Original Post August 5, 2021 | Updated August 5, 2023
Sardinia, Italy. I had never heard of this island until I came upon an Instagram post showcasing one of its lovely aquamarine, turquoise beaches and wondered what other treasures this Italian island held. Upon my research, I knew I had to go there. With the spouse away for a long work trip for months on end, and a deep longing for family beach adventures upon his return, I immediately started planning the perfect itinerary for our road trip through parts of Sardinia. Side story, amid my husband’s return from his long work adventure in 2020 and the start of our planning process for this trip, we got hit with the pandemic lockdown. Sadly, that trip was put on hold until 2021, when we finally made that island getaway a dream come true. Here is our 7-day family road trip itinerary through Northern and Eastern Sardinia.
Tidbits About Sardinia
The beautiful island of Sardinia is the second-largest island in Italy. Yes, you read that right; Sardinia (aka Sardegna in Italian) is an Italian island located west of Italy, in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, and south of the French island of Corsica. Sardinia boasts an 1850 km long coastline of beautiful beaches and mountainous land with high and steep rock formations. The island has a relaxed way of life and is also known to have the highest rate of Centenarians in the world, making it the first Blue Zone region identified. I’ll have another blog post on that here. It’s part of the reason I wanted to visit Sardinia in the first place, besides the beautiful, tantalizing turquoise beach waters the island holds.
7-day Roadtrip Itinerary Overview
A week isn’t enough to fully immerse yourself in Sardinia. However, we wanted to do enough of what we could do in a week’s worth. Our Itinerary for this trip would consist of visiting the island’s Northern and parts of the Eastern region. From Alghero to the Gulf of Asinara in Sassari in the North, to parts of the Eastern coastline of Ogliastra, and into La Maddalena, this was a jammed pack week of beaches, relaxing, hiking, and many more outdoor adventures. Here is a brief overview of our itinerary.
Before I jump into our itinerary, we did this road trip by renting a car from the Alghero airport. It allowed my family and me to explore the island at our leisure and find new things along the way that I did not have on my itinerary. For reference, our car rental only cost us around $573.00 (August 2021) for all seven days we were there with Sixt rental.
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival + Half day at Neptune’s Grotto + Check into Resort Spa Le Dune in Sassari Region
- Arrive at Alghero Airport early am
- Neptune’s Grotto in Alghero
- Mid-day head to Resort & Spa Le Dune
- Evening- enjoy Resort
Day 2: Castelsardo + Mid-Day Beach near Castelsardo + Resort Spa Le Dune
- Drive to Castelsardo and explore the city
- Mid-day- drive to a beach near Castelsardo
- Afternoon pool time at the resort
- Evening dinner and resort activities
Day 3: Check out of Resort & Spa Le Dune + Bau Mela Falls + Arrive at Baunei for the next overnight
- Check out of Resort & Spa Le Dune
- Drive South to Bau Mela Falls and enjoy a quick 1-2 hours here
- Drive to Baunei and check into Airbnb
- After check-in, late afternoon beach day in Santa Maria Navaresse
- Dinner at Pedra Longa for the views and food
Day 4: Hike Cala Goloritze + Cala Goloritze Beach day + Dinner in Baunei
- Early morning hike to Cala Goloritze Beach
- Beach Day at Cala Goloritzé
- Hike back to car
- Dinner and last overnight in Baunei
Day 5: Explore Baunei + Check out of Baunei + Drive Northeast to Arzachena for 1-2 hours + Ferry to La Maddelena for the next overnights
- Explore Baunei in the morning on foot
- Check out of Airbnb in Baunei
- Arzachena mid-day exploring
- Ferry to La Maddelena
- Check into hotel at La Maddelena
- Explore La Maddelena Old Town and Dinner
Day 6: La Maddalena Island Hopping via boat rental
- Rent boat
- Island hop the 7 islands of La Maddalena the entire day.
- Dinner at Old town La Maddalena
Day 7: Check out of hotel at La Maddelena + Beach Day at Caprera Island + Head to Sassari + Check into the hotel at Sassari for final evening
- Check out of hotel in La Maddalena
- Beach Day at Girarbaldi beach in Caprera Island
- Drive to Sassari and check in at hotel for final night and exploring Sassari
Day 8: Fly Home from Alghero
- Check out of Sassari hotel
- Head to Alghero Airport to return rental car and head home
Map of Points Visited
We flew very early from Frankfurt Hahn Airport in Germany to Alghero Airport. After about a 2-hour flight, we finally arrived at Alghero’s small airport around 0800, and we immediately went to see about the rental car we booked in advance. From there, we wanted to pick up essentials at this supermarket on the way since we had time before our allotted boarding time for the Neptune’s Grotto boat ride. I also like to pick up water and small snacks at the market, it’s much cheaper, and we always carry water around to stay hydrated. I also packed a foldable cooler to keep food cool. Sardina in late July was already hot!
