The staycation summers of 2020 and 2021 saw camping become one of the most popular family holidays. What could be more satisfying than unzipping canvas and stepping out into the fresh country air to the soundtrack of birdsong, stargazing at night and grilling up your breakfast and dinner each day?
ow that we can venture further, spending time in the great outdoors in sunnier climes without the threat of soggy tents, camping holidays are as appealing as ever. While it’s the best-value summer holiday around, however, figuring out where to go and what kind of campsite to choose can leave you wanting to book an easy fly-and-flop instead.
So we’ve rounded up some of Europe’s best parks, from sure-fire kid favourites to quiet glamping spots and even adventurous treehouses.
1. Les Embruns, Brittany
Brittany has it all — miles of dramatic coastline and pristine sandy beaches, fascinating historical villages and lively coastal towns, and is well served by a pool of excellent campsites. Les Embruns, set between Finistère and Morbihan, has somewhat of a trifecta, being in a village yet only 250 metres from a beautiful beach and forest, and it’s also near the medieval village of Quimperlé. The immaculate campsite is set on a nature reserve with 35 rental cottages, 85 camping pitches, a pool and playground — it feels relatively off-grid yet near enough to the action.
Details: From €218 for a pitch and €705 for a cottage for seven nights in July (linen and towels extra); camping-les-embruns.com/en
2. Château de la Grande Noë, Normandy
A twist on the traditional camping set-up, this organic farm favourite in Normandy is the Lost Boys-meets-fairy village, where you camp in medieval tent-style treehouses perched in ancient trees. Most have terraces where you can savour the views of the château, the Perche countryside and wandering wildlife. Families with small children will love La Fermette, with farm animals just below, and the more adventurous can try climbing the monkey bridge through a trapdoor to get to their cabin in the Monkey Tree. Drawbridges, rope ladders and winch systems to hoist up farm-made picnics make it quite the fun medieval experience.
Details: From €160 to €240 for two adults per night (breakfast included); chateaudelagrandenoe.com
3. Domaine de Kerlann, Brittany
Stay at Domaine de Kerlann and you’ll have five beautiful beaches within five miles of your base — as well as the medieval port of Concarneau a 30-minute drive west. If you can drag your brood from the water slides at the site’s water park, it’s worth a stroll to the nearby town of Pont-Aven — so pretty, it inspired the artist Paul Gauguin. But there’s plenty to keep you from ever leaving the park, too: indoor/outdoor pools, children’s clubs, nightly entertainment and, much to many parents’ delight, a rosé bar. The ferry port of Roscoff is a two-hour-drive away, making it popular with those travelling from Cork.
Details: From €651 for seven nights in July based on up to six sharing a two-bedroom holiday home (pets, linen, towels extra); siblu.ie
4. Camping Municipal de la Plage, Pyrénées
Some folk are natural campers suited to a more traditional camping experience like Camping Municipal de la Plage, a quiet seaside park peppered with motorhomes, caravans and tents. It may be a sleepier version of some of its sister sites, but it has enough to keep everyone occupied — including two supervised pools, sports fields, archery, evening entertainment, a free mini club and games room. Direct access to a lovely sandy beach makes it the winning combo.
Details: From €277 for a pitch or €504 for a mobile for seven nights in July (towels, linen, baby kit, safety deposit box, kettle, cafetière extra); camping-municipal-de-la-plage.com
5. Camping Le Clarys Plage, Vendée
Aptly nicknamed hôtellerie de plein air (outdoor hotel), this campsite has enough to keep you pegged down for a week, with a dragon-themed water park, two pools, tennis, fitness classes, children’s clubs and themed dinners. It’s also a six-minute walk from the sands of Plage des Mouettes and is well located for exploring the wonderful Vendée region, with medieval villages and remote, sleepy islands nearby. The excellent Puy du Fou theme park is 90 minutes away.
Details: From €959 for a mobile (linen, towels, baby kit extra); domaine-du-clarys.com
6. Camping Sunêlia L’Hippocampe, Volonne, Provence
Pin back the canvas of your tent at this rural site and breathe in the perfume of thyme, lavender and wild herbs that grow for miles around the all-action park. Set in woodland near a river, it has all the resort-based activities you could want, including a water park, sports tournaments and an underground disco, plus easy access to some of the best natural sites in the area — including the Gorges du Verdon and the Valensole Plateau lavender fields.
Details: From €96 for a pitch or €500 for a mobile for seven nights in July (pets, BBQ, linen and towels extra); l-hippocampe.com
7. Château des Marais, Loire Valley
It’s hard to find a more fairy-tale experience than unzipping your tent to a view of a château near the historic palace Château de Chambord in the storied Loire Valley. There are wooded pitches set among oak groves or cottages and chalets, and even a special treehouse for the more adventurous. You don’t have to leave the grounds, with water parks, a supermarket, bakery, two restaurants and a spa onsite but, as it’s smack bang between Orléans and Tours, it’s worth a jaunt through the picturesque countryside, stopping at vineyards and nearby villages to sample the best of the region’s food and wine.
