If you’re looking for a laid back holiday with sunshine guaranteed then look no further than St Nicolas Bay, Crete. Situated a mile from popular tourist location, Aghios Nikolaos, this hotel wraps itself around the edges of a small, secluded bay, combining beach and pool life with secluded tranquility.
We visited St Nicolas Bay, Crete in September 2016; a first family holiday with three generations, including our five month old son. Our wish list for the holiday was fairly extensive; sun for the adults but shade for the baby. Good food with a relaxed atmosphere that wouldn’t be upset by the addition of a little one. A pool for cooling off in yet the sea for the adventurous amongst us. A spa for the grandparents and accommodation space to fit five of us in without issue. Not much to ask for is it? Oh, did I forget to throw in the bit about flying locally if possible as well? Easy.
Very quickly, we came round to the idea of Crete. EasyJet fly there from Bristol and Gatwick, to name but a few, and it’s location meant that warm weather was pretty much a guarantee at that time of year. We ended up going for six nights, which meant flying out from Gatwick and back in to Bristol. Not an issue. Both flights were just under five hours and went smoothly before landing in Heraklion Airport. Our fears of flying with a baby were unfounded (try our top tips for flying with a baby), the flight was stress free, a 30 minute transfer on the other side and we arrived at St Nicolas Bay.
St Nicolas Bay is made up of a collection of rooms, suites and villas providing accommodation from double rooms all the way through to three bedroom villas with private pools. As two couples and a small child, we decided that we would be more comfortable in one of the villas; Siroko, a two bedroom suite with living area and private pool. Both bedrooms came with en-suites and both they, and the living area, led out via double doors onto the poolside patio.
This meant that during the day, we could put the baby down to nap in our bedroom and sit a couple of meters away in the sunshine without the fear of leaving him unattended or us missing out. The villa was very secure with a single entry point which we kept locked with the key in for the entire trip; something that provided us with peace of mind for our (and our baby’s) security.
The resort itself was made up of three main areas; the reception and evening dining building, the communal pool/breakfast dining area overlooking the sea, and a bar and restaurant area set into the cliff-side. Each morning we would eat on the edges of the main pool, in an outside seating area covered by a large wooden pergola. Breakfast consisted of a huge buffet with local foods, continental breakfast and cooked items as well as the ability to order additional items off the menu; pancakes, eggs and the such. The service is quick and friendly with an effort made by the manager to pop round and see you, if anything they were almost too nice.. if that’s a thing.
We dined in the main restaurant most evenings, a set menu with a few choices on it and a huge buffet again. Suffice to say we were never hungry! In the evening you can eat inside or out, depending on your personal preference. Just be warned of the mosquitos. The terrace area is quite crowded but again, very accommodating for small children and babies. After, we’d go for a drink on the top floor terrace, overlooking the other side of the bay and a more residential area. Large sofas and comfortable chairs are accompanied by a piano player and plenty of cocktails to choose from!
Other eating areas include; a poolside exclusive restaurant, a jetty bar in the evenings, an all day restaurant/drinks area overlooking the beach and a Greek restaurant on the cliff top. We went to the Greek restaurant one evening, armed with a sleeping baby and ended up taking part in greek dancing, plenty of singing and clapping and some wonderful authentic greek food. A worthwhile experience even if there was a small supplement to pay!
The majority of our days were spent hanging out around our own pool. Our villa had a large patio area with a shaded section that allowed us to bring the baby outside as much as possible. The pools are all saltwater and are unheated, a fact which takes a little getting used to when you’re trying to get in! The outdoor space was secluded and gave us day-round sunshine which is always one of the main concerns when planning a trip abroad. We took advantage of in-villa dining a couple of times whereby our meals at lunch were brought to the room and laid out beautifully. There’s something very decadent about enjoying a meal in private around your own pool. Especially as we tied it in with the baby snoozing in the room next door!
Finally, part of our package was a couples massage at the Poseidon Spa. Dave isn’t a huge massage buff so he was quite nervous about the experience. The massage was a perfect way to get rid of any post-flight tensions, even if we were giggling through it! I was also treated to a solo massage in one of the private rooms; accessed by elevator and in a room that only overlooked the sea. It was a wonderfully peaceful end to a great first holiday as a family and a great way to have a break from baby duties.
Overall we’d recommend St Nicolas Bay, Crete as a great destination for guaranteed sun and a laid-back, friendly atmosphere. The resort has the same issues as anywhere that’s based around a bay; accessibility. I’d probably recommend it for families who either have small babies (like we did) or slightly older children… I can’t imagine dealing with a child on the loose!
The Best Bits:
- The accommodation (especially the pool area) couldn’t be faulted
- Wonderful understanding attitude toward children. Very genuine interest in his wellbeing
- The food! Plentiful with healthy options if you fancied them
- Ease of access. A short transfer from the airport.
What To Look Out For:
- Set on a cliff side, it’s 90% steps and uneven paths. Not the easiest with a toddler or unstable walker
- Mosquitos! We struggled with this and the baby, at one point I had over 25 bites on one leg!
- The cot provided was very old fashioned. Thankfully the baby slept in with us but I’d take my own cot if returning.
- No guarding around the pools so be aware for small children. There is a children’s play area but the set-up of the resort is really aimed at older families and couples.