Note: This is a guest post by Katie of GreenActiveFamily.
Looking for the Best Greek Island for Families? Look no further!
Zakynthos, Greece offers plenty to see and do, natural beauty that will leave you ooohing and ahhhhing, and a rugged interior that’s perfect for getting away from it all.
We spent 10 days exploring the island with our 10-month-old baby and found it to be a great vacation spot for adventurous families traveling with babies or young kids.
If you’re wondering which Greek island is best for families, or are considering a trip to Zakynthos and need a bit more arm twisting before hitting the book button, keep reading to find out why we loved visiting Zakynthos, Greece with a baby!
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Introducing Zakynthos: The Most Beautiful Greek Island You’ve Never Heard Of
Zakynthos sits off Greece’s southwest coast, due west of the Peloponnese Peninsula and Olympia. One of seven islands in the Ionian chain, it’s a little sister to more well-known Corfu, geographically speaking. Whereas Corfu heads up the Ionian Islands as the northern-most island, Zakynthos almost wraps-up the rear, sitting second from the chain’s bottom (Cythera is the most southerly island).
If you’re European, British, or Korean, you might have heard of Zakynthos before. It’s a popular resort destination for Europeans and was featured in the wildly popular Korean TV drama, Descendants of the Sun.
However, if you’re North American like I am, this is quite possibly the first time you’ve heard of it. It’s not a place many Americans or Canadians get to, although we hope that changes.
And for reference, it’s pronounced, za-keen-those, with a voiced th sound and an emphasis on the first syllable.
Why is Zakynthos Great for Young Families?
Here’s why we think Zakynthos is a great Greek island for young families.
It’s a True “Get Away from it All” Destination
When we were planning our trip to Greece, we knew we wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t packed with tourists.
Don’t get us wrong: we believe travel can be a powerful force for good in the world, and understand it’s the economic lifeblood of many Greek islands’ economies.
And while we’re all for that, we also live in a very touristic city and come face to face with drunk people on vacation multiple times per day.
For our own trip, we wanted to get away from drunk people on vacation. More to the point, we wanted to get away from it all. Relaxation and beautiful scenery was our goal.
We got our wish.
Despite its reputation among some package tourists as being a party island, Zakynthos is actually perfect for enjoying peace, quiet, and natural beauty.
It’s the Perfect Size
We rented a car for the trip. By staying outside the resort areas, we absolutely needed a car to explore the island at will. That said, we didn’t want entire days to pass where all we did was drive.
To give you some perspective, Zakynthos has 123 km (76 mi) of coastline. That’s more than Santorini (69 km / 43 mi of coastline) but less than Corfu (217 km / 135 mi of coastline).
Not too big, not too small, just right.
Despite doing our very best to get out and see something new almost every day, we never spent more than 45 minutes or so in the car.
For parents traveling with young kids, this is vacation gold! For parents traveling with young babies who can’t even with the car seat, it’s almost too good to be true.
There’s a Great Mix of Touristy Hotspots and Hidden Gems
For us, this trip was all about exploring. As far as we were concerned, the more natural beauty, the better.
The last thing we wanted was to spend our entire trip in a resort town, hitting up the same beach every day. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a time and a place for that kind of vacation. And there’s a time and place for that kind of thing within every vacation.
But just because you have young kids, it doesn’t mean you have to take that kind of vacation. That adventurous vagabond soul of yours doesn’t die when the doctor cuts the cord.
You can still explore!
And Zakynthos is the perfect place to do it.
We wanted to eat local food. We wanted to get a sense of what local life is like. We wanted to lose our breath from the sheer beauty of a place.
But also, we wanted to spend a few days doing nothing but lounging on a beach, drinking a day beer, and eating all the fried feta, souvlaki, and pita.
Zakynthos has a good mix.
It’s Just… So. Damn. Beautiful.
To be fair, this is Greece we’re talking about. The country – and the islands in particular – set an admittedly high bar when it comes to beauty.
But we were seriously blown away.
The island’s interior is rugged and hilly, with small mountains in parts rising to around 750 meters / 2460 feet above sea level. Pretty little villages dot the countryside, with distinctive red roofs standing in stark contrast to the different shades of green.
The coast is packed with all kinds of different beaches, from remote hike-in/out spots that are rocky but gorgeous to stretches of soft sand you can drive right up to.
Wherever you look, it’s gorgeous, and you can build your own adventure depending on what you’re up for.
It’s Accessible from Athens without Flying
For us, there’s no pleasure in flying with young kids. At best, it’s a means to an end.
Flights always seem to happen during nap time, toys and pacifiers get thrown on the filthy airplane floor, and it takes high-level coordination to bring enough for your kid to eat and drink.
And then there’s gear. We went from being smug light packers before kids to those people that check three massive bags and are constantly trying to stuff their carryon baggage into the size checker to make it fit.
The fact that we could drive from Athens to Zakynthos in a fairly easy day was hugely appealing.
It took us roughly six hours to drive from Athens to Zakynthos, including the ferry trip (which you drive your car onto) and a stop for lunch in Psathopyrgos.
Tips for Visiting Zakynthos with Young Kids
Here’s what we learned during our trip.
Where to Stay in Zakynthos as a Family
Because Zakynthos has a reputation as a party island, we opted to stay inland. We had a car to explore at will, so we chose a fairly rural setting to ensure we’d enjoy peace and quiet when we weren’t out and about.
We rented a 3-bedroom villa house about 20 minutes’ drive from the island’s main town (also called Zakynthos). This house has steep stairs and no baby gate, which was okay for us because our daughter had only just started crawling.
Tips for Renting a Car in Greece
We found car rental in Greece to be very affordable. We used RentalCars.com to book, and suggest you use the same site or a similar aggregator. It compared prices among the different providers to find the best deal, and we ended up using GoldCar. It was a great experience!
