Read time – 2 minutes

We stood in line for our flight, ready for our family holiday in Portugal; our destination, the Alentejo coastal town of Vilanova de Milfontes.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Vague images of well-manicured golf courses, busy beaches and loud, open-air bars sprang to mind, as I knew that the Algarve region further south attracted droves of travellers on the lookout for cheap nightlife and long daylight hours.

Portugal coastPortugal coast

Vilanova de Milfontes

Arriving in Milfontes, I realised my assumptions could not have been more wrong. Surrounded by a pristine national park, and perfectly positioned on the mouth of an estuary reaching out to the Atlantic Ocean, the sleepy town has managed to avoid the intensive property development of high rise buildings that dominate the skyline of many other beach resorts in the Algarve.

Instead, Milfontes welcomes the few tourists who choose to venture there with its small-town atmosphere, archetypal Portuguese architecture, and delicious local cuisine. The sun was shining as we settled into our room at the Quinta do Moinho de Vento, which features rooms and apartments in a beautifully relaxed garden setting, and is just a short walk from the nearby secluded river beach, perfect for a swim.

Canoeing in PortugalCanoeing in Portugal

Family Activities

It’s hard to imagine a better setting for an exciting, adventure-filled family holiday. Over the next six days we threw ourselves into surfing lessons, fast-paced mountain bike descents, kayaking down the wonderfully serene Mira River and literally dangling ourselves off the local estuary bridge.

Punctuating the high-adrenaline mornings, we spent long lazy afternoons by the hotel pool, and more than once wandered into the town centre for some of the local gelatos.


“The most inspiring moment for me on the trip was when I was doing the 30m abseil from the bridge, when I was suspended about halfway and was looking out at the amazing view.

I also loved it when I stood up for the first time on the surfboard (as it was my first time surfing), it felt incredible! Plus when we finished the 15km bike ride it was so rewarding and refreshing jumping into the river and having a little swim.” – Edward Steel, age 11.

boy with surfboardSurfing day

One of the huge draws of the south coast of Portugal is the consistently glorious weather. It’s not difficult to see the appeal of 8 days of sun, combined with exciting water-based activities!

Having both the river and sea so close meant that it was always easy to take a refreshing dip to cool ourselves down… if that meant climbing up the rocks to find the best jumping-in spot, then all the better!

What also surprised us about this area was the significant lack of tourists; the town was buzzing with activity in the evenings but always with the local inhabitants or other Portuguese people on their own holidays.

It was on the free day that we truly realised how special this place was; after a second surfing lesson we were taken to the stunning but deserted beach, in a wild and magical setting for (and I quote) “the best conditions we’ve had this season”. The fact that all 3 of us managed to successfully ride a wave was just the icing on the cake!

See our trips to Portugal below and plan your next adventure holiday.