Lake Garda beaches are dotted all around the circumference of Italy’s largest lake.
Covered with pebbles, grass or sand they curve around the blue waters and open gorgeous views towards the rugged peaks that surround Lake Garda.
Huddled in the shade of olive trees and citrus groves, overlooked by medieval castles and colourful houses, and even brimming the ruins of ancient Roman villas, Lake Garda beaches are a picturesque sight. Lounging on one at the height of summer is a great way to spend a few hours or a whole day just taking in the sweet delights of the Italian dolce vita.
So, if you have always wanted to visit Italy’s largest lake for some relaxation and beach time but you were never sure where to start from, fear not.
In this blog post, I give you my 16 top tips about spending a great day at the beach at Lake Garda. From how to get there to how warm is the water, from what to pack to an exhaustive list with the many different activities you can get up to on and around Lake Garda beaches, everything’s covered.
Without further ado, let’s start now!
Lake Garda Beaches – 16 Top Tips for a Great Day at the Beach at Italy’s Largest Lake
1. Can you swim in Lake Garda?
Yes! Lake Garda is a great destination for a nice and refreshing swim, especially at the height of summer. Its waters vary from emerald green to turquoise blue to super dark navy making the lake look like the Mediterranean’s little sister. However, Lake Garda’s average water temperature is lower than the Mediterranean’s by about two to three degrees Celsius.
Still, if you don’t mind an invigorating dip, put Lake Garda beaches on top of your summer beach list.
2. How warm is the water of Lake Garda beaches?
Lake Garda is 346 m deep and its waters can be quite cool, especially at the start of the summer season.
To give you a good idea of what water temperatures to expect at Lake Garda beaches, please, have a look at this page with data that is updated daily and it also contains historic monthly averages.
When swimming in Lake Garda between May and October, prepare yourself for anything from 17 to 26 degrees Celsius. Which can be quite bracing but it feels rather revitalising.
On a very hot summer day, there is nothing more pleasant than going for a swim in the lake’s waters. It cools you off and you feel so full of life and so very energetic. Some Lake Garda beaches have a platform anchored a couple of dozen meters off the beachline. Swimming up to this platform, pulling yourself up its metal steps to then comfortably stretch on the platform’s warm surface is a pleasure like no other.
3. How many beaches there are around Lake Garda?
In the Veneto alone, there are 44 Lake Garda beaches. Click on this link to see a map (in Italian) giving you their names and locations.
In Lombardy, there are over 60 Lake Garda beaches. Click on this link for an exhaustive article (in Italian) listing their names, amenities, and where to find them.
In Trentino-Alto Adige, there are at least a dozen Lake Garda beaches. Click on this link for information on their names, amenities, and locations.
Please, use Google Translate to get the gist of the information that is available only in Italian.
4. What types of beaches there are around Lake Garda?
Around Lake Garda you will find several types of beaches.
The predominant variety are beaches covered with small sharp pebbles or gravel. However, there are some sandy and some grassy Lake Garda beaches, too. And there are beaches that have a little bit of both – some gravel with a grassy strip or a sandy area with lots of pebbles next to it.
In any case, beach shoes are always a great thing to pack when you are getting ready to visit a Lake Garda beach. For more things to bring with you, have a look at point 10 below.
5. Which are the best Lake Garda beaches?
There are many Lake Garda beaches that are world-famous for their stunning location and great views. Here are three of the most popular are:
- Giamaica Beach in the town of Sirmione – a gorgeous beach where beachgoers step on wide flat stones that seem to raise from the bottom of Lake Garda. The ruins of a once huge Roman villa overlook this beach. The only inconvenience here is that Giamaica Beach can be reached only on foot and on a hot day, the 20 minutes or so walk with hands filled with stuffed beach bags can take quite the effort.
- Parco Baia delle Sirene – curving around a small secluded bay at the back of the promontory of San Vigilio, you will find this beautiful beach just over three km away from the town of Garda. Surrounded by an olive grove, the beach has its own car park. The price of the entrance ticket includes parking, sun lounger rental, access to table tennis, kids’ playground, TV area, showers, and toilets.
- Pini Beach in the town of Riva del Garda – also known as Purfina, this is a lovely beach with a grassy area and an area covered with pebbles. Here you will find a bar, showers, sun loungers for rent, as well as a small playground for kids to have fun.
Otherwise, it is difficult to say which of the dozens of beaches around Lake Garda is the very best one. It depends on personal preferences, available amenities, the ability to get there quickly and without hassle, and how easy it is to park nearby. So, the best course of action is to give several Lake Garda beaches a try and see which one meets your needs the best.
