Diving Into The Peligoni Club – Review

By Lucy Cleland

8 months ago

Lucy Cleland visits Greece's coolest club

Dive on in: a week at ‘The Peli’ – as The Peligoni Club is affectionately known – on Zakynthos seems like a rite of passage for well-heeled families, says Lucy Cleland.

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Review: The Peligoni Club, Zakynthos

Peligoni Club

I was, I confess, slightly dreading our week at The Peligoni Club on the north-eastern side of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea. Not that I’d heard a bad word against it; no, to the contrary – everyone positively eulogised about the family-run private members’ club set into a rocky outcrop (apart from some parents bemoaning the bar/ice cream bill racked up by children unshackled from parental chains for the week). It was more its reputation for being, God forbid, the type of place you might run into someone you know from ‘real life’. For some, this is a huge positive – meeting Harry, Jemima and their three children, Isla, Arlo and Hermione, from number 49, is like striking holiday gold; for me, not so much. But I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong. As soon as we bumped into Kate and her family, and the kids broke the ice in the way only they know how to do (playing volleyball in the pool and falling off windsurf boards), I heaved a sigh of relief and relaxed into a week of sun, sports, relaxation and, most important of all, ease (a week here is supremely easy). And then, of course, we met Shaun, Tessa, Alex et al…

The history of ‘The Peli’, as it’s affectionately known, goes back to 1989 when it first opened its doors to guests as a sailing club (it has generally calm conditions in the morning with the wind picking up in the afternoon, making it the perfect place to learn) with plastic chairs and bad wine. Located just a boat’s nudge from the lovely laidback harbour village of Agios Nikolaos, and as far from the now-built southern nightclubs of Laganas as it’s possible to be, a British couple – Vanessa Goldie and her husband Johnny – had fallen in love with the very non-touristy area (in fact, there was no electricity in the beginning) and recognised that they could perhaps help keep it special.

Fast forward to 2005, and when Vanessa and Johnny were nearing retirement and Britain was beckoning, The Peligoni basically went bankrupt, according to Anouska ‘Noosh’ Shearer, daughter of the current owner, Ian Shearer.

Peligoni Club

The Shearers – who had been enjoying family holidays here for years (likening it to, say, Rock in Cornwall or the Isle of Wight – i.e. the kind
of seaside destination that attracts a certain type of sailing-mad family year in, year out) and had built a house next door, were so enamoured of The Peligoni that Ian corralled the other regulars to persuade them to buy it. Enthusiasm abounded until, that is, they had to sign on the dotted line. In the end, Ian, a property developer, bought it himself – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, it’s his children, Ben and Noosh, who run it and have smartened and sharpened the operation without, they hope, losing the bohemian soul of the original. Four hundred club members can be accommodated with boat trips, sailing, foiling, waterskiing, windsurfing, paddle-boarding and other watersports on tap (with tuition and group classes, for tots to nonagenarians if needed), plus yoga, pilates, meditation, a spa (excellent massages) and tennis for others – with sunbeds and rosé on tap too, of course.

Villa Kalista at the Peligoni Club

Villa Kalista © Holly Farrier

Come the summer holidays, the place is at full throttle – well-heeled families flock knowing that whatever age their children are, they will be beautifully catered for. The ‘rugrats’ crèche is humming with babies; Sharky & George deliver hours of cheeky fun for kids under 12; tweens can find unconstructed entertainment bouncing from sailing lessons to pool volleyball and slurping smoothies in between; savvy older teens know how to get their parents to ask for the vaunted ‘green’ wristband, which allows them to buy the odd beer. Throughout the week The Peli puts on evenings that encourage all guests to get together and let their sun-bleached hair down – trestle tables, food stalls, live music, dancing, DJs see all generations jiving on the dance floor and sharing tales of sporting derring-do.

With no accommodation on-site, although Noosh says this may change as the club expands (and you heard it here first that the brand may open its first destination outside Greece in Portugal before too long), families stay in one of over a hundred villas rented through The Peligoni and all within a 15-minute drive of the club. Ours, Kallista, was brand new and impeccably kitted out with a pool, outdoor pizza oven, boules, ping-pong, endless terraces and plenty of mature trees to frame those heavenly views. It makes for a great change of scene from The Peli once you’ve exhausted yourself on the water (or in the bar) – but, of course, with all those friends you know back at the club, you might find it hard to tear yourself away.

Peligoni Club

Villa Kalista © Holly Farrier

BOOK IT: One-week Peligoni Club membership from £185pp (£525 in high season). Full watersports upgrades, from £120. Crèche, from £455. One week at Villa Kallista, from £6,000. peligoni.com