The Greek Ionian is one of the best places to sail whether your new to sailing or not. Below I’ve laid out all the anchorages and marina’s that we enjoyed while sailing the Greek Ionian Islands. Take a look and see if any of them take your fancy. If you’re planning an adventure in this area, perhaps our experiences might help to guide you towards or away from certain places?!
With such a huge area to cover, a sailor could spend years exploring the Greek Ionian Islands.
We were fortunate to spend the month of June in Greek Ionian islands and then at the end of the season, we spent most of September in Preveza, Greece – a spot on mainland Greece near the island of Levkas (in the Ionian). Our knowledge of the area is not extensive but a two-month stay provided us with a great insight into the area.
I’ve realized that while speaking with other boaters, there’s quite a demand for destination knowledge and route planning. Several people have asked to ‘pick our brains,’ to determine good anchorages, fun places to stop, and recommendations on everything from good restaurants, fast internet connection areas, to favorable diesel prices.
So, for you, sailing the Greek Ionian Islands…
…I’ve gone through our logbook and have written out the passages we took, over the course of one month, through the Greek Ionian Islands.
The aim of this article is to point to any previous posts I’ve written regarding our time in the Greek Ionian in addition to walking you through our passages. In other words, this post will act as a hub for our time in the Greek Ionian. If you’re starting off in Sicily, please read, Sailing from Sicily to Corfu Visiting Mainland Italy as I describe the route we took to get to the Greek Ionian Islands, where we stopped and descriptions of each mooring.
Here’s a chronological list of the places we stopped while sailing the Greek Ionian Islands
1. Palaiokastrit, Corfu – anchored (free)
2. Gouvia Marina, Corfu (to clear customs) – stern-to (around €80/night for 56′ yacht plus water and electricity)
3. Corfu Town, Corfu – anchored (free)
4. Petriti, Corfu – anchored (free)
5. Ormos Lakka, Paxos – anchored (free)
6. Port Gaios, Paxos – anchored (free)
7. Random Bay, Cefalonia – anchored (free)
8. Fiscardo, Cefalonia – stern-to (free – amazingly!!! Can pay the taverna for water)
9. Nidri, Levkas – stern-to (€12 for our 3-night stay – no water or electricity)
10. Levkas Town Marina, Levkas – stern-to (€80 plus water and electricity)
11. Port Atheni, Meganisi – anchored with a line to shore (free)
12. Vathi, Ithaca – stern-to (free)
13. Sami, Cephalonia – side-to (€8/day – no electricity/no drinkable water)
14. Ay Nikolaos, Zakinthos – side-to (free)
sailing the Greek Ionian Islands
Once sailing the Greek Ionian Islands, we first arrived in Corfu visiting Palaiokastrita pictured above (west side), Gouvia Marina (east side), Corfu Town (Ormos Garitsas) and Petriti.
I wrote quite a comprehensive article about our stay in Palaiokastrita and Gouvia Marina here: Sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands – Corfu. Gouvia Marina was a necessary stop to clear customs. The article includes tips about both destinations.
After we left Gouvia Marina, we sailed a very short distance to Corfu Town and anchored in the amazingly lovely bay of Ormos Garitsas (bay pictured below to the right of us). I wrote about the town and the bay in my article entitled: Corfu Town is not ‘nice’ and this is why!.
After several days in Corfu Town, we sailed down the east coast of Corfu and anchored outside the fishing village of Petriti. A few people suggested the town to us and I was in the mood for some local, fresh fish. We anchored outside the tiny port and took our tender to one of the free jetties outside a taverna. Moorings were available to sailboats, space permitting however we liked to anchor whenever possible.
We ate at a restaurant with a wooden patio leading up that sea and octopus hanging on a clothesline!
While eating we could watch the tiny fish swim by and enjoy the lovely sounds of the waves lapping upon the shore. Everything we ate was great, our daughter enjoyed playing at the water’s edge and the town was very quiet and tranquil.
Next, we sailed to the island of Paxos and stayed at Ormos Lakka and Port Gaios.
Ormos Lakka is an absolutely brilliant bay with some lovely tavernas, shops, and stores. We stayed in the bay for two nights. On our first night, we anchored as far out as possible. The bay was very busy and we didn’t want to get too close to other boats. Also, it’s hard to enter a busy bay and try to anchor when you’re new. Everyone watches and it can often be stressful.
Unfortunately, however, the swell at our anchorage was very annoying. The boat rocked back and forth all day and all night. Furthermore, we felt very far from the amenities.
