So, this is a first for TLE – one of the core crew embarking upon a family holiday in the sun to a family friendly resort.
We’ve always made our own holidays preferring a comfortable base from which we can explore the place we’re visiting however, after doing a little bit of research myself I decided I would consult with a travel agent and through the recommendation of my well-travelled (high standard expecting) sister-in-law I contacted Scott Dunn to see if they could help advise on where and what would be fitting for our needs:
- Less than 4 hours’ flight time from Edinburgh
- Less than 1 hour transfer time from airport to accommodation
- Plenty of sporting activities
- Culture / History – a place where adventures could be made.
- Good food
- Child friendly but not child focussed
We don’t ask for much do we!!
Alice, from the Mediterranean and Ski Team at Scott Dunn was brilliant and suggested two resorts; Pine Cliffs in Portugal or Sun Gardens in Dubrovnik. This was music to my ears as for the past few years Croatia has been on my hit-list but for one reason or another we’d not been able to make it. However, this year it was to be and Sun Gardens was the chosen destination for our September holiday.
We were flying with EasyJet (not very luxury I know!!) and although it was an early morning flight everything ran like clockwork, with check in, security and boarding all stress-free. The only problem we encountered was we were at the airport so early (I’m a strict 2+ hours in advance kind-of-girl!!) the coffee shops hadn’t even opened!! Once we sipped on our macchiato and we were airborne life was good.
A private transfer from the airport to Sun Gardens was included in our package and we were met by a friendly Scott Dunn representative who escorted us to a luxury Mercedes People Carrier. The driver was very smartly dressed and the vehicle was in pristine condition, with a car seat at the ready for the little man and bottles of water to quench a traveller’s thirst.
The journey took approx. 30 minutes and our driver, a quietly spoken man, pointed out all the key sites and educated us of some of the history about the city and the country. The journey passed very quickly and if this level of service was to continue we would be sure to have a great holiday.
There are two receptions at the resort; one for hotel guests and one for Residences guests. We were staying in a Residence so were dropped off at this big bright and welcoming reception. The lady that checked us in was polite and friendly but nowhere near as forthcoming with information about the resort as her colleague checking in another guest next to us (I was eaves dropping!) That didn’t matter though as in our room there was all the information needed to ensure you made the most of your time at Sun Gardens.
Our room wasn’t quite ready for us so the receptionist suggested we head over to one of the hotel bars for a drink while they finished preparing the room. The little man had finally fallen asleep during the transfer so it was a perfect opportunity for us to enjoy our first drink of the holiday in peace so the room not being ready did not pose any inconvenience to us.
We chose the Maraska Lounge and Bar located in the main hotel; very stylish, bright and modern décor that serves light snacks and drinks. All the outdoor seats were taken so we sat inside where there are a choice of lounger seats, big armchairs and high stools were on offer and even from inside the views were fantastic using floor to ceiling windows.
We also enjoyed a coffee here on the outdoor balcony another day and the coffee was served with the richest dark ganache chocolate I’d had for a long time.
When we went back to reception to collect the key and our bags a golf cart was waiting for us to drive us to our residence. It wasn’t that far but again all part of the service!
We stayed in a Deluxe one bedroom Sea View Residence which boasted a private outdoor terrace with sun loungers and dining furniture, panoramic views across the Adriatic Sea and brilliant indoor living space; lounge area, work space, kitchen and dining facilities, separate toilet, a sizeable bedroom with super-king-size bed, spacious bathroom with bath and shower, plenty of wardrobe space. As to be expected a security safe, Wi-Fi, bathrobes and all the fragrant bathroom amenities one could want.
We were located in Residence 6 which I thought was in prime location; very close to The Market, where breakfast was served, and just a short walk from the adult pool, marina and gym. The hotel, children’s pools and beach were at the other end but even they were only a few minute’s walk away.
A very thoughtful welcome pack from Scott Dunn was laid out in our kitchen which consisted of two bottles of wine, cereal, pasta, pasta sauce, ham, cheese, crisps, biscuits, water and even some beers. A nice touch, especially given that the on-site shop closes between the hours of 12pm – 4pm (our arrival time) so it made for an excellent light snack before we embarked upon our first real exploration.
A Scott Dunn Explorer (their kids club) bag with all the essentials for keeping the little man safe and protected from the sun was also provided. Brilliant!
The facilities at the resort were excellent and offered great variety. The hotel afforded a top-class spa and wellness suite with an 18m indoor pool, selection of different saunas, plunge pools and a decent Techno gym. The sliding doors of the pool and spa area lead directly out to the gardens where comfortable private oyster style sun-loungers awaited guests. Although we didn’t indulge in any of the massages or beauty treatments we did hear that they were very good. There was also a small pagoda by the adult pool with a view across the bay where you could enjoy a Thai massage if you wanted the ultimate relaxation in the beauty of the great outdoors.
The sport centre located in the Residence area of the resort included; four clay tennis courts – which we regularly used (an extra 100 Kuna – approx. £10 per hour to hire). Squash courts, climbing wall, table tennis tables, mountain bike hire, gym, fitness classes and personal training.
During high season a children’s tennis club runs along with other activities such as swim clubs specifically for children. Friends stayed at the Residence during high season and sang the praises as to how well organised the kids club was.
