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The best Greek islands for families, whether your children are after sandy beaches, wild water sports, unspoilt island life or history and culture.
1. Rhodes, Dodecanese
If you’re after a bit of R&R, Rhodes’s east coast has a 30-mile stretch of well-maintained golden-sand beaches with warm, shallow water down its eastern coast.
The coast’s big modern hotels, offer all-inclusive packages: meaning everything is on your doorstep – kids’ clubs, water sports facilities, babysitting, wellness, restaurants and cafes, so you can switch off and truly relax. If you do venture out, don’t miss the magnificent Unesco-listed Rhodes Town on the island’s northern tip, which will take you back through the centuries, with its medieval fortifications and car-free cobbled alleys.
Europe’s oldest civilisation built palaces decorated with magnificent frescos and enjoyed the curious sport of bull leaping on Crete from 3000BC to 1400BC. The Minoans’ capital, Knossos, was partially (and controversially) reconstructed by early archaeologists, making it unusually accessible to children. Finds from Knossos, such the bizarre Snake Goddess, are displayed at Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Kids will also love visiting the (slightly spooky) Dikteon cave on the Lasithi Plateau, which the ancients considered the birthplace of Zeus, with its stalactites and stalagmites.
3. Corfu, Ionian islands
Head to Corfu for a spot of swimming and sunbathing on one of its varied beaches: sandy Glyfada, on the wild west coast; nearby Paleokastritsa, with its sheltered pebble coves; or Sidari on the north coast, with its peculiar rock formations and warm shallow sea. There’s also Aqualand water park in the island’s lush green interior.
4. Paxos, Ionian islands
Measuring just seven miles long and three miles wide, this is your archetypal Mediterranean island hideaway, with amazing turquoise sea and lovely white pebble beaches. The pace of life is slow and leisurely in its three small towns, Gaios, Lakka and Loggos, which are connected by marked trails. Chill out on the east coast beaches - Monodendri is the best - or hire a boat and explore the limestone cliffs and caves along the west coast. Antipaxos, a tiny island two miles to the south, has two lovely white sandy beaches and is served by regular taxi-boats.
5. Zakynthos, Ioninan islands
If you want to avoid the crowds of an all-inclusive, but have teens who need to mingle, head to the Peligoni Beach Club on Zakynthos. The island’s dramatic coastline will thrill your family by day – Navagio (Shipwreck beach), a blissful cove backed by plummeting limestone cliffs, is unmissable – and Peligoni Club offers families with teenagers round-the- clock activities – and options for socialising in the evenings. It has a cafe-restaurant, pool, tennis court and gym, and a series of decks leading down to the sea, for sunbathing, swimming and organised water sports, including sailing, windsurfing, SUP, water-skiing and wakeboarding. After dark, they stage barbecues, parties, live music and quiz nights.
6. Lefkada, Ionian islands
Lefkada is Greece’s top water sports destination. Besides having a large marina in Lefkaka Town, used as a base for dozens of yacht charter companies, Lefkada is a prime spot for windsurfing. Vasiliki Bay, in the south, is exposed to local thermal winds, creating conditions perfect for beginners in the mornings, and more experienced surfers in the afternoons. It’s also possible to try sea kayaking in Vasiliki. Meanwhile, back in the north, near Lefkada Town, you have kite-surfing at Milos (aka Agios Ioannis). And then there are Lefkada’s spectacular west coast beaches, including Kathisma and the must-visit Porto Katsiki, which has just re-opened following damage in the November 2015 earthquake.