Mark Warner's purposebuilt Levante Beach Resort in its plum location on Rhodes' longest beach, on the Greek island's calmer eastern coast, had only been open for four weeks when I arrived with my youngest son, four-year-old Zac. There'd been the inevitable teething troubles, all minor, and some finishing touches were still being put to certain areas, but on the whole the place was fresh and buzzing. Though it was already fairly busy even prior to the school holidays, it seemed very uncrowded, largely by virtue of its design – this is a long thin resort, with four outdoor swimming pools, one of them vast, spread out between the main reception building at the top and the beach at the bottom. Ancient Hellenic ruins uncovered during construction work dot the grounds, where Mediterranean flora including rosemary, lavender and olive trees were still bedding in.
I was, to all intents and purposes, a single parent for a week, and that restricted some of what I could do unless I paid for extra babysitting outside standard kids' club hours – for instance, yoga at 9am. And I was loathe to do that when part of the point of the trip was having some precious one-on-one time with my last child, who like his older brothers is just growing up too fast. But the three hours that he had in the Minis club in the afternoon meant that he got a break from me and the chance to do some activities that we couldn't do together – he sailed and windsurfed for instance, and loved both – while I got to indulge myself for a few hours.
There's a huge amount to do at the resort, both in an organised capacity or with a partner, including tennis, beach volleyball, football and fitness classes – this is a great option for parents who like to keep active. I opted to swim and chill out on the beach or by the adult pool for much of the time, though I did rouse myself to do an abs class one afternoon, and another afternoon I took out one of the mountainbikes and explored nearby Afandou, a large working village mostly free of tourists. I also tried out the superb spa with its indoor pool and steam rooms, for a facial and a shiatsu massage. Kids' treatments are available for aged five and up.
You can put your children into kids' clubs for both the afternoon and evening sessions, but most other parents seemed to be doing one or the other. It pays to think about what you might be doing before you book your slots – if you're reasonably proficient at watersports and want to go out alone, you need to book the afternoon childcare slots so you can catch the stronger post-lunchtime winds in your boat or on your board. If you're a novice, on the other hand, watersports tuition takes place in the mornings, so you need to book your kids in then.
Most parents I spoke to also took their kids to the early children's buffet at dinner and then dropped them off for the evening supervised DVD session in the kids' club, but I generally kept Zac up to keep me company. Children can also bed down and go to sleep in the kids' club until late in the evening, giving you the chance for a more relaxed dinner, but if you want to go off-site, you need to pay extra for a babysitter. If you do, we recommend the seafront restaurants at the far southern end of the beach, at Kolimbia, where you can watch flying fish leap as you dine on seafood or grilled meats, and where they light floating candles when the sun finally sets.
I was overall impressed by the food at the hotel, although I preferred the main buffet restaurant to both the pool snack-bar and the pan-Asian restaurant. The selection was good and the food always super-fresh, with enough variety to avoid it getting too samey over the course of a week. Best of all where I was concerned was the amount of Greek dishes and fresh fruit, which made it a pleasure and not a chore to eat healthily. Unfortunately Zac didn't feel the same and spent the entire week subsisting on pancakes at breakfast and chips and ice cream at lunch and dinner. I gave up fighting in in the end and just went with the flow. The amount of time he spent in the toddler and main swimming pool kept him active and fit.
You couldn't put a price on the bonding time that Zac and I spent together over our few days alone. Most of it, admittedly, was in or by the pool, where he basically taught himself to swim over the course of a week and made lots of new friends. We enjoyed the beach, too, although the mixture of coarse sand and pebbles mean it's not so great for sandcastles. Far better was taking out a sea-kayak, as we did a couple of times, and gliding over the turquoise waters.
We had good intentions to explore further afield, but come the end of the week Zac was just too besotted by the pools and his water-toys from the very good and well-priced on-site shop that I abandoned plans to take the public bus from just outside the hotel to Rhodes Town. We did make it as far as Lindos, about a 20-minute bus ride to the south, where Zac was delighted to be able to ride a donkey up through the narrow alleys between the whitewashed jumble of houses to the acropolis at the top, where we replenished ourselves with fresh-squeezed orange juice and ice cream. Back down again, we took out a pedalo and cruised around Lindos' picturesque bay in the shadow of the ruined castle, complete with caves to explore.
A Mark Warner holiday is all about spending precious family time together while also buying yourself a few hours off for relaxation, rejuvenation and perhaps trying a few new things. Here I have to hang my head in shame and admit that I tried out far less new things than Zac, but I did achieve what I consider to be the perfect balance of 'me time' and 'us time' that is perhaps the recipe for a successful beach holiday with younger kids.
The last word, however, goes to Zac, who, staring at the beach on our final evening, said, 'I'm sad to leave this place. It's great fun.'
Find out more and book a holiday at Levante Beach Resort, or see our Mark Warner page for an exclusive 5% discount at any of its family-friendly resorts.