Ever thought of visiting the French Island of Corsica but unsure of what to expect and what there is to do in Corsica? I have put together an overall road trip itinerary of the French Island Corsica ideal for first timers.
Living close to both the Italian and French borders in Switzerland, gives us a great choice of different driving travel destinations in the south. The beautiful Ligurian Sea (which is part of the Mediterranean Sea) holding many “blue flag beach” labels, is the closest. With a bit longer in the car we can access the ports necessary to sail to the mountainous Mediterranean French island of Corsica.
Being the first longer road trip with the kids, age 2 years and 9 months, we left the duration of this trip open -depending on the weather and the family’s comfort.
What are the best spots to visit in Corsica?
Enjoy reading our Corsica road trip itinerary with the kids – for first timers!
Corsica – The island
How to get to Corsica
Cap Corse – The Northern tip
Calvi & Surrounding – Northeast
Marine de Porto – East
The Calanques de Piana
Gorges de Spelunca
Bonifacio – South
Santa Giulia Beach
Corsican road trip itinerary map
Corsica – The Island
Surrounded by the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea the island has an astounding geographical diversity. Within only a short drive, the landscape ranges from stylish coastal towns with amazing white beaches and crystal-clear water, to dense forest, verdant valleys, craggy peaks and hilltop villages – which time has long forgotten.
Corsica offers a vast variety of activities. From the famous hiking trails to a mesmerising scuba diving or snorkeling adventure, cruising in a speedboat in and out of west coast cliff formations, rock climbing high up to get an unbelievable view, delving into the island’s multi-faceted history and savoring local delicacies.
How to get to Corsica?
Arriving by boat to Corsica
The island of Corsica can be reached by plane or from several French or Italian ports, with a variety of ferry operators. The two larger companies “Corsica Ferries” and “Moby” offer similar amenities on their boats and there is not much difference in the price. Swimming Pool on deck, a small cinema, a play station and a Jungle-Gym for the kids are great amenities to pass the time, whether it is the quicker 4 hours day-crossing or an overnight trip.
- French ports are Marseille, Toulon and Nice
- Italian ports can be found in Savona, Genova, Livorno and Civitavecchia.
- Corsican harbours are in L’ille Rousse, Calvi, Ajaccio, Propriano, Porto Vecchio and Bastia.
The shortest routes – less than four hours by a faster boat on a day crossing – connect Nice with Calvi and Livorno with Bastia.
Arriving by plane to Corsica
Three International Airports of Bastia, Calvi and Ajacchio are available.
Follow us on this unforgettable CORSICA road trip discovery we were able to do as a family.
for a Corsica road trip itinerary with the kids – for first timers
The article “Corsica road trip itinerary with the kids – for first timers” will show you in detail where you can find the best accommodation in Corsica, best picnic spots, and where to get your camera out for a great photographic shot. Corsica road trip itinerary with kids will also guide you to the best Corsican beaches. We do not really eat out as a family; therefore, I have not covered best places to eat in Corsica with kids.
Day 1 / getting to Corsica and up North
The ferry docked around mid-day in Bastia, which gave us enough time to drive all the way along the Cap peninsula to the most northerly point of the Cap Corse.
CAP CORSE – The Northern tip
Cap Corse, an area that stretches 40 kilometers along the peninsula, located at the northern tip of the island. A wild, rough, and in many places still untouched natural area. Quirky fishing villages, an attractive coastline and some deserted beaches are pretty much all you will find at the Cap Corse. A ridged mountain line runs down the center of the Cap, peaking with Mont Stello, in the centre of the peninsula at a height of 1307 meters.
There is only really one way to visit the best of Cap Corse, up one side and down the other. The two sides, east and west, are quite different in character – the west side of Cap Corse with more mountains reaching right to the sea is more dramatic than on the gentler east side. You will not be able to crisscross the Cap Corse on your Corsica road trip with kids, because of its impressive mountains in between.
There are numerous scenic highlights and small villages to see around the Cap Corse. Below is a small selection of our highlights.
Scenic drive From Bastia to Botticella in the Ersa region
On the east side of the Cap Corse, be prepared to experience a scenic drive where you could stop every hundred meters and take out your camera. It is simply that beautiful. On one side the azure blue Mediterranean Sea and on the other side, rough, ragged verdant mountains rising high towards the centre of the Cap Corse.
