On Portugal’s Atlantic-facing tip, Sagres in the Western Algarve is a naturally family-friendly holiday destination, with access to the spectacular surf beaches of the Costa Vicentina, child-friendly boutique hotel Memmo Baleeira, a huge national park and a wealth of fun activities that will keep even the most energetic of kids pacified…
It never ceases to amaze me where kids can have a nap. I mean, as a parent, we all know naps happen (none more so than creator of the Naps Happen blog). Naps happen shopping; naps can even happen skiing. And apparently, our child is not the only one who can catch some Zs on a speedboat while slamming into waves at 30 knots: the marine biologist leading our dolphin-spotting cruise was already prepared with extra life jackets, so we could position one in front of his nodding head and allow a nap to happen while we pounded the Atlantic on a high-speed RIB (and while Mr Smith lurched aft, green-faced).
Really, I blame Memmo Baleeira, the Smith & Family-selected hotel we’re staying at. I mean, I know it’s what we asked for, and sure, the staff at this cool coastal bolthole are duty-bound and eager to please, but what’s up with giving us a perfectly planned itinerary of amazing activities that would exhaust an espresso-fuelled Atila the Hun? All that fresh air, great food, sunshine, sandcastle-building and splashing in the sea takes its toll on your little ones.
Oh, we said, what a shame our three-year-old is missing our sunset cocktail session at Memmo Lounge because he’s already sound asleep. Oh, how we ruefully lamented his late morning lie-ins (until as late as 8.30am one morning. 8.30am!). And oh, isn’t it quiet at lunchtime while he’s merrily scoffing delicious breaded hake and home-made mini-pizzas from Memmo’s kids’ menu, instead of shouting about dinosaur poo, rolling cruet sets onto the floor or throwing a wobbly because his juice is in some way not… juicy enough. Quite frankly, this is too enjoyable: we might even be seduced into thinking we could handle another…
WEAR THEM OUT
Surfing A non-stop string of west-coast surfer beaches (including popular Amado, Arrifana and Odeceixe) lie to your north along the Costa Vicentina; get hooked up with boards and tuition at Memmo Baleeira’s renowned surf school.
Boat trips From Sagres’ Porto da Baleeira, the excellent Cape Cruiser (+351 919 751 175) can take you dolphin-spotting: head out on a thrilling/nap-inducing speedboat ride with their marine biologists and you’ve a good chance of spotting common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises, and if you’re very lucky, you might even catch sight of sun fish, striped dolphin, blue shark or minke whale (€30 for adults; €25 for under-12s). Padded seats are snugly arranged in front-facing pairs, as the ride out to sea is fast and can be rough; if your children are very young, consider a more gently puttering cruise to explore sea caves and coastal curiosities instead.
Beaches If beaches are your thing, you’re in luck – there are dozens of super sandy spots to pick from nearby, including Praia do Beliche, Martinhal, Praia do Castelejo and Praia do Zavial. At Blue Flag Zavial beach, juniper bushes zing green against the red-tinted cliffs, the water is clear and calm enough for snorkelling, and there’s a decent restaurant, too: try the cataplana or clams at Restaurante do Zavial (+351 282 639 282). To reach Zavial, turn off the road from Sagres to Lagos at Raposeira, and follow the road for around 5km.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Boutique bolthole Memmo Baleeira is a striking, minimal hotel perched on the clifftop above Baleeira beach and harbour, on the fringe of the surf-centric town of Sagres. As well as some self-catering suites, the hotel has a pampering spa, outdoor pool, a Balearic-style lounge bar with sunset sea views – perfect for grown-up cocktails – and plenty of kit and activities to keep the kids happy. Book with Smith & Family for exclusive availability from now until the end of August, including some fantastic last-minute holiday discounts.
Smith tip Faro is the nearest international airport, 119km (75 minutes’ drive) from Memmo Baleeira. Monarch has slashed prices on London to Faro flights with its summer sale, so if you’re quick, you could snap up a total bargain!
Other nearby child-friendly options include Martinhal Beach Resort, and self-catering cottages at Monte da Vilarinha. You can find more family-friendly hotels in Portugal on the Smith & Family site…
Photos by Lucy Fennings