By: Courtney Byrne
I loved traveling around Italy with my kids. We saw so many awesome places and I would repeat the entire trip in a heartbeat. But if I had to pick my favorite spot the entire month of travel, I would pick Santa Margherita. I wanted to visit a beach while we were in Italy because it was the summertime and I knew it would be very hot. I researched many beaches closer to where we were starting our journey (Rome) but ultimately chose Santa Margherita because it was a place I had been twice before (without the kids) and knew with certainty I would be comfortable there with 4 kids in tow.
There are many places to visit along the Italian Riviera, but my favorite place to stay is Santa Margherita. It’s a special place with lovely people. It also makes a great home base if you are going to explore the Italian Riviera with kids.
When I visited Santa Margherita for the 1st time, 15 years ago, I was a college student and thought it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. I can remember mailing my mom a postcard and thinking “I wish she could see this place”. My mom came with the kids and I for the first part of our Italy trip, so another reason I chose Santa Margherita was that I could finally show my mom the beach I had told her about for so many years.
Why Santa Margherita? Personally, along the Italian Riviera I find it to be very family friendly, much less expensive than other towns and like a hidden gem. There’s so much to do, the train goes right to town and you can easily access the rest of the Italian Riviera from there. Also, the nice flat path along the waterfront makes for a much more stroller friendly experience that other spots on the Riviera.
Yes, it has taken me some time to sit down and write this guide… but I chatted with several families over the past few months about planning trips to Santa Margherita and they’ll all be traveling there this summer. It reminded me “I better get this guide done!”. So, here it is: A Guide to Santa Margherita and the Italian Riviera with Kids
A Guide to Santa Margherita and the Italian Riviera with Kids
What to Do in Santa Margherita with Kids:
Beaches: When I was planning my trip to Santa Margherita it was not easy to find info on beaches to visit with kids. I knew there was a public beach but was not sure how to access all the cute beach clubs along the sea. So we did a lot of exploring our week there and visited plenty of beaches. After a week touring Rome in the 90+ degree weather, we wanted nothing but beaches and swimming!
There is a public beach right in front of Lido Palace. We went to this beach a few times later on in the day/evening if it was for a quick swim or to play on the beach. It’s free but obviously doesn’t include anything.
If you are facing the sea and walk to the left of the public beach, there are several cute beach clubs that you can pay per day. It’s pretty inexpensive and you get quite a lot: chairs, a dock to swim to/jump off of, sand toys to play with and little play areas in the sand (my kids loved these!). They also have bathrooms, snack stands, ice cream etc. There are a few in a row and all are about the same price.
Our favorite, by far, was the beach club at Hotel Regina Elena. It’s about a 10 min walk (towards Portofino) and a beautiful beach. It’s part of the hotel but you can pay for a day pass to use the beach club. It’s a lovely club with a nice little sit down restaurant in the shade, a shady sand box filled with toys, a shaded kid’s club area with toys, arts and craft projects throughout the day, 2 super fun trampolines and a mini pool to splash in.
Then the beach… the entry includes a great pair of beach chairs and the prettiest view of the sea. There’s an amazing dock that extends out into the sea that you can jump off but also has 2 sets of stairs to easily enter the sea with little ones. The bathrooms and changing areas here were very clean. Both days we went to Regina Elena we arrived early in the AM and stayed all day. It was wonderful!
Boat Trip: a the main pier in Santa Margherita (you can’t miss it/ there’s a statue on the water of St. Margaret) there is a ferry that runs all day that takes you to San Fruttosso and Portofino. Some also go further if you’re looking to venture more. It’s inexpensive and easy to hop on and off. Both San Fruttosso and Portofino are must see towns while you are in Santa Margherita and this is a great way to see them. The boat is very family friendly. Here’s the schedule and ticket info: Italian Riviera ferry info
Another great option would be a day trip (or overnight) to Cinque Terre. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you head there, be sure to check out this guide a friend made. It’s the most complete one I’ve seen: Complete Guide to Cinque Terre
Playground in Santa Margherita: at the base of the path to walk up to Villa Durazzo there is an adorable playground that is fenced in, has swings, etc. We visited here many times during the week. If you’re up for it, walk up to see Villa Durazzo too!
Piazzas: We loved running around the main Piazza and 2 main streets off of it. There are no cars and so many great tiny shops selling gelato, pastries, fresh fruit, etc.
Where to Stay in Santa Margherita with Kids:
- We rented an Air B&B. The location could not have been better: It was close to everything and we walked everywhere. It was also 1 block from the grocery store and was in a small piazza that cars could not drive through, so perfect for the kids to play outside. Here’s the link to where we stayed: Santa Margherita Apartment.
- If you are looking for a rental with kids, I recommend closely looking at the map to make sure you are close to the sea. As you get further out, you may be walking straight up hill. For example, the train station is an uphill hike, anywhere closer to the sea is flat and easy to walk everywhere.
- The beach I mentioned above that was our favorite, at Regina Elena, would be a fun spot to stay (you’d have easy access to the beach club). I have not seen the rooms, but the staff was very nice and if you’re a guest, I believe there is another pool on the roof. Good location too.
- Many years ago, I stayed at Lido Palace. It’s a very central location with beautiful views (right on the sea)
- We walked past the Grand Hotel Miramare many times and it’s also right on the sea (great views), great location and their beach club looked really great for kids
Where to Eat in Santa Margherita with Kids:
Focacceria Panificio il Nilo: The BEST pizza. Grab some and eat it on the beach (that’s what we did twice for dinner!). Corso Matteotti 4/6
il Patio: great for dinner with kids. It’s on one of the main streets with no cars so the kids can walk around, dance, place etc while you enjoy food and wine. They also kindly made kids portions for dinner
Gelateria Gepi Mare: Great gelato shop right on the water. We stopped each time we walked home from Regina Elena beach club.
Bar Garibaldi: Super unfriendly staff but great pasta at a super inexpensive price! Corso Matteotti, 16
Grocery Store: There is a large COOP located at Corso Matteotti 4/6, that has everything you could need!
Have a wonderful trip! Please feel free to comment or email with any questions. I love chatting Santa Margherita!
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