The Algarve in southern Portugal is a very popular holiday destination for many people. From retirees to golfing parties, hen and stag parties and even families, it’s a great sun holiday destination. Today Cath from Passports and Adventures is sharing with us 3 great places to visit in the Algarve with Kids. Now, these are days out or family-friendly excursions, not holiday resorts.
3 Great Places to Visit in the Algarve with Kids
We’ve been permanently based in the Algarve for 18 months, but believe it or not, we haven’t spent a lot of time exploring our new surroundings. We live in the Eastern Algarve where there is not a lot to do for kids. We generally have to travel a bit further to avail of more family-friendly things. Two of the places I am talking about are ones we have visited ourselves. The other is somewhere I am hoping we’ll get to visit in the New Year. Each is different from the others and can be enjoyed by families.
Zoomarine is a marine park with seal and dolphin shows, an aquarium and a sandy beach with slides and a wave pool all in the one park. It is the Algarve’s top tourist attractions and is very popular with families. It’s easy to see why.
We visited Zoomarine just before Halloween and they had decorated the park accordingly. Not long after arriving was the first of two dolphin shows of the day. And while I am often torn about watching shows like this, I have to admit it was a really good show. Our young son thoroughly enjoyed it.
Zoomarine has fairground-type rides in the central plaza along with some restaurants, toilets and cash machines. There are 4 main show areas, the dolphin and seal arenas as already mentioned and there are two others; one for a display from tropical birds and one for a display from birds of prey. We were able to catch the birds of prey show and it was fantastic. We sat on a small terraced stand and had some of the birds flying over our heads. It was incredible and had our little boy enthralled.
Further to the back of Zoomarine you’ll find the main section of the water park and beach, a sandy area with sunbeds and parasols. Although we went in October there were a few brave souls enjoying the beach area and we plan to return in May or June when it’s not so busy to spend an entire day there. We also visited the aquarium where you’ll see fish of all shapes and sizes. And of course, Dory and Nemo can be found within the aquarium as well.
There is lots of parking available at Zoomarine, located near Albufeira, and many resorts and hotels in the Algarve will either run excursions to
See more about Zoomarine and book tickets here!
Barril Beach – The Anchor Cemetery
This is a place we have only visited once, but I am really hoping to visit more this year. Barril Beach is located in the Eastern Algarve between the towns of Olhao and Tavira. Praia de Barril, to give it its proper name, is a long white-sand beach with changing rooms and is lined with dunes. What makes this a popular place to visit in the Algarve is the anchor cemetery.
Originally there was a tuna fishing village located there and many of the fisherman houses have since been turned into restaurants and cafes. What makes Praia de Barril so fascinating to visit is the aforementioned anchor cemetery. Rows of anchors are lined up on the sand and you can even see an old tuna fishing boat near the beach. It is a reminder of the history of this area in a time when tourism was not around.
It is one of the quieter beaches of the Algarve and during summer will have sunbeds and parasols for hire for a charge. It is an extension of Ilha de Tavira and part of the Ria Formosa natural park. What makes it fun for families is it is not only a great beach, of which there are many in the Algarve, but to reach the beach you can either walk or take a little train which costs just a few euros. The train has been said to be part of the attraction of this beach with families.
There is parking away from the beach itself and can be hard to come by in the busy summer months of July and August. However, I have read there is good parking (for a fee) within the town itself but as with all things in the Algarve in the summer, it is best to arrive early to ensure you get a spot. The beach is signposted from the main EN-125 road and as mentioned has changing room facilities as well as many restaurants and cafes for snacks and meals.
Castro Marim Castle
Castro Marim Castle is located in the town of its name and is in the very far east of the Algarve near Vila Real de Santo Antonio. This medieval castle sits on top of a hill overlooking the Guadiana River which forms the border between Spain and Portugal. It has a history that includes the Knights Templar and the Portuguese Reconquista and dates back to the 13th century.
It is a large castle with several areas to explore with young kids. We’ve been with our son a few times as it is the closest castle to our home and we’ve enjoyed it each time we’ve been, turning our visits into a game of dragon hunting. It is mostly in ruin and there is little shade, so be aware if you are visiting this castle during the hot summer months.
There are stable areas and areas which were probably where the market was located to explore. The old keep area has a small indoor museum and is where you can climb up to the battlements to enjoy views across the Castro Marim area, over to Vila Real and across the river to Spain. There is a small church within the grounds of the castle, but this houses an exhibition dedicated to the times of the Spanish Inquisition and has displays of torture used during these times. So, it’s not really suitable for young children.
There are toilets located in the keep beside the museum and there is a small gift shop in the building with the ticket office. Entry is less than €2 and under 5’s are free, if my memory serves me well. There is no café in the castle but there are several within the town of Castro Marim, just a short walk away. There is public parking at the bottom of the hill near the castle, but it can be easy to miss as it is off the main road through the town and is not very well signposted.
Castro Marim Castle can easily be enjoyed with kids but as I’ve warned, there is little shade in the castle, so it would be best to arrive for opening at 9am during the summer months to escape the heat of the midday sun. It is not a full day out, but I can highly recommend visiting the town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio afterwards where there is a marina, many shops and restaurants and even a ferry across to Spain. Just be careful not to miss the last ferry back to Portugal!
There are other things to do across the Algarve with kids besides those which I have detailed. Beaches are plentiful and there are things like bowling, karting and other attractions in the western Algarve. The east Algarve doesn’t have as much for kids but is still worth a visit as you’ll find it much quieter than its western counterpart. Tavira, the town closest to us, is a lovely old traditional Portuguese town which has a tourist train to show you the main parts. The beautiful beaches of Tavira, Ilha de Tavira, are accessed via a ferry and some of the most beautiful I’ve visited in Europe. Whatever part of the Algarve you decide to visit with your family, you’re sure to find family-friendly things to do and see.
Cath is an Irish expat who now lives in Portugal with her husband and son. A former scientist, she gave up working when they emigrated south from the UK. She is a family travel blogger and hopes that, through her blog, they will inspire more families to travel, especially with the toddlers in tow. As a family they love travelling and have started working their way through their family travel bucket list. Cath writes about their family travels and experiences on her blog Passports and Adventures. She can also be found across social media on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.