Kiki’s Taverna, Agios Sostis beach, Mykonos. Around four in the afternoon. The hot July sun is beaming down on a group of tourists who sit patiently waiting for a table. Among them are a few celebrities, but who you are matters very little here. Everyone waits at Kiki’s, that’s just the way it is. No electricity, no reservations, no exceptions, and no publicity if the owner can help it. He has made this tiny taverna one of the most talked about eateries on the island by sticking to a simple formula – great food and discretion for his clientele. “No Trip Advisor reviews please,” he yells at a group of Italians as they leave.
On the table next to me an Australian couple is paying the bill. I ask them what brings them to Kiki’s, which is located on the north side of the island, away from the bustling crowds.
“We love this joint,” says John from Collingwood. “It’s so authentically Greek and a good escape from the chaos of Chora and the beaches in the south.”
His wife Penny agrees. “I love the parties and the beaches and all the fun to be had, but sometimes it’s good to get away from it all, and luckily Mykonos still has some spots that offer an escape.”
John and Penny have been coming to Mykonos every two years for the last decade. Like many Australians, they just can’t get enough of this island.
Back in Chora, two Greek Australian families, ten people in total, are cruising through the labyrinthine whitewashed lanes of Mykonos’ main town, the mums ducking in and out of the many boutiques while the dads and kids wait outside.
Maria from Pascoe Vale is on her third trip to Mykonos, her first with the kids, and says what she appreciates most about the island is that it offers something for everyone.
“I love that I could come here when I was single, then on my honeymoon and now years later return with my husband and the kids. It’s mostly beaches and tavernas now, but if we’re up to it I can easily find a babysitter to look after the kids for the night so that hubby and I can spend a night on the town.”
In the heart of Chora, yet in a spot that seems a million miles from the chaos of the town, lies Interni bar and restaurant, a high-end spot in a sunken bougainvillaea courtyard. Over cocktails, staff member Dimitra tells us an increasing number of Australian tourists are now staying at boutique hotels and dining at the island’s better restaurants. She says the image of the Australian “surfer-type in flips flops” that exists on other islands such as nearby Ios is not so prevalent in Mykonos.
The next day at Nammos, a restaurant-slash-beach club-slash place to be seen-slash-favourite hangout for mega-rich Arabs, I bump into an old friend from Melbourne. Nick, from Doncaster, has been coming to Mykonos every year for the last 13 years. He says Mykonos attracts all types. “Sure, you get the Aussie kids that come to party at Paradise Beach and hit the clubs, but you also get a lot of Australians who want to enjoy the many great restaurants or go to a beach like Nammos to be seen.”
Hours later at Scorpios, a restaurant/beach club in Paraga that is the hottest spot on the island right now, we bump into three Greek Australians; Melbourne nightlife icon Peter Raff, international DJ Kaz James, and Acropolis Now star Nick Giannopoulos. They are grooving to the sounds of Australian dance duo Sneaky Sound System, who have a residency at Scorpios each Sunday.
“We have been coming to Mykonos for eight years now,” Connie from Sneaky Sound System tells me before they begin their set.
“How can you not love this place?” she asks. “The weather is always on point, it never rains, the crowds are really educated musically, they appreciate good house music, which is what we love to play.”
Her partner Angus says the duo enjoy performing to the international crowd and appreciate the vibe created by the growing number of Australians that come to see them each year.
“Obviously there are people from all over the world here, but there is always a steady stream of Australians. Particularly in July it almost feels like a little Australia here and they are always having so much fun and creating a positive vibe,” explains Angus. He says when Australians come to Mykonos they fall in love, they tell their mates and that just entices more Aussies to make the trip out here. “Which is what we do as well, we are always promoting the island.”
That same night at Cavo Paradiso, the island’s leading clubbing venue, which is recognised as one of the best in the world, a group of young Australians is partying to the sounds of the visiting international DJ. Like many other spots on the island, Cavo Paradiso has been popular with Aussies since it first opened in the early ’90s.
“We’ve been here since 1993 and you can safely say Cavo Paradiso is the most successful club in the country. We have developed the club from the after-hours venue it was at the beginning to the clubbing monster it is today, continuously mentioned in the world’s leading venues and each summer features an incredible line up of the world’s best DJs,” says Stathi Lazaridis, one of the best DJs in Greece, who also handles the club bookings and public relations.
“We have had a tradition of having loads of Australians every summer since the beginning. They are really fun people to have in the club, they always create a great atmosphere and so Cavo Paradiso is always happy to welcome them,” proclaims Stathi.
He is not the only one to sing the praises of Australian tourists. From Lino Apartments in Platis Gialos you can see Cavo Paradiso from the balcony of your apartments. Over morning coffee, Miltos, who manages the places, tells me Greek Australians are his favourite guests.
“Australian tourists, and in particular Greek Australians, are much loved on the island because they are respectful travellers who will spend money, and the local businesses appreciate that,” said Miltos.
“They come here prior to or after a visit to their parents’ village somewhere else in Greece to have a good time; they love Mykonos because it offers them a level of freedom that they can’t experience in Australia or anywhere else.”