Puglia has the longest coastline of any region in Italy and certainly some of the most fantastic beaches, with long stretches of gorgeous white sand and beautifully crystal clear water. To the East of the region is the Adriatic Sea whilst to the South East is the Ionian Sea. The Straits of Otranto and Taranto then sit to the South of Puglia.
Starting in the North, there is the beautiful Gargano National Park. You can certainly argue that the focus within the park is more on the Umbria forest than on the beaches but it has been extended to include almost the whole promontory and now includes some superb white sandy beaches. Certainly, if you like your photography, you’ll get some amazing snaps of the coastline here as well as some impressive panoramas and sunsets. Some of the best beaches in this area include the beaches at Vieste – Marina Piccola and Spaggia del Castello – as well as the beaches at Peschiri and Mattinata. The latter is home to two distinctive rock formations which are widely recognisable from the guide books of the region.
And don’t forget to head off shore here either. The Gargano National Park includes the Tremiti Islands, which are a trio of islands named San Nicola, San Domino and Capraia. The beaches here are stunning with beautiful white sand. All three islands can be reached by boat from the mainland town of Termoli or you can also catch a boat across from some of the smaller towns in the region too. Capraia is the smallest of the 3 islands and so has less in the way of facilities, but is still well worth visiting.
For those that like diving and snorkelling, the seas off these islands is somewhat of a snorkellers and divers paradise. The dive at Punta Secca on the island of Capraia is definitely for the more experienced due to the depths and strength of the current. But for those less experienced, there is still plenty to explore including caves, gorges and sea fans. The island of San Domino has a number of grottoes including Sole, Bue Marino and Viole.
That said, as lovely as the beaches are at Gargano, we personally prefer some of the beaches further South in the region where the waters tend to be more crystal clear.
As you head South down the Eastern coastline of Puglia, the beach at Giovinazzo is pretty characterised by shallow waters with a few rocks scattered in the sea.
The coastline between Bari and Brindisi is then dominated by rocky cliffs however is is broken up by occasional stretches of white sandy beaches, a couple of the more notable and larger areas being those at Polignano a Mare and at Monopoli.
Polignano a Mare sits on top of limestone cliffs above the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic and boasts a wonderful Blue Flag beach just a few minutes walk from the old town centre. The bay has cliffs on either side which are popular with those who like to jump off into the water below. In fact, so popular are its cliffs that it has been the host of the Red Bull Cliff Diving Championships in 2009, 2010 and more recently in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
It’s only 15 minutes from here to the beach at Monopoli which is also well worth a visit and then just ten minutes from here to Capitolo. The town boasts long sandy beaches which are extremely popular with locals and visitors alike. The public beaches are within walking distance of the centre of Capitolo but there is also public transport from the town centre out to the beach or there are plenty of car parks at the beaches themselves. Between the public beaches of Cintola in the North and the Lido Azurro South of Cintola there are some beautiful beaches to explore, whilst the public beach of Duna is a great beach for those that like surfing.
As you continue to head South down the Puglian coastline, visitors will come across the sandy beaches of the Marina di Ostuni and the Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve. The latter is an absolutely stunning spot with several miles of beautiful white sand. The area is so large that, even at the busiest times, you should still easily find a spot on the beach. It’s also a great spot if you want to try your hand at snorkelling. Vivid coral reefs and sea grass provide hours of exploring fun! If you’re lucky, you may also get the chance to spot a flock of flamingos here. In fact, if you’re a keen ornithologist, you’ll probably spot lots of bird species here as it’s a popular spot for many migratory birds.
Much further South, the little town of San Cataldo has some lovely beaches as well as a sea front nature reserve.
From this point onwards, the coast becomes much more dramatic. Don’t miss the clear blue waters and sandy beaches of Torre dell’ Orso or the beautiful beaches of Otranto which are tucked down in the heel of the boot of Italy. The Torre dell’ Orso beach measures approximately 1.5 km in length and is home to the striking rock formation known as the ‘two sisters’, consisting of twin rock stacks standing side by side close to the beach. There are plenty of interesting caves set in the rocks and the beach backs on to a pine forest, making for an idyllic setting. A couple of the beaches worth visiting in Otranto are the Baia dei Turchi, a lovely sandy beach set in a quiet, sheltered cove and the Porto Badisco beach, which in contrast is a pebbly beach.
As you head round the other side of the heel of Italy, there are almost 6 kilometres of wonderful sandy beaches stretching from Marina di Salve, through Marina di Pescoluse and up to Torre Pali. It’s an area often known as the ‘Maldives of Italy’ and it’s a great option for families, characterised as it is by calm, shallow waters. It’s also an area relatively undiscovered by tourists so you’ll find yourself sharing the beach with the locals.
There is then an interruption of more rocky coastline which gives way again to yet more spectacular sand and bright blue seas at Torre Mozza and Marina di Ugento, then on to the Gulf of Gallipoli which is characterised by yet more lovely sandy beaches accessed through woods.
But this isn’t the end of the beaches worth exploring. A few kilometres up the coast from Gallipoli is Rivabella which boasts beaches reminscent of those in the Carribean. From here right up to Taranto, there are long expanses of sandy beach, with those of particular note being the area at San Caterina di Nardo, the sea front at Porto Cesareo and the coastline between Punto Proscuitto and Acqua Dolce. In this area is the Santa Pietro in Bevagna beach at Maruggio. This is usually extremely quiet and it’s not unusual to find you have large swathes of the beach all to yourself. However, some parts of the beach are also serviced so if you’re looking for the ultimate in relaxation, head here to enjoy the peace and comfort of a comfortable sun lounger with drinks served to you.