The Mark Warner Perdepera resort in Sardinia sits nestled between a white sandy beach and lush green mountains, and when we woke up on our first morning in the resort we thought we’d been transported into an actual postcard. (SPOILER – we would return in a heartbeat.)
We went in the last week of the summer holidays, after a summer that included a back injury, a fairly soggy UK camping trip and countless cancelled family days out (due to said back injury). So when we got on the plane it’s fair to say we were all more than ready for a week of sunshine.
We flew from Heathrow T5 to Cagliari airport in Sardinia. From there, it took just over an hour and a half to get to Perdepera by coach. The plane journey itself was excitement for the kids (who are used to travelling to France by ferry most summers), and this was made even more exciting by being invited into the cockpit. Freya got to sit in the pilot’s seat and wear his hat, and I may have cried.
Perdepera is set on the south-eastern edge of Sardinia, Italy’s second largest island (after Corsica). It’s a fairly small resort, set in a rural location, so it has a really laid-back vibe. This is helped by the fact the accommodation is arranged in small “cottages” rather than a big imposing building. As such, it feels more like a village than a large hotel, which somehow made it feel more family-friendly.
The resort’s flower game is strong, with an Instagram-ready angle pretty much everywhere you look. And if you look closely enough you’ll see a multitude of wildlife including the cutest little geckos which the girls were obsessed with.
Mark Warner share the resort with an Italian tour operator, so there’s a mixture of Italian and English holidaymakers there, but it never felt too busy – probably because there are three pools to choose from, as well as the beach.
Watch our Day in the Life video filmed at Perdepera…
One of the biggest draws of a Mark Warner holiday is the high quality childcare, which is something I’d been told about from countless friends who’ve holidayed at some of the company’s other resorts. As newbies to this type of holiday (we’re used to staying in self-catering houses or camping in France), we weren’t prepared for quite how huge the kids’ club aspect of the holiday would be. But it didn’t take us long to find out.
On the first day Freya told us she didn’t want to do “boring kids’ club” because it would be “just like school”. Within twenty minutes of dropping her off I could see her running around having fun with a new group of friends and when it was time to pick her up she was already asking to go back. Effie – the more outgoing of my two girls – was pretty much ready to book herself into kids’ club as soon as we got there, and was furious when I suggested one morning that she might want to give it a miss and hang out with me at the beach instead.
I mean, I can’t blame her really when you consider the kinds of activities she was doing…
They did windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, pool games, arts and crafts, bug hunts, tennis… the list is endless. The sessions were split into three parts, with the activities for the following day written on the board by the respective club the night before (the groups are split into age category, and then again into smaller groups depending on how many kids there are). This means children can dip in and out if they don’t want to do the entire morning or afternoon session, and parents will always know exactly where on the resort their kids are.
We quickly slipped into a relaxed routine of having a family breakfast together, before dropping the girls off at kids’ club for the morning. Si and I would then spend a few hours doing our own thing, before collecting them for lunch. We’d then spend the afternoon together as a family at the beach or pool (or both), before the girls had a “high tea” at 5.30pm in the restaurant. This was a meal available to all Mark Warner guests under the age of ten and meant they didn’t have to wait until 7.30pm for their evening meal (we eat early in the UK compared to families on the continent!). We’d then go back to the room for showers, and the girls would get into their pyjamas, before going off to “Movie Night” at their respective club in the evening.
This routine meant Si and I had loads of opportunities to spend time together as a couple (we spent more time alone together that week than we have done in eight years married!), and also just on our own. I didn’t realise how much I’d been craving this space to just unwind and spend some time not being needed by anyone, until I really started to properly relax on the second day after we arrived. My cup had been dangerously close to empty and I hadn’t even known.
The evening childcare offering is until 10.30pm, and Effie would often fall asleep while watching her film, before being tucked up into a cute little camp bed by the Mark Warner staff (the first time I saw all the little ones fast asleep in their mini beds my heart properly melted). The older ones will watch a film and play games – and the teenager club will often do games on the beach in the evening. One evening we picked Freya up early because she wanted to see what she was missing, but she asked to go back because it was more fun at kids’ club!
