Ortakent, Turkey by JaycB

Neilson Beachplus    “Seaside” Resort   – Ortakent, Turkey



Neilson are well known for their skiing and watersports/mountain-biking holidays, but they also have a “Beachplus” portfolio – a series of centres in the Mediterranean that offer a more relaxed family-friendly atmosphere while still offering a wide range of inclusive activities.   I visited their only Turkish Beachplus centre, “The Seaside”, at the beginning of the season, taking advantage of an experimental adults-only week.  
          The Seaside resort is situated on the seaward outskirts of the small but growing town of Ortakent, approximately 45 minutes' drive from Bodrum airport.  

View over lawn

With just 69 rooms the resort is relatively small and compact; personally I like smaller resorts as guests tend to feel they're an “individual” rather than just a room number.
          Next to the main entrance is a reception block that also features a small shop and internet access.  The resort's accommodation consists of a single Y-shaped two-storey block.  Alongside this main block are a volleyball court and nurseries on one side and tennis court, exercise lawn and swimming pool on the other.  Upon our arrival we spent a couple of minutes at reception collecting our room keys and handing over our registration forms before being invited to drop off hand luggage at our rooms (hotel staff had already carried our main luggage from the coach to our rooms for us) and make our way to the restaurant where a late lunch had been laid on for us. 

          The rooms were very impressive; Neilson offer single occupancy at no extra cost during low season and I found myself in a very spacious twin-bedded ground-floor room with French windows looking out onto the poolside area.  The room featured a remote-controlled television, fridge and remote-controlled air conditioning/heating unit.  The bathroom was well finished and clean, with complimentary soap and a wall-mounted hair-dryer.  Another nice touch was the plentiful supply of towels.

Walking out of the accommodation block's seaward exit one finds a small outdoors bar, the outdoor restaurant seating area, a grassy sunbathing area, windsurfing equipment racks and then the beach itself.  My first impression as I stepped out into this area was how wonderfully lush and green the place looked, with neatly trimmed grass and plenty of palms and other exotic plants.  It's an extremely well-kept and clean environment. 

          The outdoor bar is open all day until late but guests can also take advantage of The Terrace Bar located above the restaurant building.  Here there are both indoor and outdoor seating areas, with spectacular views and giant beanbags on the large outside balcony and a large TV, pool table and table-football indoors.  Like other companies, Neilson runs a “no-cash” policy at its Beachplus resorts, with guests signing receipts for drinks, bar snacks and shopping and then paying off their room “tab” at the end of their stay.   
Resturant and terrace bar

The meal arrangements at this resort are what I'd call semi full-board:  all breakfasts and lunches are included, with inclusive evening meals on four nights.  On the remaining three nights guests are encouraged to explore Ortakent or further afield to sample the many local restaurants in the area.  If you'd rather stay in the resort on these nights then burgers, pizzas and salads can be ordered from the bar.   For those who like seafood, there's a fantastic little fish restaurant only a couple of hundred yards along the beach – I can recommend the squid and octopus “special” to start, with fresh sea bass as a main course.  Expect to pay around £18 - £25 per head depending on drinks.  

All of us were overwhelmed by the quality and variety of the inclusive meals.   There are a huge number of breakfast options, including boiled and scrambled eggs, freshly made omelettes and pancakes, bacon, sausages, cereals, fresh fruits, yoghurts and several different types of bread and sweet pastries.  It wasn't unusual for me to spend over an hour at breakfast – there's just so much to choose from. The lunches and evening meals always included at least five different starters and main courses and a couple of vegetarian options.  There was also a fantastic variety of different desserts and fresh fruits (my favourite was the banana & kiwi cream sponge cake).    

At the time of booking I'd been slightly worried that with the emphasis on a more laid-back holiday the Beachplus resorts might have a limited range of watersports equipment compared with Neilson's “Active” resorts.  I'm happy to report that at The Seaside there's a wide range of equipment and plenty of it.  Firstly windsurfing: As well as the ubiquitous Hifly Primos there are a number of more modern beginner boards such as the F2 Discovery and a wide range of intermediate/advanced boards including the full range of Starboard Carves and Mistral Screamers.  There are also a few Mistral Explosions and smaller Starboards (Evo or S-Type?).   There are plenty of sails up to 8.2m and there are also some dedicated kids boards and sails. 

          As for sailing, I was very impressed to see four Dart 16 cats at such a small resort, along with a fleet of Lasers, Picos, Funboats and Laser 2000's.  There are also kayaks, and waterskiing and wakeboarding are included in the basic holiday price, being run from 8AM onwards until conditions become too choppy.
Cat at rest

The sailing area is quite generous, with a large part of Ortakent Bay available out to  a distance approx ¾ of the way out to Neuman's Island.  The predominant wind direction is cross-off, making this an ideal area for beginners in the mornings and a real blasting playground in the windier afternoons.  We had great fun on the last day doing a GPS speed challenge in the bay.  Further out one can find bump & jump conditions on the windier days.  The safety boat cover is efficient and well organized.  One of the claims Neilson makes about it's Beachplus resorts is that the sailing day ends only when the last person comes off the water; provided the light is good enough the beach will stay open as long as guests want to stay out – a real winner as far as we were concerned.  

          The waterfront staff offer daily sailing and windsurfing clinics from beginner to intermediate level and it's possible for guests to gain RYA Level 1 windsurfing and sailing qualifications if they wish. 

          I can't comment on the childcare provision as this was a one-off adults-only week; for the rest of the season children of all ages are welcome at this resort.  Most of us agreed that we'd like to see more of these adults-only weeks and Neilson's response is that they will consider it if there's sufficient demand.

Looking ashore

          I've stayed at a number of Sunsail and Mark Warner resorts of this type but this was my first Neilson Beachplus, and I have to say it's set a new benchmark as far as I'm concerned.  The only thing I can suggest adding is complimentary bottled water in the rooms each day – an inexpensive touch but one that I'm sure would be appreciated.  I'd love to be able to add more criticisms just to make this seem a more balanced review but I just can't fault the place.  It's an exceptionally clean, well run and friendly resort and we were particularly struck by how every single member of staff clearly loves the job they do.  Every other guest I spoke to said they'd love to return, and I'm sure we all will.


May 2006

Additionional photography by Stephen Carr