Grotta di Nettuno
After picking up our small groceries, we headed to Lungomare Barcelona where we checked in for our Neptune Grotto’s aka Grotta di Nettuno boat tour. We parked at this pay meter parking lot (inexpensive). I won’t go into details about this excursion as I have a separate post on Neptune Grotto’s you can find here. I will say, I prefer to drive to the cave and take the stairs to the grotto rather than taking the boat, you’ll have more time to enjoy the caves this way.
Checking Into a Resort
After a few hours of enjoying the caves and the boat ride to and from Neptune’s Grotto, we drove straight to our next destination and where we would be staying for the next few nights, Resort & Spa Le Dune in Badesi. This resort is directly across the Le Junchi beach. We had a designated area to park our vehicle and a free shuttle golf cart to take us to and from our rooms and any other locations we needed to get to. We were shuttled to the concierge building and directed to our rooms at check-in. If you’re interested in reading up on our stay at this resort, you can find that blog post here.
I’m grateful for late summer evenings, we were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the resort for the rest of the day due to the evening day light we still had. After checking in, we relaxed for an hour and then headed to the beach. This pandemic made us miss the simplest things in life, enjoying the beach. The beach was a nice reprieve from the lockdown and we just enjoyed this time to ourselves.
Following the beach, we cleaned up and headed for dinner by the beach. As part of our resort package, we opted for the half board, so breakfast and dinner were included. The restaurant was buffet style offering Sardinian local seafood flares, a delight to eat the local cuisine, and lots to choose from in the buffet. After a wonderful dinner, we walked along the beachside and enjoyed the late sunset. Finally, we were pleasantly surprised to find a small outdoor gathering and concert after sunset in the middle of the resort with stores open for visitors.
The next day, we woke up early and had a wonderful breakfast spread at the main dining area. Again, it was a buffet style breakfast with the usual breakfast offerings of pancakes, eggs, salads, and more with some local Sardinian flares. After breakfast, we headed for a day trip to Castelsardo, near our resort, to explore.
The drive to Castelsardo from our resort was about less than 30 minutes. Castelsardo was high on my list. Parking was a bit hard to find, but we managed to find along the side of the street, (and, yes, you will have to pay by the hour).
We took a few hours to explore Castelsardo and admired its charms. Since Castelsardo is known for the locals’ love for basket weaving, I bought a basket from a local. Another thing you want to do when visiting Castelsardo is visit the Castello di Doria and admire the view from above. Once you are done meandering through the town’s charming alleyways and cobblestone streets, be sure to grab a gelato. Finally, snap a photo of the colorful backdrop of Castelsardo; this backdrop is what actually drew me into visiting this charming seaside town.
Enjoy the Local Beach
A few hours of exploring Castelsardo, the Sardinian heat was hitting us. There’s no shortage of beaches nearby, so we headed to a local beach just a few miles away from Castelsardo, Spiaggi Lu Bagnu. Overall, it was a lovely, free beach, a little on the rocky side. The water was clear in certain areas, and I felt many locals were there when we visited. It wasn’t one of my top beaches, but it was a nice few hours of cooling off from the Sardinian heat.
Admire Sardinia’s Countryside
Driving back to Resort & Spa Le Dune, we admired all the side road wonders we passed by. One, in particular, I mapped out to pass by Roccia dell’Elefante and any Nuraghe sculptures along to way. We snapped a few photos by the Roccia dell’Elefante. The Nuraghe sculptures you can see along the road, but they were not accessible from the roadside; they were neat to see. If you want to know the history of these Nuraghe sculptures, here’s a good article to read.
Relax by the Pool and Resort
As our last evening to enjoy the resort, as we had other locations to visit around Sardinia for our 7-day trip, we wanted to take advantage of all the resort had to offer. Since the Pandemic restrictions were slightly easing, the resort was not crowded, and we felt we had it all to ourselves. We enjoyed an afternoon by the poolside, meandering around the resort, enjoyed local cuisine as part of our half-board for dinner. It was a great way to finish our final night at the resort.