Our booking with Scott Dunn included a place for the little man at the Scott Dunn Explorer’s Club. This entailed a place at their purpose-built nursery from 10am – 6pm; all meals and nappies included, with British accredited nursery nurses looking after the children. The option to pre-book babysitters should you wish to enjoy an evening out with your little one was also included. Upon arrival, an Explorer’s Kid Club pack was issued to us which provided a timetable of what the little ones would be doing each day so you knew where to find them if you did use the service.
We took our little man on holiday to spend time with him so we didn’t take advantage of this service to its full extent, however as we had booked a baby-sitter one night we thought it only fair for him to meet her for a morning before she came to spend the evening with him. Wow! When we arrived at the nursery we were blown away by how meticulously clean, organised, ultra-modern and spacious it was. This picture doesn’t do it justice!!
The different crafts, toys and play facilities they had laid out was second to none. The little man was so excited to see two other boys of his own age he immediately ran to them and started playing with them. And then, would you believe, the nursery nurse looking after Jake actually used to teach him at his nursery back in Edinburgh…. such a small world. We waved goodbye to the little man for the next few hours (while we enjoyed a game of tennis and swim in the adult pool) and he didn’t even give us a second glance. The set-up is totally flexible and providing you give enough notice you can drop the little ones off and collect at any time to suit your own schedule. We met the crew at the pool, just before they started swim time and it was almost impossible to prize the little man away from his new-found friends.
The babysitting service was equally as impressive and I felt totally confident leaving another (pretty much a stranger – I’d known for two days!) responsible for my child. Payment is made in cash direct to the babysitter.
I cannot speak more highly of the service and facilities the Scott Dun Kids Club offers. Although we didn’t use it every day the couple of days we did use it proved its worth. I highly recommend to anyone looking for a family holiday with the option of a touch of respite from the little people.
There were three outdoor pools; 1 adult and two for children, the adult pool boasted stunning views across the Adriatic Sea and looked down onto the small Marina. The two children pools included slides and water features for entertainment. A bar and café were located at each of the pool areas serving light bites, cocktails, alcohol, soft-drinks and coffee. The few samples we tried (cocktails and paninis) were excellent.
Marina and Pebble Beach
A small marina is located at the edge of the resort where water-sports and regular boat trips (shared and private) to the nearby islands can be enjoyed. There is also a water shuttle service to Dubrovnik’s old town – service times vary according to season.
A secluded pebble beach with swimming area sectioned off in the sea, sun loungers and a snack bar too is located at one end of the resort. We had hours of fun paddling and throwing pebbles into the beautiful water.
Food and Drink
As the Sun Gardens website states, they ‘have something for every taste with a fabulous array of buffets, fine dining, poolside venues, bars and boutique eateries that cater to both local and international flavours’ and this is true, however due to the time of year we visited not all were open.
We sampled cuisine from La Pasta; a casual restaurant serving food all day. We all had pizza and the base was delicious but I found the topping a little but greasy. Fine for a quick bite but we only dined here once.
Cilantro is the seafood restaurant, located right on the seafront with an appetizing menu I was really looking forward to eating here. The team were highly attentive and very friendly – making quite a fuss of the little man. Setting was superb, wine was good, however, I made the wrong decision with my order that I didn’t really enjoy my food. Judging by the dishes that were served to the other tables I am sure if I’d chosen differently my review would have been a very different. It wasn’t overly expensive (not cheap though!) – again we only dined here once.
I can sing the praises of breakfast which was served every morning from 7am – 10am in The Market restaurant. An abundance of fresh fruits, pastries, cakes, hot breakfast options, omelettes (made to order), cheeses, salmon, olives, breads, pancakes…. ooh the list is endless and it was all very fresh and frequently replenished. Coffee, tea and milk were all served as requested. Breakfast really was a great spread!
Top tip: to secure a seat outside I suggest attending by 8pm – much later and you’d be left with indoor seats.
There were some brilliant little restaurants fairly close by; the first one we discovered was Savorini’s a family run restaurant ‘up the mountain’ about a 25min walk from the hotel and all uphill but it was well worth the hike. Simple but delicious food, stunning view (see below) and a real authentic experience all at a ridiculously cheap cost (approx. £40 for 2 beers, 4 glasses of wine, 3 mains and 2 desserts!!) plus they gave us a lift home.
The next one was in the next village Zaton – about a 10-minute taxi ride from the hotel. Konoba Veranda, again another family run restaurant, serve a ‘journey of Croatia’ Simple ingredients combined to create some delicious and creative dishes. A wonderful selection of wine and top class service this really could have been classed as a fine dining restaurant and even rivalled our experience of Michelin starred restaurant Proto in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. The location isn’t fancy and the interiors are a bit dated but if you are in the area I highly recommend including this in your dining diary.
We had a brilliant time here, facilities, layout, service, accommodation – everything except for our two evening meals were of exceptional standard. I didn’t like being so far away from Dubrovnik and really needing a car to explore – however saying that as there are so many things onsite exploring isn’t necessarily what guests here want to do.
The entire one week holiday (flights, bed & breakfast, private transfer, Scott Dunn Explorer club place) plus food and drink for the week (taking into consideration we didn’t always eat in the resort) cost approx. £3.5k for 2 adults and one toddler.
I would recommend it to a family for a chilled-out resort based holiday. Would I go back, possibly but I prefer a location where you can walk out and explore the local area. Perhaps we could have done this without the toddler.
I will definitely book with Scott Dunn again as their service was outstanding.
Address: Ul. na moru 1, 20234, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Phone: +385 20 361 500