You’re on a Mediterranean beach, a brightly coloured plastic spade in your hand watching your little ones carrying a bucket back from the sea. Water is sloshing over the edge as they march towards the sandcastle you have built together, preparing to fill the moat.
It is moments like these that you can enjoy, spending real quality time with your children away from the stresses of everyday life. There is no pressure and zero commitments. Days can be spent lazing around and exploring a new country at your own pace. As a result you can create precious memories that will last long after you have packed your suitcase and boarded a flight back home.
The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a destination. But the Greek islands, whether you’re jetting abroad with toddlers or teenagers, offer the ideal destination for a family holiday.
However, with so many to choose from, you might well be asking, which are the best Greek island for families? To help you decide, here are seven that both you and the kids will love.
This is the best Greek island for those travelling with youngsters. It is one of the largest, which means it has something for everyone and it is one of the safest due to the incredibly low crime rate. Crete also enjoys the longest summer not only in Greece but Europe, giving you much more choice when it comes to choosing dates to visit.
Where to stay? Hotel Lyttos Beach in Hersonissos is ideal for families because it is situated on the beach and has its own waterpark complete with exhilarating slides. There is also a football pitch, children’s pool and on-site kids club as well as a daytime activity programme and evening entertainment.
Family-friendly beaches: There are hundreds of beaches to choose from including child-friendly stretches that boast soft sand and shallow waters. The best, if you have tiny tots, are Matala, Agia Pelagia and Makrigialos.
But you won’t want to leave without seeing the dusky pink sand at Elafonisi – this colourful coast is regularly listed among the best in the world. Plus, the water is calm and shallow, ideal for the children.
Need to know: You won’t be able to take away a souvenir from Elafonisi Beach – it is protected, so removing sand, rocks or flowers is illegal. Don’t forget your camera though – this is the perfect spot for a unique holiday snap!
Things to do as a family in Crete:
- Sea kayaking on the south coast
- Cycling on mountain roads
- Walk with dinosaurs at Dinosauria Park
- Visit Samaia Gorge, the longest in Europe
- Go underground and explore the Dikteon Caves
- Step back in time at the ancient Minoan Palace in Knossos
- Ride a glass-bottom boat in the Old Town of Chania
- Fly down the water slides at Acqua Plus
Need to know: Aquaworld is open from 1st April until 31st October, from Monday to Saturday, 10am until 5.15pm. It is €8 for adults and teenagers and €4 for young children.
Highlight for the children: Animal lovers will be in their element at Aquaworld in Hersonisos. This is Crete’s first aquarium where you can get up close and personal with the rescued sea life and reptiles in a hands-on experience. You can also visit CretAquarium which is one of the most modern and largest aquariums in Europe.
Carrie Bradley writes on her blog, Flying with a Baby: CretAquarium is an important aquarium for the area as it provides research and expertise in the species and ecosystems of the Mediterranean. The staff are passionate about the care and research. It is a great place to explore the underwater world or to escape the heat of the day.
A bonus for kids is the interactive drawing area. Children can draw their own picture, use a simple machine to then see it displayed as a cartoon on a large screen.
The aquarium has a lovely little restaurant attached with fresh healthy alternatives too. There is also the option of sitting outside on the veranda with views of the sea. My girls enjoyed the fun orange starfish themed chairs nearby too!
Corfu is among the greenest of the Greek Islands which has earned it the nickname the ‘Emerald Isle.’ From the UNESCO listed Old Town to the rugged mountain villages and the long sandy shorelines, this island boasts a natural beauty to rival the other islands. A luscious backdrop for a holiday with the kids.
Where to stay? Kontokali Bay Hotel and Spa is perfect for families. Your kids will love the Children’s Village where they can splash around in their own pool and enjoy the playground and playroom. This hotel has its own private beach and staff can organise activities including horse riding, mountain biking and waterskiing.
Family-friendly beaches: Corfu is known for its endless sandy beaches – it has 57 in total. Popular family beaches include Issos Beach which is just south of Corfu Town. The water here is calm and shallow and the beach rarely gets crowded. Make sure you take a seat on the sand dunes at dusk to enjoy the sunset.
Dassia Bay is a Blue Flag beach that also benefits from tranquil and shallow water. You’ll find plenty of watersports to keep older children entertained including waterskiing and wakeboarding. You can also discover great sandy beaches in the west – Glyfada is especially child-friendly and one of the liveliest on this coastline.
Need to know: The sea isn’t particularly warm around the island from May to July. The best time for swimming is actually from mid August to October when the temperature rises significantly.
Things to do as a family in Corfu:
- Learn to ride at Dimitris stables in Avlaki
- Explore Kassiopi Castle
- Head to Corfu Town and board the glass-bottom boat to see colourful fish
- Take a trip to the nearby Vidos Island
- Walk a donkey at Corfu Donkey Rescue
- See fish, snakes, iguanas and lizards at Corfu Aquarium
- Discover ancient ruins at the Temple of Artemis in Korkyra
- Head to the top of ‘Kaiser’s Throne’ to watch the sunset
Highlight for the children: Hydropolis Waterpark in Acharavi, where older children can relax on the lazy river or experience the thrill of the water rides, and youngsters can take advantage of the mini slides in the children’s pool.
