1. Awesome days in Albufeira

Albufeira—summer sun destinations

Fabulous Blue Flag beaches with golden sand and cliffs that glow a vivid orange at sunset make this modern resort one of the most sought after on the child-friendly Algarve. Oura is the best beach in Albufeira itself, but other great options within easy reach are São Rafael, Galé, and Olhos d’Agua in its charming fishing village. Many have watersports for the active. Good-value attractions include ZooMarine oceanographic theme park, Aqualand waterpark, and a treetop course with zip-lining. Alternatively, hop aboard a boat to spot dolphins, whales, and other local sea life and discover caves, grottoes, and hidden coves.

2. All the magic of Menorca

Menorca—summer sun destinations

With a laid-back charm and more beaches than fellow Balearic islands Ibiza and Mallorca combined, Menorca also has an array of low-key, wallet-friendly attractions. Top of the list is S’Albufera des Grau, a coastal reserve with dunes, pine woods, a lagoon, Roman ruins, and a birdlife centre. Spend other days out roaming the prehistoric settlement of Torre d’en Galmés, splashing about at Los Delfines AquaPark, and marvelling at Andalusian horse shows, and there’s inexpensive bike rental, sailing/motorboat hire, and pony trekking. Sample crespell and amargo pastries, caldereta de langosta (lobster stew), and Mahón cheese along the way.

3. Picture-perfect Porto-Vecchio

Porto Vecchio—summer sun destinations

Looking for all the world like something out of the Caribbean, the beaches of fine white sand that lie in and around this walled harbour town on Corsica’s east coast are its main draw—although you’ll also be won over by its narrow streets lined by cafes and seafood restaurants. Despite Porto-Vecchio’s reputation as the “St Tropez of Corsica”, low-cost things to see and do abound. Stroll the old bastions, swim in a natural canyon at the Aiguilles de Bavella, and hike in the surrounding Alta Rocca mountains. This is also a great spot for water sports, including scuba diving and jet-skiing.

4. Simple pleasures in Sicily

Sicily—summer sun destinations

A sleepy fishing town out of season, historic Cefalù wins hearts with its long sandy beach, gorgeous sunsets, picturesque harbour, and quaint historic centre mixing Norman, Byzantine, Arab, Spanish, and Italian architecture, including a 12th-century cathedral with splendid mosaics. When you’re not relaxing on the beach, climb the Rocca, a headland where you’ll find an ancient megalith reinvented as a classic Greek temple, as well as old battlements and glorious views. Other adventures are walking the rocky path along the sea-facing walls and taking a fast-ferry excursion to the volcanic Aeolian Islands.

5. Carefree in Corfu

Corfu—summer sun destinations

This Ionian island has beaches and activities for all comers. Agios Gordios, Glyfada, and Pelekas are among the best if you like things simple. For thrills, try Paleokastritsa with its water skiing, banana-boat rides, and diving, or head to Aqualand waterpark. If you pine for culture, Corfu Town has a good archaeology museum and a Venetian fortress as well as being the starting point for glass-bottomed boat rides. Alternatively, hire a motorboat and explore at your own pace. Inland, olive groves, cypresses, and fig trees tempt you to walk or horse-ride, while a hike up Mount Pantokrator rewards you with sublime views.

6. Boho beach life in Brighton

Brighton—summer sun destinations

Dubbed “London by the Sea” for its proximity to the British capital, this family- and gay-friendly city appeals to anyone who loves the traditional English seaside. Along with a pebbly beach, its attractions embrace a pier with old-school funfair rides, a seafront electric railway, a beach sports venue including volleyball and soccer, and several museums (one dedicated to toys and models, one on natural history). The Royal Pavilion—an Oriental-inspired seaside palace built for George IV—shouldn’t be missed, and the shopping is outstanding, especially for lovers of the quirky, the retro, and the artisanal.

7. Leisurely by Lake Constance

Lake Constance—summer sun destinations

For an altogether different kind of beach holiday, head to the northern shore of this lake known locally as the Bodensee. Here at the former port city of Friedrichshafen, the pebbly shoreline comes with Alps views plus a promenade and a park dotted with hip cafes with terraces perfect for refuelling on coffee, homemade ice cream, or cocktails. Rental bikes are a good, cheap way to take in the scenery too. Riding an airship over the lake will blow your holiday budget—less costly are tours of the Zeppelin Museum (the famous airships were made here) and day trips to Neuschwanstein Castle, inspiration for Disney’s Magic Kingdom.