Wedged into the coastline, Olbia is the largest town you’ll see on an MSC Mediterranean cruise around north-eastern Sardinia, its recent phenomenal growth due to the huge influx of tourists and cruisers bound for one of the Mediterranean’s loveliest stretches of coast, the Emerald Coast.
Olbia has a first-class museum, plus numerous bars and restaurants, usually abuzz with tourists. Long a magnet for Italy’s glitziest celebrities, in the 1960s the five-star development of the Costa Smeralda helped to transform the economy of the entire island.
With its typical rustic-red architecture, Porto Cervo, the main resort on the Costa Smeralda, embodies the dream of an idyllic Mediterranean village without any of the irritations of real life. Graffiti- and litter-free, Porto Cervo exults in its exclusivity, with a glittering yachting marina as its centrepiece.
You can enjoy many cruise excursions from Olbia: La Maddalena island invites aimless wandering and offers a variety of sandy and rocky beaches in mostly undeveloped coves. The beaches on the northern and western coasts are most attractive, particularly those around the tiny port of Madonetta, 5 km west of La Maddalena, and at Cala Lunga, 5 km north of town.
Attached to the main island by a causeway is neighbouring Caprera, the island on which Garibaldi spent his last years. Santa Teresa di Gallura is Sardinia’s northernmost port. The town gets extremely lively in summer, with a buzzing nightlife, but the main draw is the beaches, many enjoying superb views over to Corsica, just 11 km away.
There’s one stretch of sand right at the edge of town, but some of the finest beaches on the whole island are a short bus ride away, with Punta Falcone and La Marmorata to the east, and, 3 km west of Santa Teresa, Capo Testa, with its wind-sculpted granite rock formations.