Ingrid Osborne dips her toe in the world of family resorts when she visits Daios Cove in Crete with her young daughters
We had only been at Daios Cove Resort for a day, when Josephine, 7, started to make sounds about wanting to stay – permanently.
Jo, being Jo, had insisted on self-funding her relocation, declaring, “Mama, I’m going to make a picture book about Daios Cove and sell it.”
Her entrepreneurialism was admirable, however, she wanted to hand-draw every copy, but with 261 rooms, 39 villas, plus oodles of deck-chairs, it might take a while.
Exams were over, leaving her feeling rather fed up with the dreary, biting rain of London. We all felt it. Crete had enticed with its balmy, dry heat.
While resorts aren’t my thing, Daios Cove Resort had incentivised with its concept of easy luxury.
We took the four-hour flight, landing at Heraklion Airport; a threadbare, claustrophobic space that encouraged jostling crowds and stubbed out cigarettes.
Unwitting comic, Josephine enthused, “It’s the prettiest airport in the world.”
We grinned, realising that she was already loving every second of our Greek adventure.
In the quiet of the taxi, we absorbed the sights of brittle, dusty mountains, before the horizon slipped into the fertile hills of Vathi, Agios Nikolaos.
The sun-soaked, creamy pastel architecture of Agios Nikolaos, encapsulated easy, contemporary Riviera living, with its huddle of sea-facing tavernas, shaded by outstretched tropical palms; attracting travellers, who are content to while-away the hours, overlooking the crystal waters of Mirabello Bay.
The town’s port offers daily sailings out to the ancient Venetian Island of Spinalonga. Once a leper colony, until 1957, its crumbling stone ruins speak of isolation, abandon and despair; a story that has been beautifully captured in Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Island. It’s an evocative and raw glimpse into history that tends to leave an indelible mark.
Past Agios Nikolaos,the road met a natural end towards sugar sands and turquoise seas that hugged a pristine bay, where Daios Cove Resort is a gentle spread of architectural villa elegance, wearing earthy hues to accentuate the mountain. It was the epitome of a luxury arrival; a rooftop glass catwalk that led us to plunging blue views of the sleepy cove below; wrapping us in calm, as did the moist hand towels, given moments after.
Exuding a type of silk threaded kaftan elegance, the resort was without ruffle, until our daughters dove into the swanky white leather couches of Crystal Box bar, yelling “Cool!”
It does hold the intrigue of a spy novel: sea and saunas, funiculars and golf buggies, massages and martini’s, helipad and speedboats.
The villas were no exception, with wonderful tactile materials: cool marble, crisp Egyptian cotton sheets, raw stone, and a frameless glass balcony.
As villa guests, we were treated to a pillow menu, exclusive breakfast access at Ocean Restaurant, and a dedicated space on the private beach. However, the icing was the dreamy-soft, king sized beds that would have us sleeping through every night.
Still, we weren’t here to fritter away the hours in bed; Josephine and her sister, Amelie, 9, had already thrown on swimsuits.
But with no life guards, we popped into Anamnesis store, which had a cheery selection of toys, flipflops, and thankfully – floaties.
And so, the cycle of ‘pool, beach, eat, sleep, repeat’ had begun.
Casually, the resort took away our reasons to leave: fresh towels and drinks served to our deckchairs, a pool with tepid salt waters that seemingly bled into the Mediterranean, a gentle beach with a playground of aquatic activities including snorkelling, SCUBA and sailing.
Eventually, we had to refuel, and rather helpfully, a generic children’s menu rolled across the three restaurants.
We loved Taverna Restaurant for its sea breezy feel, sensational moussaka, and seafood so fresh, it writhed on ice.
Whereas, Pangea Restaurant challenged perceptions of the humble buffet. Eggs were whipped, beaten, flipped, fried, scrambled and boiled. Then came the cakes, and evening theme nights too – Italian, fish, an so on…
Understated and glamorous, breakfast at Ocean Restaurant was a bouquet of early morning bliss with frothy latte’s, creamy Greek yoghurt and fruits, served to the table.
At dusk, Ocean offers Michelin-quality cuisine, crafted by Heston Blumenthal’s prodigy, Dimos Balopoulos.
And the menu was a tease on a plate; frilly pansies garnishing 60-day aged beef, slapped-pink veal tartare balls, and silky-smooth olive oil dripped over bacon bread. Look no further for date-night.
Our girls also needed their own space full of messy crafts, with Kids Club offering just that. So, we headed to the sauna to swelter. In fact, the Spa offers every form of primp, preen and rejuvenation for the body.
All the resort needed was on-the-go snacks and coffee. That’s coming in 2019, in the form of a tea-room, plus a new restaurant, and a purpose-built kids club. So, we’ll return to try it, once Josephine has sold enough picture books, although we’ll convince her to use a printer.
Gold-dust skies splayed across the bay once more, reminding us of grey skies back home.
Feeling rather torn, we bid farewell to the staff, who carry all the warmth of Crete in their demeanour. Unintentionally proving the point, our gracious host, Panos, tousled Josephine’s hair, and she blew him a kiss, before dashing off to hide her tears.
And rather timely, our Mercedes pulled up with its rock star welcome with chilled bottles of water awaiting us.
So, I’ll concede that perhaps resorts are our thing after all, (if it happens to be Daios Cove Resort.)
HOW TO BOOK
Family suites at Daios Cove costs from £404 per night, or a villa with private pool, from £688 per night (based on April early bird offers.)
Easyjet, Thomas Cook, and British Airways service Heraklion Airport directly from London from around £80 per person. Four-hour flight. The resort is an hour’s drive from Heraklion Airport. Hire a car, or organise airport transfers with the resort.
Or book with a tour operator that specialises in luxury holidays to Crete. Elegant Resorts offers a seven-night stay from £4,190 per family (price includes a 35% reduction – saving £2,480 per family). Price is based on two adults and two children under 12 years sharing a One Bedroom Suite – Sea View, including complimentary half board, economy flights, private transfers and UK Airport lounge passes.
Daios Cove is open between April through to mid-October.
Family equipment includes bottle sterilisers, highchairs, and cots. Babysitting from 14 euros an hour. The complimentary Kids Club, runs several three-hour sessions throughout the day (4-12 years old). A games room is available for teenagers.