During the week I spoke to a few other holidaymakers who told me the childcare had been a huge part of the reason they’d booked with Mark Warner. One couple told me they’d been with another tour operator the previous year but the kids’ club didn’t have the range of activities and it all felt a bit less organised than the Mark Warner childcare. I also spoke to single parents who said the kids’ clubs gave them an opportunity to switch off in a way they couldn’t have done on a different type of holiday.
Another huge draw for Mark Warner guests is the wide range of activities on offer. You can be as active as you want, with sailing, paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving and cycling all on offer. Or, if you prefer, you can just lie on the beach or by the pool with a good book.
There are lots of opportunities to get lessons, or you can hire out the equipment on your own. Again, the bonus of the childcare offering is that you can do activities on your own, as a couple, or with the kids too. Si loves cycling so one morning we went together and on another morning he went alone. If we’d had been there another week then he’d probably have joined one of the organised bike tours too.
This is the first all-inclusive holiday we’ve been on as a family, and I wasn’t sure if the food aspect would work for us. I really enjoy cooking – especially on holiday – and I didn’t know how I’d feel about losing the independence of self-catering, and eating at particular times every day. This turned out to be a pointless worry, because the food was brilliant and I quickly relaxed into not having to think about supermarket trips and menu planning.
Three meals a day are included in the cost of the holiday – breakfast, lunch and dinner. All of these meals are buffet, help-yourself style, and are served in the main restaurant by the pool. At Perdepera, there’s also the option of eating at the beach bar, but only some of the things on the menu are included in the cost and if you want an evening meal there then you have to pay. We chose to do this for our anniversary meal – the first anniversary we’ve celebrated alone together, in a restaurant, in eight years!
At the main restaurant, there’s an offer of pasta, pizza, salads, cooked meats, fresh vegetables, fruit and puddings. And you get wine included with your lunch and evening meal too. I got into the habit of having my evening meal Italian style, over four courses, which I must say I’m very much here for and would happily eat like that every day of my life.
There’s no snack bar at the resort, so there’s no option to eat outside of the main meal times. The only person this really affected in our family was Effie, who’s a real snack enthusiast and would happily ditch her main meals in favour of hourly snacks throughout the day. You can buy crisps and ice-cream from the bar by the pool though, which is what we did.
We stayed in one of the resort’s older cottages, as I wanted to be in the same room as the children. This meant we had a family room, which consisted of a kitchenette area, a bathroom, two single beds downstairs, and a mezzanine level with a double bed upstairs. There was also an outside patio area with a table and chairs and a clothes airer.
(I’m still convinced the bed here had magical properties because I arrived on crutches, still in a lot of pain from a prolapsed disc in my lower back which I did at the start of summer, and I left able to kayak, swim, run and cycle with no crutches in sight!)
This was a really special week for us, and it’s made us rethink how we do holidays in the future. The catered aspect of the holiday, the childcare, and all the activities on holiday were huge pluses that we’ve never really considered before, and we’d definitely do this type of holiday again. I’d love to return to Perdepera one day and spend a bit more time exploring the area. We went out of the resort on our bikes and ventured to a nearby beach, but I think if we went again we’d hire a car and try to see a bit more of the island.
The girls absolutely loved just playing in the pool and on the beach, and they were very happy to forego any sightseeing opportunities. And as all parents know, if the kids are happy then we’re happy.
For a week, I was completely content to relax at the resort, and there was so much to do things never got boring. The beach is stunningly beautiful – all white sand and crystal clear waters – and is up there with one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever been to (it rivals the ones I’ve visited in the past in the Caribbean and Thailand too). We had gorgeous weather for the most part – hot sunshine and blue skies with the odd thunder storm thrown in for good measure. Sardinia’s known for it’s “six month summer”, so it’s a great island to visit out of high season because the sea is warm enough to swim in from May to October.
The only thing I’d change about the holiday? I’d leave that blasted flying unicorn (Pegasus?) behind because it took FOREVER to blow up…!
Thank you Mark Warner for a fantastic week – we can’t recommend it enough and will definitely be back.
DISCLOSURE: Our flights and all-inclusive accommodation were provided in return for us creating content and sharing our experiences of the holiday. All footage, images, words and opinions remain my own.