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Homepage Slider Sailing and Travel — 31 January 2013

When we start our sailing trip it will be from Kusadasi, Turkey. We have moored Jade here for the last few years and regular holidays there have meant we’ve got to know the area pretty well. Whether you arrive by sea or air, I hope this Kusadasi family-friendly guide is of help…

Pictures from Kusadasi on mummy rates it

Kusadasi living: (top left clockwise): Ferne and Noah on Jade in Winter 2011, Ephesus picture thanks to AHT @ Flickr.com, Michelle, Alex, Noah and Ferne on Jade Spring 2012, Market time in Kusadasi and Pigeon Island pictures thanks to Richard Munden @Flickr.com

About Kusadasi

Kusadasi is a large town with a residential population of 64,359 rising to over half a million during the summer (many thanks to Wikipedia). In the ‘off peak’ season it feels pretty quiet but in the summer it is very busy indeed with hoards of tourists arriving by plane, cruise ship and boat. It is officially ‘on the map’ as a sun-seekers destination but it has a lot more to offer than sandy beaches…

Visiting Kusadasi in cooler months/off-peak

Sometimes places that are ‘beach destinations’ feel deserted and depressing in the winter months. However, life in Kusadasi continues for the locals so it’s busy in the sense that transport, local shops, markets and restaurants still carry on. Obviously many of the larger, tourist night spots and restaurants shut down but that said you won’t struggle to find a hotel, restaurant or cafe that is open plus there’s not that awful boarded-up, tumble-weed look.

When the beach is off the menu you need to find other things to do, especially if you’ve got kids with steam to let off. Due to its proximity, Kusadasi is the departure point for many wishing to visit Ephesus, an ancient Greek and Roman city. Ephesus is open during the winter months which is, in fact, the best time to visit as it’s uncomfortable, busy and lacking shade in the summer.

 

I’d like to say that when we went to Ephesus the kids marvelled at the remains of the ancient buildings but truthfully they just enjoyed running around, climbing over the rocks and looking for stray cats which they insisted we photograph. All in all it worked well for us as we could still take in the impressive site and get some fresh air. If you arrive at Ephesus on a Dolmus you’ll most likely get off and be approached by a taxi driver who will want to take you to the House of the Virgin Mary and then to the ruins. Using a taxi worked well for us as it avoided a lot of walking which would have been too much for the kids.

 

Map showing Kusadasi, Turkey

Another winter option is to hire a car and explore the little villages around Kusadasi. We drove to Sirince, a mountain village with beyond-rustic houses nestled on the edges of cliffs. You can ramble around the little streets, look at the stalls and say ‘Merhaba’ to the locals. That’s not all though, Sirence is famous for making its own fruit-flavoured wine. There are lots of different varieties and you can try them all (a good day not to be the designated driver) in the outlet by the car park. We bought a bottle of pomegranate Champagne for New Year’s Eve – very nice indeed.

Sirence near Izmir on mummy rates it

Sirence: home to delicious fruit wines. Picture thanks to Chris and Amy Stroup @ Flickr.com

When beach action isn’t possible (as I said it can get very cold and wet during winter) you can still enjoy a stroll around Kusadasi. The winter months are often very bright. The town itself is interesting with the souk, old buildings with beautiful tiling, old wall and Pigeon Island (accessible by foot) with its Byzantine Castle.

To keep the kids amused there are plenty of playgrounds scattered around the town and seafront with pretty standard swings, slides etc. The playground by the Police Station has the added bonus of a cafe and a loo so that’s always a favourite spot for us.

A trip to the market is also a must. Jade has a large kitchen/galley with a fridge and a chest freezer so we really can stock up. The market has just about every type of fruit and vegetable that you can think of plus fish, meat. Furthermore you can stock up on teas, sweets (Turkish Delight), Baklava, bread and our favourite nibbles of nuts, dried fruits and seeds – as well as other miscellaneous market wares. Even if you’re not buying it’s worth having a look around and soaking up the atmosphere.

Come Easter the weather begins to warm-up you may get lucky with some serious sunshine and heat. We had one day last Easter that was a scorcher and I took the kids to Ladies Beach. It’s hard to imagine (as it’s usually rammed in the Summer) but we had the entire beach all to ourselves.

Visiting Kusadasi in warmer months/peak season

In the summer Ladies Beach is, as I’ve said above, absolutely heaving – think rows and rows of slippery sardine-like people – many of whom insist on leaving all the cigarette butts in the sand. Yuck. However, it is possible to find some quieter, kid-friendly beaches. Our favourite, recommended to us by a local, is Lost Paradise Beach. Yes it’s small and yes it gets busy but it’s not sardine style and the sand is not littered with cigarettes. The water is clear and you can either lay down in the comfort of a lounger (pay for it) or sit in the cafe and look out. The good news is that it’s at the end of a Dolmus stop so it’s an easy trip.

Speaking of Dolmus’ – they are great for getting around Kusadasi. Look out for the stops with the big capital D and then just flag them down as they pass. I wish I could tell you how much the fare is, goodness knows it’s been much discussed. Our conclusions is that the best policy is to find out what the locals pay and then hand that over without flinching. The driver will soon pipe up if they expect more. Payment issues aside, the Dolmus gets you around quickly, cheaply and with the added entertainment of seeing how many people can squeeze inside.

