Beach holidays are for the most beautiful views and temperate climate, Kefalonia delivers both
These days, however, my husband Alex and I travel with a small boy in tow, and all our two year old, Freddie, wants in life is to be outside, throwing stones and whacking things with sticks.
Suddenly long-haul adventures are off the table and beach breaks have become the only thing I can imagine doing for at least the next dozen years.
Luckily, the Greek island of Kefalonia holds particular appeal for a trio of gingers on tour.
Almost every bay we explored came with a grove of wizened olive trees that provided generous shade from the summer sun, so we didn’t have to vie for space under an umbrella.
These days, Amy travels with a small boy in tow, ruling out big adventures
Everyone we met greeted our son with the sort of welcome usually reserved for long lost relatives
After mornings spent sploshing and skimming stones we would retreat from the heat for lunch at Taverna Foki, just moments from the brilliant blue waters of the tiny Foki Beach.
We devoured platefuls of creamy tzatziki and ruby red tomato salads, while the chef grilled pork chops the size of dinner plates, serving them glossy with lemon, olive oil and homegrown oregano.
As is always the case in so much of southern Europe, there were a host of kittens vying for Freddie’s attention, while everyone we met greeted our son with the sort of welcome usually reserved for long lost relatives.
Meals out are so much more relaxing when both the diners and staff are happy to have little ones around and the Greeks really do love children.
Kefalonia’s food made use of traditional and delicious Greek ingredients
We were staying in the small hamlet of Markoulata, on the northernmost tip of Kefalonia. Our villa was called To Petrino, meaning “old stone”,
a name that couldn’t have been more fitting. Surrounded by traditional dry stone walls, the property itself is 200 years old and has been lovingly restored by its owner, Panagiotis.
In broken English, he explained that his taste in decor is “traditional” and that he worried we would find it too old-fashioned, but the recently refurbished villa has a rustic-chic charm and everything you need for a home away from home.
Besides, as any holidaymaker knows, when you set off for sunnier climes your intention is to spend the maximum amount of time alfresco as possible – and this is where To Petrino really excels.
The villa’s private swimming pool and terrace are spectacular.
Amy stayed in the small, yet beautiful, hamlet of Markoulata
A pergola brimming with pink and orange bougainvillea provides the perfect shady spot from which to enjoy meals and sweeping views across the tops of the olive and lemon trees that reach all the way down to the sea.
Six supremely comfortable wooden loungers are ideally positioned for savouring a glass of something chilled after a dip, whether you are catching a few afternoon rays or watching a glowing amber sun slide into the Mediterranean at the end of the day.
Each morning we would wake to find some new offering from Panagiotis on the terrace.
Fresh pomegranates from the garden, grassy olive oil he had pressed himself from the villa’s grove of trees, tiny but exquisitely sweet fresh figs, the last of his summer harvest.
The villa feels wonderfully private and remote, but a 10-minute drive will deliver you to the bustling port of Fiskardo.
A scattering of bougainvillea was the perfect way to shelter from the sun
One of the few towns to remain largely unscathed by the 1953 earthquake which devastated the island, it retains a neoclassical charm, a throwback to Kefalonia’s three centuries under Venetian rule.
Today the water’s edge is lined with restaurant tables, the perfect place to watch the boats packed with day trippers come and go.
We became repeat customers at Melina Patisserie (melina-fiskardo.gr), where we would pull up a high chair and watch Fred get to work on a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Our final afternoon in Kefalonia was spent on the beautiful Dafnoudi Beach.
Accessible only by foot or boat, we parked by the main road and walked 15 minutes through fragrant pine forests to reach its crystal waters. It couldn’t have been a more idyllic spot to cement my newly discovered affection for a week by the sea.
Kefalonia’s waters edge is littered with restaurant tables that make for a beautiful dinner
10 things to do in Kefalonia
1 Pull on a jacket and head to the top of Mount Ainos. At 5,000ft it is the highest point in the Ionian Islands and offers panoramic views of the spectacular coastline below.
2 Visit Antisamos beach, the setting for some of the most pivotal scenes in the 2001 movie adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
3 Spend a day driving along the island’s palpitation-inducing coastal road – watch out for herds of goats sunning themselves on the tarmac.
4 Fans of a dry white will appreciate a bottle of wine made with the island’s very own grape variety: Robola.
5 Book yourself a waterside table at Tassia (tassia.gr), in the fishing port of Fiskardo. Tuck into a seafood platter while checking out photos of their most famous fans, including Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Giorgio Armani.
Kefalonia’s Mount Ainos provides a stunning view of the Greek islands
6 Catch some rays on Myrtos beach. With its dramatic cliffs, white sand and turquoise waters it will quickly become obvious why it’s said to be one of the best in Greece.
7 Head to the Melissani Cave and take a boat trip to remember across a stunning crystal clear underground lake.
8 Tuck into a hearty portion of Kefalonian meat pie, a flavoursome combination of beef, pork, goat, feta and red wine with a buttery pastry crust.
9 Learn the difference between stalagmites and stalactites at Drogarati Cave, which is more than 150 million years old.
10 Get up early and hike to Assos Castle – a Venetian fortification, which dates back to 1584 – before the heat of the day.