I’m so happy to introduce my readers to my friend Sarah and to share the following travel piece of hers about her trip to Madeira, Portugal with her family. She and I share a love for travel and missions. We met while both living in Hungary as missionary gals, although with different organizations. She’s also from the USA and married a Hungarian. All I can do is hope these similarities continue as I’ll be quite happy if I also turn out to have a set of twins someday. 😉
As you may know, Ber and I honeymooned in Portugal and loved it. What you may not know is that we had booked part of it on the island of Madeira, but ended up having to cancel when we cut back on time and finances. Sarah’s trip makes me want to put it back on our list! Now that we’re expecting, I’m even happier to see it’s family friendly.
Sarah’s Madeiran Adventure
Having three adorable daughters ages 2, 2, and 4, means that my husband and I don’t plan family vacations to exotic locations in Europe (even though we live in Hungary). Well, at least I thought we didn’t, until my dad and brother, who would be visiting us from California, told us to pick a place for a vacation together. Awesome! But where?
Somewhere not too hot, not too crowded, kid-friendly, and a beach location was a must. After kicking around a few islands, we decided on Madeira, a Portuguese island. It seemed to generally tick all the boxes, especially with a July vacation date (Madeira can get quite crowded in August), so we got the reservations made.
Travel to Madeira
While we originally wanted to fly non-stop from Vienna airport to Funchal airport (the capital city of Madeira), that limited us to only flying on Thursdays, which we couldn’t do. So, we were left with the Portuguese TAP airlines for our flights. I was not super excited about a layover in Lisbon or about the reviews I was reading that TAP flights were chronically late, but I decided we’d pack a copious amount of snacks and leave with a good attitude. In fact, the layover in allowed the kids to spend some pent-up energy at the kids’ playplace in the airport (small, but useful), and our flights were only delayed by a maximum of 40 minutes. A word to traveling families: it seems like every major airport has a play area nowadays for kids – Vienna’s is amazing – so be sure to seek it out!
Where to Stay in Madeira
After searching through the hotels and semi-resorts, I wasn’t sold on anything, so I took to Airbnb*. It was the first time that I’d actually used it, but I found a great apartment within walking distance from one of the few sand beaches on the island. (Since Madeira is quite rocky, this was an important detail for us.) This put us in Machico, not in the capital city of Funchal, but it was actually a blessing. We are not really city people, and our location meant a quieter and calmer pace to our vacation. It had a huge terrace for the kids and beautiful views of the ocean.
What To Do in Madeira
Before we left, I read a few sites about things to do in Madeira, which I had in the back of my mind, but I know that with kiddos, you’ve got to be flexible. Our first day was spent hanging out at the beach, exploring the playground and the town of Machico, and grabbing some delicious pastries and ice cream, of course. My brother is an avid surfer and I found a surf instructor on Airbnb who picked him up and took him around the island to the best surf spots. For dinner, my husband bought fresh fish at the supermarket and baked it in a marinade. One huge bonus of being on Madeira was the accessibility to fresh seafood, as well as other local ingredients. Madeira grows all kinds of tropical fruits, mainly just to supply the island with produce.
The next day was spent in the capital, Funchal. We decided to save money and take a local bus there and back, which was actually quite easy. I discovered that the bus driver spoke better English than the pharmacist I spoke to the next day! We walked along the shore and took the cable car up to the Monte neighborhood. We saw the tomb of the last Hungarian king before heading to the Botanical Gardens. They are huge, and even my brother (who doesn’t really like botanical gardens) said that they were worth the stop.
After another relaxing day at the beach, we found a great company (Secret Madeira*) to take us around on a tour of the west part of the island for our last day, and it absolutely did not disappoint. We began by going to a traditional fishing village, Camara de Lobos, and then started climbing up in elevation, stopping at lookout points along the way.Our peak elevation was more than 1300 meters above sea level, and as we drove, the landscape completely changed: from lush vegetation and wandering livestock to brush covered in fog. Our destination on the north coast was Porto Moniz, a series of natural volcanic pools, and afterwards the black sand beach in Seixal. We followed the river valley back south-east, arriving to our door in Machico about 9 hours after we’d started. A long but amazing last day to our Madeiran adventure!
Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m a wife, mother, teacher, Jesus-follower, and Jesus-sharer. My husband is Hungarian; I’m American, and we met, got married, and are raising our family in Győr, Hungary. I love good books, hot coffee, relaxing runs, ocean breezes, and freshly-baked anything.
- If you’re planning a trip and want to check out Airbnb, here’s a link where you can get $40 credit for your first trip. Then if you share your link, you can earn $20 credit every time a friend signs up and takes a trip.
- Sarah was not reimbursed to promote Secret Madeira and is simply recommending from her own good experience!