Sardinia offers a uniquely varied sailing experience, with countless stunning anchorages along the coast and the scenic offshore islands of the Maddalena archipelago, Carloforte and Sant'Antioco. The island is a popular stop on cruises from the Balearic Islands, the neighbouring Corsica, Sicily or the Italian mainland. Situated between these sailing destinations, Sardinia is a perennial favourite for boating, swimming, windsurfing, hiking and admiring the amazing mountain vistas during the warm season.
Sardinia’s coast is mostly rocky, but despite the large number of cliffs the island has many large spectacular beaches. These are located between Logudoro and Gallura on the northern coast, Teulada and Pula in the south and in the historical region of Sulcis-Iglesente in the southwest, which includes the islands of Sant’Antioco and San Pietro. The Costa Smeralda, Emerald Coast, stretches across 20 km and is one of the most exclusive destinations in Europe. In addition to beautiful white sand beaches, it has a number of luxury hotels, golf clubs, restaurants, boutiques and wellness centres. Porto Cervo, the main centre, has been named one of the world’s most expensive resorts.
The island’s interior harbours incredible landscapes, from the Gennargentu National Park on the east coast to the Giara di Gesturi, a spectacular plateau in the central part of the island, and the natural oasis of Monte Arcosu west of Cagliari, a remarkably biodiverse nature reserve and one of the last homes of the Corsican red deer. Sardinia also offers a unique insight into the local Bronze Age Nuragic culture, with numerous massive circular stone structures and tombs scattered around the island and accessible from the ports. The best example of these megalithic edifices, Su Nuraxi di Barumini, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is situated in the Province of Medio Campidano in the south-central part of the island.
The main ports in Sardinia are situated in Alghero on the west coast, Cagliari in the south and Olbia in the east.
Alghero is an excellent base for exploring the Nuragic ruins of Palmavera, situated in the vicinity of the lovely beaches of Le Bombarde and Lazzaretto, and Grotta di Nettuno, Neptune’s Grotto, one of Sardinia’s best known natural attractions. The grotto is situated in the Park of Porto Conte and contains an underground salt lake, a white-sand beach more than 1 km long, and rooms of stalactites, stalagmites, limestone formations and columns forming spectacular arches. Other major ports on the west coast include Marina di Torregrande, Bosa, and Porto Conte. Porto Conte is Italy’s largest natural harbour, located near the Porto Conte Nature Reserve and the protected area of Capo Caccia – Piana.
Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, has five marinas in its harbour and another three in the Gulf of Cagliari. The Archaeological Museum of Cagliari, the Nuragic sanctuary of Santa Vittoria, Su Nuraxi and the captivating landscapes of Giari di Gesturi are the main attractions in the vicinity. Other major anchorages on Sardinia’s south coast include Villasimius, surrounded by the Cabo Carbonara nature reserve, the fishing town of Carloforte, and the historic village of Portoscuoso. The island of Sant’Antioco, the site of the ancient city of Sculci, contains a number of notable sights, including a Roman bridge, ancient Punic and Phoenician acropolises and the 11th-century Basilica of Sant’Antioco.
Olbia on the east coast is another large natural harbour with a number of attractions. These include the Romanesque Basilica di San Simplicio, Parco Fausto Noce, the island’s largest urban park, the open-air theatre Teatro Michelucci, and several Nuragic and Roman archaeological sites. Other ports on the eastern side of the island include the islands of Tavolara (a nature reserve) and Molara, with several amazing anchorages in the area between, and the fishing village of La Caletta, an excellent starting point for exploring the spectacular beaches, marble quarries, orchards, stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife the National Park of the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu. Santa Maria Navarrese near Ogliastra island, the harbour of Arbatax and Porto Corallo marina also offer safe anchorage.
The northeast coast has a number of popular anchorages, including the island of Maddalena, the small harbour of Palau opposite the Maddalena archipelago, Cannigione, a good base for visiting the Nuragic ruins in the Gulf of Arzachena, the exclusive Porto Cervo, Portisco and Porto Rotondo on the Costa Smeralda.
To the northwest, the best berthing options are at Stintino, located near the national park of the island of Asinara, the commercial port of Porto Torres, the historic town of Castelsardo, the harbour of Isola Rossa, situated opposite the island of Isola Rossa, known for its beautiful red granite rocks, Porto Santa Teresa Gallura, and Porto Pozzo.
Sardinia generally has good sailing conditions, with prevailing northwesterly winds, mainly the mistral, blowing at 20 to 25 knots and mitigating the heat in the summer months. The sailing season lasts from May to October, when the weather is hot and mostly dry. In the months of March and April, when the flowers are out, the days can also be quite warm, with occasional spring showers. The island has a very small tidal range, making anchorages mostly safe.
The Maddalena archipelago, a group of seven larger islands and more than 60 islets and rocks, is a haven for boating and beach activities. It is a national park placed on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with a number of spectacular rocky landscapes, granite shapes, and unspoiled fine sand beaches.
Casa Garibaldi on the island of Caprera, the final home of Giuseppe Garibaldi, a complex of small museums at Stagnali, the Naval Museum in the city of La Maddalena, old military fortifications, the island of Razzoli, home to dolphins, seals and turtles, and the stunning bay of Cala dei Corsari on the isolated island of Spargi are some of the archipelago’s best known attractions. Travellers, however, mainly visit the islands to find a secluded beach, snorkel and dive to explore sunken Roman ships and colourful fish, and spend long days enjoying the shimmering colours of the sea and relaxing on the powdery sand.