Life in Hydra centres around the gorgeous port. Whether you sail or ferry in, the sparkling boat-filled harbour and the bright light striking the tiers of carefully preserved stone houses make a lasting impression. The harbour in high season is an ecosystem of its own, with yachts, caïques and water taxis zipping in and out.
Beyond its bustling port, Aegina (eh-yi-nah) has the seductive, easy-going character of a typical Greek island, but with the added bonus of more than its fair share of prestigious ancient sites. Weekending Athenians spice up the mix of laid-back locals and commuters who use the island like an Athens suburb.
Spetses stands proudly just a few kilometres from mainland Peloponnese, but there is a stronger sense of carefree island Greece here than in other Saronic Gulf destinations. The lively, historic old town is the only village on the island; the rest, ringed by a simple road, is rolling hills, pine forests, and crystal-clear coves.
Bustling Spetses Town stretches along a meandering waterfront encompassing several quays and beaches. The main Dapia Harbour, where ferries arrive, and the area around adjacent Plateia Limenarhiou and inland Plateia Orologiou (Clocktower Sq) teem with chic tourist shops and cafes.
Zippy Poros Town is a mishmash of charming ice cream–coloured houses that look out across the narrow channel at Galatas and the shapely mountains of the Peloponnese. Sailing boats bob along the lengthy quay, while ferries glide through the channel and smaller vessels scurry to and fro.
Tiny Angistri lies a few kilometres off the west coast of Aegina and, out of high season, its mellow lanes and azure coves make a rewarding day trip or a worthwhile longer escape. Visit www.agistri.com.gr for island information. The port-resort village of Skala is crammed with small hotels, apartments, tavernas and cafes, but life, in general, still ticks along gently.
Hydra’s mountainous, arid interior makes a robust but peaceful contrast to the clamour of the quayside. A useful map for walkers is Anavasi's Hydra map. A map is posted on the quay, and several marked trails extend across the island. Once you leave Hydra/Kamini/Vlyhos there are no services. Take plenty of water.
The quaint fishing village of Perdika lies about 9km south of Aegina Town on the southern tip of the west coast and makes for a relaxed sojourn. Perdika’s harbour is very shallow so, for the best swimming, catch one of the regular caïques (little boats, €5) to the small island of Moni, a few minutes offshore. A nature reserve, it has a tree-lined beach and summertime cafe.
Aegina is lush and wildflower laden in spring, and year-round offers some of the best archaic sites in the Saronic Gulf. The interior hills and mountains add drama to the small island, but beaches are not its strongest suit. The east-coast town of Agia Marina is the island’s main package resort.
Spetses’ gorgeous coastline undulates with pebbly coves and small, pine-shaded beaches. A 26km sealed road skirts the entire coastline, so a scooter, quad bike or bicycle are ideal for exploring. The website www.spetsesdiadromes.wordpress.com by Petros Haritatos, a passionate local and cartographer, offers route suggestions.
Poros’ best beaches include the pebbly Kanali Beach, on Kalavria islet 1km east of the bridge, and the long, sandy Askeli Beach, about 500m further east. Neorion Beach, 3km west of the bridge, has water skiing and banana-boat and air-chair rides. The best beach is at Russian Bay, 1.5km past Neorion.