You don’t know what a lido beach is? Don’t worry, this expression is new in our vocabulary as well. More and more beaches, both on the northern and the southern Balaton shore, are being covered with sand, which helps the self-purification of the water and it is also preferred by beachgoers. It is no secret that the reason we set out to review four beaches on the southern shore was the recent inauguration of the restored sandy beach of Fonyód, which is supposed to be the longest of its kind around the entire lake.
The Balatonfenyves Main Public Beach is perfect for those whose need for exercise is not satisfied by throwing a ball around in the water or popping to one of the food stands for lángos. In addition to classic options, such as the trampoline or the traditional playground, you can also move your muscles on the beach volleyball court. There are some basketball hoops set up in the water: bouncing a ball in front of them will be a challenge, and jump shots will pose their own set of difficulties as well. The best thing is that a surf school has set up shop on the beach. You won’t be sent to Los Angeles to test your newly acquired skills after the first lesson, but you can learn the basics relatively fast. If you come here by train, just head toward the lake along the street lined with market booths, which will take you directly to this public beach.
The massive grounds have two fairly small sandy stretches where you can go into the water, but the little ones are seemingly unfazed by the lack of resources and build sand castles that put the castles of the Game of Thrones universe to shame. Food options are limited, just like at other beaches, but if you are a fan of traditional and gloriously unhealthy beach dishes, you will be spoilt for choice here. The constant holler of the two blokes selling corn on the cob from containers attached to their bikes provides a characteristic background noise to the beach. There is hope yet because at one of the beach restaurants, called Robinson, we were served steak potatoes with our gyros instead of frozen french fries.
If you arrive by train in Balatonlelle, there is no way you won’t bump into Napfény Beach on your way to the Balaton shore: just head straight for the waterfront and you’ll know you are in the right place if you are stopped to pay for admission. Daily tickets cost HUF 600, with students and pensioners being admitted for half of this amount, and if you also want to try the adventure pools, built around a full-on castle with bastions and all, you’ll be charged double that. Do not be alarmed by the retro sign by the entrance, as the East German vibe is long gone, like the Berlin Wall. This is one of the finest sandy beaches around Lake Balaton: the entire length of the beach is covered with sand, immediately triggering the cliché in everyone’s head about the Balaton being the Hungarian sea.
In terms of water sports, frog-shaped paddleboats are your only option, but on the shore you can play beach football, beach volleyball and virtually everything else that you need sand and a ball for. The beach deserves kudos for having basketball hoops and a small asphalt court as well. Its several playgrounds and huge sand-covered play areas alone would attract kids like Magneto attracts iron, an effect that is further enhanced by the previously mentioned adventure pools and slides. When it comes to gastronomy, Napfény Beach is no exception: it, too, has been unable to surpass the usual selection of lángos, Wiener schnitzel, hake and goulash. We found that the quality of the food was fine, at least at the places we visited, but we were less impressed with the unimaginative menus. The beach is in short supply of roofed changing rooms and bathrooms, and beachgoers can only take a shower at the outdoor facilities by the lakeside, but you can at least use the bathrooms free of charge.
At the inauguration of Fonyód’s main public beach last week, representatives of the local government advertised it as the longest sandy beach around Lake Balaton. We forgot to take measuring tape with us, but it is doubtful that the Fonyód beach is much longer than Napfény Beach in Balatonlelle, and in terms of the area actually covered with sand Lelle definitely scores a bigger knockout victory than four Vladimir Klitschkos. We are very pleased with the fact that the beach is being transformed, and it is coming together nicely, but don’t expect it to be fully finished yet. The pavestone-covered area – which looks more neatly done in some places than others – still overwhelms the sandy lakeshore, and the number of groundworks machines and backhoes per capita is currently higher than we are used to at the more sophisticated beaches. We have contacted the Fonyód Mayor’s Office to ask a few questions about the current state of affairs and the plans for this summer, and we will report back as soon as we have received the answers.
There is currently one short section where you can cross the sand to take a dip, but a new pier as well as a new set of stairs have been added to the beach. The restoration efforts brought no gastronomic revolution: you’ll find the regular beach food all-stars a mere two-minute walk away from the shore. Due to the proximity of the train station, it could easily come to making a mad dash for the train from the beach or vice-versa. The shower and toilet blocks have not been “overcomplicated” in Fonyód either: all beachgoers can use the outdoor showers and changing cabins, but if you feel like taking a proper shower after swimming around in the lake, you’ll have to wait until you get back to your hotel or apartment.
In Siófok we could have chosen Aranypart, the undisputed benchmark of the sandy beach genre, but then we would never have found out what the paying beach of one of the most popular Balaton towns can do. In exchange for the HUF 1,000 admission fee you get a stretch of sandy shore barely bigger than a sandbox, from where you could even walk over to Csopak – in snorkelling gear. Most of the beach is rocky with stairs leading into the water in several places, but the sunbathing section is generously packed with sand in return. Here you can experience first-hand the kind of white sofa, premium looking atmosphere that draws a lot of visitors to the town – and sends so many others running for the northern shore.
None of the food stands were open when we visited the beach, which was probably due to the fact that it was a bit windy and the sun was hiding behind the clouds most of the time, so the hungry ones had to make their way toward Petőfi sétány, only a few minutes away. We have already listed a couple of local options for those wanting to fill their bellies but not insisting on a Chianti style culinary experience. The main beach has nothing to be ashamed of in the activities department: it boasts a beach football arena as good as any in South Africa, and there are a couple of beach volleyball courts by the grassy section of the beach. The playground and the paddleboats are so evident that we won’t even go into detail about them.