If one place deserves the accolade of ideal family destination, it’s Greece, says Lydia Gard. Fabulous blue-flag beaches, clean water, delicious food, and a deep-seated cultural cheek-pinching, bosom-snuggling, matriarchal love of children.
While a clutch of chic hotels have sprung up recently geared at parents who refuse to sacrifice style and substance, few have got it quite as right as Sani Resort on Halkidiki’s protected Kassandra peninsula.
Here is a gloriously Greek village in a vast eco reserve, but with added chic. There’s the obligatory quayside bobbing with boats – though with as many gin palaces as fishing boats it feels more Monaco than Mani. There’s a plethora of smart restaurants, chichi deli’s and simple tavernas – most of which cater to kids with either their own menu or a happy adaptation of the adult dishes. And there’s no frayed edges or stray cats. It’s purpose built but all the better for it.
With a clutch of accommodation options to choose from, you might look at the family suites in the Sani Beach Hotel. Sadly they come in a sprawling great 80s-built high rise on a cramped beach. That’s a no from us. We preferred the simply furnished, airy apartments scattered across the lush, green lawns of Porto Sani Village.
But, if privacy, space and exceptional service are the order of the day, you can’t get better – in Greece, let alone in Sani – than the Asterias Suites.
A string of light-flooded villas dotted along their own exclusive stretch of beach (book a two-bedroom family suite for a huge terrace, lavish living room and lovely garden – just make sure it’s beachfront rather than marina facing for direct beach access); the décor is contemporary Greek, a little formal in some rooms, but comfortably elegant, with floaty sheer curtains, pale grey and blue linens and cool stone underfoot. And it’s the little things that make it stand out from the crowd: the swim nappies and sterilising equipment set up on arrival; the Michelin-starred chefs on tap; the attentive, but never intrusive, service.
Granted, there’s a certain sterility that comes with being in a resort but, with small people in tow, the pay off is immense. There’s a superb crèche, an award-winning kids’ club and teen club, all run by the Worldwide Kids Company. Then, for those who come to catch up rather than drop off, there’s the genius of Babe Watch. Dig holes and dip toes together, then wave over a beach nanny and hand over the bucket and spade. Instant babysitting, in situ, so you can take a lazy lap of the cerulean waters, or just lie back and close your eyes for once, safe in the knowledge that nobody (in your family) is drowning. The shallow waters and lifeguards, showers and fluffy towels, ensure that this is beach time with all the hassle extracted.
Away from the water, there are bikes to rent and forest trails to follow, well-conceived play areas among the trees offer shady spaces for afternoon play. Budding naturalists can explore the neighbouring wetlands with a pair of binos and spot more than 200 species of protected birds, or the whole family can join in an eco day, learning about the resorts sustainable credentials and their preservation of this bio-diverse area.
Enjoy the balmy evenings wandering through the marina or watching a film together at the open-air cinema, or stick to the exclusive little enclave of the Asterias and let them splash around in the pool while you watch the boats return to their moorings at sunset with a cocktail at the heavenly Water Bar.
Lydia Gard is the editor of Mr Fox. She has two boys aged 2 and 6. To escape the chaos she runs in the South Downs before a hot bath drizzled with essential oils.