Details: From €266 for a pitch or €840 for a cottage for seven nights in July (Wi-Fi, BBQ extra); sandaya.fr/nos-campings/chateau-des-marais
8. Domaine des Ormes, Brittany
This great family campsite, on the grounds of a 16th-century château a two-hour drive from Cherbourg, is a big hit with everyone, from toddler to teenager. Like many of Brittany’s campsites, its aesthetically pleasing setting means you’re likely to be staring at wildflower meadows or bucolic lakes. The huge park has a golf course, a tropical water park (complete with wave pool), horse riding and a high-wire adventure course for the thrill-seekers. Don’t miss nearby Mont-Saint-Michel — the rocky islet commune famous for its magnificent Gothic abbey.
Details: From €649 for a camping hut or €399 for a lodge for three nights in July and August; lesormes.com/en
9. Camping Ca’Savio, Veneto
With Venice just a few minutes away by boat, this large laid-back park is a good bet for families wanting all the perks of an authentic camping experience with the bonus of a city break. Every type of camping accommodation is catered for here, from tent pitches to bungalows, mobile homes, lodges, airstreams and glamping tents — and they have an impressive list of activities that includes a football school, aqua-gym, kids’ club, golf, bike hire and even Italian lessons. Heaven for children is the adjacent sandy beach, where they can try windsurfing, and Aqualandia, one of Italy’s largest water parks, is just 20 minutes away.
Details: From €113 per night for an eco-lodge, €135 for a mobile and €163 for a comfort bungalow (air-con, bedlinen, towels, baby chairs and cots extra); casavio.com
10. Bella Italia, Peschiera del Garda, Veneto
The real trump card here is the location, right on the edge of Lake Garda with a small, private sandy beach. But equally appealing for families is the long-as-your-arm list of activities for kids of all ages — from archery to football, tennis, a trampoline park and water park. It’s well served by additional theme parks Movie Land and Gardaland, and there are plenty of picturesque towns to explore, too. Board the ferry to historic Sirmione or get a cultural hit in nearby Verona; this one’s an all-round crowd-pleaser.
Details: From €32 per night for a pitch and €200 per night for a mobile (towels, sheets, parking and high chairs extra); camping-bellaitalia.it/en
11. Agricamping La Gallinella, Tuscany
You may already get the picture: lodge tents tucked into a forest along the slope of the Segalari hill, just moments from the sea, with panoramic views of the rolling Tuscan landscape. These are not your average rudimentary canvases either: each of the eight glamping lodge tents has a terrace and dining area, as well as a kitchenette with washing machine, stovetop, fridges, bar and a lending library. As the name suggests, this is a rural retreat well suited for those after a serene camping experience, but should you want some high-octane adventure, there are bikes to hire, and Cavallino Matto theme park is a 15-minute drive away.
Details: From €70 per night in July; gallinellafarm.com/ent
12. Camping Sanfilippo, Cefalù, Sicily
On the edge of the pretty seaside town of Cefalù, most recognisable as one of the backdrops for the much-loved movie Cinema Paradiso, this charming family-run site is within spitting distance of the sea. It may not have the frills of the bigger campsites, but there’s more than enough to entertain: football, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, bike and scooter hire, for starters. The real charm, however, is the “wood tents” with kitchen and barbecue areas, and pretty Cefalù — a glorious medieval town known for its great Norman cathedral.
Details: From €6.50pp per night for a pitch or €85 per night for a wooden tent in July; campingsanfilippo.com
13. Camping Castell Montgrí, Costa Brava
Sip your morning coffee overlooking the Bay of Estartit at this large campsite, big enough to house football pitches, tennis courts, ponies and three pool complexes. The lively campsite will appeal to families with teens, with two of the large pool complexes staying open until midnight, an outdoor cinema and a soundproofed disco for 16-plus on site. Stay with Al Fresco and Eurocamp, and kids aged from 13 to 17 can avail of BASE, a parent-free zone where teens run the programme. There are clubs for younger kids too; the nearby seaside town of L’Estartit has a glut of restaurants and a good beach with watersports options, and Lloret de Mar water park is nearby. Barcelona is just over an hour away, meaning you could ditch the car and fly.
Details: From €360 for a pitch or €905 for a mobile for seven nights in July (towels, sheets, BBQ, high chair and cots extra); camping-castellmontgri.com
14. Camping La Torre del Sol, Costa Dorado
Sink your toes into the sand at this friendly beachside site dotted with banana and palm trees. Just south of Cambrils and the well-known resort of Salou, and only 20 minutes’ drive from PortAventura theme park, it hits the spot for those looking for a slice of the Spanish coast with plenty of action for the kids. The pool complex has a pirate pool for kids as well as Jacuzzis, and there’s table tennis, bike hire, an outdoor gym, kids’ and teens’ club, a disco for 16-and-overs and a 500-seater cinema/theatre.
