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Take the Family › A Family Activity Holiday on the Alentejo Coast, Portugal

A Family Activity Holiday on the Alentejo Coast, Portugal

Rhonda's son Ripley learning to surf.Rhonda's son Ripley learning to surf.

Wielding sticks, the boys emerge from the undergrowth with hair tangled, clothing filthy and an array of fresh bruises and scrapes that they flourish like war wounds. It’s like something out of Lord of the Flies.  

Despite this being an organised trip, reconnecting with nature and running a little wild forms a large part of our Surf’s Up on the Alentejo Coast holiday on the west coast of Portugal, run by family specialist Activities Abroad. Today we’re at a remote lagoon where we’re invited to help construct a ropebridge over the water (using rafts we’ve crafted ourselves) and then cross it. But for much of the day the kids are allowed to be semi-feral under the rock-steady supervision of Ricardo our instructor and we parents – leaping from high rocks, riding the rafts and swimming in search of turtles. Activities such as archery provide moments of focus for those who want to join in, but if you want to sunbathe on the banks, that’s fine too. 

This is our first family activity holiday outside the UK, and I can barely fault it for fun, family bonding or detail. The big draw for us is the inclusion of surfing lessons on an Atlantic beach, and our three boys do indeed love this activity. We are disappointed not to get a full day of it due to the the tides and weather – had I known this might happen, I’d have booked optional extra surfing lessons for our one free day during this week-long trip.

Otherwise, there are five days of optional activities – what you pay for your holiday depends how many you sign up for. We love them all, from mountain-biking along a coastal path, stopping to forage wild garlic and spy storks’ nests on top of rocky pinnacles, to canoeing down a lovely estuary and playing in hidden waterfalls. Perhaps one of the best aspects of the holiday – and a reason to do this with a firm such as Activities Abroad, who employ local experts to guide and instruct you – is that it takes you to fantastic natural sites, some in the Vicentine Coast Natural Park, that you’d be unlikely to happen upon under your own steam.  

It’s also ideal in that it allows us to be active and adventurous while factoring in time for just hanging out on the beach or around the pool. There’s a choice of accommodation options – we opt for a simple but comfortable two-bedroom villa at the Duna Parque Hotel, which gives us the freedom to do a bit of self-catering. Two dinners are included in the price – sociable gatherings in the hotel restaurant with the other families on the trip – as are all breakfasts (featuring a plentiful supply of luscious pastéis de nata or custard tarts) and superb picnic lunches on four of the activity days.

The hotel has great gardens with a tennis court, mini-golf course, playground and indoor and outdoor swimming pools, as well as a gate onto sand dunes leading to a fabulous, slightly wild beach. It’s also only a 10-minute walk from the lively but untouristy centre of Vila Nova de Milfontes with its bumper cars, to-die-for pasticceria and ice-cream parlour Mabi, and authentic, inexpensive restaurants serving spanking-fresh seafood (don’t miss the sardines at A Fateixa at the harbour or a sharing plate of clams at aperitif hour at O Nicola Cerverjaria Snack-bar).

With just four families in our group, we all make new friends and develop a sense of comradeship over the week’s activities, during which all of us feel challenged at some point – I will never get over the fact that I manage to descend a 60-metre abseiling rock. Our trip is notable in that all of the children taking part are male – not that it’s always like this, or that I wouldn’t recommend it to those with girls, but for me it reinforces the fact that it is a great choice with parents on the lookout for a holiday that will appeal to boys.

What’s also great is that although my youngest, aged six, is technically too young for the trip (it’s recommended for ages 8+), he’s able to take place in all activities under the watchful eye of Ricardo, his assistant and the surfing instructors – under whose helm we feel entirely safe throughout the week.

Read more about the Surf’s Up on the Alentejo Coast holiday with Activities Abroad.

By Rhonda Carrier

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