The Peligoni Club review: a family affair
Wave goodbye to whiny children at the Zakynthos beach club that gives parents a break too
Everything changes when you have kids, as any parent will tell you, but few life experiences alter quite so drastically as holidays.
Forget lazy days lounging undisturbed with a good book and a glass of something bubbly – you’ll be working overtime to keep the younglings happy unless you opt for a destination packed with child-friendly entertainment options. And that’s where The Peligoni Club comes in.
Perched on the surprisingly lush northeast coast of the Greek island of Zakynthos, this family-run outfit combines the best of a private villa holiday with the social high jinks of a boutique beach club. But even more importantly from this time-poor parent’s point of view, the Peligoni also has a great kids club, as The Week Portfolio discovers during a recent visit.
Join the club
Booking a Peligoni holiday entails two key elements: choosing your accommodation and acquiring membership to the club.
Deciding on the former may take a while, with Peligoni coordinating bookings for privately owned nearby properties ranging from sleek villas and upmarket B&Bs to restored farmhouses and simple studios.
My family - meaning our nine-year-old twin daughters - plump for Selvi, a modern stone villa set in the olive tree-dotted hills, with spacious, light-flooded rooms, all mod cons (including a Nespresso machine, to my relief) and that all-important swimming pool. Not to mention the canopied poolside seating, outdoor dining area, kids play pit, and incredible ocean views, with Kefalonia just visible to the left and the Greek mainland to the right...
When we’re finally able to tear ourselves away from this luxury retreat, the club is a mere five-minute drive, tucked away in a rocky outcrop beside the Ionian Sea. Here, windy paths lit up by twinkling fairy lights lead to a series of shaded courtyards separated by rustic-style boulder walls - think film set from Mamma Mia! with added artfully rustic chic.
Informal, open-air dining and bar areas open out onto steps that lead down to whitewashed sun decks built into rocks that zigzag right to the water’s edge, where a simple plank diving board provides access to the waves.
So far, so idyllic, but are there any negatives? Well, don’t expect social diversity: the guest list is dominated by the Home Counties, while most of the staff are gilded gap-yah youths who look like they’ve walked straight out of Tatler.
Not an ideal destination for socialists, then, but the laidback set-up and barefoot vibe succeeds in making guests feel like they’re staying with a friend, albeit a very affluent one - an effect compounded by the high number of families who return every year.
Informal atmosphere aside, all guests pay a weekly membership for access to the club and facilities including an open-air gym, pool and tennis courts, plus activities ranging from fitness and yoga classes to outdoor cinema screenings and party nights.
And, of course, the club also offers comprehensive creche and babysitting services, plus daily activity programmes for kids of all ages run by London-based luxury party planners Sharky & George - leaving everyone else free to spend their time as they please.
Oceans of fun
Few holiday kids club could rival that at the Peligoni, where activities range from coastal walks for quieter young ones to more boisterous events such as Splash Attack (a big hit with our girls), music video making and evening discos.
Tailored social events such as evening mixers are also on offer for tweens and teens, with the latter apparently enjoying a high holiday hook-up rate judging by the number of them draped over each other in the club pool during our stay.
There are plenty of slightly more traditional watersports for guests of all ages who sign up for an optional extra package that, weather allowing, provides an unlimited pass for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and wakeboarding.
Eager to locate our inner surf goddesses, my daughters and I head down to the shoreside watersports base for a five-minute induction from friendly staff who – despite their beach-bum vibes – brook no nonsense when it comes to safety.
Although the “turn up and set off” no-booking system means guests can hit the waves as impulse takes them, all activities take place within a clearly designated area watched over by lifeguards with speedboats ready to zoom to the rescue of anyone in difficulty - very reassuring for over-anxious parents such as myself.
More sedentary guests can also take to the seas on board the club’s vintage yacht Odyssey. Indeed, the highlight of our short break is a blissful morning spent cruising along the Zakynthian coastline on the 55ft restored wooden boat while our lovely skipper Tom and host Lucy do all the practical stuff.
