Zakynthos – or known by its Italian name of Zante – has long been a popular package holiday destination which sees sun-worshippers flock to its vibrant resorts and stretches of breathtaking sandy beaches. But while there are some busy and more built-up areas such as Laganas, there are peaceful more rural parts that are less crowded and much more family-friendly. There are also over 28 different beaches across this Greek Island famous for its spectacular scenery, turquoise waters and turtles – Zakynthos is home to the largest nesting ground in the Mediterranean. So you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches in Zakynthos.
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On our family holiday with Simpson Travel we stayed in the peaceful area of Vasilikos, which is situated on the southeastern part of the island. It’s been described as the ‘quiet paradise’ and for good reason. Close to tavernas and shops, yet tucked away in peninsula overlooking the spectacularly blue Ionian Sea, our stay at Periyali Villas meant we had some quality family time as well as the chance to relax. And one of the highlights of our stay was being able to explore the beaches nearby, of which there are many!
While we were lucky enough to have a few within walking distance, there were several to explore a short drive away. And what we found with all of the beaches Zakynthos is that they’re excellent for families – particularly those with young kids. The water is shallow – perfect for paddling, while at many of them, there are also good facilities such as toilets and restaurants.
We were able to sample quite a few beaches during our week in Zakynthos and were impressed with all of them. Here are our top picks:
Banana Beach is one of the largest beaches on Zakynthos and its soft, golden sand is perfect for little feet as well as sandcastle building. What we most liked about Banana is the wooden walkways, which is so much easier when you have a stroller, and the well-organised sunbed section and parasols. Those closest to the water were €15 for the day for two, while the more basic varieties at the back were rentable for €8. There are also several bars and restaurants, as well waiter service right to your sunbed. If you’re into your watersports, then parasailing and jet skis, as well as banana boat rides are available.
While there is ample parking, do get there early to bag yourself a good spot. We went at 9.30am and Banana Beach was practically empty. When we left in the afternoon it was very crowded.
Gerakas was the closest beach to our accommodation, and also one of the most magical. Protected by the National Marine Park because it is a nesting site for loggerhead turtles between the months from May-October, you may be lucky enough to watch them hatching and making their way into the sea. The morning we chose to head down there, we saw over 50 baby turtles and it was a special moment and one Monkey and I will cherish.
The beach itself is fantastic for families – while large sections are cordoned off to protect the turtle nests, there is still plenty of room for sun loungers and beach towels, and the water is shallow with sand underfoot. Head down to the far end, and you’ll find a quieter section away from the crowds. Be warned, there are no facilities on Gerakas such as cafes or toilets, but just a short five-minute stroll will bring you to shops and several tavernas, while fruit sellers go up and down the beach offering their goods.
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If you’re up for a hair-raising car journey up and over rocky cliffs and a steep descent, then head to Dafni Beach. As we saw a wooden arrow pointing to an uneven dirt track from the main road, we were unsure whether we were heading in the right direction. Keep calm and carry on. Even when the car seems dangerously close to the edge, and when another vehicle comes towards you in the other direction, hold your nerve. You are going the right way. The view from the top is spectacular, and as soon as you see the sea, the signs to Dafni become more prevalent.
We parked behind one of the many tavernas, which also offer up sunbeds and umbrellas. The bay is a little rocky in parts but we found the water to be calm and still, and great for snorkelling. It also felt very much like a hidden gem. Uncrowded, unspoiled and pretty, Dafni is well worth a visit even with the perilous drive!
Porto Roma is small in comparison to the other beaches Zakynthos mentioned here. But size isn’t everything. This quaint stretch of beach is fringed by viridescent pine trees and has a narrow shingle beach with plenty of sunbeds and parasols. Watch the sunset over a cold beer in Nikos Beach Bar, a hidden treasure that has the most amazing views over the beach. The owner, Mrs Giana, cooks homemade traditional Greek food and is very welcoming. There is also a small jetty, which is just perfect for the children to jump off.
Imagine having your own private island with clear, calm water gently lapping at your feet? Take a pretty wooden bridge from the town of Agios Sostis and pay just €4 per adult and you can – granted with other tourists but still… If you head over early enough, it’s pretty quiet for a short time, so it really will feel like your own slice of paradise. You’ll also get uninterrupted views of Marathonisi Island and may even spot some loggerhead turtles. It’s a great location for snorkelling, while a drink from the bar is included in the entrance fee. If you plan to spend the whole day on Cameo, make sure you bring a picnic – and be prepared for it to be closed to the public when private weddings are held there.