Hi all, my husband and I are planning to head to the Greek islands for 2 weeks in June 2024. At this time we will have a 3 year old and a 9 month old, but are travelling with my in-laws (thank goodness for the extra hands!). We hope to do 2, maybe 3 destinations. With young kids, the goal is to be by the beach, have slow days, eat, do a bit of exploring (but not too much) and soak up the local vibe. We are big foodies but are happy to generally skip history tours, architectural visits etc because it's just not practical or fun with little kids in the heat. Any recommendations for islands/towns to stay that would fit this bill? So far I have been told Crete, Rhodes, Naxos, Paros and Santorini which has left me very confused. Thanks in advance!
The islands you mention are popular with Americans, but there are so many more options. I recommend looking at Matt Barrett's website for some more ideas. https://www.greecetravel.com/
Personally, I have been to 3 of the 5 islands you mention.
Santorini is a zoo with no beaches. Very unchild-friendly - loads of steps, no beaches, everything geared towards honeymooners.
With Crete, you will need a car. It is easy to find a resort in Crete on a beach and just chill. The more famous beaches require considerable hiking to reach. Many Europeans go to Crete, stay in a resort and never leave. Chania is a beautiful city and the food is good. We actually stay inland in a village in a house with a pool.
For Naxos, we stayed in a beautiful house (exquisite) and we could walk to the beach. We did not have a car and stayed near Plaka beach. We woke up every day, went to the beach, drank things, had a nice dinner and then did it all over again the next day. For 5 days. There were many good restaurants around. We saw nothing cultural and were ok with that.
Beware of “I have been told” This kind of advice is generally given by people who have not visited any other island than the one they are recommending.
You didn't say whether you wanted to spend your entire stay on one island or visit others, and how you would prefer to travel.
Be aware that few islands have airports, that there are no flights between the islands, and ferry trips are sometimes long or even impossible between two islands.
Emily has already given you the overview of Santorini and Crete.
I'll make it short: Santorini is totally unsuitable for what you are looking for, and could turn into a real nightmare.
Crete is very large and requires long car or bus journeys to explore, not sure if this would suit you. But why not.
Rhodes is an island in the Dodecanese, rather far from Athens and very touristy too (lots of cruise passengers)
Paros and Naxos, (I'll make it short again): why not
If you want to stay quietly somewhere for a few days and enjoy your vacation without having to make long trips with your toddlers and in-laws, among the other islands that I know, you can also consider:
St George beach at Naxos will tick all your boxes. It is a good sand beach and it will have lots of kids. Your 3 year old will make new friends in a few minutes. The water is shallow and on most days the sea is calm.
Naxos town is a 10 minute stroll around the headland. There is lots of tourist infrastructure there. Greeks love kids, you will be welcomed everywhere in Naxos town.
If you want to do a little bit of exploring the island Naxos town is the transportation hub for the island. There are some lovely mountain villages to wander around.
St George is lined with small family run hotels many are studios where you can prepare snacks for your beach day.
Around Naxos town 2022 https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72177720299959098
Back to Naxos 2022 https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72177720299940917
St George Beach https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72177720299943096
Wow thanks for the insight and responses all. I am definitely sold on Naxos. It sounds perfect for what we need. I will most definitely be crossing Santorini off the list - thank you!
Now we just need a second destination.
@JoLui - that list of other islands you sent is incredible. So many hidden gems. I certainly have my work cut out for me in terms of research. Have you visited any of these islands personally?
Naxos might be perfect for you (and stanbr is a good Naxos seller) :))
But don't just stay in Naxos town and its surroundings. The island is large and there are plenty of things to do and see, especially if you have a car.
So I'm going to extend the promoting work about Naxos :)).
Going south on the west coast you will also find long sandy beaches almost deserted in June like for example at Pyrgaki beach where there is a small taverna by the beach, ideal for spending time with family .
Kastraki beach is nice too, with the Paradise tavern for a drink at sunset.
Or the Apolafsi restaurant in the village of Kastraki which I highly recommend.
Around the village of Chalkio there are easy walks with beautiful old churches like the Church of Saint George Diasoritis.
and beautiful walks in the heights of Naxos
Maybe after that you'll catch the Greek Islands Mania
I know the other islands that I mentioned too, but don't ask me which one I prefer.
Anyway, apart from Santorini and Mykonos there are no bad choices in the Cyclades for what you are looking for