Planning on visiting Portugal’s sunny southern coast? Here are some tips on ways to keep the little ones happy and occupied while you are there.
Summer will soon be drawing to a close, so now is a great time to think about getting some last golden rays before the scything winds and permanent semi-darkness of winter give your skin an unhealthy, doughy pallor.
Portugal’s sunny Algarve coast sees an average of 9-12 hours sunshine a day and temperatures of 23-24 degrees celsius in August and September – perfect for a late beach holiday.
What’s more, there’s a wealth of things to see and do, including a wide selection of family-based attractions. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
The Ria Formosa Natural Park is a vast, protected area that stretches some 60km along the coast between Faro and Tavira. It comprises a variety of stunning landscapes from pine forests to sand islands. The diversity of the terrain means a range of different ecosystems can be found here, with many different types of animal including pink flamingos.
There’s an environmental education centre which is well worth a look – it explains all about the different habitats in the park, details the walking routes you can take and explains about the Portuguese water dog, which is bred by local fisherman to help catch fish.
Once you’ve had a good walk around the park and taken in its natural beauty, you can visit some of the beaches, which are arguably some of the best in Portugal. Particularly good are those at Tavira, Cabanas, Santa Luzia and Faro.
The zoomarine activity park makes for a great day out for those with children. It is an extensive sealife centre with a huge array of aquatic animals to see. There are dolphin and seal shows, a 4D cinema that shows short films about sealife, rides, water slides and pools.
The park is also one of the largest and most important rehabilitation cantres for marine species in Portugal. It takes in animals that have washed up on the shores of many European countries and you can ‘meet’ some of the them and hear their stories (not directly from them, obviously).
All in all a good family day out, and only 20 minutes’ drive from the popular resort of Albufeira.
Located just outside the attractive seaside town of Lagos, Lagos Zoo is a fantastic attraction nestled in the stunning Portuguese countryside. There are a number of species of smaller animals and a petting area with ponies, donkeys, goats and ducks that children will love. The park is well designed, with a pleasant walkway that takes you all around past the various enclosures.
The park is divided into zones, each with its own particular habitat. One of the most popular areas if the string of islands that house a variety of species of monkeys and lemurs. The zoo has an educational element to it, with lots of useful information about the animals and efforts to conserve them.
There are also restaurants, playgrounds, and a picnic area to enjoy. This is a good choice for those with small children, as the park is a walkable size for small legs.
The Algarve is a fantastic destination for cycling, with beautiful countryside to explore and a variety of terrain to suit all levels. It’s a particularly nice way of exploring the different resorts – far better than being cooped up in a hot car. Given the distances involved, this is probably an activity more suited for those with older children.
The coastal region of the Algarve is quite flat in general, which makes for pleasant, easy cycling. What’s more, there are especially dedicated cycle routes and maps, known as Ecovia or Ciclovia, which take you around all the main towns and into the best spots in the countryside.
You can opt to do a short route around the area you’re based in, or for the more ambitious there are longer routes – some even stretch the length of the Algarve from Tavira to Lagos.
For cycling information and maps, have a look at the official website. http://www.ecoviasalgarve.org/
Whether you prefer floating gently on the Lazy River or shooting down twisting flumes, waterparks are a perennial family holiday favourite. In the Algarve you are spoilt for choice for water-based activities, with no less than four waterparks in the area – Splash & Slide, Aqualand, Aquashow and Atlantic Park. All are located in the west of the Algarve and each makes for a great day out.
Splash & Slide and Aqualand are fairly in similar in terms of size and the range attractions on offer; Aquashow has more of a family-orientated feel to it, with a number of less intense rides for smaller children and a couple of larger, scarier ones for older kids.
Atlantic Park is smaller and geared towards younger children, with a mix of wet and dry attractions including a bouncy castle and quad bikes.
Be a pirate for a day
One of the quirkiest attractions in the Algarve has to be the pirate ship boat tour you can take, leaving from Albufeira. This is a lovely day out on a large, old-fashioned replica pirate galleon. Kids will love pretending to be pirates for the day, and it’s also a great way to see some of the coastline by sea.
The boat stops off at various points so passengers can have a swim, and there is a relaxed barbeque lunch included. This is a great alternative to the myriad modern boat tours which are available, offering something a bit more inspiring for the children.