Roadtripping Through the Countryside
After our final breakfast buffet at the resort, we packed our belongings, checked out, and headed to our next destination. We drove south heading towards Baunei, a sleepy village in the Oligastra region of Sardinia. You get to see the true Sardinia as you drive along the Sardinian countryside. We saw tons of farmlands, Nuraghe, local villages. Be warned, though, the roads can get bumpy, and parts of the roads may not be so well maintained. However, it doesn’t take away from the charms of Sardinia. The surroundings actually reminded me of Southern California and its golden grass in the deep heat of summer.
Piscine Naturali di Bau Mela
About 2.5 hours later, we arrived to our destination for a quick stop at Piscine Naturali di Bau Mela aka Bau Mela Falls. I happened upon this location via one of my research looking for things to do near Baunei and our Airbnb host for our next destination also recommended this place. We made a quick stop here to take a quick dip into the natural waters. It’s kind of tricky to get to the actual falls and of course somewhat of a climb of a few rocks to swim into the falls, but it was worth the quick stop. You can find more about Bau Mela Falls on this blog post.
Ah, Baunei… a small sleepy village hugging close to the mountainside with an amazing view of the land below. I picked this location simply for its Blue Zone location aka many centenarians who reside in the village. I’ve had a bit of an obsession learning about the Blue Zone and I just wanted to stay in a location where it is known for. However, another reason for our stay is a local beach that is featured on Instagram and a big part of why I chose this location; more on that in a bit. And, if you’re interested in more of this charming village by the mountains, here is a blog post I wrote in more detail on this perfect, quiet Sardinian town.
Upon our arrival to Baunei, we checked into our Airbnb and headed to our first beach destination in the area recommended by our Airbnb host, Santa Maria Navaresse. About a 10-minute drive, we enjoyed this rocky, pebbly beach and cooling off our bodies again for the day.
Dinner at Pedra Longa
After a full day, we were looking forward to dinner. Trattoria Pedra Longa Restaurant was one place I saw that was recommended near Baunei and our Airbnb host. It didn’t disappoint; although I would have preferred to have been able to eat overlooking the water, I recommend making a reservation for this far in advance if you want the seaside view. We were able to eat inside the restaurant, so it wasn’t so disappointing, and the food was amazing.
This day was all about Cala Goloritzé. An early morning wake-up, we drove 20 minutes from Baunei to start our morning hike to Cala Goloritzé. This beach was highly rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, and part of the reason for our stay in Baunei. The 1-hour hike to the beach was well worth the trek. We spent the whole day wadding in the aquamarine, clear, cool water of Cala Goloritzê, snorkeling, exploring its caves, sunbathing, and just beaching it up for the day. It is a small beach and one you’ll have to reserve and pay to enjoy, so it’s highly recommended to get there and reserve your spot early. It is recommended to book your spot via the online app Heart of Sardinia; only 250 people are allowed on this beach as a protected area. You can find a more detailed write-up of our day at Cala Goloritzé on this blogpost.
The hike back to our car did take longer to return due to the uphill hike and the heat; just be sure to have plenty of water with you (at least 2 liters per person) for this hike and take breaks along the shades. Our girls were able to complete this hike as nine and fifteen-year-olds. I would say this a moderately easy hike along what looked like an old donkey trail. In all honesty, it’s doable and so worth the trek.
Rooftop Dinner in Baunei
I don’t think you could complete a visit to Baunei without enjoying a rooftop dinner at Bar Cafe Ristoranted Pizzeria in Baunei while enjoying the view and sunset from above. This restaurant came highly recommended by our Airbnb host and she was correct, it was a good spot to finish out our final evening in this charming, quiet village. Of course, we also ended the evening by taking a small walk around the village.
Meander Baunei in the Early morning
One last walk around this sleepy village before we left, my husband and I enjoyed a small stroll in the early morning. We got to see the village wake up and start their day. A few locals were already stirring for the morning, cleaning and sweeping their front steps, making their way to the center of the village for their daily chores, or simply just basking in the sun, watching passersby. It’s so enlightening to see the slow way of life here in Baunei and I can see why it’s one of the Blue Zone villages. Once our peaceful walk was complete, we packed our belongings and headed back North on the east side of Sardinia to Arzachena.