Cruise ships arrive in Kusadasi

Cruise ships in Kusadasi: picture thanks to Son of Groucho @ Flickr.com

Tourists arrive in Kusadasi by plane but also its a Cruise Ship destination (Disney Cruises will also be stopping here in 2013). It’s fun to watch the Cruise ships coming in and out of the port and the kids love to listen to the loud toots and watch the tugboat. Some vessels are so enormous that they even have a golf course on the roof! Many of the Cruise ships leave at sunset which is a nice time to sit on deck and watch – especially if you’ve got a sun-downer in hand and a few minutes peace and quiet.

Over our summer holidays we left Kusadasi for a week or so of sailing. Last year we went to the Greek islands of Samos (so close you can see it), Agathanisi and Arki and before that we’ve hugged the Turkish coastline down to Bodrum. My favourite place on that trip was Torba which is an upmarket resort. The beach was pebble but the sea was so crystal clear and refreshing it felt like swimming in water fresh from a waterfall. It was safe for kids, lovely for adults and the residents were friendly (so much so that we ended up eating dinner at a local’s house).

Back in Kusadasi, or just Kus (said Kush) to locals, you can take a day out from beach activities with a trip to an aqua park. We’ve been to both Adaland and Aqua Fantasy. Both are great. There’s not much between them although the former does have a Dolphin and Sealife show (it’s extra though). Aqua Fantasy, however, has a larger kiddies pool area but really that’s for smaller kids and ours (6 and 5 at the time) wanted to go on the big rides. By the way, there is a height limit for rides which they do check so measure beforehand or be prepared for tears. Oh, and don’t try to smuggle in your own food to avoid paying for a pricey burger, it is NOT allowed. Believe me, we’ve tried.

Selling Simit Bread

Selling Simit bread: picture thanks to svenwork @ Flickr.com

We’ve always been really impressed with the food in Kusadasi. Yes, there’s the everything with chips brigade but there’s plenty of local food availabe. Our favourites are the kebab with rice and all the fresh caught fish. In fact, our favourite restaurant is above the fish market. You climb up the little steps to the side of the market and once up you find yourself a table. If you’re taking the kids and they’re not fish eaters – don’t worry. Ours love the potato pancakes – other non-fishy fillings also available.

Not only is this place inexpensive but it offers amazing views over the harbour so you can watch the fishermen coming in and out and getting their boats in order. We spent the 1st January 2012 in there overlooking the action. Just lovely!

All around town and on the beach you’ll also see men selling Simit (a Turkish bagel) – sometimes they’re sold from a little bicycle-cart. These make a delicious lunch/snack and are very inexpensive. Sometimes the seller has cheese triangles for the kids to put inside (just ask) and a salty yoghurt drink called Ayran (an acquired taste).

I can’t really tell you much about or recommend a hotel as we’ve always stayed on the boat. However, there is a lot to choose from and many of them are along the sea front so should have lovely views. There is also a camp site (has a pool which non-residents can pay to use) at the Marina end of town.

The Marina, services etc

I can’t tell you about the hotels but I can tell you about Setur Marina. Perhaps the greatest thing about the Marina is its proximity to the centre. I’m not going to go into the prices as it obviously depends on how long you are staying and how big your boat is but it’s mid-high band if that helps.

What I can tell you is that over the last year or so they are redeveloping the Marina and it looks likely to become more expensive. Surprisingly, many of the restaurants have gone or are going out (some have been there for a very long time) which is a shame as a couple of them were wonderful and very popular.

The Marina has a laundry, tennis courts, toilets and showers (very clean but not the most modern), is next to a Migros Supermarket, some designer shops and has a swimming pool. The pool is quite small, is very deep at both ends and lacks shade. Family friendly? Not really. Another bug bear is that you have to pay for the privilege which niggles a bit as at other Marinas the pool is often included (and usually bigger and nicer). The pool has a cafe too but it is very expensive for what you get. Of course, there’s always the choice not to use it.

As you would expect there are plenty of mechanics etc for repairs. We had an engine replaced here a year of so ago and were happy with the service. We’ve also had some bad service from another workshop when we had covers made for our dinghy.

Getting to Kusadasi

Some of you reading this may arriving by sail/motor and in which case we will may see you in the Marina. Otherwise you can fly to either Izmir or Bodrum airports. Direct flights throughout summer from a few airlines such as Turkish, Easy Jet and Pegasus but less choice over the winter months (we often do a two flight trip with Lufthansa).

Happy holidays.

Michelle

ps: This is the first travel post I’ve written. If you have any comments/advice I’d love to know. Or perhaps you’ve holidayed in Kusadasi and have some other info to share with would-be visitors?
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(2) Readers Comments

  1. I went to Kusadasi years ago and also to Bodrum. Have done the Epheus thing a couple of times – well worth the energy expended! Turkey wasn’t sophisticated enough for my liking then, but I have no doubt it is far more so nowadays and it’s great that they’re not in the Euro yet because I know that’s what keeps holidays there particularly attractive presently! It’s a lively, wonderful resort!

  2. Nice snap, it seems like pictures of happiness. Turkey is a wonderful place to spend. I like all local foods available there :P

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