The road is quite bendy and in some places narrow, so just take it easy and if you have a local very close behind you, let him pass.
When we left the coast and the road climbed up to the super region of Ersa we started to realise how vast and untouched a lot of the Cap Corse is. I guess the sheer roughness and uneven landscape makes it difficult to develop the area. And honestly, I am quite happy that it is still so untouched and hopefully it will stay like this.
Ersa is the northernmost region of the Cape Corse composinga few tiny villages, hamlets and a small port. It has an interesting coast with several small beaches, divided by raised areas of cliff and rock.
The main village on the north coast is Barcaggio. The port is within the village and the well known Cala beach is very close by. This beautiful beach was quiet and being April when we visited the water, although shallow, was quite fresh. However the kids still enjoyed it very much and even went for a paddle with dad.
We enjoyed a great night in Botticela at the “L’hôtel Le Saint Jean” with breathtaking views down to the beach and over to the Island “la Giraglia”.
If you stay in the above hotel, this is the place to have dinner on the terrace and enjoy the memorable sunset.
Day 2-5 / Calvi & Surroundings
The drive down the west side of Cap Corse was even more impressive than on the way up on the east side.
Make sure your camera is handy, again like before you could just simply stop at every corner. It is again a very curvy stretch of road until you reach the end of the Cap.
We wanted to stop at the black pebble beach in Nonza but realised that there is at leasta 10-minute stroll down a rather steep path. So, because of the kids we decided against it.
Luckily just before Nonza, at Marine d’Albo we spotted a road signposted to la plage (the beach). We checked it out, found a large and deserted black pebble beach which was just perfect, with more than enough stones for my little boy to throw in to the water and only a few minutes walk from the car.
There are many more viewpoints and interesting areas to be visited before arriving in Calvi but we skipped them for this trip so we have new areas to discover when we return.
– known for its beaches and crescent-shaped bay. Calvi is a large town – city rather, and I could imagine in peak season being really busy.
It has a beautiful historical medieval citadel which overlooks the marina from the bay’s western end.
Restaurants lined one after the other are competing for your custom at the harbour on the Quai Landry esplanade. Calvi was interesting to visit but not our favourite stop.
Luckily, we found a beautiful spot to visit, situated on a hill only a short distance inland from the city.
The chapel of Notre-Dame de la Serra. With its stunning panoramic views of the area and down to Calvi, we soon forgot that cities are not really for us. You could easily spend half a day up there, go for a little walk, have a picnic and just enjoy the view.
The beach stretching right along the crescent shaped bay offered plenty of space for everyone visiting during April like we did.
When travelling with kids you don’t really need much to make them happy, a beach, some buckets, some stones and voila, the day was saved. And with happy kids you will find happy parents.
Accommodation in Clavi
We had chosen to stay in a cabin at a campsite as we had never stayed somewhere like this we thought we should give it a try. Our choice was the 4 star site Camping La Pinède and it was good. Seriously I did not know what to expect, but we all really enjoyed our time there.
The camp site is situated in an enclosed area and it has a good feel. The great thing is that the beach is within walking distance and so was the nearby public playground.
A good idea to bring your bikes or rent some as it is very accessible and therefore you would not need to take your car for shopping and visiting Calvi. Personally, this is always a plus if the car can be left in a corner for a while.
We were in luck with the cabin we were allocated as it had a great surrounding with lots of space for the kids to cycle and play. The neighboring cabins were offset and we also had nobody in front of us. With being April and the weather a bit chilly on some days, we appreciated the heated pool.
Day 5 – 8 / Marine de Porto
A place we weren’t sure about when we put our Corsica road trip itinerary with kids – for first timers together. But we needed to stop somewhere on the way down south and this seemed just the perfect intermediate stop.
We were a 100% satisfied and could have easily stayed another two days longer. But we had booked our south accommodation whilst in Calvi and were not able to change this. Which means we just have to come back to Corsica another time.
One highlight is the drive from Calvi down to Porto through this dramatically beautiful landscape. It felt like we had driven to another country. The whole scenic environment changes dramatically compared with Calvi. Again, like at the Cap Corse, rocks, cliffs and mountains reaching all the way down to the sea.
