Q.I am getting married later this month and my partner and I are taking our one-year-old daughter with us on our honeymoon. We'd like to fly from Manchester to somewhere warm in Europe where we can find a nice village or small town next to a sandy beach. We are on a fairly tight budget and would like to avoid hiring a car, preferring to walk with a pushchair.
H Martin, Cheshire
ACroatia could be the answer, not least because GB Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) started flying direct from Manchester to Dubrovnik earlier this year and has return flights from £129 in October. Croatia Airlines (020-8563 0022; www.croatiaairlines.hr) also offers weekly flights from Manchester to Split; returns start at £180 in October. Both airports give you good access to hundreds of Dalmatian islands dotted along the Adriatic coast, from virtually uninhabited specks to large, well-visited destinations.
As long as you avoid larger resorts, you should find the kind of quiet spot you're looking for. The weather should be in the sunny but comfortable early-twenties at the start of next month, and your lack of a car shouldn't be too much of a drawback, as the islands are well-served by passenger ferries (Jadrolinija; 00 385 51 666 111; www.jadrolinija.hr). The only drawback is the beaches, many of which are pebbly. But there are sandy shores to be found, if you know where to look. The Croatian National Tourist Board (020-8563 7979; www.croatia.hr) can help, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
First up is the beautiful and rather exclusive Hvar, a lavender-scented outcrop populated by farmers, olive growers, fishermen and tourists. It gets packed with Italian holidaymakers from the end of July to late August, but by October crowds should have dissipated.
Laid-back Jelsa, on Hvar's lush north coast has two coarse-sand beaches - the smaller at Mina Cove to the east, and the public Soline beach in the village. It's built around a small, attractive harbour, so there's a good choice of seafood restaurants, plus watersports, a diving school, and tennis courts.
Hvar can be expensive, but Holiday Options (0870 013 0450; www.holidayoptions.co.uk) has a week half-board at Hotel Mina, a 10- minute walk from the beach and the town, for £658 from 1 October. Set in woods it has swimming pools, a restaurant, café and patisserie. The price includes flights from Manchester to Split and transfers.
Between Hvar and the mainland is the larger island of Brac, a landscape of lemon and olive groves rather blighted by concrete-heavy resorts on its northern coast. The south is quieter and prettier, while the medieval seaside town of Bol has the "White Horn", a tongue of gleaming sand that licks straight out into the Adriatic, reached by a café-lined promenade.
Bol's narrow streets are full of restaurants. Balkan Holidays (020-7543 5555; www.balkanholidays.co.uk) has a 1 October departure from Manchester to Split for £1,150 for all of you, staying for a week in a self-catering one-bed apartment in Bol's centre. Alternatively, try www.holidaydalmatia.com. This lists private rentals - such as the comfortably furnished, two-bedroom Apartment Ratac (00 385 9 889 1525), on the ground floor of an older detached house set in a vineyard 1.5km from the town centre and 300m from a beach. It's €65 (£45) a night, and has a terrace where your baby could play.
Peljesac is a peninsula connected to the mainland by both road and ferry. It is wine-growing country, full of vineyards, forests and coves, linked by a coastal road with regular buses. Orebic, on the south coast, is a pretty, busy but compact fishing-village-cum-tourist-resort, with sandy beaches in easy reach. Apart from sailing, diving or taking day trips to the island of Korcula, the main activity is hiking: swap your buggy for a baby backpack and walk up Mount Illia.
To find accommodation under your own steam, visit www.peljesac.info, which lists private holiday apartments for £6-£10 per adult per night. Alternatively Peljesac specialists Bosmere Travel (01473 834094; www.bosmeretravel.co.uk) has a two-bedroom self-catering apartment at Villa Allora for £35 per room per night. Facilities include a kitchen and patio garden. A sandy beach and restaurants are just 150m walk away.
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