6. How to decide which Lake Garda beach to head to?
If you have a limited amount of time at Lake Garda, simply head to the beach that is nearest to you. Don’t waste time travelling from town to town in search of the best or the most popular beach. Instead, use the links under point 3 above to locate the Lake Garda beach(es) that are at the shortest distance from you, read a couple of reviews online, and head there.
If you have more time to spend at Lake Garda, then, by all means, explore its beaches as much as possible. From the beaches providing a number of amenities to the beaches where you need to bring everything yourself, the shores of Italy’s largest lake have different types of charm which you may want to experience for yourself and see where you feel best.
7. Are Lake Garda beaches free or paid for?
It depends on the beach.
Many Lake Garda beaches are free to access. A few, like the very beautiful and well-appointed Parco Baia delle Sirene, are paid for. And then some Lake Garda beaches are attached to a particular camping site and/or hotel and access may be denied to people who are not their guests.
Bear in mind that a visit to an otherwise free Lake Garda beach still may require some financial outlay. For example, you will need to pay for parking and, where available, to rent sun loungers, umbrellas, and other such beach amenities.
8. Where can I park at Lake Garda beaches?
It depends on the individual beach. Some have an assigned parking lot nearby where you can leave your vehicle in the shade of centuries-old olive trees. The parking is included in the price of the ticket that allows you to access the beach. This is the case at the above-mentioned Parco Baia delle Sirene, for example.
Other Lake Garda beaches are easy to walk to from the adjacent lakeside town’s main parking area. This is the case at the beaches in the small towns of Castelletto sul Garda, Torri del Benaco, Toscolano, and many others.
And yet other beaches (like Giamaica Beach in Sirmione) are only accessible by following a pedestrian-only path, although this type of access is rather the exception than the norm.
Bear in mind that during the high season, parking spaces around the most popular Lake Garda beaches quickly fill in. You may need to arrive early to claim a spot.
Alternatively, you can plan to spend time at a Lake Garda beach later in the afternoon when people are heading back to their homes or hotels and freeing up parking spaces.
Don’t forget to pay for parking and make sure that you don’t park in a spot reserved for the local residents. Usually, in such cases, there are signs clearly stating where it is allowed to park, so keep an eye out for them.
9. How can I reach Lake Garda beaches if I don’t have a car?
Having a car at your disposal makes exploring Lake Garda so much easier. At the same time, during the high season, you may find it difficult to find a place to park. Traffic jams on summer weekends can also slow you down significantly.
In any case, if you don’t have a car (or don’t want to use it) and you want to spend some time at a Lake Garda beach, don’t despair! There are many ways to reach Italy’s largest lake and its many beaches. Here they are in a nutshell:
- Train to the southern edge of Lake Garda – there are two train stations on Lake Garda. You will find them in the towns of Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda. Both are on the southern shores of the lake. Both stations are on the Venice–Padua–Vicenza–Verona–Lake Garda-Brescia-Milan-Turin train line. So, you can reach quickly and directly Italy’s largest lake from some of the largest and most important cities in Northern Italy. If you choose this option, then you can go to one of the many beaches in and around Desenzano del Garda, Peschiera del Garda, and the towns near them. Use the links provided under point 3 above to see which Lake Garda beaches would be the nearest and easiest to reach.
- Train to the northern edge of Lake Garda – there is no train station as such in the towns on the northern shores of Italy’s largest lake. Instead, you can take a train to Rovereto – a beautiful city in Trentino – and from there a bus to Riva del Garda. For example, by train, Rovereto is 40 to 60 mins away from Verona and less than 20 mins away from Trento. The bus connecting Rovereto with Riva del Garda takes about 40 mins. Once in Riva, you can take your pick from the several beaches that are there. Again, you can use the links provided under point 3 above to make the most convenient choice.
N.B.: To schedule train journeys in Italy and easily check ticket prices and/or buy tickets in advance, I use the TrenItalia website. At the end of this blog post, you will find an exhaustive description of how best to navigate the Italian train system and which type of Italian train to choose depending on the journey you are planning.
- Bus – Lake Garda is well-served by a good network of buses that run around the lake and connect the many lakeside towns with nearby large cities like Verona, Brescia, Rovereto, and Trento. You can use either Google Maps or Rome2Rio to check timetables and make the best itinerary.
- Ferry – several ferry boats crisscross Lake Garda year-round. Some take only passengers, whereas others also transport vehicles. Taking a ferry from one lakeside town to another is a great way to enjoy some stunning lake and mountain views while on the way to the beach. For more information about Lake Garda ferries, please, have a look here.