Details: From €576 for a pitch or €1,480 for a chalet for seven nights in July (sheets and towels extra); latorredelsol.com; eurocamp.ie/campsites/costadorada/cd018-la-torre-del-sol
15. La Marina, Alicante
With 450 pitches that include beach bungalows, tent pitches and luxury villas, a spa, water park, three restaurants, an ice-cream parlour, tapas bar, kids’ club, library and disco, this is an all-singing, all-dancing park lovingly maintained by its owners, whose passion for the site shows in their attention to detail: lifeguards by the pools, a cyber-zone for teenagers, soundproofed disco, well-stocked supermarket and a pedestrian gate to a long sandy beach.
Details: From €532 for a pitch or €1,665 for a bungalow for seven nights in July; lamarinaresort.com
16. Cambrils Park, Costa Dorada
Ask any family who has dipped their toe into Cambrils and you’ll usually get the same response: overzealous enthusiasm for Spain’s best-loved campsites. Why? Because when it comes to family camping, it’s a no-brainer: cheerful accommodation that’s a step above your average campsite mobile in space and design, three pool complexes — one with a beach and a swim-up ice-cream bar — suitably cheesy entertainment, a well-stocked supermarket and bakery, and it’s just a short stroll into the town of Cambrils.
Details: From €2,100 for a beach bungalow for seven nights in July; cambrilspark.com
17. Salema Eco Camp, Algarve
The wild Costa Vicentina in the far southwest of Portugal is a 100km coastline of protected natural beauty. Stay at the beautiful, green Salema campsite and you’re within a few minutes’ walk of stunning, quiet beaches, rocky promontories, monasteries and Moorish ruins. The emphasis here is on slow living, with no need for campers to book — just show up and choose your spot from the gigantic, 12-hectare park. Bring your own tent or choose from apartments, mobiles, tipis and swish glamping tents. Days spent surfing, kayaking, diving, biking, hiking and tucking into wood-fired pizza from the onsite restaurant are best finished by opening up the tipi and enjoying the dark night skies.
Details: From €6pp per night for a pitch/mobile in July. salemaecocamp.com
18. Aterra, Baixo Alentejo
Francisco and Claudia are a couple of genial hippies keeping this authentic eco-campsite thriving. Expect to wake up to the sounds of donkeys, peacocks and the odd rabbit hopping through your camp. Accommodation is a choice of three Rajasthani tents, two yurts and two tipis, all surprisingly with Wi-Fi and electric sockets. There are yoga lessons, trail rides and massages with resident guru Utkarsh, and the renowned surfing beaches of southwest Portugal are just 6km away. After a day cutting up the surf, retire to your tent by the freshwater lake and kick back with some homemade local food and a sundowner from the very decent bar.
Details: Tipis, yurts and tents from €800, and €1,300 for a chalet for seven nights in July (including breakfast); aterra.pt
19. Camping de Roos, Vechtdal
The Netherlands scores on all counts. Its compact cultural capital, with a village feel, is built for children — and with half the country lying at or below sea level, it’s purpose-built for family freewheeling, too. Camping de Roos is a pretty campsite on the banks of the River Vecht, where you can bike along the river’s towpath, finishing off with a dip at the other end. You’re spoilt for places to pitch up, with its meandering meadows, or you can choose from new campsite accommodation that includes equipped tents and chalets. There’s plenty to keep the brood occupied, with swimming, a playground, bike hire and volleyball court, plus an onsite shop and restaurant.
Details: From €195 for a pitch or €728 for a chalet for seven nights in July (pets, baby cot, high chair, towels, linen extra); campingderoos.nl/en
20. Park Duinrell, Wassenaar
This superb four-star, just under 40km from Amsterdam (Schiphol) airport, is suitably bucolic, bookended by beach, forest and the excellent Duinrell theme park — which promises twisting water slides, tunnels, rollercoasters and side shows among the 40 rides and attractions on offer. All the usual creature comforts are included: supermarket, TV and games room, and several restaurants. Like the country itself, everything here is compact; Amsterdam is just a half-hour drive and the magnificent Kröller-Müller art museum (with almost 300 Van Goghs) an hour-and-a-half away.
Details: From €595 for a pitch and €1,125 for a mobile for seven nights in July (bedlinen, towels, deckchairs, baby chairs and cots extra); duinrell.com
Need to know
All prices subject to availability and change. Rates can vary depending on the pitches, number of guests, facilities and time of year, as well as other factors — like-for-like comparisons can take time and effort. Irish tour operators offering camping packages with air or ferry travel include canvasholidays.ie, eurocamp.ie, alfresco-holidays.ie, kellertravel.ie, shandontravel.ie and vacansoleil.ie
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/europe/happy-campers-20-of-the-coolest-campsites-in-europe-for-families-41551001.html Happy campers: 20 of the coolest campsites in Europe for families