A Taste of Sardinia - The Beauty of the Archipelago
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
If you’ve seen photos of The Maddalena Archipelago - a group of islands between Corsica and north-eastern Sardinia that form a geomarine national park known as La Maddalena - I hope you’ll get me when I say, I needed to go and see this gorgeous region of Italy for myself. So, on a recent trip there, although limited by time, I went down to Sardinia for my first taste of the island...and left with an assurance that I’ll definitely be going back.
Although a popular tourist destination, Sardinia’s pockets of tourist attractions are so spread out across the island that even though I was there in peak summer months, it felt less crowded than I expected having visited areas like Capri and other towns along the Amalfi Coast.
The photos from my day tour in The Maddalena have no photo editing filters on them - that is truly the colour of the water!
Sardinia has multiple airports so it is important to decide which area you plan to stay in first and pick the right airport accordingly. We chose to fly in to Olbia airport from Milan (Easy jet offered a direct flight) because it was not too far from Porto Cervo where we would be staying and because we had been struggling to find direct flights in and out of Sardinia due to our coming in from Croatia and flying out to Malta.
Easyjet and Alitalia would be the two main airlines I would recommend checking for flights in and out of Olbia. I had a very unfortunate experience with lost luggage and terrible customer service with Volotea and though they fly to Olbia, based on my personal experience, I could not recommend them.
Transport Around the Island
We chose to rent a car to ensure that we could easily access any of the beaches, tours or other areas of the island we wanted to see. Whilst we did underestimate the size of the island in terms of how much we may want to just ‘pop by a different beach’ to explore, we did find it useful still to have a car. You can rent cars at the airport and drive from there directly.
We were keeping our budget quite tight so wanted to find something that was really nice and gave us that relaxing feel, without breaking the bank. We were very lucky to find Hotel Balocco on Hotels.com which met our budgetary needs and had great facilities, particularly a lovely pool area, to ensure that we could stay relaxed throughout. The hotel is off the main road making it very easy to access via car, but then rooms are well distanced from the road so noise is no issue.
Great poolside fresh peach bellini - heaven!
The pool was wonderful and never too crowded. As a whole the hotel was so well managed that at no point did anything feel busy or full - it felt personal and friendly throughout. Accommodation in Sardinia can get really pricey and so knowing that ours cost so much less, I expected us to sacrifice something but we were so pleasantly surprised! The hotel had onsite parking as well, which again, just made things easy. If you’re looking for a middle of the budget option, this hotel is a wonderful option!
Things To Do
Whilst most of your time will be spent on one of the many glorious beaches or by a stunning pool, the real highlight, or drawcard even for many, is the Maddalena Archipelago and our day spent on a boat exploring the beauty of this national park was an absolute dream.
Day at the Beach
We went out for the day with Kevin from Sardinia Island Tours. I cannot recommend this company enough. In a sea (that pun wasn’t intended but I’m riding it all the same) of competition from other boat tours in the national park, we were absolutely stoked to find Kevin’s company and had a truly glorious day.
With Kevin from Sardinia Island Tours enjoying every spot of this beautiful water
Kevin is extremely knowledgeable about the region having dedicated many years to learning its history and all about marine life. The son of a US military man stationed to this area, Kevin’s knowledge extends beyond just the basics but also in the militaristic history and secrets of the area he learnt from his own father, that he shares so proudly now with those on his boat. There are opportunities throughout the day to swim and snorkel, Kevin brings snacks and drinks for you to enjoy and quickly, the group on the boat (if you’re anything like our group) forms one big circle for the day as though you were travelling with a group of your buddies. The atmosphere was great and was outdone only be the breathtaking scenery.
I would absolutely recommend Sardinia Island Tours if you’re in the area and are looking for a local’s touch and real authenticity to your time on the water.
Where to Eat
I’ll admit, we were feeling rather lazy during our time on the Island and, battling an injury, were slightly prohibited in how far we could go for dinners, etc. Breakfast was served by our hotel in the beautiful ‘Anna’s Restaurant’ next to the pool and with a lovely view out the panoramic windows. Lunch was generally a case of whatever we were right next to in an effort not to leave the pool or beach or boat...whatever body of water we were next to really. So that left dinner. We ended up eating in 2 places for 2 nights each as we thoroughly enjoyed both and wanted to try more of the menu.
The View from Anna's at Sunset
First off was the restaurant in our hotel. I find it rare to recommend a hotel restaurant but Anna’s really had lovely food and more than anything, divine waitstaff. The first night we went we were the only people in the restaurant for the first 1.5 hours we were there and then things got busy. In that time we really befriended the staff and got chatting so that we had a great repertoire and were all happy to continue our conversation the next morning at breakfast. The food was very nice and well presented on both of our visits and both morning and night, we were impressed by the desserts and, let’s be honest, that is always important!
We loved a restaurant not far from the hotel (walking distance) called Retro Risto Cafe as well which was recommended by locals and definitely had a more Sardinian clientele - perfect! The food was super generous in its portions (my appetiser/entree portion of muscles must have had at least 2 dozen muscles in the pot!), reasonable in cost and had a lively, local and all-round enjoyable ambiance. Book ahead for a guaranteed table.
You need time if you want to explore Sardinia as a whole but even this small taste was a great way to satisfy an initial desire and inspire a myriad of future travel plans! I’ll definitely be back!