Zante bustles with tourists. Add to this its popularity with yacht charterers and flotillas and you have a heady mix that borders on controlled chaos at times.
However, do not be put off by all this razzmatazz. Even if you don’t appreciate the charms or associated hoopla that goes with of a bevy of twenty somethings embarking on a bikini clad booze cruise (personally I find this to be most entertaining!), the town of Zante has a certain charisma all of its own.
The main tourist section of Zante town lies directly opposite the north end of the town quay. Somehow, despite being overrun each year with foreign tourists, Zante retains a certain Greekness often lacking in other tourist towns in the area. After a few days of exploring the place a strange affection can develop for its distinctive allure.
Unfortunately in 1953 the earthquake that devastated a large portion of the region also put pay to most of the lovely old Venetian buildings for which the town was renowned. Some modern buildings can seem somewhat characterless. However, over the last few years the town has spent a considerable amount of money in the downtown area and has succeeded in creating a very pleasant, popular and vibrant shopping area.
The street opens out into a series of delightful squares filled with restaurants and quirky stalls thereby restoring some of the original appeal of this once pretty place. With a wide variety of food styles, Zante is a great place for that special meal out of maybe just relax in one of the many bars and watch the world go by.
Provisioning is a breeze but you will have to wander a couple of streets back from the square where there is a plethora of fruit and vegetable shops, bakeries, butchers as well as supermarkets etc.
The main harbour of Zante Town/Zakynthos is an absolute hive of activity during the summer months. Flotillas of loud trip boats overflowing with the partying set depart at all hours of the day and, at times what seems like, all night! Meanwhile the quay ebbs and flows with a veritable parade of people passing the time between the next scheduled tourist trip and meal break; or possible just liquid refreshment stop!
Despite the optimistic claims in many pilot books the marina at Zante Town/Zakynthos has failed to be completed (2014) and is in a complete state of decay. Due to budget cuts silting has occurred and depths can shallow unexpectedly. There are also problems with abandoned boats and general debris on the sea bed. I would not recommend attempting to use the marina unless local port authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
The main harbour on the other hand offers a variety of mooring options. As long as you do not impinge on reserved areas set aside for trip boats and ferries (some parts of the quay have signs and boat names written on it) the sky’s the limit. However, this in turn can be a bit daunting if you are the type to worry about parking in the wrong place. General rule of thumb seems to be if no one waves you off or comes to tell you to move it is OK. If strong winds are forecast (particularly southerlies) the harbour fills up quickly so either get in early or accept the fact that you may need to get creative with your choice of berthing spot.
The most well protected area to make for is the inner northeast quay, just south of the trip boats. The bottom is mud and good holding but get a reasonable amount of scope out as the anchor can slip a bit in the top layer of ooze.
Warning: there are some disreputable people that “work” the quay and there is often a lot of pressure placed on you to pay people that take your lines. If in doubt, get your own lines ashore or try offering a cold beer instead of cash if they took your lines and continue to make you feel uncomfortable. As the signs indicate you do not have to pay anyone other than the port police for mooring here. The daily charge is 15€ for the first day, 10€ for subsequent days (2014). Power and water are 5€ each per day. I would not recommend filling your boat with water here as the quality can be less than impressive.
Other popular mooring spots are the western quay and alongside the eastern quay directly to starboard as you enter the harbour.
The west quay can be a rowdy place as it is right on the road and the main evening promenade route but it does have the advantage of being close to the action. Beware; in SE strong winds this is not the place to go as the chop can be extremely unpleasant on this side of the harbour.
Alongside the outer eastern quay is a pleasant place to come to rest for the night as it tends to be a lot quieter, however, it is a longish walk to the main part of town. Don’t despair though as there are a couple of drinking and eating options located halfway along the quay so all is not lost. Again this is not the area to aim for in a strong SE.
From Zante Town it is possible to organise day trips to visit various places on the island including the spectacular Ship Wreak Bay.
Lagana is only a short taxi ride away from Zante Town and is famous for its sand beaches and party atmosphere, however, it is somewhat disappointing if you want to observe the rare loggerhead turtles which are supposed to be nesting here. Numbers of nesting turtles have fallen considerably in the last few years.
Zante Town has some interesting historical artefacts housed in its wonderful museum building but over all this is not the island for ancient culture buffs.