Alternatively, you can visit Aqualand in Agios Ioannis, which you’ll find right at the heart of the island. The designers behind Disney attractions created many of the rides here – so you know they are going to be spectacular!
Need to know: Aqualand is open from May until October, 10 am to 6pm. Ticket prices for a full day are:
- 0-4 years old: Free
- 5 – 12 years old: €20
- 13 – 65 years old: €28
- Over 65s: €20
Rhodes is one of the most visited islands in Greece and the most historically important in the Dodecanese islands. The Old Town is reason enough to visit, it is one of the best preserved mediaeval settlements in the world.
Top tip: This island benefits from glorious weather all year-round. So, if you can, try to avoid going there in August when it is at its busiest and hottest. If possible, May to June and September to October are the best times to visit.
Where to stay? Princess Andriana Resort & Spa is only 100 metres from a sandy beach and close to must-have amenities. There is a playground and separate pool for children. There is also a childcare service should you require it. Alongside, activities such as miniature golf, animation programmes, archery and table tennis – to keep kids entertained.
Family-friendly beaches: There are plenty of Blue Flag beaches in Rhodes. Head to the east coast for 30 miles of sandy shoreline alongside warm, shallow water. Lindos has one of the best on the island – it boasts white powdery sand and turquoise water. The water here is shallow, making it ideal for young children. A short distance from Lindos you’ll find Lardos – this peaceful sandy spot is ideal for parents to relax while kids play in the sand.
Things to do as a family in Rhodes:
- Experience the slides at Aqua Park in Faliraki
- Learn more about sea life at Rhodes Aquarium
- Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site and medieval town of Rhodes
- Explore The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights
- Grab a bite to eat while you learn about space at the Astronomy Café
- Be surrounded by beautiful butterflies at Butterfly Valley
- Try windsurfing and kite-surfing at Prasonisi
Highlight for the children: The ostrich interaction zone at Farma of Rhodes, where kids can come face-to-face with these magnificent creatures, is sure to delight them. Once they have become acquainted with the ostriches they can also see kangaroos, camels, llamas, donkeys, ponies and raccoons – just to name a few. You’ll find there are opportunities to feed, pet and get a selfie with many of the animals.
Need to know: Farma of Rhodes is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 7pm. Ticket prices are dependent on age:
- Adults – 12+ years: €7
- Children – 3 to 12 years: €4
- Infants – under 3 years: Free
If your kids are getting to that age where they are becoming slightly reluctant to go on a family holiday then this is the perfect island. Mykonos is famous for its nightlife but you can always stay in one of the quieter resorts, such as Agios Ioannis, with its sandy beach that is ideal for a family break.
Where to stay? Mykonos Grand Hotel & Resort is a small luxury hotel with a separate pool for the kids and a childcare service. The hotel is located right on Agios Ioannis Beach,enjoying panoramic views across the sea to Delos Island.
Family-friendly beaches: There are more than 30 beaches in Mykonos. You’ll probably want to avoid the loud music and beach parties if you’re there with younger children. But, there are also plenty of family-friendly shores to choose from including Ornos Beach, Platis Gialos and Agios Stefanos.
Need to know: The sea off the beaches on the north side of the island can be rough in July and August. If you’re visiting during these months it is best to stick to the beaches along the south coast which are protected from the elements.
Things to do as a family in Mykonos:
- Taste the local cuisine following a family cooking class at Mykonian Spiti
- Explore Mykonos Old Town and see the windmills
- Visit the harbour in Little Venice
- Grab your snorkel and explore the world under the water
- See the ancient vessels at Aegean Maritime Museum
Highlight for the children: Stepping back in time on the uninhabited islet of Delos, with its UNESCO-listed ancient temples. This is believed to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis – an intriguing destination for youngsters.
Zante is the ideal destination for families, with many resorts geared towards kids offering plenty of activities to ensure their holiday is fun-filled. It is incredibly popular among holidaymakers and perfect if you’re looking for adventure. Tsilivi, Kalamaki and Alykanas are the most child-friendly resorts.
Where to stay? Hotel Petros in Tsilivi features a playground and a pool for the kids. It offers childcare services and is close to the restaurants. It is also only a 10 minute walk to the beach where you’ll find plenty of watersports on offer.
Family-friendly beaches: Navagio Beach is impressive for kids and adults alike. The beach, which is located in the north west of the island is known as ‘Shipwreck Beach’ due to the stranded Freightliner that sits on the soft white sand.
Tall limestone cliffs surround it and legend has it, the ship was used for smuggling. Gerakas Beach is also one of the most beautiful in Zante. The long strip is part of the National Marine Park and where you’ll find loggerhead sea turtles laying their eggs. Alternatively, Alykes Beach is ideal for families with young children because the water is shallow.
