Beaches in Sicily
Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Sicily’s triangular shape gives it three distinct coastlines, each with its own fabulous mix of beaches and each with its own sea. To the north is the Tyrrhenian, home to the Aeolian Islands, to the east is the Ionian, dominated by Mount Etna, and to the south and west is the Mediterranean.
Here’s a 360˚ whistle-stop tour around Sicily’s 1,450km coastline:
Moving anticlockwise from Palermo, we immediately arrive at the splendid sandy beach of Mondello, a magnet for Palermitani and holidaymakers alike. The best season for Mondello is between September and June, as in the high summer months it gets very crowded. Continuing west, past the beaches of Castellammare del Golfo and Guidaloca near Scopello, the mountainous nature reserve of Lo Zingaro offers some excellent coastal walking, crystal clear waters and quiet pebble bays.
On the western side of Lo Zingaro is the long white sandy beach and turquoise sea of San Vito Lo Capo, which attracts tourists from all over the world. The salt pans of the lagoon between Trapani and Marsala have been producing salt for over 2,500 years and make for an interesting detour, especially when combined with a boat trip to the tiny Phoenician island of Mozia. Just a short hydrofoil ride away are the Egadi Islands, part of one of the Mediterranean’s largest marine parks. The islands boast divine, electric blue waters, such as those at Cala Rossa on Favignana, a series of rocky and sandy beaches and, on Marettimo, towering cliffs.
The southern coast of Sicily is a broken line of sandy beaches and cliffs, dotted with the remains of Greek colonies such as Selinunte and Agrigento, and the odd modern metropolis. In the southwest are the seaside towns of Porto Palo di Menfi and Sciacca, with its large fishing fleet, the coastal nature reserves of Foce del Belice, Foce del Platani and Torre Salsa, all with gorgeous unspoilt beaches, and the historic site of Eraclea Minoa, which boasts a long expanse of sand flanked by fragrant pine woods. Also along this section of coast are the bright white chalk cliffs and bathing area of the Scala dei Turchi.
Continuing eastwards along the Mediterranean coast, passing the towns of Licata and Gela, we come to the extreme southeast of Sicily, home to endless sandy beaches, including those at Punta Secca (Montalbano’s home in the TV series), Marina di Ragusa, Cava d'Aliga, Donnalucata, Sampieri, Marina di Modica and Pozzallo. At Sicily’s southernmost tip is Isola Delle Correnti, which is further south than Tunis. Just around the headland is the beach at Porto Palo di Capo Passero, the pretty fishing village and beaches of Marzamemi, and then Vendicari Nature Reserve, where visitors can observe nesting turtles and migrating flamingos and relax on nigh deserted beaches.
Heading up the east coast, past the beaches of La Pineta del Gelsomineto, Fontane Bianche and Arenella, one comes to Syracuse. Next comes the sandy Gulf of Catania and soon we are on the Ionian Riviera with its dramatic lava coastline, the fishing villages of Aci Castello, Aci Trezza and Santa Maria La Scala, and the long shingle beaches of Fondachello and Fiumefreddo. From here we can see Taormina, perched on the top of its hill and surveying one of Sicily’s most picturesque stretches of coastline, which includes the beaches of Isola Bella, Mazzarò and Letojanni.
Following the coastline north, past the Blue Flag beach of Santa Teresa di Riva, we come to the Straits of Messina, with the Italian mainland – Calabria - clearly visible across the water. As we round the northeastern tip of Sicily the Ionian Sea merges with the Tyrrhenian and we turn left along Sicily’s north coast. First is the beach-flanked headland of Milazzo, and then San Gregorio and Capo d’Orlando with their splendid sandy beaches and views of the Aeolian Islands. Next up is Tindari, whose superbly panoramic archaeological site and tongue of sand, a wonder of nature, make it well worth a trip.
The north coast between Capo d’Orlando and Palermo is a mixture of rocks and pebble beaches until we reach gorgeous mediaeval Cefalù with its beautiful curve of sand, and the long stretch of beach below the towns of Lascari and Campofelice di Roccella. After Cefalù, the dramatic rocky outcrops of Capo Zafferano and Capo Mongerbino signal our return to Palermo, the once-fertile paradise of the Conca d’Oro, and Monte Pellegrino, a landmark longed for by mariners for millennia.
The Sicilians are real sea-lovers but tend only to go to the beach when the weather is hot enough for them – between mid-June and mid-September. Even in that period, however, it is possible to find relatively empty stretches of sandy beach as long as you are prepared to drive or walk a little. The sea itself is swimmable for most of the year, though you might not want much more than a quick dip between December and April.