netherlands
Ten minutes’ drive from Hook of Holland ferryport, Strandtent de Pit in s-Gravenzande was the perfect place to spend the last moments of our summer holiday, drinking, eating and watching the sun set over the North Sea. It serves fantastic sourdough pizzas, antipasti, wines and local beers – and all at very decent prices, hooray! Our one-year-old learned here that sand will cushion a fall, toppling off a bench as she clambered around playing with a little Dutch girl as we chatted to the parents over a few drinks. As seems to be the Dutch way, it pairs laid-back style with friendly, welcoming vibes.
Fjord fiesta, Norway
Stokkøya Bar is an absolute gem, on a stretch of beautiful white sandy beach on Stokkøya island three to four hours’ drive north of Trondheim. Go at midsummer, when the sun doesn’t set, and you can watch the rosy night sky reflected in the fjord all night from the dunes. The food is based on a zero-miles principle and is foraged from the area where at all possible. It also hosts pop-up concerts on weekend evenings throughout the summer months.
• stokkoy.noKate Connell