For the well-traveled family looking to jet away to a palm-tree lined beach in an exotic destination, there are more family-friendly options than the Caribbean islands. The Mediterranean, Aegean and Adriatic Seas are as warm, crystal-clear and inviting as any you will find off the coast of the Bahamas. However, you can show your kids ancient history and new cultures by breaking the mold and flying across the pond. Here are some great European islands with family resorts and attractions.
Written by Lissa Poirot
Ionian Islands, Greece
These seven Adriatic Sea islands are closer to Italy, with the largest island Corfu. Further north than the islands in Aegean Sea, these islands are often lush and covered with trees, but also offer villages carved into seaside hills and white-sand beaches nestled against aquamarine waters. Large beachfront properties with golf, multiple pools that match the sea and kids' programming are available.
Cycladic Islands, Greece
When most people think of the Greek Isles, of which there are nearly 3,000, they think of Mykonos and Santorini. These Aegean islands are part of the Cyclades and lie between Athens and Crete, which is so large it is like its own country. The setting features the white and blue buildings that have become synonymous with the islands of Greece, with many hotels featuring the rounded architecture and blue and white theme.
The Balearic Islands, Spain
Near the Iberian Peninsula are Spain's popular summer getaway islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza. (Don't let Ibiza's party reputation fool you; that is one area of this is a beautiful island, which is very family-friendly.) These Mediterranean Islands have been a hot spot for all ages for generations. You can find all-inclusive resorts on these islands, just as you would in the Caribbean.
Madeira Island, Portugal
This Portuguese island is actually closer to Morocco than Portugal, and is part of an archipelago consisting of four islands in the Atlantic Ocean. This larger island looks as if it could be found in the Caribbean, with its pointy volcanic peaks covered in greenery. Madeira Island hotels are found in more condo-like buildings, with many featuring pools, gardens and great views.
Canary Islands, Spain
These Spanish islands are found off the coast of northwestern Africa and are made up of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Found in the Atlantic near the Moroccan coast, the Canaries are Spain's version of Hawaii, with warm weather year-round and the southernmost location. Sprawling resorts with golf, tennis and spas and ocean views are common on these islands.
In the summer months, the warm, sunny days on the islands between England and France make the Channel Islands a destination in which families flock. Home to the Isles of Sicily and Jersey, the islands are Crown dependencies; they are not a part of England, France or the European Union and have stood alone since the 13th century. The islands have been likened to the Cayman Islands, just without the tropical weather. With a combination of French and English style, hotels on these islands are whimsical and filled with charm.
Capri and Ischia, Italy
Just off the Amalfi Coast and Naples, Italy, is the famed isle of Capri and its lesser-known sister Ischia. These Gulf of Naples islands are two completely different experiences, with upscale Capri home to the famed Blue Grotto and Ischia a rugged volcanic island with many spa resorts. You will find intimate inns and luxurious hotels with sea views from cliff-side locations on both islands.
Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
Croatia is quickly finding more and more Americans visiting its coastline and islands, and for good reason. This hidden gem is considered one of the most beautiful areas on the Adriatic Sea. The islands of Hvar, Brac, Solta, Vis, Korcula, Lastovo and the Peljesac Peninsula are close enough for island hopping adventures. Hotels here feature beautiful views, expansive pools and marina locations.
This European island nation is located between Sicily and North Africa and is its own European Republic. Its smaller sister is Gozo, or the Isle of Calypso. The islands feature a warm Mediterranean climate, outdoor areas to explore, historic sites and the smallest capital city in the world. You will find familiar chains here, such as Hiltons, Westins and Radisson Blu Resorts, as well as many upscale hotels.
North Friesian Islands, Germany
Although the North Sea can be cold, these German barrier islands provide a Cape Cod and Outer Banks-like getaway, with wide, low-lying beaches. Sylt and Romo are connected by bridge to the mainland, although Romo is a national park, along with Fano. Fohr, Nebl and Pellworm are smaller islands, accessible via ferry. Resorts here are cozy and peaceful, providing a vacation home feel.
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