If your kids are only used to swimming in their local pool or, heaven help them, the North Sea, they won’t believe the crystal clear waters around Greece’s islands. But where parents want to be (smart restaurants, posh shops, peace and quiet!) might not be where your kids want to be (waterparks, fast food, pedalos!). So here we bring you five family-friendly Greek islands that offer something for everyone. But especially the kids.
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It takes around five hours by ferry from Piraeus (Athens) to Naxos, but once there it’s perfect for island hopping. Santorini is just two hours away and when they’re a little older the kids can go clubbing in Mykonos in less than an hour. With their parents too, if that’s not too awkward. While they’re young though, Naxos is wonderful for just spending long days enjoying the sandy beaches and making friends. The waters are shallow and warm and the local cafes and restaurants are just that bit more authentically Greek (and reasonably priced!).
There’s a British-owned riding school that offers canters along the beach and if you can drag the kids away from the beach with the bribe of an ice cream there are exciting hikes in the green interior, which peaks at over 1,000 metres.
Transfer from port:
The island’s roads are windy and hilly, so the 20 mile-or-so drive to the other, eastern side of the island can easily take an hour. Fortunately, most people buy on the western side.
Modern apartments go from little over €50,000, but for sea views and access to a pool or nearby beach around €120,000 would offer a good choice. Houses start at around €150,000, but for a good villa with private pool you will need around €400,000-plus.
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Hydra has two great qualities for kids – it’s easy to reach and there are no cars. Those two factors alone may be enough, but the island is also beautiful, with attractive bays and little harbours. The fact that its named after a many-headed water monster can only add to its appeal for imaginative children.
The island is compact – barely more than 20 kilometres long – and it’s easy enough to walk around the inhabited parts. There are also water taxis, or horses and mules to ride.
The island attracts weekending Athenians so the restaurants and cocktail bars tend towards the sophisticated. It also has a good yacht club, which sailing a popular activity, as are scuba diving. While the parents are doing that, most kids will be enthralled with a snorkel and face mask.
Transfer from airport:
From Athens Airport to the port at Piraeus takes just over an hour and then the hydrofoil to Hydra takes another hour.
With a population of less than 2,000, there isn’t a huge amount of property to go round. Moreover the island is renouned for its beautiful architecture, so what there tends to be expensive. For a two-bedroom apartment you will need a budget of around €200,000. For a village house (they all tend to be village houses, rather than resorts) you will need anywhere above €300,000 to many millions. With the sea so close, you can normally do without a pool.
Well, the younger Durrells liked it here, and Aqualand wasn’t even built then!
Corfu has several child-friendly factors. It’s the closest island to the UK, which the whole plane will appreciate if you have a crying baby on board (it won’t be the Greeks tutting, they love children). There are direct flights in summer, so no need for a transfer by ferry. Fun though that can be once in while, it can get a little boring… And Corfu has the Aqualand water park too, which is incredibly exciting and certainly makes a change from the sea.
Buy a holiday home in Corfu and the island will keep your children entertained as they grow up, with the upmarket pleasures of Corfu town to the waterpark and beaches. Let’s not forget the investment potential either. Corfu is a perennial favourite, unlikely to go out of fashion as a tourist destination any time soon, and offering excellent rental potential. Your friends, family and anyone you chat to at the school gate will be thrilled to pop over to your Corfu property!
Transfer from airport:
Nowhere in Corfu is more than an hour from the airport and there is a good local bus service.
Corfu isn’t as expensive as you might think for a relatively high-end destination. €100,000 should get you a reasonable two-bedroom apartment with access to a shared pool. If you can double that budget you’ll have a good choice of family villas with private pool.
Find out more about financing your dream home in Greece in our newly guide How to Pay for a Property Abroad.
Kids have a habit of growing up, and when they’re old enough to make friends for themselves they will appreciate the sociability of Zakynthos (aka Zante). They’ll love posting Instagram pics of themselves on Navagio beach, and for partying it’s a lot cheaper than an island like Mykonos.
For the more bookish kind of teen, or their parents, there are museums and other cultural sites, such as the Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos.
Transfer from airport:
Zante receives direct flights from the UK in summer, including from EasyJet, Jet2 and Thomas Cook. Being only 40km long, transfer time to most resorts is less than 45 minutes.
Being more of a pure destination than, say, Corfu, and with half the population, there’s less option to buy within the local community. For resort property, budget for at least €150,000 plus for an apartment with communal pool and €275,000 for a villa.
The plan to build a new Colossus of Rhodes seems to have gone by the wayside, sadly, but Rhodes still offers a very impressive citadel that dominates the town. Rhodes also has plenty of child-friendly activities such as waterparks, petting zoos, kayaking trips and other watersports. The delights of Faliraki are waiting for the kids when they reach a drinking age!
The largest and most populated of our islands, Rhodes does get super-busy in the height of the season – nearly two million people come each year. On the other hand, it has 300 days of sunshine and doesn’t close down entirely in winter like some Mediterranean locations, so you enjoy a visit out of season too.
Being way out east in the Dodecanese, the flight to Rhodes is a little longer from the UK than most Greek islands, at four hours. However, it has its own international airport so you’re saved the hassle of a transfer and ferry ride from Athens every time.
Holiday apartments with communal pools start under €100,000 and you can pick up a perfectly good villa for €150,000.