Arzachena Colorful Stairs
You know how some travel inspirations are found online? I happened upon Arzachena searching for cool places to visit in Sardinia, and the colorful stairs of Arzachena popped into my feed. I immediately saved it for our trip and added it to fit our itinerary for our next destination. Upon arriving and making our way to the stairs, we were surprised to find the steps were not what we had expected; the art had been changed. Not a problem; we still took advantage of the photo opportunities and explored the church the steps lead to. This was the only thing we did in Arzachena, as our schedule was tight for the day. If you’re looking for art to take photos by, these steps would be neat to check out; otherwise, you could skip this.
Ferry to La Maddalena
To get to La Maddalena, our next stop for our trip for the next few nights, we took a ferry out of Palua. We took one where we were able to load our rental car onto the ferry with us. Since we arrived early, we took the opportunity to explore a small part of Palua and grab a quick bite to eat. Once we were able to board, we enjoyed the quick ferry ride (about 15-20 minutes) to the island of La Maddalena. We booked our ferry ride via online in advance with https://www.delcomar.it/; the cost was roughly about €25 for a one-way trip to the island of La Maddalena.
Explore La Maddalena
We arrived early afternoon in time to check into our hotel and relax for a few hours before heading out with the rental car to explore this small island. We drove around different beaches, admiring the scenery and early evening sunset, while also driving up to the top of the island to get a vantage point of view from above. As the sun was setting we parked near the city center to grab a nice dinner by the water. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to call it a night, our itinerary for the next day would be full.
Rent a Boat for the Day & Explore the 7 islands of La Maddalena
The highlight of this trip, exploring the 7 islands of La Maddalena via a boat, on our own pace! This was something my husband has been wanting to do this entire trip, man his own boat. He grew up on a lake with boats and this was his opportunity to drive a small boat for the day and venture off on our own to small islands nearby. We had fun discovering many beaches, relaxing on the boat, having a picnic on the boat, and just enjoying each other’s company the whole day. I think for the most part, the water in this area was so crystal clear, we had no problems finding areas to dock into to swim in. Furthermore, you could see other people renting boats whether manned by private skippers or simply by themselves, everyone was enjoying the island vibes of Sardinia. This was one for the books, and I highly recommend this while in La Maddalena. I think we did this for a total of almost 8 hours and then headed back to return the boat.
For information on our boat rental, here is where we rented our boat for the day: https://www.rentalboatcalamangiavolpe.it/. The cost at the time of our booking on August 3, 2021, for the whole day was about €290 for the day, not including gas at the end. We ended up renting a 6-meter dinghy (inflatable boat). It was worth the experience, this you must do while in La Maddalena. As I update my blog, I’ll add a more detailed blog post on our island-hopping adventure on La Maddalena.
Enjoy the Island Nightlife on La Maddalena
To end our time in La Maddalena, we enjoyed dinner in the heart of the city on our final night on the island. We ate at a pizza place and thoroughly enjoyed it; you can’t go wrong with Neapolitan Pizza. After dinner, the city was hopping with life. Lots of people were walking around and shops were open, so we took advantage of exploring the nightlife of La Maddalena; when I mean nightlife, just the sights of the city at night (no bar hopping, our kids were with us), but the city had plenty to do, and it was lively for the night.
Head to Caprera Island
The next day, after checking out of our Hotel, we drove to the island next the La Maddalena, Caprera Island. After driving around and exploring the island, we headed to Girarbaldi Beach to enjoy the waters. One surprise we encountered while we were on the beach was a wild boar that came running along the shores while the locals shooed him away. This beach was clear and both rocky and sandy.
Drive to Sassari
As our final night in Sardinia, we booked a hotel not far from Alghero for the night. Sassari had a boutique hotel we booked for one night near the heart of the city, so we were happy to explore one last city in Sardinia before leaving the next day. Sassari is a small city and easily walkable. There are tons of shops in the city you can shop in and just meander the cobblestone streets and visit the churches and roman structures nearby. We didn’t really have an agenda for this city, just meander and have local seafood/Sardinian food on our last dinner on the island of Sardinia.
I won’t really count this as a final day, but Day 8 was all about driving back to Alghero from Sassari, returning our rental car at the airport, and flying home.
Sardinia, a hidden gem of Italy. Well, I won’t actually call it a hidden gem, but it’s one of those islands that is up and coming. There’s so much we didn’t get to explore on this lovely island. Up to this point of having traveled in the last few years to different beaches in Europe (updated June 2023), I’d consider Sardinia to be one of my favorite trips so far for that beach getaway since moving to Europe in 2018. I would actually love to return and explore more of this island, especially the East side. So, go visit Sardinia! I highly recommend this lovely Italian island!
Until next time friends! Alla prossima amici!