Bella Mare Hotel is an example of those small family friendly hotels that Simpson Travel do so well. So find out what we thought in this review of their small family friendly Hotel in North East Corfu.
We had been promised a version of Mousses in Lefkas with Bella Mare (although for older kids) and also a hotel with similarities to Simpson’s GK Beach Resort in Crete and the Kalkan Regency in Turkey – both of which we loved. So did it deliver on its promise.
Yes it did deliver. We had a fabulous week in this small family friendly Hotel in North East Corfu (close to Kassiopi and an hour from the airport) and many people we spoke to during our weeks holiday will choose to book Bella Mare in Corfu again for 2020.
So what did we like about Bella Mare Hotel?
We love the number of rooms at the small hotels Simpson Travel choose to operate. The size of Bella Mare meant we could give our children (aged 7 and 8) the freedom to explore the hotel grounds and move freely between the beach and the pool. They loved being able to order their own drinks and ice creams from the friendly bar staff and what’s better than being able to relax on your sun lounger whilst the kids order the drinks and the bar staff bring them over to you.
Whilst Bella Mare is slightly larger than GK Beach Club in Crete (with 31 rooms rather than 23) it does have a very similar feel to it. It’s a group of like minded families round a pool, or on the beach sharing general chit chat with just about the right amount of children in the mix; enough that the kids have enough friends to play with but that even at its busiest the older ones could read a book on a lilo or for the more energetic put in some lengths. There is also a quieter pool for the exclusive use of the executive suites which the families with kids didn’t really choose to use so those rooms might be a better option to book for couples travelling without children.
The grounds at Bella Mare were really pretty with nice planting and the vista out to sea was spectacular. Our rooms 204 and 205 had a sea view and doors that interconnected making it the perfect space for our family of 5. We also had a small kitchenette in one of our rooms with a fridge and a hob. One of the nice things about booking with Simpson Travel is that you get to choose your room before you go, so chat to the friendly team about the pros and cons of your room choice, if there is a view for example and what the access to the pool is like.
Whilst there may have been a slight struggle from time to time to get the optimum double beach sun loungers (which came with shade and a breeze from the sea) there was never a time when I couldn’t get a sunbed at all. All the sunbeds were comfy and well maintained and the addition of large beanbags that you could pull around into the shade or the sun was a lovely touch. I loved looking around for my kids and finding them under the trees enjoying a good book. Girls after my own heart.
Food at Bella Mare
A buffet Breakfast is included in your holiday rate and is served (for all guests) next to the reception area every morning between 8 and 11am. There was always a really good selection of fresh fruit which I ate with delicious Greek yoghurt and fresh honey. There was also pastries, cereal, meats and cheeses, eggs and bacon and fresh bread to choose from. The girls would have preferred a larger variety of cereal but they are pretty picky breakfast eaters to be honest. A nespresso machine was also available for you to help yourself to, together with hot water for tea. Iced tea and a selection of fruit juices completed the offer.
The poolside bar which opened 10am-11pm and served food until 6pm, offered the usual hotel style food of club sandwiches wraps, salads and a few more substantial meals including burgers and pastas. The pasta dishes at 8 -10 euros seemed really quite small, but the pizza for the same price was quite large. I’d have liked them to do some smaller meze options too – perhaps something that could make the menu next year. I’d also on some evenings have appreciated the food service finishing around 8pm rather than 6pm so we didn’t always have to go out and get dressed for dinner but whenever we did go out I was pleased to do so as the local restaurants are so good.
To be fair if you had a car you’d have been able to take advantage of the supermarkets in close by Kassiopi and perhaps made salads and mezze yourself for lunch or a light dinner but we had only taken a hotel transfer. I think on balance I’d recommend a car as it would have been nice to pop to some of the local beaches a couple of days whilst we were there and explore a little further afield. You also had to be quite organised with taxis for the evening as there aren’t many to go around, so book early in the day, or the day before for the slot you want. By the end of the week many of the guests had taken to sharing mini buses into Kassiopi and back which worked really well, and the hotel reception team seemed really good and combining people into slots that worked for all.
So where did we eat out whilst staying at Bella Mare?
Kassiopi is a pretty little harbour town with some lovely restaurants. We really enjoyed the food at all the places we ate, but a special mention has to go to Trilogia for the quite spectacular view and sunset on our last evening. It’s where the closing drone shot in the video is taken from too, so be sure to check that out. Other guests also recommended Eucalyptus Taverna in San Stefano too which whilst pricier really was a beautiful spot.