10. What should I bring to a Lake Garda beach for a great beach day?
You will need to bring the usual things for a comfortable and safe beach day: towel, swimming costume, sun cream, a change of clothes, sunglasses, goggles, a bottle of water, a good book, and snacks. In addition, don’t forget your beach shoes. Lake Garda beaches are mostly pebbly and stepping on million sharp edges is no fun.
While umbrellas and sun loungers can be rented at some Lake Garda beaches, at others these are not available. In this case, you can bring your own provided there is enough space in your vehicle and you are happy to lug them around.
Shops in the towns around Lake Garda sell everything that you may need for a day at the beach in case you forget something.
Cash and coins for the car park machines are always handy. An ATM often can be a drive away.
In terms of water, snacks, and food, you can bring your own and then have a nice picnic on your towel or picnic rug while admiring Lake Garda’s stunning landscape. At a few Lake Garda beaches, there are even picnic tables.
Near Lake Garda beaches there are often many restaurants and cafes selling drinks, cold bites and hot food. Still, it’s always a good idea to have at least a bottle of water and a healthy snack with you to keep you hydrated and energetic even on the hottest day.
11. Can I go to the beach with my dog at Lake Garda?
There are Lake Garda beaches that cater specifically to dogs and their owners. In Italian, they are known as Bau Beach from the Italian word bau (woof in English) and, obviously, the English word beach (otherwise, beach in Italian is spiaggia).
These are the Lake Garda beaches to head to if you have a dog: Spiaggia Braccobaldo Bau Beach in Peschiera del Garda, Fido Beach in Manerba del Garda, the small Spiaggia per cani in Salo, and Bau Beach Toscolano.
In addition, some other Lake Garda beaches may be accommodating to dog owners, too, provided that the dog is always kept on a leash and is well-behaved throughout its stay. You can click here and here to read more about such beaches and the rules that need to be observed by dogs and their owners on them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate an English-language version of the respective pages, so, please, use Google Translate to get the gist of the information as it is quite useful.
12. Are Lake Garda beaches popular destinations for the locals and visitors to the area?
Yes, Lake Garda beaches are very popular. Being Italy’s largest lake, Lago di Garda (as it is known in Italian) attracts millions of tourists each year. So, as you can imagine, beaches there can get rather busy during the high season.
If you are driving to Lake Garda specifically to spend a couple of hours or a day at one of its beaches, make sure that you get there early. Especially, on weekends and official holidays. This way, you have a chance to grab a convenient parking space and a spot for your towels on the beach.
Another option is to go to Lake Garda beaches later in the afternoon when most people have already headed back to their hotel rooms to get ready for dinner and a walk. There is another plus to this approach as some of the paid beaches offer discounted prices if you visit after 4.30 pm.
13. What else can I do at Lake Garda beaches apart from topping my tan and swimming?
In addition to reading, topping your tan, snacking, swimming, and/or simply relaxing, there are many other things you can get up to in and out of the water at Lake Garda.
From renting a motorboat or a sailing yacht to having a windsurfing lesson, from riding a pedalo to paragliding, Lake Garda is a haven for adrenaline activities and watersports.
You can also fish (just make sure that you obtain a license first), go for a leisurely walk along the promenade or through olive and citrus groves, and even admire ancient Roman ruins as you lie on your towel.
There are many interesting sights dotted around Lake Garda, so you can always split a day between the beach and some museum-hopping. Or, you can go for a nice and reinvigorating hike in the hills that surround the lake and then while the afternoon hours away on the nearest beach.
To give you some ideas, here are some suggestions for great hikes around Lake Garda:
- Lake Garda’s Tibetan Bridge – A High-Adrenaline Hiking Experience in the Veneto, Italy
- Rocca di Garda – Hiking to the Best Panoramic Spot of Lake Garda, Italy
- Campo di Brenzone – A Great Day Trip to a Medieval Village in the Hills Above Lake Garda, Italy
- Parco delle Cascate and Molina – A Great Day Out in the Province of Verona
- Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona – Visiting Italy’s Church Suspended Between Heaven and Earth
14. What types of animals and fish can I expect to see in and around Lake Garda?
Garda is a vibrant lake surrounded by lush nature. It’s a place full of life where you can easily come across many different types of terrestrial and aquatic animals.
The lake waters team with fish – from common carps and eels to brown trouts and even pikes. A great way to learn more about Lake Garda fish species is to visit one of the small specialised museums dotted on the lake shores. For example, a quick visit to the Museum of the Lake in Cassone and/or the Fishing Room in the medieval castle in the town of Torri del Benaco will give you a great idea about the varieties of fish that call Lake Garda home.
Cassone’s Museum of the Lake has a cistern where you can admire some live specimens, too.
