Relaxing on the beach might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a holiday in Venice, but there's sand on all sides if you can drag yourself away from the distractions of Saint Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs. Even though the Pearl of the Adriatic sits right on the water, with all the beauty in the historic center, it’s easy and forget that there's sand, sea and sun just beyond the canals.
The beaches facing the Adriatic Sea on the edge of the Laguna di Venezia can be roughly divided into three zones: north of the city, south of the city, and Venice proper. The residents of this part of Veneto have worked hard to keep the beaches spotless – indeed, a good number of the beaches have prestigious Blue Flag certification, reserved for Europe's best strips of sand.
No matter what you want out of a beach vacation, you can find it near Venice. Here's a guide to the best beaches around the Venice lagoon.
Lido of Venice
The Venice Lido needs no introductions. This 12 km-long strip of sand was propelled to modern fame by the Venice Film Festival and visiting movie stars, but the beach has a rich history that dates back to the Belle Époque when poets and royals flocked here to stare out at the open Adriatic Sea. The Lido is a dream spot for lovers of sand, relaxation and glamor, and it's just an hour-long vaporetto ride away from the Venice city center.
The eastern shore of the island is lined with stunning beaches. Spiaggia Bluemoon and Spiaggia San Nicolò are perfect places to lounge by the sea in a chic, refined environment that seems pulled straight out of a Visconti movie. You can also immerse yourself in nature here: just head to Spiaggia degli Alberoni, whose serene sand dunes are preserved as part of the WWF Oasi Dunes degli Alberoni.
Just south of the Lido – and connected to it by regular ferries – Pellestrina doesn’t have the same glitz and glamour as its northern neighbor, but the island is stunning in its own way. Life moves with an uncomplicated ease on Pellestrina, and as you stroll past neat rows of colorful houses in the main town, you'll truly feel that you’re living an authentic Venetian experience.
Beaches on Pellestrina, such as Spiaggia San Vio and Spiaggia Ca’ Roman at the island's southernmost tip, are more rugged-feeling (and looking) than the glamorous strips on the Lido, but are perfect for those who want to dive into nature and have nothing but sky, seabirds and the Adriatic Sea all around.
Spiaggia del Bacan
Lesser known than the Lido and Pellestrina, but still only an hour away by vaporetto from the center, the Spiaggia del Bacan is a favorite among Venetians, who escape there to enjoy sunny days and some fun away from the canals and crowds. The beach sits on the small island of Sant’Erasmo, and facilities are limited – in fact, most people arrive with their own beach equipment. But the landscape and the atmosphere more than makes up for the lack of beach bars and sun umbrellas.
Besides the open, free-to-access beach, you can enjoy leisurely walks through Sant’Erasmo's many gardens and orchards, and try a locally produced white wine from the Orto di Venezia domain.
Lido di Jesolo
When Italians think of beach holidays around the lagoon, they look north of Venice. An hour or so from the Serenissima (i.e. Venice) by car or train, the Lido of Jesolo is an iconic name in the Italian collective mind. With 15 km of sand and Blue Flag-certified waters, this is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the whole country.
And with good reason, since there’s something for every kind of holidaymaker in Jesolo. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll find plenty of child-friendly activities and facilities. But if you prefer to focus on the movida (the local "scene") after the sun has set, you'll find plenty of action on Jesolo’s main boulevard, Via Bafile. No matter what you like to do on vacation, you can find it in Jesolo, from water sports to spa relaxation, with a multitude of accommodation options, from beach hotels to rental apartments.
Much like Jesolo – and not too far from it – Cavallino-Treporti, sitting at the very tip of the peninsula that closes off the northernmost part of the Lagoon, is known for its Blue Flag-certified beach. But unlike Jesolo, the atmosphere of Cavallino-Treporti is less commercial and more easygoing.
You won’t find as many beachfront resorts as in Jesolo, and a good number of Cavallino-Treporti's beaches are free to access. This is also a great destination for avid campers, with many campsites to use as a home base. That said, if resorts are more your cup of caffè then you’ll have no problem finding one in Cavallino-Treporti. Should you grow tired of the beach, just head to the pine forest for an invigorating hike or a relaxing stroll.
There are blue flags flying everywhere around the lagoon and you'll find one of the best Blue Flag-certified beaches right at the lagoon's southern end. Sottomarina – part of the municipality of Chioggia and much more easily reached by car than by water-bound public transport – is a much-loved beach escape with a huge variety of water activities to keep everyone entertained, and decent accommodation nearby.
The main feature of Sottomarina, though, is its very fine sand – basking on the beach here is said to be hugely beneficial for your airways, and the bright, white sand is certainly helpful in getting a perfect tan. You can pick any spot along its 5 km to test if this is true. Sottomarina is also an excellent spot for scuba diving and exploring the reef-like sediments known as tegnue, which throng with marine life. Set aside some time for a visit to Chioggia town, a sort of miniature Venice complete with canals and bridges.