A great picnic spot just before arriving in Porto. A few kilometres before Porto on the north approach is a snack bar within a large bend. Opposite this place is a tiny dirt road, you can drive in there or park by the trailer and cross the road. You will find a hidden picnic hut overlooking Porto and the ocean. Amazing, and could be very easily missed!
Marina del Porto
–a small touristy village on the west coast of Corsica. During our 3 day stay we discovered Porto is ideally placed for exploring many of the regions highlights, and there is way more than we originally thought.
The village has a nice feel but probably quite full and lively during peak season. But then again which place would be quiet during the big holiday season? NONE.
The tower of Porto dominates a small rocky outcrop and separates the village from the port where you can book your scenic boat trips and access the pebble beach.
It is probably one of the most easily accessible beaches in the area. If you don’t mind pebbles it is a great beach, very large and as our kids LOVE pebbles this was perfect. The backdrop from the beach is quite unique with the mountains and verdant nature.
On the very far left side are some rock-climbing pitches. We had a look and some routes look rather slippery from the backwash of the waves. But certainly, a stunning place to climb.
Porto is home to the Scandola Nature Reserve which is best visited by boat.
Plenty of local businesses offer private or group tours, just head down to the pier and ask around. We felt to spend 1-2 hours out at sea with our 2 ½ year old twins was not the best choice, so we opted out on this activity. But seeing how they operate and how full the main boats are, I would strongly suggest to charter a private boat if your budget allows.
Take a boat tour as close to sunset as possible. The sun will be behind you offering much better photo possibilities and you can see the whole cliffs better. I guess the colours must be amazing when entering the caves at this time of day.
The Calanques de Piana
The Corsican calanques located just outside Piana, one of the island’s prettiest villages. These absolute stunning rock formations are said to be at their most red – and most beautiful – at sunset. But when traveling with young kids this is not always an option and I can confirm they are as gorgeous and mesmerising during the daytime.
The drive through the Calanques de Piana follows the D81 south-east from Porto direction south.
There are little alcoves where you can just about park and get out to wander along the famous stretch and seek the “heart”. The kids were deep asleep when we were up there, so we parked up across the road from a small viewing platform. We sat there for an hour, admiring the views and the ever-changing weather. Misty clouds rose from the sea, hugging the rock formations and disappearing again in the air. An extraordinary spectacle and we had front row seats.
In some areas the road is super narrow with large busses squeezing and scraping their way along, so I would not want to be up there when it gets dark.
Gorges de Spelunca
is a great area to explore with kids. There are several hikes which you can shorten to your liking and in hot weather the gorge offers many pools great to have a cool down. The gorge is situated between the small mountain villages of Ota and Evisa which are well worth a stop when you pass them.
How best to explore the Spelunca Gorge? The path usually starts from Ota and is a 5km hike direction Porto. Another possibility is to take the bus from Ota to Evisa and hike along the old mule track between the two villages. This gives you a great impression of the gorge.
With smaller kids– From Porto you can circle part of the gorge on a scenic drive. From Porto take the road towards Evisa but stay on the D84 so the gorge is on your left. From this side you have a great view over to Ota which is beautifully nestled within trees and mountains. Picture perfect! There will be a road going left, the D124 direction Ota. Go down this road all the way to the bridge. Find some parking before the bridge and walk to the river, direction Evisa. There are some great areas with little pools and stony beaches. Ideal to let the kids build bridges, dams, and throw hundreds of stones into the river. The area also has shade and the water is safe and calm in that area.
To go back to Porto you can carry on over the bridge and this time pass through Ota.
No wonder the Porto region has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For our family holiday this was the best part of Corsica.
Corsica is well known for their beautiful beaches. One of them is Arone beach set in a tranquil 750m long semi-circular bay surrounded by rocks and beautiful nature. In summer season the area offers restaurants, campsites, vacation rentals and 3 private beach sections.
From Piana it takes about 20 minutes by car to reach the beach along a narrow road with beautiful views of the Gulf of Porto and Capo Rosso.
In April the place was empty. Absolutely amazing to have this large stretch of sand to ourselves.
There is a great place all the way to the right if looking out at sea. I would guess in peak season this is probably a private beach as there were stairs leading up to a restaurant.
But nobody came and told us to move so we set up our camp for the day.
An apartment was our choice in Porto, Résidence Hotelière Capu Seninu. It was nicely situated along the river and had great views over the marina and down to the beach. It was quiet and very clean but best of it all it was walking distance to town and even the beach was perfectly accessible without the car.
