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Car-Free Heaven

Escape the hustle and bustle of city life this summer and visit one of the few car-free islands in the Mediterranean. Guaranteed sun, and peace and quiet. Bliss.

Hydra, Greece

The Greek island of Hydra has become a favourite summer destination for Paris-based Carmela Uranga and her daughters after hearing enticing stories of their friend's secret holiday hideaway. It's an easy two-hour hop on the ferry from Piraeus and when you approach the port at Hydra you'll be met by donkeys patiently waiting to carry bags up the winding streets or by one of the taxi-boats to take you further along the coast.

Image of Hydra port

While beautiful, Hydra port is teeming with day trippers in peak season, and Carmela suggests going further afield if you really want to get away from it all. Vlychos beach just past the beautiful old fishing village of Kamini, is truly magical. Imagine hidden coastal inlets with crystal clear water, children's snorkels bobbing up and down as they scour the water for fleeting fish, early-morning hikes through the pine forests to ancient monasteries, pink sunset-reflected evenings and barefoot dancing on the beach.

And of course, there are no cars on the island, meaning that the children can roam free. 

Hydra donkey

Where to stay: Villa specialists with Hydra on their books include : prettygreekvillas.comscottwilliams.co.uk and whitekeyvillas.com 

Les Iles d'Hyeres, France  

Editor Emily Turner and her family have made two trips to the d'Hyeres islands of this unspoilt nature reserve on the Cote d’Azur.

Porquerolles, France

Emily and her family chartered a yacht from Le Lavandou to Porquerolles, the largest of this small group of islands just north of St Tropez. The island (just 4 miles long by 2 miles wide) is now a National Park and is home to Plage Notre Dame, which is a glorious crescent shaped sliver of white with pines and eucalyptus coming down to the sea.  

Porquerolles

Getting around the island on foot, bike or boat are the only options. Most families opt to hire bikes to get to and from the beach to the village for petanque and an aperitif. The palm tree lined square has a few bars, a couple of guesthouses, a small market and excellent epicerie. You could be in the French Caribbean.  

Where to stay: Le Mas du Langoustier is the only smart hotel on the island, situated on the far western point, with a pool and Michelin starred restaurant. 

Villa Sainte-Anne is a small 3 star hotel on the main square.

Port-Cros, France 

Emily returned last year to the second island in the d'Hyeres group of islands, Port-Cros, which is just 2 miles long. This time on foot, the ferry from Le Lavandou takes just an hour and a half. Again, there is a laid back Caribbean vibe to Port-Cros and it is unsurprisingly diver's heaven. Walking around the island is a hilly trek (this is not the island for very little ones) but you are rewarded by near-deserted beaches and stunning views. 

The hotel, Le Manoir, has something of a dilapidated plantation feel to it. A couple of French children were playing cards with their granny in the sitting room; there was a small bar with rattan chairs, big gardens, a pool. Bedrooms were pretty basic. It felt as though we had wound the clock back.

With a young family, Porquerolles is probably your better bet if you are going to stay for a whole week. There is more to do, the beaches seem to have less bugs and there are more accommodation options. That said, both are utterly peaceful. A different, calmer, time that miraculously is accessible. Ssshh. 

Where to Stay: Hotel Le Manoir 

Lopud, Croatia 

Although it feels a million miles away, Lopud is just 50-minutes on the ferry from Dubrovnik and is home to Sunjone of the best beaches in the Elafiti islands. 

Where to stay: Villa Vilina Hotel is right front of the sandy beach close to a medieval Franciscan Monastery. 

Lopud

Antipaxos, Greece 

With a population of around 50, no shops and just four tavernas you’ll truly feel like you’re on your own desert island. If you run out of vino, fear not, you can send for supplies in Paxos, just 20 minutes away by boat. 

Where to stay: Bacchus House, £2,366 for 7 nights from 27 May for 2 adults and 1 child, including flights and transfers gicthevillacollection.com 

Antipaxos

Marettimo Island, Italy 

Known for its unspoilt beaches, excellent snorkelling and diving, Marettimo is the most remote of the three Egadi Islands off Sicily's western coast. Travel around the island on foot, by bike or even donkey, what bliss.

Where to stay: Hiera, a picture-perfect fisherman’s cottage, with the most wonderful roof-top tub. Prices for a week start from £1,999 (sleeping four) thethinkingtraveller.com

Marettimo

Comino Island, Malta 

Nestled between Malta and Gozo, Comino island’s main attraction is the shimmering Blue Lagoon. Activities Abroad has an action-packed trip based on Gozo which includes a whole host of activities, such as sea kayaking and a boat tour to Comino. From £1,425 per adult/£1,305 per child (age 6-12) activitiesabroad.com 

Sea kayaking in Malta