A chill-out/all-action family adventure in Portugal’s Algarve

kayaking in the Algarve

Visiting a sea cove in the Algarve

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie Pelling

We’re delighted to announce that Kirstie Pelling of the Family Adventure Project is BritMums’ new regular Travel blogger. Kirstie and her family go all around the world in search of fun but they travel in a manner just like the rest of us: on holidays and half-terms, with kids in tow and an eye toward getaways that suit everyone in the family. Here, she describes how her recent trip to the Algarve made everyone happy.

Is your family split down the middle when it comes to the ideal holiday? If part of the family likes to kick back on the beach while the rest wants to ramp up the action then Portugal’s Algarve may be your dream ticket to a week away. Kirstie took her family on a non-stop sunny adventure at the far edge of Europe…

You might not know that there are 74 Blue flag beaches on the Algarve coast: 74 chances to find the perfect surf, the right kind of sand, the safest kind of sea and the best beach bar for a family that can’t agree on anything.

But if there’s one thing my family firmly agrees on after a week in the Algarve with lowcostholidays.com, it’s that the Portuguese know how to do a beach. On our spring break these spacious chunks of gold form the basis of our itinerary. The air is warm and the sea is cool. Conditions are perfect for swimming, surfing, caving, strolling, sea kayaking and bagging beaches at our own pace.

The biggest waves…

Did I say the sea was cool? That’s not technically correct. It is the Atlantic, for goodness sake! After half an hour in the water 7-year-old Hannah is beginning to turn blue. But we couldn’t come to The Algarve and not have a go at family surfing. Especially when the biggest wave in the world (a whopper at 100m!) was recently bagged by a surfer along the coast in Nazare.

“The Algarve gets a fantastic amount of swell. The waves are as good as anywhere in the world,” our instructor Matt Shears from The Surf Experience in Lagos shouts as he gives me a shove. I’m not sure my wave is record breaking, but my dude moves are quite impressive. I even manage to kneel up. Almost. Before I’m plunged, chin down into the white stuff, choking on surf and sand.

girl on algarve beach

Almost deserted, with plenty of room to roam

surfing in Praia da Arrifana, Portugal

Surfing at Praia da Arrifana

The calmest day…

It all seems very different in a kayak with a paddle in my hand. The splash of the body board is replaced by peaceful bobbing as we hover on the gentle blue while cormorants perch on sandstone rock above us.

One of the joys of visiting The Algarve is viewing the curious rock formations that dot the coast. The jutting outcrops give each beach a different character and add layers of extra colour to the panorama. They also create some great obstacles to kayak around. Caves have been carved into the cliff side and we paddle into the cool depths of the ‘kitchen’ and the ‘cathedral’ on an ocean kayaking trip with Outdoor-Tours.com before making our way for lunch to Praia Dona Ana beach. The great thing about a kayaking trip is all the family can do it as long as they can swim. Although I’m not sure all the family are actually paddling.

sea kayaking in the Algarve

Getting ready to kayak

on a rock in the Algarve

Rocking out in the Algarve

The coastline blessed with beaches

In the course of a week, we bag a range of stunning beaches, trying a different activity on each one, from swimming near Sagres – the most southwestern point of Europe — to taking a promenade stroll on the honeypot boardwalk of the Praia da Rocha. We have coffee in beach bars and lunch on terraces. And then it’s time to spread our wings.

Going into the trees

We begin with a treetop walk, where we swing, zip, hop and skip several metres above the earth on Parque Aventura high ropes course in Albufeira. It has enough levels to challenge each of us to our limits; Hannah opts out after two sections, while 10-year-old Cameron takes on the whole lot at the same pace that he takes life.

high teas climbing in Algarve

Clipping on to go for a walk in the trees

Going above the trees

We explore the interior, first on horseback from Quinta do Paraiso Alto riding stables near Bensafrim where we pick our way through open country, brushing lightly through almond, fig and cork groves. And then we swap horse for jeep. As we enjoyed his kayaking so much, Dutchman Frank Joopman from Outdoor-Tours.com takes us on safari of his adopted home; briefing us on the rich history and even richer landscape of the region.

The land is beginning to come to life as we drive slowly uphill off road, stopping to walk through whitewashed traditional village, to visit producers of honey and medronho, to wander through rows of oak trees with their half stripped cork bark and smell the oranges and the eucalyptus that bring income to the locals. We pass women irrigating terraces, men baking in the sun and hikers making their way to the top of the highest mountain in Southern Portugal. And then we hit the top of the Serra de Monchique, where the Volta ao Algarve is going on. As keen cyclists ourselves, we cheer on the Brits in the peloton and wish we had enough time to do one of Frank’s downhill biking days.

dinghy sailing in the Algarve

Dinghy sailing

Not just a package deal to the sun

If you have family members who like relaxing at the beach, while others want to spend their holidays shaking off real life and the office with some action and adrenaline, then The Algarve is definitely worth a look. We are not a beach family. We hate sloppy suncream, sand sandwiches and crowded places. But this coastline surprises us with its range of clean and stunning beaches, and options for adventure in, out and above the sea. Next time we just need to find that 100-metre wave.

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About Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie and Stuart Pelling are a husband and wife team who share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and three kids. The Family Adventure Project is their long term experiment in doing adventurous things together as a family.

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