Day 9 – 13 / Bonifacio
We left the north of Corsica to discover the south with its better known towns such as Ajaccia to the west, Bonifacio in the south, and on the east coast the famous and probably most well known Porto-Vecchio.
The landscape changes from raggedy cliffs and steep mountains to a flatter and more beach feeling destination.
It’s known for its lively marina and medieval clifftop citadel. The 13th-century Bastion de l’Etendard houses a small museum with exhibits the town’s history. It is quite a unique place and a must visit. Parking can get a bit difficult in peak season, just take the first place you see. Otherwise there is a large payable carpark next to the Marina, if you’re lucky you will find places in there.
Spectacular cliffs and the structure of the village facade can be best viewed by boat if the weather is good. But you will get a nice feeling of the old medieval village also when strolling though the town and heading up to the different sections. You can walk along the city protection walls which offers amazing views over the ocean and Bonifacio. This walk is more suitable for families with older kids as you have a sheer drop on one side.
Don’t miss the GLACIER LE ROCCA SERRA selling unbelievably delicious homemade ice cream. Situated at the beginning of the restaurants and shops next to the Marina.
Bonifacio is very much a place where you can come, find a place in one of the marina restaurants and watch life go by.
By the marina is a tourist train and a fun thing to do with the kids. It brings you up to the top of Bonifacio where you find the great viewpoints in all directions. The local school is also situated there and has a great play ground with incredible views over the sea. I am wondering if the kids learn anything having to study next to such a breathtaking view. You can board the train again after 30min or make your way down on foot through the inside of the village.
One thing we did not do due to the weather is the The King of Aragon’s Stairway, which according to legend, was built overnight by the hands of the King of Aragon’s troops in 1420.
Descend the 187 steps along the Bonifacio city cliffs wall and you will be astounded by the numerous and incredible views of the sea. Apparently kids will get a certificate when they return to the top having mastered the 187 steps back up.
If you’re on a boat trip you get a good angle on this steep stairway which reaches nearly into the sea.
Definitely an attraction we would consider if we visit again. (no photos sorry)
Santa Giulia Beach
Classified by Unesco as one of the most beautiful in the world. And we have to say, this classification is right. The beach is situated in the south of the Gulf of Porto-Vecchio, and only 15 min from Bonifacio. The lagoon of crystal-clear turquoise water surrounded by a beach of fine, white, almost crystalline sand. A dream beach for any family as the lagoon has shallow water which makes this an ideal and safe environment. Kids of all ages can walk in and out of the water without any trouble.
When you arrive at the car park drive to the southerly end where there is a dead-end road. Follow this road until it gets very narrow and you can see the lake on your right and the sand dunes of the beach on your left. This is a great area to drop the family, as right behind the tiny sand dunes is a great beach area. You do need to turn around and park the car at the main car park but this way you do not have to carry all your beach belongings with you.
We found the right side of the beach – when facing the sea – to be the nicer area.
We made home for the next 4 days again at a 4* campsite with cabins – the
U-Farnienta Camping. All amenities were there, the heated pool with slide and kids area made up for the bad weather we were experiencing since having arrived south.
This time we were not so lucky with the allocation of our cabin. They were situated one behind another with not much space between them. You could see easily into the neighboring cabin which limits your privacy.
Conclusion of our Corsican road trip
Corsica – An island with so many corners and sections to discover. On our Corsica road trip itinerary with the kids – for first timers we have certainly only scratched the surface. But I feel for a first time visit this blog should give you a great understanding of the island and its possible activities.
Diversity in landscape makes this island unique. For us – as a family – we preferred the Cap Corse and the Porto area over the south. But to be fair we did not have great weather whilst visiting the south and could therefore not visit as much as we would have liked to.
Corsica gives us the feeling that in peak summer season it is jam packed full. Therefore, not a place we would recommend during peak season.
Voila, I hope you enjoyed following our Corsican road trip itinerary with kids.
Thank you and never forget to travel!
Corsica road trip itinerary with kids
In the map below, you find a summary of our main areas visited including; picnic spots we loved, beaches we played on, playground the kids had fun in and where we enjoyed the “must eat” Ice Creams!
I have not marked the viewpoints and the picture perfect spots, as I would have to mark the whole island. I let you be the judge of which is the perfect place to stop and make your photos.