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Algarve, October 2015

As a travel writer I’m lucky enough to have visited over 100 countries. That I take my kids down to the Algarve every October considering all the places I can chose from says a lot. The Algarve for me is the ideal escape for a family holiday. I’d like to share my top 9 Algarve family holiday ideas with you.

  1. Try a Villa – On my most recent visit we stayed at a lovely villa on the outskirts of the family friendly resort of Carvoeiro. We booked it through Vintage Travel, who specialise in family villas with a wee splash of luxury. Villa Vitor was no exception. We enjoyed acres of space, all of it well designed and luxuriously finished. My girls loved the pool (with its separate kids area), whilst daddy was a big fan of the BBQ area and the pool table in the basement!
  2. Beaches – Its epic sandy beaches are what brought tourists to the Algarve in the first place and it’s easy to see why. As a rough rule of thumb you get big, wide beaches set on their own sand islets if you head east of Faro airport towards the Spanish border, or narrower sandy coves, split up by spectacular cliffs and grottoes, if you head west. Our favourite spots are the sand island of Ilha de Tavira and the stretch of stunning beaches that lie between Carvoeiro and Marinha. Praia Marinha itself has been voted the best beach in Europe not just Portugal.
  3. Golfing Families – Algarve is famous for its golfing and golfing mummies and daddies can enjoy a few rounds even on a family break. On this recent visit I spent time at the plush Conrad Algarve. They specialise in golf holidays with their own PGA qualified golf professional, Fernando Nogueira, who offers personal coaching. They can also secure rounds on the best courses in the Algarve. There is a kids club so you don’t have to worry about the wee ones while you play, plus a superb spa (with an outdoor relaxation area for chilling in afterwards). One unusual wee excursion they can organise we tried too – clam picking. We headed out in a traditional wooden Algarvian boat deep into the Rio Formosa National Park. The girls loved prizing wee clams from the mud. It encouraged them to try some for lunch back at the Conrad afterwards.
  4. Zoomarine – Stuck between keeping one kid happy by visiting a zoo and another who is hell-bent on visiting a water park? Then you will love Zoomarine. This for me is the top family attraction in the Algarve. You can take in dolphin, sea lion and bird shows, which really get wee ones’ minds fired up. Then you can check out the water park area with its beach (complete with a wave machine), slides and pools. They even have a 4D cinema on site as well as an aquarium with sharks at an attraction that seems to add something new every time I visit.
  5. Martinhal – When I learned that the inspirational Singaporean lady (Chitra Stern) behind glorious Martinhal had four children it was no surprise. Many hotels I stay at claim to be luxurious and also family friendly. All too few manage it. Here in Sagres on the very edge of Europe at this family focussed resort they get it spot on, from the proper food on the kids’ menus, through to a kids club my two would have happily stayed at for a week. Then there are the heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the multitude of family orientated activities and the sweeping beach right in front of the hotel. Swirl in an award winning spa (where kids can have treatments too) and the As Dunas Restaurant (where mums and dads can enjoy lobster chosen by their kids straight from the tank) and Martinhal for me is a serious family winner. They’ve just opened a new resort in Quinta do Lago, which we’ll be checking out next year as it looks superb too.
  6. Water Parks – Lots of them! I don’t think I’ve been anywhere with such a dense concentration of water parks as the Algarve. The most renowned and well equipped are Slide & Splash, Aqualand Algarve and Aqua Show. You can easily lose a whole day at any of these places with plenty of eating and drinking options alongside the watery fun.
  7. Tavira – There are lots of cute whitewashed towns and villages sprinkled all over the Algarve. Tavira for me is the most charming and it is great for families. The centre is pleasantly traffic free, with shady riverside parks and wee bridges to cross over the Gilao River. The town has a real fairytale quality, with its old world streets boasting plenty of cafes and restaurants where kids are welcome too. You can take a boat trip from right in town to the Ilha de Tavira, where one of my favourite beaches in the Algarve awaits along with more family friendly eating and drinking options.
  8. River Adventure – There are myriad boat trips on offer from the coastal resorts, but our favourite family adventure is heading upriver from the bustling town of Portimao. The destination is the dreamy, historic town of Silves far inland. Silves is ideal for firing up young minds with its old cobbled streets and striking castle. My two love rambling around the ramparts pretending to be princesses and knights. The boat trip takes you back in time to an era when the Moors patrolled these waters long before the arrival of mass tourism. The bountiful birdlife en route is a delight too as are the views on the approach to Silves.
  9. Market Madness - Loulé is famous for its markets. My wee girls love visiting on Saturday mornings when the famous gypsy market (at the end of Rua da Nossa Senhora da Piedade) bashes into life with a riot of sights, sounds and smells. Any day of the week (bar Sunday) you can also check out the market on Praça da República, which is housed in a gloriously ornate Arabian-style hall.


  • Robin flew to the Algarve with from Edinburgh on a direct flight to Faro..

About Robin

Robin McKelvie has been a travel writer, broadcaster and photographer since 1997. He has written thousands of travel articles for magazines and newspapers across five continents. In recent years he has also moved heavily into online writing, social media and blogging.