I thought I would start by sharing information on a short trip we made to Essaouira in Morocco earlier this month, as it was a fabulous place to visit with children and friends alike. Having flown in to Marrakech from Bristol, we were promptly transported by a private minibus to Essaouira, with a journey time of roughly 3 hours.We stayed at the lovely 5 Columns riad, owned by an English interior designer, Lisa Burke. The greeting & introduction to the riad was smooth and soon we were finding our way around the myriad of streets within the Medina, exploring the souks and then heading down to beach.
Once we had dropped a pin to know exactly where our riad was located (data roaming however is very expensive, we relied on wifi where we could) we quickly went to discover what Essaouira had to offer. The beach is huge where numerous football matches were being played. Further along towards the surf schools was the horse & camel's domain. Explora Surf School had been recommended to us, and we can certainly say they were brilliant. At the far end of the beach where Explora is located are a number of beach restaurants, of note was Ocean Vagabond, a fantastic place owned by a couple from Paris who also own a ski school/chalet in Serre Chevalier. The restaurant was heaving and we can vouch for the food - it was brilliant along with the most amazing profiteroles!. The sand dunes are also easily accessed and we also tried our hand a sand-boarding.
As we had opted for a riad in the centre of the Medina, we wanted to spend a day outside of the town, lounging by a pool. The best place to do this is Les Jardins de Douars where you can reserve a 'Chill Pass' for the day, allowing a swim & lunch for the price. Collection by a branded minibus collects down by the seafront.
The daily fish market in Essaouira Port is definitely not to be missed. It is hectic with large boats & crew coming in regularly and the smell in the heat is not to be sniffed at! but it is a great place to purchase some amazing fish and seafood. Close to the port are the fish huts - again not to be missed. No. 33 was our favourite for lunch (only open during the day) where you choose your fresh fish and shellfish, it's then weighed and cooked over fire for you. No frills but the freshest lunch served with a tomato salad.
Villa Maroc is located in the Medina, overlooking the sea but also has a garden and pool just outside town in the countryside, another place once can book a day pass for lunch and a swim. I would recommend the hammam and massage at Villa Maroc in town. There is also a great roof terrace for sundowners, but not particularly child-friendly. Unlike Marrakech where the souks are hectic and busy, Essaouira as a much calmer, surfy vibe and shopping was easier. There is 'rug alley' in the Medina but I would recommend the shop next door to Taros (a loud busy bar and restaurant with sea views). I don't know the name of it but the seller definitely has a wide selection but haggling is the only way as prices start fairly high. The main street in the Medina has lots to look at and purchase with a few concept stores (will always pay more in these stores) but if you venture through to the covered fish market there is one shop which has a great selection of baskets and ceramics.
If surfing if your thing, or horse-riding or quad biking on the beach are activities to get involved in, then head to Sidi Kaouki about 20 minutes south of Essaouira. It is a huge beach with a few beach bar restaurants, little wifi but lots of space. Emma from Castles in the Sand not only has two great places to rent in the Medina in Essaouira but is also an authority on Sidi Kaouki.
We did also use the CNTraveller Weekend Guide for some references but as a relatively small laid back surf town, it is easy to potter for hours finding new things and places to eat.