It’s that time of year again – the memories of long summer holidays are fading, the fickle British sun is dwindling, winter is coming. With October half term just around the corner, this is the final chance for a sun run before the British chill sets in. Pack the kids into the car, hit the road, and drive to the last of the European sun spots. Here are three of the best, all in countries covered by our European Breakdown Cover.
Holiday in Ile de Re and Ile d’Oleron, France
Île de Ré and Île d’Oléron, France
Take a cue from French families and head to the islands. Île de Ré & Île d’Oléron are two popular holiday islands in the Atlantic, off of France’s western coast. Accessible by bridge and ferry, they offer a lovely sunny alternative to Côte d'Azur. October is a great time to go, as prices are much lower than in the summer. Île d’Oléron is the larger of the two – France’s largest island after Corsica – and is more laidback and rustic than Île de Ré, which has a very upmarket reputation. However, both islands deliver everything for an excellent family holiday: pristine beaches with calm waters, plentiful well-run camping options, over 60 miles of bike paths, delicious fresh seafood, a variety of water sports clubs (surfing, sailing, kitesurfing), horse-riding schools, and quaint villages perfect for exploring. There’s also top-notch restaurants and spas for the adults.
From Île de Ré, you can drive 30 minutes to the mainland city of La Rochelle, whose aquarium makes a great day trip on its own. You can also take the ferry to the tiny Île d'Aix, a neighbouring island with an interesting Napoleonic history and a ban on motorised vehicles, making it the ideal cycling spot.
Holiday in Porto and the Minho region, Portugal
Porto and the Minho region
Often over-lookedby Brits, Northern Portugal has much to offer family travellers. An autumn trip to the region not only gives you warm weather, but also variety, with the metropolitan vibe of Porto and the vast wild landscapes of the Minho outdoors. Once thought of as the dilapidated version of Lisbon, Porto has undergone a dramatic resurgence in the past two decades and is now recognised as a cultural hub. A city full of personality, Porto has enough museums, galleries and restaurants to keep the whole family busy. Porto is also the home of port wine, where the sweet, fortified drink found its name - an added bonus for parents on holiday with their kids.
To the north of Porto lies the Minho region, named after the river that separates it from neighbouring Spain. For families intent on nature exploration, Minho will not disappoint: rivers flowing down stunning mountains, exquisitely preserved medieval villages, enormous outdoor markets, unblemished beaches and archaeological sites, all supported by a well-developed road network. Minho’s coast is known as the Costa Verde or Green Coast, and lives up to its name with white sand beaches backed by verdant dunes. Praia do Cabedelo is one of the best beaches you can find in this region. Head to Central Minho for stately county homes converted into B&Bs, or to Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês, Portugal’s only national park, for dramatic vistas and sightings of rare wildlife.
Holiday in Costa de la Luz, Spain
Costa de la Luz, Spain
For those willing to drive a bit further, the unspoiled beaches and historic towns of Spain’s Costa de la Luz beckon make for fantastic exploration. The area’s name – literally ‘coast of light’ – derives from the constant sunshine. With an average October temperature of around 20°C, and quieter (and cheaper) streets than it’s more famous Andalusian neighbour Costa del Sol, Costa de la Luz makes a wonderful autumn holiday destination. The beaches here are miles in length, unmarred by tacky developments, and best of all, remarkably empty at this time of year. Matalscanas, La Barrosa and Punto Candor are popular with families; El Palmar and El Rompidillo are great for windsurfing.
Nearby cities offer excellent day trip options: Jerez for authentic flamenco shows and cobblestone streets, Medina and Cádiz for ancient white-washed buildings and Vejer for Moorish architecture and beautiful sunsets.
Find information here on European breakdown cover.