The luxuries of Kefalonia are just as accessible to families
One of the closest Greek islands, Kefalonia can be reached in under three and a half hours. After that transfers will take around an hour and a half to the family resorts of Skala, Sami and Lixouri, with an exciting ferry ride to get to Lixouri if you don’t want to drive around the peninsula.
In the south of the island, Skala has one of Kefalonia’s best beaches – a three-kilometre sand and shingle strip, plus the ruins of a 3rd-century BCE Roman Villa. Sami in the east is a pretty town with a working port and natural caves to visit, and is famed for being close to the beach featured in the film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Then on a peninsula to the west is Lixouri, the second largest town in Kefalonia, with views across the bay to the capital Argostoli. There’s more to do here and a plentiful supply of tavernas. What all Kefalonia’s family-focused resorts have in common is the high quality hotels, with a large proportion being 5* rated.
Best family friendly beaches
Starting with the best known beach in Kefalonia – Antisamos Beach – in a bay just east of Sami, is where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed in 2001 and is a long, scenic sand and pebble number. The Monastery of Agrillion up on the hill is worth a visit, as is Aghia Efimia Beach and Monastery to the north.
Skala in the south has one of best Blue Flag beaches on the island. The three kilometres of sand and some shingle is quiet as there aren’t many watersports, but there are a few cafes and plenty of sunloungers and parasols. The nearby conservation area of Potamaki Beach is home to rare loggerhead turtles.
Though the Lixouri area isn’t so well-known for its beaches, red sand Xi Beach – so called due to its X-shaped cove – has shallow waters and watersports, or Lepeda Beach to the south of town has a secret church carved into a cave.
Things to do with kids in Kefalonia
Natural beauty wins the day in Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands. The lakes, caves, streams and, of course, superbly gorgeous beaches make for a sublime retreat indeed and also provide the terrain for adventures with plucky little explorers.
With that in mind, consider a few of our recommendations for places to play in Kefalonia, and you’re sure to come home with plenty of happy memories and photographs.
Delve into the caves
The caverns of Kefalonia are among the island’s most enjoyable and distinctive natural attractions.
Their almost fairytale beauty likely has much to do with their appeal, and Melissani Cave is a grand example of that. With a lake within, framed by trees and greenery, Melissani Cave feels like a forgotten kingdom. There’s a hole in the ceiling that lets sunlight filter in, adding to the magic.
Hellenic relics and statuettes unearthed here suggest this cave has long been praised throughout the island’s history.
Meanwhile, Drogarati Cave near Sami tells an altogether different tale.
An earthquake let the people of Kefalonia rediscover this cavern some years ago, and experts say that this maze of stalagmites and stalactites is around 150 million years old. With a constant interior temperature comparable to that outdoors, it’s a humid little hotbed of mystery.
Take a glass-bottomed boat
That pristine blue sea surrounding you whenever you and the children take to the beach is a sight to behold. Of course, Kefalonia is an island to which the sea has always played a strong role in local life, yet many of the best of its secrets linger beneath the surface.
At big resort towns like Skala, you can take a tour on a glass-bottomed boat to see fish, wildlife and hidden sunken treasures galore. Kids will delight in spotting all sorts of secrets hidden beneath the deep.
Meet the turtles
It’s not just us sun-worshippers who love Kefalonia’s sandy beaches. Their warmth and peaceful surroundings make them superb places for loggerhead turtles to make nests and lay their eggs, and as such, many an animal lover on the island has sought to befriend these creatures of the briny blue.
You and the kids can do so too, with loggerhead turtle sanctuaries across the island welcoming visitors to these special little nurseries for the turtles of tomorrow.
Find the secret castle
Kefalonia has oodles of history, and some of its best mementoes can be found if you get off the beaten track. If you’re on the west side of the island, head to the tiny peninsula housing Assos, the village where buildings from the olden days huddle in a half-forgotten village.
Further into the harbour is the Venetian castle’s ruins, still here even after centuries. Its rich brown stone and evocative shapes make for superb photos, and the kids will love to imagine what life here was once like.
Visit Mount Ainos
The lush landscapes surrounding Mount Ainos at Kefalonia’s heart makes for a brilliant escape to nature. The peak itself, also known as the Black Mountain, looms large, although the natural park around is just as beloved for its fir forests and scenic trails.
Some of these wind along the inclines of the mountain and others skirt its fringes for a more tame and sedate stroll. Either way, the sights are beyond stunning and the idyllic surroundings will help you and your loved ones recharge.
Other popular holidays in Greece
If you’re thinking of taking a family holiday in Greece but not sure which island to choose, then read our guides to Kos, Corfu and Crete. Or if you’re set on the luxurious destination of Kefalonia, take a look at our comprehensive Kefalonia travel guide or find out about three of its excellent 5* family hotels below.
The hilltop location of this 5* hotel provides excellent sea views, especially from its infinity pool and al fresco bar with live music. There's a rocky cove a five-minute walk away or you can drive to Skala in five minutes for a large sandy beach. An All Inclusive hotel, the buffet restaurant holds Greek and Italian themed nights and has a healthy corner, or choose gourmet a la carte or snacks and light meals at poolside Zephyros restaurant. The saltwater infinity pool has morning aqua-aerobics and a gelateria on hand, plus there's a kids' pool and activities laid on for all ages. Otherwise, have a game of table tennis or visit the playground. Open-plan family rooms for up to four have the benefit of a sea view.
The chic and contemporary 5* Apollonion Resort has a big pool with a waterfall that leads through the gardens, a pool for the kids, as well as their own playroom and playground. The large grounds provide a tranquil atmosphere and it's only a five-minute walk to the red sand Xi Beach. For more family fun, play pool or video games in the games room or watch films at the outdoor cinema. Breakfast and dinner is served in the buffet restaurant and La Pergola does lunch. Deluxe duplex family rooms sleep up to four and have a large balcony.
In the peaceful village of Karavomilos, close to its lakes and only steps away from a white pebble beach, lies the 5* Ionian Emerald Resort. The views from the buffet restaurant terrace and pool reach across the sea to Ithaca island and to Sami town and its port. If you don't fancy the Mediterranean treats on offer, there's also a local bakery and mini-market nearby for provisions. The pool here has a kids' section, divided by a wooden bridge, and a pool snack bar. Children also get a playground to let loose on, or for more space, the famous Captain Corelli's beach is a 10-minute drive away.