The Odyssey may move at a leisurely pace but the morning flashes past as we enjoy a spot of paddle boarding and a quick speedboat trip into small caves carved into the coastline, followed by a swim to a tiny bay where icy stream water flows into the warm sea.
And that’s all before breakfast - an embarrassingly generous spread that includes French pastries, crusty local bread, honey-sweetened yogurt and, in a token nod to our swimsuit-clad physiques, fruit salad. Our table is a simple wooden board suspended from the yacht ceiling, and though a few rogue waves result in an unexpected milk drenching for one of our girls, who cares when you can rinse off by simply jumping overboard?
In fact, the only time the smiles are wiped from our faces is when we catch a whiff from a famed nearby beach with sulphur-rich waters said to be good for bathers’ health (possibly because no one else will come within germ-transmitting distance of those who take a dip).
I decide to give that alleged well-being experience a miss and instead book in for a facial at the club’s Goat Shed Spa when we return to shore. Plumping up patrons’ skin in these sun-drenched climes must be quite a challenge, but my expert therapist rises to the occasion with a treatment the focuses heavily on facial massage and is all the better for it.
So that’s the sports and pampering seen to, but what about culture? The Peligoni holds its own with evening events including weekly food festivals and film nights, but to experience authentic Greece, you’ll need to venture further.
Although the club has a free car service to shuttle guests to and fro from their villas, the lack of local public transport makes hiring a vehicle a must for guests who want to explore the hilly northern region. Given the many entertainment options of offer at the club, it’s tempting to simply stay put, but guests with itchy feet may enjoy a stroll around the horseshoe bay at Agios Nikolaos Port just down the road.
Also worth a visit is Volimes, a nearby traditional mountain village famed for its handicraft and superb tavernas. Or nature-loving types can spend an enjoyable few hours at Askos Stone Park, a 124-acre wildlife sanctuary where visitors can feed animals including racoons and the deer and goats that wander free among the ancient stone structures for which the reserve is named.
And on the subject of feeding the animals…
Troughing and quaffing
The luxury setting and well-equipped kitchen in our villa makes dining in an attractive option, but then again, cooking on holiday? We enjoy the best of both worlds by ordering a hamper of ready-prepared dishes delivered to our door from the club’s Peli Deli, which also provides an in-villa shopping service.
With a decent selection of hamper menus including the Mediterranean Medley, Italian Supper and, thankfully, a kids range of bangers and mash-style basics, it’s tempting to order in for every meal. You can even book a host to come to your villa to cook, serve and clean up.
Us grown-ups opt for the Veggie Spread, a selection of four savoury dishes including a standout halloumi, chargrilled leek and pepper bake, with an excellent Eton Mess for pudding. Admittedly, a wider range of traditional Greek fare on the menus would have been welcome, plus food and drinks don’t come cheap at Peligoni, with London-level prices made even more painful by the weak pound.
But both the Peli Deli and the club’s main restaurant [pictured below] serve well-prepared dishes designed to suit all guests’ tastes, from wood-fired pizzas and chargrilled burgers to superfood salads and freshly caught fish.
For those with an appetite for socialising, there are also regular food and wine tasting events, while the weekly Peli Food Festival sees whole hogs roasting on spits in the club’s main courtyard (to the disgust of our vegetarian child). This meat-tastic feast is followed by an open-mic night that features the odd surprise appearance by celebrity guests: Rory Bremner during our stay.
If all that communal living gets a little claustrophobic, there are plenty of highly recommended nearby taveras and restaurants too. We originally intend to try out as many as possible but keep ending up at Ex Animo, a family-run restaurant set in an olive grove close to our villa that we all quickly grow to love.
But then, as The Peligoni Club’s regular patrons would no doubt agree, when you find your ideal destination, you just have to go back.
The Peligoni Club offers a high-season week staying in Villa Selvi (sleeps six) from £1,260 pp including memberships to the club, windsurfing, sailing and paddlesports. See www.peligoni.com or call 0208-740 3001. Flights must be booked separately.
All photographs by Nick Isden