Pre-parenthood, I never quite understood the appeal of the resort hotel. But five years after my daughter was born, I was begging for an easy holiday with optional childcare and a well-sprung mattress. Enter Chia Laguna, a discreet resort on Sardinia’s unspoilt south coast, less than an hour from the capital, Cagliari.
The Chia Laguna Resort has several faces: three hotels (one of which opens this year) and a “village”. Families gravitate to the village’s smart villas and apartments among the pools, cafés and “Mini Club” for kids. But we took up residence in the quietly swanky Hotel Laguna in a junior suite, with a shaded terrace overlooking the pool and flamingo-populated lagoon that gives the resort its name.
Each morning after a leisurely breakfast we hopped on board the miniature beach train with our bulging bags of inflatables and wound through the marram grass to Campana Dune beach and the turquoise sea. Other than the loungers for Chia Laguna guests, its soft golden sands were mostly left to nature.
Most days I found myself doing seafront yoga sessions, and our city cobwebs were soon blown away as we enjoyed the wildness of the beach. We revelled in the crystalline water studded with rocky islets and scrambled over outcrops to discover the next stretch of beach, a windier strip for surfers. Bronzed beach boys hand out towels and a shack sells cool drinks.
Back at the resort, the Mini Club taking the strain, I went for bone-melting spa treatments. Later I sipped freshly made juice between lazy lengths of the Bioaquam pool, a recently completed area for grown-up lounging with waiter service and chilled towels.
It’s not all lazing around, though. Adults still restless after all the tennis, golf and water-based action on offer can book in for the hotel’s half marathon or triathlon. For sporty kids aged 6-15, there is Chia’s football academy. This year, former Premier League stars Andy Cole and Darren Anderton have signed up to provide professional coaching.
Then there’s the food. Of the four restaurants on site, we particularly loved Le Dune, an excellent beachside trattoria that opens onto shady green lawns. Most days we ate wood-fired pizza, grilled fish and far too much tiramisu. We also enjoyed the more sophisticated cooking at La Terrazza, an elegant venue worth dressing up for, which serves seafood and pasta dishes with a Sardinian twist.
A decent buffet restaurant attracts swarms of family diners, and late-night casual eating options include the Luna restaurant, which has a nightclub and a branch of posh sandwich bar Panino Giusto.
Children are particularly well catered for. The Mini Club runs games and sports down at the beach, there’s a children’s restaurant serving good Italian meals, and at night there is outdoor clubbing, ice cream and kids’ cabaret, which even our shy daughter loved.
We left Chia Laguna refreshed, bronzed and plumper than intended. I suspect it will not be our last resort.
Chia Laguna is less than an hour away from Cagliari, a handsome medieval port where there are Roman ruins, museums, tree-lined streets and a buzzy nightlife scene.
The surrounding countryside is wild and mountainous; hire a car and wind around the determinedly untouristy hilltop villages. On another day, try beach-hopping along the coast, or drop in on the ancient Roman site of Nora.
Chia Laguna Resort, southern Sardinia (0039 070 9239 3431; chialagunaresort.com). Superior rooms start at €302 per person per night, half-board. The Campioni Football Academy with English Premier League footballers runs May 27 to June 3 and July 1 to August 4 and costs £427 per child per week.