Tuesday, 26 July 2005 12:00 AM
The school holidays have started, the weather is hot and the kids are playing up. A beach holiday, whether at home or abroad, never fails to keep them occupied for hours on end.
And to help stressed parents and city-bound sun-worshipers work out where to head, Teletext holidays examines the top 10 destinations for family beach holidays:
BEACH HOLIDAYS EUROPE
Alvor, The Algarve, Portugal
Alvor is a quiet resort, with a backdrop of the Monchique mountains and views over the Bay of Lagos. Its wide, four mile long, sandy beach boasts dramatic rock formations and is dotted with sand dunes.
The old fishing quay offers traditional restaurants that are popular with families. It retains much of its original charm and temperatures are pleasant year-round.
Faro is the nearest airport to Alvor. Scheduled and charter flights to Faro depart from most UK airports.
Alcudia, Majorca, Spain
Alcudia Bay on Majorca's north-east coast has the longest sandy beach on the island - some seven miles. Its white sands shelve gently into the sea, making it popular for watersports.
Alcudia town stands at one end of the beach with 14th century city walls and the remains of a Roman theatre. There's an attractive harbour area. One drawback is the busy road so families should pick accommodation on the beach side.
Palma Majorca Airport is the nearest airport to Alcudia. Scheduled and charter flights to Palma depart from most UK airports.
Ile de Re, France
The Ile de Re, west of La Rochelle, is popular with French and British families for its shallow bathing waters and good sunshine hours. There are camping grounds here too - good for those on a budget.
The island is dotted with traditional whitewashed houses. Its main town is the quaint fishing village of Saint Martin de Re. The best beaches are at the western tip or flank La Couarde in the south.
La Rochelle is the nearest airport to Ile de Re. British Airways, Ryanair, FlyBe and Air France fly to La Rochelle from UK airports.
Santo Tomas, Minorca, Spain
This small friendly resort is on the quiet side but it's ideal if all your kids want to do is to potter around on the beach. Santo Tomas is at one end of Minorca's longest sandy beach, Son Bou.
Nightlife is low key and teens are likely to get bored quickly here but it's good for younger children, mums and dads and even grandparents who want a relaxing family holiday not too far from the UK.
Flights to Menorca depart from most major UK airports
Rimini, Adriatic Riviera, Italy
Rimini and the surrounding area offer ten miles of sandy beach that gets crowded in summer. The beaches are clean, well equipped and safe. Theme-type parks include Italy in Miniature, several dolphinariums, a water park and Fiabilandia fantasy park.
Many of the beaches belong to the hotels or are private so you have to pay to use them. If you'd rather do your own thing, there are also public beaches.
The nearest airports are Bologna, Ancona and Venice. Flights depart to these destinations from most UK airports.
Further information: www.emiliaromgnaturismo.it
BEACH HOLIDAYS FURTHER AFIELD
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Calm, clear turquoise Caribbean waters lap the fine white sands of this beach in the Cayman Islands. It is a popular beach for swimming, sunbathing and snorkelling.
There are plenty of local spots kids will love, including, for older children, the glass-bottomed boat ride to Stingray City where youngsters can feed these amazing creatures. Cardinal D's park has all kinds of wildlife such as parrots and blue iguanas.
British Airways flies to Grand Cayman from London Heathrow.
Siesta Key, Florida, United States
One of America's best beaches, Siesta Key is an eight-mile long barrier island off Sarasota, on Florida's Gulf Coast. Its powdery white sand is said to remain cool under foot even when the subtropical heat sizzles.
There are lifeguards year-round, plenty of watersports facilities, playground equipment and picnic areas. At the southern end of the key Turtle Beach is quiet and really good for shells.
There are no direct flights to Tampa from London, but Continental, Delta and American offer connections from Newark, Atlanta and Dallas Fort-Worth. Delta offers a connection to Sarasota from Atlanta.
BEACH HOLIDAYS CLOSER TO HOME
If you are looking to take advantage of the hot summer weather, Telextext holidays has identified the following as Britain's best family beaches:
Bournemouth, Dorset, England
Bournemouth's five miles of sandy beaches are punctuated by two piers at Bournemouth and Boscombe.
To keep children from getting lost, there's a Kidzone. The beach is colour-coded with a different colour for each 200 metres within the zone. Children are given free coloured wristbands and if beach inspector spots a child, who has wandered into a different area, they can be returned safely.
Bournemouth has good road and rail connections. It is close to the M3, M27 and M4 and on the main line to London Waterloo. Bournemouth also has its own airport, with services to Glasgow, Belfast and a number of international destinations.
Benllech, Anglesey, Wales
A quarter of Wales' best beaches are on Anglesey, where most of the coast is listed as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Award-winning Benllech is a long, sandy beach with a long slipway making access with pushchairs easy.
There are plenty of nearby shops, cafes plus a picnic area. Dogs are not allowed on most of the beach and have to be kept on leads on the promenade between May and October.
The A55 links Anglesey with the UK's motorway network, while Bangor and Holyhead are served by rail with connections from most parts of the UK. Liverpool and Manchester are the nearest airports.
Woolacombe, North Devon, England
This is one of the west country's finest beaches. Its three miles of golden sands have won numerous awards for cleanliness. It has good basic facilities (loos, first aid, parking) and lifeguards on the beach plus a lost children service.
It gets busy in the summer but there's plenty of room. Watersports are good and teenagers will enjoy the surfing. Check out Barricane Beach for broken shells that aren't native to Britain.
The A361 connects Woolacombe with the M5 and the UK motorway network. The nearest rail connection is Barnstaple, which has bus links to Woolacombe. Flights depa