The pretty port of Chania, on the northwest coast of Crete, is a picturesque base from which to explore the rest of the Greek island with your kids. Kim Jones reports.
The Greek island of Crete is a gorgeous sun-soaked destination perfectly suited to families – and the port of Chania on the northwest coast, with its ancient Venetian harbour – makes a pretty base with safe, accessible beaches aplenty and countryside to explore all around, plus an airport just 15 km away.
You can opt to be as active, adventurous or as low-key as you like on a family trip to Chania – whether spending most of your time getting sand between your toes on the beach is your thing, or you prefer sailing the seas and dropping anchor on one of the many boating trips around the port, shopping to your heart’s content in the old town’s warren of shady alleys that back away from the front, dining at the many waterfront restaurants or even venturing into the valleys, mountains and gorges for some serious hiking.
There are plenty of safe shallow-watered sandy, shingled or pebble beaches perfect for little bathers around Chania but if you want to venture a little further away on a day trip, don’t miss the chance to travel west and dip your toes into the sparkling seas of Elafonissi beach, about 75km away. Lapped by turquoise waters, and with pink sands plus a tropical-like lagoon that’s ideal for little ones to bathe in, it made it onto the list of Top 10 beaches in the world on TripAdvisor and gets packed in summer so go early or late season if possible. It’s also worth visiting the white sands and waves of Falassarna on the west coast (stay for a spectacular sunset if you can!)
Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete
About 18km from Chania – and an easy bus ride away – the Botanical Park rose from the ashes of an olive-oil growing village that was devastated by fire. It showcases stunning flora and fauna from all over the world in over 200 square kilometres which you can explore by taking a walk along – sometimes steep – paths. Visit the pond at the end of the tour with ducks, geese, wild goats and even reindeer and finish off with a meal in the restaurant that serves tasty traditional organic food made from ingredients largely grown onsite.
Limnoupolis Water Park
Plenty of pools (shallow and deep), plus slides, lazy rivers and crazy tube rides make Limnoupolis Water Park a splashtastic day out for any water lover. The outdoor park is open from May to October.
Cross the Samaria Gorge
Trekking down and across Europe’s largest and deepest gorge isn’t for the fainthearted – and it’s definitely not suitable for younger children. But if you’ve got some adventurous teens who fancy a challenge then hoist on your hiking boots and get geared up for an 18km walk through truly stunning scenery and unspoilt natural terrain. Take your swimming costume for a well-earned dip in the Libyan sea at Agia Roumeli at the end of the walk and enjoy a snack and drink at a beachside tavern. There are plenty of organised tours you can book onto.
Take a table right on the waterfront at this authentic tavern serving fresh fish, octopus, lobster, sea urchin and snapper. halasino-ageri.gr
Traditional, homemade Greek food served in a stunning historic building – built in around 1400 by the Venetians as a public bath. tamamrestaurant.com
Brace yourself for a winding mountain road of a journey that’s rewarded with gorgeous views and mouthwatering ‘farm to table’ food at this traditional restaurant. Everything is cooked in traditional clay pots over open fires, fruit is dripping off the orchard’s trees and all the honey, olive oil and wine is produced on the farm. Little ones will love the chance to feed the sheep and follow around the free-range chickens. ntounias.gr
Santa Marina Beach Resort, Agia Marina
Just 8km east of Chania and on a bus route to take you easily into town, this 4-star beachfront hotel ticks all the boxes for a family getaway. Divided into two – half of the hotel sits right on the beach overlooking Chania bay, with reception, an indoor buffet restaurant and bar plus two outdoor restaurants for sea-view sipping and dining with a children’s playground by the beach. The other half of the hotel sits across a road (accessed very easily via a small underground passage) and boasts two pools, a children’s pool a mini club, pool table and a raised open-air outdoor restaurant. Here you’ll also find the new luxury ‘Pearl Wing’ with spacious, airy and fresh rooms with balconies.
Find out more: santamarinabeach.gr
Cavo Spada Resort and Spa, Kolymbari
5-star luxury right on a Blue Flag pebble beach with safe bathing for little legs, 22km from Chania and close to the small fishing village of Kolymbari. Choose from rooms with garden views, sea views or pool views (where it’s a case of open your patio doors and dive straight in). Take a leisurely swim or join aqua aerobics in the large outdoor lagoon-like pool, which is the hub of the hotel with its own ‘floating’ bar where staff have the friendly knack of remembering your favourite tipple. There’s a shallow children’s pool too plus plenty of poolside greenery to languish in or play games. And of course the beach is only metres away too. Relaxation and wellness are key at this resort – a spa offers massages and therapies, there’s an indoor pool, sauna and Turkish bath plus a fitness centre.
Find out more: cavospada.gr
How to get there:
Airlines including Ryanair, EasyJet, Jet2.com and British Airways fly from regional airports to Chania airport throughout the year. The airport is around 15km from the city centre.
Sun-and-sand worshippers – you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to safe beaches around here. But there’s plenty of history and nature to explore. Take a trip into the mountains or set sail from Chania port to enjoy deserted sandy coves and crystal clear lagoons where you can swim, snorkel and have fun. And don’t miss a visit to The Maritime Museum of Crete.
Best time to go:
Go in May, June , September or early October and the heat is less intense, so you can get more activities done without wilting – while the sea will be warm enough for swimming in too.