ILE DE RÉ
Why Go? Cross the elegant, curving bridge from the French mainland, set your watch back a few decades and settle into the peaceful tranquillity of the Ile de Ré. Somewhere between Nantucket and North Norfolk, but with better bread, it is fringed by a gorgeous stretch of sand in the south and a network of oyster bays, salt pans and rock pools in the north, punctuated by delightful villages and criss-crossed by endless cycle tracks.
Don’t Miss The bustling town of Saint Martin-de-Ré not only has great shops, it also has trouser-wearing donkeys that give rides around the harbour. The island also has two of France’s most beautiful villages, Ars-en-Ré and La Flotte. The Parc de l'Arche de Noé (Noah’s Ark) in St Clément des Baleines has two of most things, including freely flying parrots, flamingos and monkeys.
Top Tip If your older ones get restless, La Rochelle is a wonderful medieval port, full of
shops and bars, and is only a short drive.
Getting There EasyJet and Ryal Air fly to La Rochelle. The Senechal in Ars en Re is a chic
low key hotel with s/c family appartments.
www.chotel-le-senechal.com tel: +33(0)5 46 29 40 42 From €310 p/n for a family of 4.
Madeira is one of the most beautiful places on earth, yet struggles
to shake off the image of grey weather and even greyer visitors. The island has belatedly recognised the existence of children, and has imported sand (the island has none of its own natural sandy beaches) from the Sahara, created enormous water parks and childfriendly
The famous sledge ride from Monte. Take the cable car from Funchal, then slide down steep mountain roads in a basket sledge. In the charming village of São Vicente, you can walk through an actual volcano, following the tubes burned out of the rock by lava 400,000
years ago. Off the spectacular southern coast, you can safely canoe (from Arco da Calheta) or sail in the ‘Santa Maria’, a replica of a 15th century galleon.
Espetada restaurants serve succulent beef kebabs, whisked to your table on ornate iron skewers and accompanied by chips and amazing dips. It's fast, fun and children will adore it.
Both TAP and Thomson fly direct. Powder Byrne offers 7 nights at Reid's Palace from £1,125 adults, £625 children. www.powderbyrne.com tel: 020 8246 5300
Why Go? Sicily is unquestionably the most civilising place in Europe – it turned warlike Vandals, Normans and Arabs into art-loving aesthetes.
Don’t Miss Many children have an unquenchable love of volcanoes, and they don’t come any bigger or more combustible than Mount Etna. A walk to the fiery summit is surprisingly easy, or take a cable car to Taormina, which has stupendous views. The nearby Mondello Lido is home to long, sandy, family-filled beaches.
Top Tip Don’t miss the regular puppet shows at the Pasqualino Marionette Museum in Palermo.
Getting There BA flies direct to Catania, while EasyJet flies to Palermo. If your children like to ride, there are many ‘Agriturismi’ that have their own stables (as well as swimming pools).
Why go? Never understimate the magical properties of sun, sea and sand. Get beyond the free-for-alls of Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas and Tenerife reveals its rugged charms, where almost every beach has a kid’s club, and almost every hotel is swimming away from old package holiday stereotypes.
Don’t Miss Loro Parque, just outside Santa Cruz, is named after the famous parrots (loros), and also has a huge collection of marine animals such as dolphins and penguins, sea lions and sharks, seen at close hand in a walk-through tunnel. Siam Park Water Kingdom is brilliant. Though a day of flumes and spumes may strike the fear of God, even the most harassed parent should earn a few brownie points by coming here.
Top Tips Mount Teide is literally the top tip. 3,718 metres tall, and the cable car ride to the lunar-like top is quite awesome. You could be sunbathing in the morning and throwing snowballs for lunch.
Getting There A range of package operators fly direct. Tots Too offer 7 nights at the
Abama from £2,400 for a family of 4.