We brought our own car seat because the cost to bring the car seat on the plane was cheaper than the total cost of renting it. However, during our research, we found car seats to be widely available from rental companies.
Note, if you bring your own car seat and it’s from a non-EU country, double check it meets EU safety standards. As Canadians, we discovered the car seat we own in Europe doesn’t meet Canadian safety standards, but it does meet US safety standards. If we had used our car seat in Canada and gotten in an accident, our baby wouldn’t have been covered by insurance. Definitely best to double check!
What to Pack for Zakynthos with Young Kids
Make sure you have everything you need before you get here – Greek island prices are more expensive than prices back home!
Lobster Chair Clip-on Baby Chair
The house we rented offered a high chair, so we didn’t bring our Lobster Chair on this trip. But we’ve used it on past trips, and it’s a super convenient option for a travel high chair. You just screw the clamps down on a sturdy table or counter and – presto – you’ve got somewhere for your kid to eat that isn’t your lap.
For eating out, every single restaurant we went to on Zakynthos had a high chair for us to use.
Travel Crib or Pack n Play
Whenever possible, we bring a portable travel crib on vacation. We use the Phil & Teds Traveler, which is only 6 pounds and packs into one of our suitcases. It’s a pain to carry, as it takes up valuable luggage space, but we feel better knowing our baby is in a super safe and clean crib.
UV Protection Suit & Water Shoes
One thing we noticed about Zakynthos is it always felt warmer than the weather forecast suggested, and the sun felt quite strong. We brought a bathing suit for our baby, but we almost always had her in her UV bathing suit at the beach.
Our baby is still a crawler, but had she been walking, we would have also wanted water shoes. Many of the Zakynthos’ beaches are sandy, but there are also some gorgeous rocky spots we enjoyed visiting, and the rocks would’ve definitely hurt sensitive kiddo feet.
Kids Roll-On Sunscreen
This was our first trip with our baby where she was allowed to wear sunscreen (babies need to be 6 months and older for sunscreen – before that, use other methods to protect them from the sun).
We chose a roll-on sunscreen made specifically for kids, and it worked wonderfully. We were able to get her slathered up in two minutes or less and didn’t have to worry about her inhaling the particles that come with spray on options.
10/10 would choose this option again.
Water Bottle with Soft Straw
Our baby has been drinking water since she was 6 months or so, and we wanted to make sure she drank a lot to stay hydrated in the Greek heat.
We used the Philips Avent My Bendy Straw Cup with a soft flexible straw. Our daughter has no problem getting the water out, it doesn’t spill, and it has a lid to protect the straw when not in use.
My favorite part about this cup is the straw. Our baby plays with the water bottle a lot, and the straw gets precariously close to her eyes on the daily. While I doubt it would feel good, I don’t worry about the straw doing long-term damage if it does poke her in the eye. It also is unlikely to give her a soft palate or gum injury.
Note – the water on Zakynthos isn’t potable. Unfortunately, you have to use bottled.
Lightweight Travel Stroller with Large Sun Visor
Greece laughs in the face of stroller accessibility.
While you can get around the towns and cities fairly well, there are still plenty of situations where you’ll need to hoist your baby and stroller up to get up or down some stairs, over a curb, etc. On Zakynthos, we took our stroller to a few beaches where we had to lift it up and carry it.
If you can swing it, we suggest getting a lightweight travel stroller. We use the GB Pockit and bought a third-party sunshade to make up for the Pockit’s terrible sun protection. The stroller folds up into nothing, and we actually carry it on the plane so we don’t have to wait hours at the baggage belt when we arrive (which happened with our previous full-size stroller, leading us to the never again moment when we bought the GB Pockit).
While the stroller worked most of the time, there were a few situations we were thrilled we had our baby carrier with us.
We used before arriving on Zakynthos during our visit to the (no-strollers allowed) Acropolis and would have used it on two short hikes on Zakynthos if our baby hadn’t decided to sleep through the experience in the car.
If you decide you want to see Shipwreck Beach from above, you’ll definitely need a carrier for babies, as the walk is inaccessible to strollers. Just be warned the cliffs are really steep, and there’s no guard rail, so please be oh so very careful (and probably skip it if you’re with new walkers).
So, Should You Visit Zakynthos with a Baby?
There’s a lot to love about Zakynthos, and we found it to be a great option for a family trip. We found it easy to get around with plenty of child-friendly spots to visit. Add to that, the Greeks love kids and were very welcoming.
While our baby won’t remember her time on the island, we’ll always remember how much fun she had. And with all the moussaka our baby tried, we think she probably developed a life-long love of Greek food!
Author Bio: Perpetually on the hunt for cheap flights, cold beers, and awesome terraces, Katie has been traveling the world since she was 16 when she somehow persuaded her parents to let her move abroad to learn the ways of hygge in Denmark. Picking up a Canadian husband and a Taiwanese street cat along the way, she’s now based in Budapest. Katie blogs at GreenActiveFamily, which is dedicated to helping parents find eco-friendly and toxin-free products for their kids.
More Greece Travel Resources
Headed to Greece? If this is your first trip, check out our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers everything you need to know from vaccines to visas to planning your itinerary.
If you’re still trying to plan your itinerary, we have posts to help you decide where to go in Greece and our favorite Greek islands along with a guide to when to go to Greece and the best Greek souvenirs to pick up while you’re here!
Finally, since you don’t want to hit up Greece without indulging in the amazing cuisine, here’s our guide to the best Greek food to try during your trip.
Finally, Don’t Forget about Travel Insurance!
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Greece, especially in the Greek islands, you need to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, we use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Pin this Guide to the Best Greek Island for Families for Your Trip
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.