My priorities since having children when it comes to travel and holidays have all been about maximum ease and minimal hassle. Whilst normally we house swap, given we are living in the pre-renovated, 1960s mess it wasn’t possible this year ! (But if home swapping is something you’d like to do you can learn more about our experiences here, all positive). This year I decided to leave my professional cameras at home and shot only on my iPhone – less hassle and worry but my images aren’t up to my preferred standard.
This year we booked a villa holiday via CV Villas, which was booked through Kuoni. We decided to return to Portugal having enjoyed a chilled, sunny holiday in Praia de Luz the year before. The 2 hour flight and short transfer time means its minimal hassle for us, hugely important when travelling with children who have the attention span of a tortoise.
We flew into Faro (thanks to a quick 2 hour flight from Bristol with Easyjet) and then having pre-booked a hire car, we drove 45 minutes along the coast to our villa in Ferragudo. The villa is known as ‘Sandy Bay Cottage’ although the Portugese name for the villa is actually ‘Monte Vale Da Areia’, translating as Mount Sand Valley!. Originally a fisherman’s cottage, its been lovingly updated and the best way I can describe it is charming – white walls and pastel blue painted doors and beams. With four bedrooms (it sleeps five comfortably but does have bunk beds so could sleep 6), two bathrooms (showers only, no bath) and a nice lounge area, it was perfect for our needs.
We soon settled in and after a really hectic period in the first six months of 2018 we found ourselves unwinding, helped by the cheap price of the quality white wine from the local Lidl (only 1 Euro a bottle!). We spent our mornings sat on the terrace, eating breakfast and watching the sailing boats bobbing gently in the harbor below. The villa had everything we needed (except a bath but the children soon got used to having showers), the only thing that would put us off from returning is the gorgeous pool not being heated- we could cope with the cooler temperature but it did mean the children wouldn’t get in to it until towards the end of the day when the sun had warmed it sufficiently.
Ferragudo isn’t a built up tourist area, its a quaint fishing village with approx. 2000 residents, the nearest big town is Portimao which is about 10 minutes drive away. It’s quaint and charming, albeit a bit run down in parts. We understand its seen as the up and coming area to visit and an £8 million injection is planned into the village at the end of 2018 to give it a facelift and improve the tourist areas and open spaces.
We loved the main beach, its wide and long with lovely soft sand. The beach was perfect for the children, particularly as being inside the harbour walls you only get teeny, tiny waves – perfect for paddling with little ones. Staying in our villa a hire car really is needed, whilst we had our own private path directly to Praia Grande beach (which itself is home to three great restaurants and a children’s park), you would feel a tad restricted without a car. We used our car every day and went on some great trips, some only a short distance but with the kids getting tired after too much walking the car was perfect for us (and cost around £150 for the fortnight).
Ferragudo has a small square which contains nice restaurants serving a mix of European and Fusion food, plus a great ice cream counter, there are also some tasty restaurants around the harbour serving freshly caught, and freshly BBQ’d fish. We ate out there most evenings and for lunch our favourite haunt was the Nau Bar, aka Club Nau, which is on the beach.
Days out included a 5 minute drive to Praia do Pintadinho, where we could see the lighthouse on Ponta de Altar. We spent the morning playing on the small sandy beach and enjoying lunch at the one restaurant. On our last day we visited the smaller, Praia de Molhe. Not really suitable for sunbathing due to it being so small and it’s proximity to the rocks, we enjoyed walking to the Molhe lighthouse before climbing back up for coffee in the small cafe at the top. Molhe is a definite place to visit for its views – they are show stopping.
We visited ‘Slide & Splash’ water park twice, only 12 mins by car from the villa and pretty quiet on both occasions. The big tick for me, aside from the great selection of slides was how clean the place was – the cafes, the toilets – all of it was spotless. We paid approx. 45 Euros for two adults entry, the children being under 5 got in for free. We then paid 10 Euros each to return for a second visit. Slide & Splash has a large play area for children, plus a couple of rides that children under the regulation 1m 20 were allowed on. Definitely worth a visit. I even escaped on my own and tried the Disco River and Banzai ride! Both ace 🙂
The weather was warm but unseasonably cloudy during our stay so we headed out and about exploring. Whilst in nearby Portimao we booked a boat trip (at 60 Euros for the 4 of us) from Portimao to Silves. Leaving at 11:00am, we cruised at a leisurely pace up the river, with the captain pointing out old Sardine factories and places of interest. Arriving in Silves we had under 2 hours to explore and grab lunch before catching the boat back, this was just the right duration for a day out with 4 year olds. We walked up the steps to Silves castle, a Moorish castle, surrounded by a pretty square. We found a great restaurant for lunch before ice creams and a brief explore of the surrounding streets. The highlight for the children was spotting real turtles basking on the bank of the river as we cruised near Silves.
We spent a day at nearby Praia de Rocha beach, renting a shaded sun lounger at the No Solo Agua beach club in Portimao Marina for 40 Euros. This is a little spot of luxury and its clearly the in crowd place to go. We avoided the pool area, which was pricey and instead enjoyed the beach area. Food, drink and service were all great but it wasn’t cheap day out, with drinks, bed hire, snacks and lunch we spent no less than 80 Euros.
Another water park trip, this time to Aqualand Aqua, 25 mins from the villa. Not as shiny new as Slide & Splash but we felt it had more available for our children, including a lazy river. We were surprised at how empty the park was, we did’t have to queue for any rides and over 3/4s of the sun loungers were empty. So another handy day out if you have children (or like us love the slides!). One tip, pick up a leaflet at about this (or Slide & Splash) as they all have discounts inside. Our Aqualand leaflet enabled us to get in for half price, saving over 27 Euros. Children under 4 get in for free, so this was good value for the amount of fun and time we spent here.
For a low stress family holiday, Portugal was perfect for us, sandy beaches, plenty of things for the children to do and short flights. If you are planning on visiting the Algarve then I do recommend the Ferragudo area. Make sure to enjoy tapas in the main square, visit the Molhe lighthouse and grab a ‘vinho branco’ as you watch the sunset. Do let me know if you decide to visit Portugal x