Crete has long been an ideal holiday destination for parents in search of some relaxed family fun. Thanks to its clear, crystal shorelines and whitewashed beaches, I’ve always enjoyed visiting this beautiful destination with my kids.
But in recent years, when I tell people about idyllic holidays spent in Crete, they often look at me in horror because they assume that the whole of the island has been taken over by party-goers in resorts like Chersonissos and Malia. The fact that for every party resort there is another which is quiet and tranquil, like the beautiful Hersonissos, seems to have passed them by.
I’ve decided to set the record straight. Here’s my guide to one of the Greek islands’ most child-friendly holiday spots: Agios Nikolaos.
The town of Agios Nikolaos is split into three distinct waterfront areas: the port, the marina and the lake. For families who don’t want to go far from their hotel to enjoy the water, the shingle town beach of Kitroplatia is a great option, as it’s close to great restaurants, cafés and ice cream parlours.
If your kids like spending the day by the sea, then don’t miss out on Ammos Beach, situated beside the marina. Here there are lots of water sports to keep your children entertained, as well as plenty of places to buy beverages and cool down.
There are a range of beautiful beaches and coves along Agios Nikolaos’ shoreline. Many of these areas have been awarded blue flags for their cleanliness and facilities, and they are ideal places to go with your little ones.
The town itself is small enough that visitors soon learn their way around. The restaurants and cafés of the marina offer a beautiful backdrop to some of the great family-friendly eateries in the resort, especially at night.
Near the resort, you’ll be able to spot the scenic Lake Voulismeni (where, legend has it, the goddess Athena used to bathe). There are plenty of restaurants overlooking the lake where families can relax and unwind.
I don’t know about you, but I think that of the hardest things about travelling with kids is finding food that they like and restaurants which like them.
Luckily, Greece is a very child-loving country, and most restaurants are happy to entertain and serve your little ones. Here is my selection of the best family-friendly restaurants in the resort.
- To Pareaki – This is a family-run Greek restaurant that has beautiful views over the harbour. The owner is also the waiter, and he couldn’t be more welcoming and tolerant of the needs of his younger patrons.
- PiAto – Set beside the beach on the way out of town, you’ll find the contemporary Greek restaurant PiAto. The owner is always on hand and sincerely loves kids, so expect your little ones to be allowed to run around and have as much fun as they like.
- Basilico – If your kids are anything like mine, then not much makes them smile as much at mealtimes as pizza. At Basilico, which is next to Ammos Beach, the children can have delicious, authentic Italian pizzas while you join them or opt for some of the excellent seafood on offer.
Things to Do
Most children will eventually get bored of sea and sand, but the good news is that there are many enjoyable and family-friendly activities for you to try in Agios Nikolaos.
Get Wet at a Waterpark
There is nothing easier with kids than a visit to a water park. Fortunately, the Acquaplus in Agios Nikolaos has a fantastic ‘little tots’ area to keep even your youngest ones happy. All you need to remember is sun tan lotion and towels, and then your kids will gladly spend the day splashing around while you relax on a sun lounger.
Take a Boat Trip to Spinalonga
You don’t have to tell the kids that the island of Spinalonga is a former leper colony – they can just enjoy the boat ride over and explore the narrow streets. After grabbing some ice cream in one of the friendly cafés, you can marvel at the Venetian palace, which was transformed into a leper colony in 1903.
How to Get There
The closest airport to Agios Nikolaos is Heraklion International Airport (HER). The flight takes around five hours from the UK, and the transfer from the airport to the resort takes approximately 50 minutes.
Insider Tip: Book a private car transfer with Shuttle Direct as soon as you have booked your flight and accommodation. Make sure to specify the number of child seats that you will need. Upon arriving at the airport, you will be met by a driver, who will take you straight to your hotel. Stress-free and easy? Check.
Where to Stay
Lato Hotel – Located just outside of town, the Lato Hotel has its own pool, garden area, and provides stunning views over the beautiful Mirabelo Bay. The beach is a bit of a walk at 19 minutes, but there are two to choose from, and both are well-equipped for children and parents alike. There’s also free WiFi throughout the hotel.
Ammoudara Beach Hotel Apartments – If you’re looking for a perfect beach location, then the Ammoudara Beach Hotel Apartments is your best bet. The hotel is separated from the beach by a not-too-busy road, on the other side of which you’ll find umbrellas, sun beds, and a shady play area for children, which includes swings and other equipment. What’s more, the apartment hotel also has a communal pool, restaurant and snack bar. All apartments have private balconies and free WiFi.
Candia Park Village – The pretty apartments and rooms at the four-star Candia Park Village are like a Mediterranean home away from home. There are many top-notch facilities here to entertain the kids: from a miniature train to children’s shows to swimming pools and private beaches, they won’t experience a dull moment.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the principal provider of group and private transfers in Europe and North Africa. When you’re travelling with small children, it’s always reassuring to know that your transportation is all arranged before you set off. Pre-book a Shuttle Direct airport transfer online, and you can be sure that you’ll be met by a car equipped with all of the child seats that you need.