During our second evening at Ormos Lakka, we moved our boat closer to the shore despite the bay being packed with boats. Unfortunately, we learned a massive lesson about anchoring that day. The full story is under the heading “And here comes my disastrous anchoring story…” within my article entitled: How to anchor a sailboat – what I’ve learned about anchoring thus far
In the article, you’ll hear about what happens when a 60 mph gust of wind hits a bay full of too many boats.
Needless to say, Ormos Lakka is a lovely bay but it does get too busy. If any bad weather is forecasted I’d suggest that you think twice about saying in this harbor. (Picture above is the bay when seated at one of the tavernas)
Port Gaios was a lovely mooring to enjoy a stroll, get ice cream, and take your pick of several excellent restaurants.
It’s not often that hubby and I are able to enjoy an evening alone.
My cousin offered to watch our daughter and stay on the boat (you can see our boat anchored in the picture above), while hubby and I took the dingy to the shore. We enjoyed a cocktail and then passed some sailors who owned the same boat like ours – a 56′ Oyster. The owners invited us on their boat and we discussed a whole range of things – as you do.
We learned some great tips on how to better handle our boat so hubby and I were pleased with the chance meeting.
One thing led to another and they invited us to join them for dinner. Knowing that it was an ‘alone’ night for hubby and me, we declined and spent our last moments in Port Gaios enjoying another lovely fish meal. In fact, I’d say it was my favorite fish meal in the Ionian.
With sore heads from the wine the night before, we then attempted to get into Ormos Vasiliki on the island of Levkas. The wind, however, was blowing from the wrong direction and we didn’t feel safe – especially after our anchoring scare in Ormos Lakka. We then sailed to the island below and tried to get into Fiscardo, Cefalonia but the port was jam-packed. In the end, we found a small bay, not mentioned in the pilot book, south of Fiscardo and we anchored. All we could hear were sheep’s bahs and bells.
I can’t say I felt safe.
The anchorage was too deep for me (I wasn’t happy with the scope for our anchor) to feel comfortable and I felt so isolated.
The following day we found a spot in Fiscardo, Cefalonia, and stayed for several days. Fiscardo is mine and my hubby’s most favorite sailing destination. Read, The magic of Fiscardo Cephalonia, to get a taste for this amazing destination. There are some tips in the article so make sure to read them before you go. For us, this spot is a MUST to visit.
While in Fiscardo (entrance of the bay pictured above), we hired a car and explored a variety of places on Cephalonia. We enjoyed an underground freshwater cavern, did some sightseeing around various villages, and took in the beauty of the island.
Next, we sailed to Nidri on the island of Levkas. Our intention was to anchor in the bay but it looked packed. As we looked over at the town quay we noticed several open spots and went stern-to.
Later we realized that the ferries and tourist boats cause quite a bit a movement along the wall, but overall the mooring was fine for a couple of nights.
While my hubby, my father-in-law, and my daughter were cleaning up the boat, my cousin and I took a little stroll to the restaurant that had the best wifi rating (from the boat). Our usual plan was to get a beverage, find out the wifi code, pay the bill, and then go back to the boat so we could use the wifi from the luxury of our own abode.
Our wifi hunt, however, took a different turn on this particular occasion.
My cousin, Loryn, and I ordered a 1/2 carafe of wine, poured a bit into our glasses, and then started to download emails. As we were hooking ourselves up to the Internet, our server started chatting with us. We mentioned the boat we were on, pointed to my hubby cleaning the decks, and explained our adventures.
To our amazement, our server took two glasses from our table, poured two more glasses of wine, jumped on his scooter (parked outside), and took the wine to my husband and his father. We were both amazed at the server’s actions!
Loryn and I were also happy when our server brought us another 1/2 carafe of wine for free.
Nidri is an interesting place – it’s lined with restaurants and tavernas all along the waterfront.
There are various pirate tourist boats and entertainment. Behind the line of restaurants, there’s a main street that has stores, boutiques, and the standard things you’d expect. There’s a bar on the main street called Road House – it plays rock-n-roll so my cousin and I enjoyed a few beverages while listening to some good tunes.
After Nidri, we ducked into Levkas Town Marina to ride out a storm.
To get to the marina you have to motor up a very long channel and it takes quite a long time. Furthermore, it’s very narrow. As we went in one sailboat was grounded. And of course, there’s always motorboats wanting to go fast so they speed along trying to pass other boats.
We motored up the long channel and when we asked the marina for a berth they said that they didn’t have any available. I was deflated. A storm was coming and we wasted all that time going up the channel. I then yelled at hubby saying, ‘why didn’t you call before we entered the channel?’ As luck would have it, we called the marina again and said, ‘Are you sure you can’t fit us in somewhere?’