Need to know:
- Navagio Beach can only be accessed by boat – the best way to get here is from Porto Vromi. The boat departs every hour and it takes around 20 minutes to reach the beach. Don’t forget your camera – this is the most photographed beach in Greece and the perfect setting for little ones to get into character as pirates!
- It is forbidden to enter Gerakas Beach half an hour before sunset and half an hour after sunrise.
Things to do as a family in Zante:
- Relax on the lazy river and ride the slides at Tsilivi waterpark
- Go horseback riding on the beach in Kalamaki
- Jump aboard a glass-bottom boat to discover Zante’s underwater world
- Catch a glimpse of the endangered monk seal
- Explore the impressive Blue Caves
- Take your snorkel to try and spot a sea turtle
Highlight for the children: Visiting the Marine Park on the south coast from Marathia’s Cape to the beach of Gerkas including Laganas Bay. This protected area is the breeding ground for the endangered loggerhead turtles. If you are lucky you’ll be able to spot them in their natural habitat as you learn more about them.
You might think this romantic island is better suited to loved-up couples but it is also an ideal destination for families, especially those with slightly older children.
Top Tip: Stay on the east coast of the island because this is where you’ll find the best beaches. Plus, the island is relatively small so you can always take a day trip to the west to see the scenery this island is so famous for.
Where to stay? Set in an old winery, Vedema Resort has activities for kids, plus childcare on request – although this may come at an extra cost. The hotel is surrounded by vineyards and overlooks the sparkling Aegean Sea.
Family-friendly beaches: Kamari Beach is the most touristy on the island and one of the longest. Mount Vouno Mountain provides the backdrop to this Blue Flag stretch of sand. The clear water is perfect for snorkelling, while kids can have a go at surfing, paddle boarding and waterskiing.
Alternatively, Perissa Beach, which is on the other side of the mountain, is also perfect families. On the sea off this beautiful black sand beach, your children can cling on as they are thrown around by banana boats and fly high above the beach, on a parasail.
Things to do as a family in Santorini:
- Explore the archaeological sites of Ancient Thira
- Watch the most magical sunset at Oia
- Tour the volcano, Nea Kameni
- Try your hand at watersports from kayaking to sailing
- Explore the white-washed village along the caldera
- Take a trip to see Red Beach
Highlight for the children: Take a boat trip over to the island of Palea Kameni to bathe in the hot springs within the bay of Agios Nikolaos which reach temperatures of 35°C. Then wallow in the mud baths, which have been formed as the result of volcanic eruption.
This island is situated close to the Turkish coast and is one of the most popular. It’s large size means there is something to suit every taste. The most touristy locations on the island are on the south side, including Kefalos.
Where to stay? Kipriotis Village Resort is a great choice for families, not only does it come with a 4 star rating, but it has a pool scene to be proud of. Guests can choose from its lengthy Olympic number, duo of children’s options complete with water slides or take a dip in its outdoor hot tub.
The resort also has a grand feel with a reception area dressed in gold and fancy in-room touches. When it comes to dining, you can enjoy themed nights in its main restaurant, al fresco dining at its Italian eatery alongside barbecued snacks for lunch and the finest seafood from its Greek taverna.
Family-friendly beaches: Paradise Beach, situated between Kardamena and Kefalos, is the most popular one in Kos. There is a shallow slope into the sea making it perfect for little ones. This is also known as ‘Bubble Beach’ due to the bubbles that can often be seen, caused by volcanic gases from the seabed.
Things to do as a family in Kos:
- Explore Kos Archaeological museum
- Step back in time at the Asklepion
- Visit the Castle of the Knights
- See the islands last working windmill
- Splash around at one of two water parks, Aquatica and Lido.
- Relax in the thermal springs
- Hear the hisses from inactive volcanic island, Nisyros.
Highlight for the children: Kids will love the Melissa Honey Factory where they can sample this sweet treat while they learn about the beehives and production.
Tips for travelling with children:
- Look for family-friendly beaches – you’ll find there are plenty with calm, safe and shallow water.
- Make sure your accommodation has a separate living and sleeping area, so you can chill once the kids have gone to bed.
- Ensure there are child-friendly activities and shops nearby for the essentials.
- Make sure your accommodation has a kids’ club – it is the ideal way to give you a chance to get through a couple of chapters of your book and them the opportunity to make friends.
- For very young children, make sure there is a creche and a childcare service – if you fancy the odd night to yourselves.
- For older children, look for beaches that have watersports and a lively atmosphere.
- Make sure you plan some activities – even the beach can get boring for kids if you spend your whole holiday there.
- Consider hiring a car – it is a great way to discover more of the island while easily transporting all the essentials you need when travelling with a child.
- Take it slow and remember to have fun.
- Don’t forget to pack the bucket and spade!
So, which island are you going to visit on your next family holiday to Greece?