Leyla Yvonne Ergil
ISTANBUL: A recent visit to the spectacularly scenic lush harbor town of Göcek proved to be an escape to what felt like a whole other time and place than the Turkey most are familiar with
Some have likened it to Paris, but I would say Göcek is resemblant of a mix of Italy’s Venice with a canaI that connects to the sea literally serving as the bridge from town to its commandeering D-Marin. Göcek actually houses half a dozen marinas, but the D-Marin, which takes over the southern coastal end of town, is truly a breathtaking spectacle of some of the most amazing yachts one could ever see up close. And thus, the town of Göcek has long been a favorite stomping ground for international sailors, who make it a pit stop for both supplies and dining out at the top-notch restaurants and cafes that line the shore.
Don’t get me wrong, unlike most marinas in Turkey, the one in Göcek is pretty much strictly about the boats. There isn’t much for “people,” locals tell me, which I assume refers to the lack of shops and any adjoining mall-like structure. The marina in Göcek has certainly not been developed to service landlocked tourists, it is simply an immensely picturesque and highly equipped marina to service the yachts that stop there. And, there are certainly no malls in Göcek or structures higher than three stories. The town is small, quaint and has retained a classically Turkish feel, but upon closer inspection, anyone can see that each cafe and shop there is quite special.
The British press has certainly covered Göcek as none other than Prince Charles is known for calling it his favorite spot in Turkey, while famous performers such as Shakira and Jennifer Lopez have also been spotted touring the town. To head from the main marina into town, which mainly consists of two long drags of parallel promenades, you pass the aforementioned canal that luxurious villas and resorts have been built along. Thus walking by you catch a glimpse of the types of homes most can only dream of, equipped with their own parking spots for their boats.
What to do in Göcek
As a fairly lesser-known destination in Turkey, Göcek is pleasantly relaxed and strolling around the town itself is a true highlight. From one end of the coast to the other, the distance is approximately 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles). So, one could easily while away the day perusing the shops, people-watching at cafes, dining on high-end Turkish and international fare and listening to live music at mellow garden cafes-turned nightlife venues.
The closest beach in town, Blue Point Beach, is at its southern tip at the end of the marina, but discovering Göcek’s neighboring coves by boat is another wonderful way to spend the day. The Göcek “12 Ada Turu,” or “12-island tour,” offered as a daily boat excursion, is perhaps one of the most visually impressive routes along the Turkish Riviera. The tour is actually offered from a number of holiday destinations including Fethiye and Dalyan and so if you don’t ever make it to Göcek itself, you can discover its coastline from boats setting out from other places.
A day trip to the island of Fimi, previously known as Göcek Island, which has now become a hip beach club equipped with electronic music playing in the background of a somewhat tropical setting, is another type of outing to take from town. The beach is serviced by boat taxis that set out from across Lotis Restaurant, located in town just beyond the marina.
Due to the town’s close proximity to Dalaman Airport, which is just around 20 kilometers away, as well the fact that Göcek is located right in between Fethiye and the major U.K. tourist hub of Dalyan, which are both around 30 kilometers away, means the town can actually serve as an ideal base from which to discover the greater sights in the region.
Where to dine in Göcek
For an expat like me, one of the most appealing factors of Göcek is the vast selection of worldly gourmet fare one can dine on. Now, I’m a stickler for West Cafe, which started in Göcek but has since branched out to Akyaka. In fact, West Cafe became so big in Göcek that they now have three restaurants starting with the original cafe, a fish restaurant and a sushi restaurant. I love the original though, which is located in the heart of the seaside promenade under a humongous shady tree with rugged furniture set up on a grassy lawn. The original West has everything from pizzas to salads to English breakfast, but the desserts, the coffee and the cold beverages like their signature lemonade are all absolutely crave-worthy.
Wicker by the Sea is my personal second favorite venue in Göcek at any time of the day, and not just because they have a full menu featuring mouthwatering comfort food classics such as tacos, a croque monsieur, pastas, pizzas, San Sebastian cheesecakes and so forth. What makes this spot great at any time of the day is the comfortable wicker furniture, which makes for the perfect base to people watch or later in the evening to listen to top-notch Turkish performers playing live music.
If it’s Turkish you crave, then Lotis Kitchen is another venue located in the center of town offering a full view of the boats and rugged coastline as well as more traditional meze and fish dishes. Guverte, is as the name suggests, set up on a deck on the sea and so if you want to be dining literally on the water, then this classic Turkish restaurant is the place to do so in Göcek. Q Lounge offers the most upscale Asian food experience in town although in this case, the restaurant is situated on a hill above D-Marin and Blue Point Beach but is accessible via buggies from the marina and easily serviced by taxis. Prior reservations are near required due to its popularity, which is understandable because the views of Göcek’s mountainous islands that dot the horizon are absolutely top-notch. On the opposite end of town and part of the Rixos Premium complex is Daidala, another luxurious, international with a Turkish-twist top choice for the big spenders.
Last, but certainly not least, is to get your sweet fix at Baba Dondurma, a quaint blue wooden ice cream shop selling a simple array of a dozen or so flavors. Most who try it will exclaim that it is the most delicious ice cream they have ever had!