DH and I had a fab week there a few years ago. We stayed here http://www.soukandspice.com/ which belongs to someone I worked with at the time. I would say our time in Ess was made by staying in a riad in the town rather than a soulless hotel. You can still go out to eat if it's the self catering that puts you off. We just booked flights through EasyJet from Gatwick (to Marrakech) and the owners of the house arranged a driver for the transfer (2 hours). One of our best ever holidays.
thanks 33, I've mailed them to see if they've got anything available
I'd rather not be in a huge hotel too, don't mind having a swimming pool, but you can usually get a day pass anyway. The problem is we want to go next month, and at least as far as I've looked so far, all the nice little places are booked up already.
btw, would you say 7 nights would be too long in essaouira? there'd be dh, me and DS 2.9 I'm thinking between swimming pools, beach, fort and ports there'd be enough to keep us happy on holiday for a week, but I've just read how windy and small it is, will we go stir crazy?
Interesting question. We found that a week was perfect. Just walking around the souks and along the beach - it's so amazing you can do it every day for a week and not get bored. But a week was enough. You have to completely slow your pace down and just absorb the atmosphere. Don't expect dancing girls and masses of different cultural things to do. But with a toddler you'll be used to going slow anyway - we went pre-kids and it was the perfect antidote to crazy London life.