As you sun yourself on a Lake Garda beach, you may be lucky to glimpse a large fish or two in the crystal clear waters in the lake shallows. I don’t guarantee it but it has happened to me a couple of times and it is very exciting.
Other than that, you may come across a lizard or two. In fact, lizards are everywhere in Italy in the summer. They are small and not dangerous and will scaredly run away at the faintest sign of movement.
Mosquitoes can be vicious, especially in the evenings. So, a mosquito repellent in your bag can come in useful. Don’t expect swarms of mosquitoes though, here. They attack pretty much single-handedly and most often than not you realise that you have been bitten after the fact.
Now, in the interest of full transparency, I need to add that I once saw a water snake at Lake Garda. It happened on an empty beach right before the high season started. The snake was swimming and it went merrily on its way completely ignoring my screams. It was the only time in my six years of visiting Lake Garda and afterward, I spent many happy hours on different occasions at the same beach and there never was another such encounter.
What you will see quite often at Lake Garda beaches are gaggles of resident ducks and even couples of regal swans. Both ducks and swans come to the shore, groom their feathers, have a snooze, and off they go for a swim again. Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you although ducks can sometimes be quite persistent in their asking for food. Don’t be tempted to feed them, they are wild birds, after all.
To finish off, did you know that apparently Lake Garda has its own monster?! Something akin to the world-famous Nessie of Scotland’s Loch Ness. Apparently, Benni has been spotted a few times swimming about in Lake Garda. The monster is called Bennie after the lake’s Roman name – Lacus Benacus. It has its own fan club, too (there are some freaky photos right on the home page, so click at your own risk).
If you happen to come across Bennie, don’t forget to take a selfie or two. Otherwise, in Riva del Garda, there is a stall that sells Bennie plush toys and other Bennie-branded products.
15. What not to expect from Lake Garda beaches?
While Lake Garda is very beautiful and offers many activities and destinations to keep you happy and busy over many days, primarily this is not a beach destination.
As such, please, don’t be disappointed if you find the lake lacking in wide sandy strips that are lapped by very warm water. In other words, although Lake Garda has a sub-Mediterranean climate, this is not the Mediterranean Sea.
Instead, prepare yourself for narrow, predominantly pebbly beaches that often run parallel to the busy lakeside road and are right next to small ports and historic towns. Expect to take a dip in water that may be a tad chilly and may look rather dark and brooding at times.
During the high season, brace yourself for people, lots of people. And cars, lots of cars.
Yet, it’s not all bad!
The beauty of going to the beach at Lake Garda is the ability to refresh yourself during a hot, hot day, the opportunity to sun yourself at the same spots where the Ancient Romans would go swimming over two millennia ago, the possibility to admire the stunning lake and mountain views, the chance to practice water sports, to rent a pedalo or a boat and go exploring.
16. What are your favourite Lake Garda beaches?
Thank you so much for asking!
Click here to read about my three unmissable Lake Garda beaches that I like to return to time and time again.
Lago di Garda is Italy’s largest lake. With a circumference of 158.4 km, it offers a long series of gorgeous beaches. Stretched in front of charming lakeside towns or tucked away in romantic bays, Lake Garda beaches are a great destination on a hot summer day.
If you have ever wanted to spend a few hours or a whole day sunning yourself at a Lake Garda beach, the above blog post gives you lots of first-hand tried and tested information about how to go about it. From details about how warm the water at Lake Garda is to what are the most famous local beaches, from what to bring with you for a great beach day to tips on what wildlife you can expect to glimpse there (if you are lucky!), everything’s covered.
I hope that this blog post will provide you with all of the necessary information for a great day at Lake Garda beaches.
More Helpful Links for Things to Do around Lake Garda, Italy
- 3 Unmissable Lake Garda Beaches to Sun Yourself on This Summer in Italy
- Best 12 Towns to Visit around Lago di Garda – Italy’s Largest Lake
- Lake Garda with Kids or The Best 11 Things to Do at Lake Garda for Families
- Lake Garda’s Tibetan Bridge – A High-Adrenaline Hiking Experience in the Veneto, Italy
- 30 Days of Adventures in the Veneto, Italy – #30daysofadventures
- Top 15 Places to Visit in the Veneto, Italy – The Ultimate Guide
- 20 Best Things to Do and See in Verona, Italy in One Day – The Ultimate Itinerary with Photos and Tips
- Trentino, Italy – Castles, Hikes, and Alpacas – The Perfect 4-Day Itinerary (With or Without Kids)
- Day Trips from Verona – 16 Destinations in Italy to Fall in Love with (With Travel Times and Train Tips)
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