The marina kindly found us a spot.
I never wrote a review for the marina. There was a fee for the showers so we showered on the boat. The bathrooms were very nice. The whole marina was very well kept, had a couple of places to eat and a supermarket. And the town surrounded the marina so you could get anything and everything you’d expect in a town.
Overall, our stay in Levkas Town Marina was fine – nothing exceptional.
But then again, I’d rather be anchored in a quiet bay or stern-to a free village quay. Sailing in Greece is so inexpensive so it hurts when you have to duck into a marina and pay a high price.
Leaving the busy waters around Levkas, our next port of call was the quiet bay of Port Athena, on the island of Meganisi. This was another one of our favorite spots – we anchored and then ran a line to shore to keep us from swinging (see picture below). The trees are all green, the waters are clear and it’s relatively quiet. We could easily take our tender to the inlet next to us and enjoy one of two lovely tavernas.
The owners of the taverna on the right have children so my daughter played with the kids the whole time we were on shore. It was funny to see her running around the back area playing with the children and their toys while we enjoyed a beverage and ate some lovely food.
A short walk away is a little town with a couple of grocery stores, and some restaurants and bars.
We found some good wifi and I enjoyed making a few Skype calls back home to the family. We made some Greek Burgers – just put feta cheese in the middle!
After the quietness of Meganisi, we received word that friends we met in a Sicilian marina would be in the area.
We arranged to meet our friends at Vathi on the island of Ithaca.
What a visit! After our initial hugs and greetings, it didn’t take long for the Italians to feed us a plate full of pasta – of course! We had some drinks, caught up, and eventually arranged for taxi’s to take us to a lovely traditional Greek restaurant at the top of Ithaca.
We enjoyed great food, amazing service and in the end, some of us had a go at dancing on the tables.
It was so wonderfully amazing to hook up with friends we met earlier in the season. We ate, drank, laughed and all had a great time together.
The following day, we had to push onto the town of Sami on Cephalonia
The Daily Mail (UK Tabloid Newspaper) was having a journalist fly down to interview us on the boat so we arranged to meet in Sami. Previous to the journalist coming we also wanted time to clean the boat, relax for a few days, and have some downtime.
The town if Sami has the usual things – grocery stores, butcher, bakery, and several restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. We enjoyed eating at several of the tavernas and my daughter sampled as many ice cream flavors as she could. We moored up along the wall and it was an easy stroll over to the restaurants. The one thing we did miss was a nice beach nearby.
After a week in Sami, we knew it was time to start heading towards the Corinth Canal – the waterway that cut mainland Greece in two. We finished our stay in the Ionian Greek Islands on the island of Zakinthos at Ormos Ay Nikolaos and what an enjoyable stay it was.
When entering the harbor we first attempted to anchor however we were told that we’d be obstructing a ferry.
Fortunately, a very tall Greek man on the jetty waved us over and helped us tie Britican side-to the wall (pictured below). The gentleman gave us his card and explained that his family owned the taverna on the beach and that they’d love to see us there.
We later discovered that the man’s family seemed to own the whole town!
After settling in, an older gentleman came down on his tractor to sell us olive oil and wine.
My cousin managed to get a ride on the tractor!
Later during the week, we went out for a ‘Greek Night’ at the taverna on the beach.
We enjoyed traditional Greek music, dancing, and clapping. Everyone one of us got up and danced around the dance floor (below you can see the back of my husband and daughter). My daughter had a great time and I couldn’t help but have perm-a-grin the whole evening.
The food was great, the entertainment was wonderful and the local and visiting guests were all in great spirits.
The following morning I woke early and went for a run.
I run three times per year if that…but on this particularly beautiful morning I just wanted to get up on the higher ground to see the sun and the sea. I ran/walked for three or four miles and enjoyed the most wonderful sights – the seaside and countryside.
Overall, the Greek Ionian Islands provide loads of anchorages, harbors, eateries, scenery, and like-minded people.
We found the other tourists, sailors, local people, and anyone else to be kind, friendly, helpful, and grateful to enjoy the delights of the area. I highly recommend a sailing vacation or an extended cruising stint in these islands!
Check Out Some Other Areas In Greece & The Mediterranian
If you’d like a breakdown of all the places we’ve visited while sailing the Mediterranean please read our destination overview: Sailing The Mediterranean. Otherwise, check out more posts about our time spent in Greece.
- Sailing Sicily to Corfu
- Corfu – Palaiokastrita & Gouvia Marina
- Corfu Town
- Fiscardo Cephalonia
- Navigating Through The Lefkas Canal