Nothing says summer like the sea, so we’ve hauled in a great selection of marine and aquatic attractions to showcase the power, beauty and fragility of our planet’s greatest oceans.
Dolphin spotting in the Med
Enjoy a day at sea and watch dolphins in their natural habitat thanks to Atlantide’s fantastic excursions. A truly memorable experience for parents and children alike, head for Cap Sicié in the early morning and spend the day sailing around the Med trying to spot dolphins, fin whales and sperm wales. Depending on weather conditions, the captain may even let you take a dip in the open sea on your way back to the port.
Nearest parc: La Presqu’Île
Be a sea explorer at Oceanopolis
Heading to Brittany? Make time for the excellent Oceanopolis sea life centre. With 1,000 different species presented in 55 separate aquariums, you’ll effortlessly while half a day away here. Highlights include a shark tank and tropical greenhouse, with plenty of opportunities for hands-on experiences. Arrive early so you can stroll around the terrific beaches and marinas nearby.
Nearest parc: Domaine de Ker Ys
Snorkel off the Medes Islands
If you’ve never snorkelled, believe us, it’s addictive! Trying it for the first time just off the Medes Islands, on Spain’s Costa Brava coast, promises plenty of opportunities to get a closer look at what lies beneath. This protected reserve means the fish and plants remain undisturbed, and blissfully free of jet-skis and pleasure crafts. There are plenty of chances to see colourful schools of fish and even Barracudas, making it one of the best spots on this craggy coastline. Boat trips leave from a number of resorts, and take 20 minutes.
Nearest parc: Castell Montgri
Explore Elba’s Marine Park
The seas around the delightful Tuscan island of Elba are rich in marine life – rare sunfish and red coral included (although you’ll be lucky to spot the former!) You can snorkel for a peek into this underwater world, or really get up close and personal on a diving trip. The dive sites are located mainly on the northern cost of the island, where rocks and wrecks harbour all manner of colourful and curious (and beautiful) creatures. This, the largest marine park in Europe, is a real real treasure trove of aquatic all-stars. Never dived? No problem, courses will have you up to speed in a week.
Nearest parc: Ville Degli Ulivi
The other side of Barcelona
Enjoy a day trip to the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia to see the fantastic Aquarium Barcelona. With its 80-metre long transparent tunnel, you can really get to experience the realm of the underwater kingdom (without getting wet, or needing any breathing apparatus) here you’ll come face to face with the aquarium’s 11,000 animals for a privileged peek into their world. Sleepovers for children are also available.
Nearest parc: El Garrofer
Enter the mouth of hell!
Take a short hike along the Portuguese coast in Cascais for stunning views of the sea, including ‘Boca de Inferno’ (Hell’s Mouth), a dramatic blow-hole in the cliff face created by natural erosion. Head here at high tide for a fiery display of churning surf, spray and mist so fine it looks like the sea itself is boiling (hence it being likened to the gates of hell!) End the day with a trip to one of the gorgeous seafood restaurants located nearby.
The natural wonders of Scandola
For a day on the water and a chance to see dolphins in the wild, a trip to the nature reserve of Scandola is a must. Go on a boat tour to see the stunning sights of the Corsican coast and observe this island’s impressive array of bird-and-sea life. You will also be offered the chance to snorkel halfway through your sea trip- which, again, we’d highly recommend.
Nearest parc: Marina d’Erba Rossa
Learn to sail in Brittany
Just across the Channel, Brittany is a great place to learn to sail – in fact, almost every seaside town in the region has its own sailing school. Spend the day aboard the Krog E Barz, a replica of a 1910 lobster-fishing boat based at Port-Navalo near Vannes. You will have the opportunity to hoist the mainsail and even take the helm.
Nearest parc: Le Mane Guernehue
Explore a life on the ocean wave in Amsterdam
The Dutch have always had a close affinity with all things aquatic. The excellent National Maritime Museum explores this, with exhibitions on the history of the whale – from monster to protected species, and a fascinating look at the Golden Age of high seas exploration, when Dutch adventurers remapped our knowledge of the deep.
Nearest parc: Koningshof
Dive down to the Aquarium La Rochelle
The fun starts as you descend in a steampunk submarine to the bottom of the ocean floor (a virtual one at least). Then you’re off, on an adventure into the world’s greatest oceans in this brilliantly theatrical attraction. En route you’ll encounter the phosphorescent wonders in the Galerie des Lumières, hear the pounding of the Atlantic swell, and swim through the oceans and seas of the world learning about all its diverse lifeforms as you go. Brilliant for kids.
Nearest parc: Sequoia Parc
Surf and song in Biarritz
Feel the power of the Atlantic at Biarritz – considered one of the most reliable and exhilarating surfing spots in Europe. There are surf schools for novices and intermediates alike along each of the town’s six beaches. Then, to get a greater understanding of this town’s relationship with surf and sea, a visit to the Maritime Museum is a must. Here, you’ll learn of the town’s whaling history, sitting in an acoustic chair, watching a presentation on the mysterious and beautiful songs of the whale.
Nearest parc: Le Ruisseau