Family fun in Dubrovnik’s Sun at spectacular luxury resort
Having never watched an episode of Game of Thrones, visiting the filming locations of King’s Landing and the city of Qarth held little appeal to me.
Yet, after spending a week with my family in Dubrovnik, on Croatia’s Adriatic Coast, two of my most abiding and cherished memories were visiting these mesmerising settings — the majestic fortified Old Town with quaint harbour and the magnificent island of Lokrum.
I obviously wasn’t aware of their significance to the show — unlike my wife, a huge fan, who last recalled King’s Landing burnt to the ground during one of the final episodes — but the beauty and elegance, combined with an incredible sense of history and culture, only intensified my enjoyment of this captivating city.
In choosing Dubrovnik for a summer break, I was looking for a refreshing alternative to Portugal and the western Mediterranean hotspots.
The coastal city situated at the southern tip of Croatia did not disappoint.
The stunning scenery as you make your way through the hills from the airport towards Dubrovnik — a 20 minute journey — gives you a small taste of the breathtaking vistas you can expect for the duration of your trip as the slopes meander down to the villages, towns and finally the glistening Adriatic Sea.
I was well aware Dubrovnik, from talking to friends and colleagues, rated highly as a short city break for couples but with four-year-old twins in tow, I wanted to experience the region from a family perspective.
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Choosing a child-friendly resort — Sun Gardens — just 20 minutes past the Old Town and over the hulking and impressive Franjo Tudman cable bridge, I was nestled in alongside the Adriatic and looking out over the Elaphite islands for my week-long stay.
Sun Gardens, a five-star ‘village’, delivered everything you could wish for and more with its spacious apartments, three inviting swimming pools, a wide range of sumptuous cuisine at its restaurants, supermarket and chemist on site, along with first class sports and leisure facilities, on both land and sea.
With the resort able to offer two options for accommodation, a 201 room luxury hotel or the separate 207 residences, comprising of one, two and three bedroom apartments, Sun Gardens is able to cater for couples, families and large groups to the highest standard.
Indeed, our two bedroom apartment, pitched on the fourth floor with the balcony having a lovely view of the Adriatic and Elaphite Islands, was simply perfect for our requirements.
Two decent sized bedrooms were complemented by beautifully decorated ensuites with a shower in one and bath in the other while there was also a third toilet between the hall and kitchen. The lounge area easily accommodates a comfortable sofa, two single chairs, coffee table and sideboard with television.
The centrepiece of the kitchen, fitted with all the appliances you require, is a generous island before it leads onto the dining area and a table easily capable of seating four.
The balcony stretches the entire length of the apartment and on our first night at Sun Gardens, I was able to sit out and listen to an a cappella group, the Yale Whiffenpoofs, who had been invited to perform at the Sunset Pool.
Sun Gardens has a range of themes and entertainment to coincide with a particular time of year along with regular live music in their bars.
The residences are conveniently located above two child-friendly restaurants — La Pasta (Italian), The Market (seafood) — on the concourse, while the fish restaurant Cilantro (seafood) is just a short walk away, although dinner can sometimes be delayed as you must pass the resort’s outdoor play park which can obviously be a major distraction.
Two of the three pools at the resort, which have power jets, are family friendly and they are a place of endless fun, especially as they both have a paddling pool and slide to go alongside them plus they allow ball games and inflatables. Each pool has a bar and plenty of sun loungers.
Underneath the main Lemonia pool is where the real magic of the resort happens at the Marco Polo Kids club. Without doubt the finest kids club we have experienced on our travels during the last four years. The kids were only in for a couple of hours a day, which is free, but due to the expert planning and delivery of the games/activities along with the staff being so attentive and enthusiastic, the twins were reluctant to leave at the end of each session.
At night, the club is transformed into different themes such as disco, Disney and jungle — allowing the kids to use up any excess energy as the parents are able to enjoy dinner at the resort’s steakhouse, The Butcher, in peace along with a glass of wine at Vino Bar before collecting thoroughly exhausted and happy children.
The kids clubs vary depending on age and our twins thoroughly enjoyed themselves, meeting new friends and at the end of the week, they were given a lovely letter from the staff detailing their experiences during the week.
But the kids aren’t the only ones to explore new ventures on this trip so do not miss a trip into the Old Town.
The cobbled streets enveloped by the fort are full of boutiques, bars, restaurants and amazing architecture. They lead to a bustling and picture perfect harbour — full of sightseeing and glass bottom boats. It is in the harbour area where I believe you will find the most delicious ice cream outside of Italy.
The Sun Gardens offers a water taxi from the resort to the harbour but it is much quicker by road. However a boat trip from the hotel to the island of Lokrum is a must — a nature reserve which has been used extensively by Game of Thrones and houses a replica iron throne.
Even though there are no sandy beaches, plenty of people swim in the beautiful aqua-coloured water during summer months. There is a pebble beach at Sun Gardens but if you are looking for sand then head for the island of Lopud, which is only a short boat ride away.
The resort has its own activities and travel company which can book anything from airport shuttles, boat trips, scuba diving to car hire for a journey into neighbouring Montenegro.
With Sun Gardens being extremely child-friendly and numerous activities available, only a few outings are necessary.
Dubrovnik isn’t the cheapest of holiday destinations in Europe, especially for food and drink, but it is definitely worth the extra few quid.
While a visit to King’s Landing and the city of Qarth still hasn’t ignited my interest in watching an episode of Game Of Thrones, I would certainly harbour no qualms about returning to the place of pure fantasy.
How to get there: easyJet fly to Dubrovnik from Belfast International Airport. Check out www.easyjet.com.
Having experienced serious delays at bag drop ahead of our outbound flight and then a long wait for passport control on our return to Aldergrove, plus issues with our bags at the carousel, it is worth noting that Ryanair and Aer Lingus also fly to Dubrovnik direct from Dublin airport.
Where to Stay: Sun Gardens is a five-star resort with 201 hotel rooms and 207 fully appointed residences. Just 20 minutes away from Dubrovnik Old Town, it is the complete family complex with excellent leisure facilities, outstanding restaurants and beautiful views over the Adriatic Sea.
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