Why Go Rhodes is the jewel in the Dodecanese. Known for its medieval capital, it’s rimmed by dreamy beaches and crossed by serpentine roads that climb into the little-seen interior. Rhodes also has two crucial staples of the easy life: good food, and the kindest out-of-season climate in Greece. Once brash Faliraki has matured into a cosmopolitan family resort with nice beaches, clean, shallow seas and one of Europe’s largest water parks. There are dozens more laid-back beach destinations, including Kalithea Bay, Tsambika and the truly stunning Valley of the Butterflies in Petaloudes.
Don’t Miss The beguiling maze of streets inside the walls of Rhodes, and aquarium just beyond. The Pane di Capo coffee shop serves authentically Greek cakes and less
authentic chocolate-smothered ones.
Top Tip Find a 50-year-old Mercedes Taxi and a 100-year-old driver, and drive the winding road, with views to Turkey, to the imposing Monolithos Castle on the west coast.
Getting There Classic Collection offers 7 nights half board at the 5* Lindian Village, Lardos from £881 adults, £662 kids incl flights & t/fers. www.classic-collection.co.uk
If you want a break from the modern world, where better than a tiny island with no cars, tarmac roads or street lighting? The fourth largest of the Channel Islands is three-and-a-half miles long and a mile-and-a-half wide, and boasts 40 miles of the most picturesque coastline you’ll find anywhere in the world. Visitors are met at the harbour by the ‘toast rack’, a red ractor and trailer to take them up the hill; after that, it’s bicycle, foot or horse and carriage all the way.
Watch fishermen bring back the catch to the tiny Maseline harbour. And head out to sea to or explore some of the island’s caves with a guide. The Sheep Racing Weekend, usually the last in July, with old-fashioned coconut shies, homemade cake, book and plant stalls.
Pack your binoculars. The birdlife would make anyone want to twitch, plus Sark has been designated the world’s first ‘dark sky island’ thanks to the blackness of its night sky.
Fly to Jersey or Guernsey with Flybe or BA. Condor Ferries
www.condorferries.co.uk run Poole or Weymouth to Jersey. The Sark Shipping Company
www.sarkshippingcompany.com run from Guernsey, the Channel Island Ferry Company www.channelislandferry.com from Jersey.
Sardinia has the most crystalline sea in Europe. Though the Costa Smeralda has long been the preserve of the rich and famous, Sardinia’s vast coastline is consistently breathtaking, from Villasimius in the south to Alghero in the north. Sardinia’s hotels and restaurants are run by Sardinians, so it never feels like ‘just another Mediterranean island’.
The fortified town of Alghero. Its shopping, eating and showing- off opportunities make this a must for any family with teenagers (or would-be-teenagers). Take a boat from Alghero to Neptune’s Grotto, a vast cave cut into the sheer cliffs of Capo Caccia. Don’t ignore
Sardinia’s interior, one of the strangest, most magical places in Europe. The Little Green Train, a vintage steam locomotive, puffs its way through some of the most isolated parts of the island; it’s a route that D.H. Lawrence wrote about, and would still recognise today.
Don’t even think about going in high summer. The annual invasion from mainland Italy makes D-Day look like a minor regatta.
BA fly to Cagliari, Ryanair and Alitalia to Alghero. CV Travel have a selection of villas Tel 020 7401 1039
FLATÖN, BOHUSLÄN ARCHIPELAGO, WEST SWEDEN
Why go? Seaside summer holidays are a Swedish obsession, with many families owning a second home on a west coast island. The fishing villages and red-roofed houses are beyond charming, and many islands of the Bohuslan archipelago are linked by bridges.
Don’t Miss Paddling in sea kayaks and in the season (early September to mid November) going on a lobster safari.
Top Tip Pack sunglasses (you only get four hours or so of darkness during the summer).
Getting There BA and BMI both fly Gothenburg from Heathrow. On Flatön, the Handelsman Flink hotel sits right on the water and has a Sky Suite with two bedrooms, sitting room and kitchen.