Location on the beach!
The location of Bella Mare hotel is what makes it so special. The sea is crystal blue and perfectly calm for swimming especially in the morning. We often took inflatables out to sea to drift around for an hour or so as the breeze from the sea is very welcome in the height of summer when the temperatures during our week reached 37. Do make sure to take sea shoes with you to wear to get in and out of the sea though as the stones are really tricky to navigate without them. If you do forget to pack some, the local shops sell them for around 7 euros although I don’t think the ones we bought up there will last another week!
Boat Trip from Avlaki Beach
One of our favourite days from Bella Mare was our boat day. Literally just at the bottom of the steps from Bella Mare hotel on the beach is Avlaki Beach Boat Hire. We hired a boat from them for the day for 90 euros plus petrol and Matt expertly navigated the little coves and bays down the coast until we stopped at 12.30pm at Nikolas Tavern and Beach Bar in Kalamaki Beach for a pre-booked lunch.
We had pre-booked Nikolas Tavern at 12.30pm on the advice of guests who had been the week before as they advised it was a really popular spot and it was easier to get moored on the jetty when it was quieter – a top tip for unaccustomed sailors such as ourselves!
Nikolas Tavern as a lunch spot was perfect and I’d have loved to go back out later in the week but the boats had been booked up quickly and we just didn’t get organised to book a boat from San Stefano.
Kayaking and Paddleboarding at Corfu Sailing Centre
Just a short walk down the beach from Bella Mare hotel is the Corfu Sailing Centre. For 20 euros you can hire a kayak or a paddleboard for an hour so that’s what we did a couple of mornings during the week. The children, unlike me, were pretty good at standing up on the board, whereas I panicked and never managed to get off kneeling. You could also do a sailing lesson if you were feeling a little more adventurous or take out a sailing boat yourself if you know how to sail.
Childcare at Bella Mare Hotel
One of the things we loved the very first time we booked a Simpson Travel holiday was their kids club at Mousses. It gave us 3 hours of down time and genuinely a little respite from parenting 3 under 5’s. I read books for the first time in years.
However now the kids are 7 and 8 how important is childcare? Well for us it’s useful in a different way. It’s not an essential break for us that’s needed now, the kids will happily entertain themselves in the pool if we want time to read, but what we loved about Dolphins (the childcare offering for 7-10 year olds) was the option for things to happen out of the sun. The making of friendship bracelets and the stone painting was a favourite activity for the girls but it was the two movie nights on Tuesday and Thursday, that we and they loved, meaning we could have two date nights out in town and they could have two more relaxed evenings on the sofa eating pizza and ice cream and watching films with their newly found friends. Some of the younger ones also fell asleep snuggled up after all their fun in the sun.
The childcare offering (for 7-10 year olds) we felt worked really well whilst we were there and the girls loved going to Dolphins club, but the take up for Tribe (11-16) seemed to be less popular. The concept of Dolphins and Tribe club may end up operating in a different way next year but keep following Simpson Travel directly to see what they decide and whether they do change the offering after a full summer of operating the clubs.
So, so far I’ve only told you what’s really good about Bella Mare hotel, so are there any niggles?
This is the opening year of the partnership between the hotel and Simpson Travel and lots of things have changed – things are still changing and will continue to change next year as the relationship develops. It does feel that the respective teams are still getting to know each other a little which did cause some minor frustrations, however, from our previous experience of Simpson’s commitment to their hotel offer I am sure these will be ironed out very quickly.
I would also like to see Simpson Travel try and persuade the hotel to be more conscious of their plastic use. It was fascinating to see the kids at the hotel disappointed when drinks were served in disposable plastic glasses at the pool and complain about the small plastic toiletry bottles in the bathrooms. David Attenborough really has done his job well when it’s the kids that are pointing this out to us all and asking for change.
Our slight niggles about the hotel are however completely insignificant when you consider what you do get if you book this hotel.
If you book Bella Mare hotel you will not be disappointed. You get a beautiful small family friendly hotel right on the beach which your children will love. You get lovely restaurants, friendly people and a perfectly relaxing week in a beautiful part of the world. It definitely gets our seal of approval and we wouldn’t hesitate to suggest that you book a trip!