Why you should consider a family holiday to Madeira
Spot some dolphins and whales
Thanks to its location on migratory routes in the North Atlantic, Madeira is blessed with a great variety of marine wildlife you can spot on a boat tour. Year-round residents here include mighty sperm whales, up to 16m long weighing up to 40 tonnes, and energetic bottlenose dolphins. Also residing in these waters are the less commonly seen Atlantic spotted dolphins, which love to leap into the air and put on a show. Then there are a number of seasonal visitors, including rare humpback whales, which are regular winter guests, and the curious Bryde’s whales, which filter their food through giant, sieve-like, “baleens” found in their mouths.
Take in views from on high
Mountainous Madeira offers no shortage of lookout points that give splendid views of the island’s diverse landscape. Top of your list should be the Cabo Girão Skywalk viewpoint, which is Europe’s highest cliff. Kids of all ages will get a kick out of peering down from the 580m-high glass walkway on a dramatic clifftop setting at the Atlantic, the farmland of Rancho and Cabo Girão, and the towns of Câmara de Lobos and Funchal way below. It’s also a popular paragliding and base-jumping spot, and it’s where the celebrated Portuguese daredevil Mário Pardo performed a spectacular motorcycle jump in 2006.
Whizz downhill in a makeshift toboggan
Only in Madeira can you toboggan down a dry hill year-round, and in a wicker basket no less. You have to try hurtling down the steep, winding Monte roads in a traditional wicker basket sledge, which is manned by a pair of straw-boatered guides who will ensure you reach the bottom in one piece, using only their rubber-soled shoes as brakes. The downhill run to Livramento is made in under 10 minutes on the 2km course, getting up to hair-raising speeds of 48km per hour. Nowadays the Monet Sledge is strictly a tourist draw, but these ingenious contraptions were genuinely used as speedy transport for Monte’s residents in the 19th century, so the thrill ride effectively doubles as an authentic historical experience too.
Glide high in a cable car
The journey up to Monte from Funchal can be made just as spectacularly by hopping aboard the Funchal cable car. The easy 20-minute ride will give you an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the island’s green slopes, banana plantations and many gardens bursting with vivid floral treasures, and you can combine your ticket with a tour of the botanical gardens for the perfect, relaxing family outing.
Hit the beaches
Madeira may be a volcanic island, but it has a few family-friendly beaches to appease those travelling with kids in tow. Calheta Beach is perhaps the island’s most popular, with sand imported from Morocco and clean, clear Blue Flag waters with no strong currents. Seixal, a natural black-sand beach, is also popular, and the surrounding landscape is magnificent. There are plenty of facilities to enjoy too, plus a small village with charming bars and restaurants.
Paira de Machico is another good option. This smaller beach near the airport has soft, golden (artificial) sand to play on. There are football and volleyball areas, pedal boats, jet skis, sun beds and parasols, while lifeguards are on duty patrolling the 70m-deep waters for peace of mind.
Few places combine European charm with tropical luxury quite like Madeira – it’s a grown-up weekend break that has something for everyone. Fly to Funchal with Jet2.com via eight UK airports, including Birmingham, Manchester, London Stansted, Edinburgh, East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle. You can secure your holiday with a deposit of just £60 deposit per person and get a generous 22kg baggage included. To find out more or to book visit, jet2holidays.com/madeira