Madeira Islands is Portugal’s autonomous archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwest coast of Africa.
The archipelago comprises three islands: Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Desertas. The capital of Madeira is Funchal, located on the main island’s south coast.
Madeira Islands boast lush landscapes, mild climates, and natural beauty. The main island has even been nicknamed the “Island of Eternal Spring.”
They are also known for their traditional crafts, embroidery, and wickerwork, as well as Madeira wines and food, such as the popular dish called “espetada.”
The article below covers some of the best things to do on the Madeira Islands for those planning a family trip.
Top 8 Reasons to Visit the Madeira Islands as a Family
Portugal might just be the best European country for families. And the Madeira islands are popular tourist destinations and frequently appear in all kinds of consumer research, offering activities and experiences for every type of traveler.
Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, cultural experiences, or simply relaxing on the beach, Madeira Islands has something for you and your family.
Here is a list of the best things to do in Madeira.
1. Ride the Madeira Island Cable Car
One of the most popular tourist attractions on Madeira Islands is the cable car, which takes passengers on a breathtaking ride.
The cable car ride offers stunning views of the city and coastline and is an excellent activity for families with kids of all ages.
The great thing is that there are seven cable cars to choose from, the most popular being the Botanical Garden Cable Car and Monte Cable Car, both going between Funchal and Monte.
The Botanical Garden Cable Car is a bit shorter and takes passengers on a scenic trip through the natural landscape of Ribeira de João Gomes. The Monte Cable Car is a little longer and offers panoramic views of the cityscape and coastline.
2. Explore the Madeira Botanical Garden
The Madeira Botanical Garden is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the islands.
Located 3 kilometers from the center of Funchal, the gardens are home to an impressive collection of more than 2000 exotic plants and rare exotic birds.
The gardens are a great place to explore with kids, as there are plenty of trails to follow, where you can admire both endemic and introduced species of flowers, trees, and shrubs.
What’s more, the garden is only accessible via cable car, so during the ride as well as the visit, you can enjoy stunning views of the city and bay.
3. Watch Dolphins and Whales in Their Natural Habitat
Madeira Islands is one of the best family summer destinations in Europen to watch dolphins and whales in their natural habitat. The archipelago is home to a large number of cetacean species, including sperm whales, orcas, and several types of dolphins.
There are numerous boat tour companies that offer whale and dolphin watching excursions, which are a great activity for families with kids of all ages.
These tours usually last around 2-3 hours and take place in the morning and afternoon.
During the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see these majestic creatures up close and learn more about them from the onboard experts.
4. Soak Up the Sun on Madeira’s Beaches
Madeira Islands offer some of the best beaches in Portugal, with plenty of options for both swimming and sunbathing.
Some of the most popular beaches on the island include Praia Formosa, Calheta Beach, and Porto Moniz Natural Pools.
Praia Formosa is a beautiful sandy beach located in Funchal, while Calheta Beach is an artificial beach with crystal-clear waters. Porto Moniz Natural Pools are volcanic rock pools that are perfect for a refreshing swim.
No matter what type of beach you’re looking for, Madeira Islands has something for everyone.
5. Take a Hike Through Madeira’s Nature Trails
Madeira Islands offer a network of nature trails that are perfect for hiking and exploring stunning landscapes.
There are trails of varying difficulty levels, so there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker.
The most popular trails include the Levadas, a network of irrigation channels that crisscross the island, as well as the Vereda do Larano, a coastal trail with stunning views of the ocean.
If you want something more challenging, you and your family can try the Pico Ruivo hike, which takes you to the highest point on the island.
Find loads more information on Levada walks in Madeira here. Whichever trail you choose, you’re guaranteed to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of Madeira’s landscapes.
6. Visit the Madeira Story Center
The Madeira Story Center is a must-visit for families with kids, as it offers a great way to learn about the history and culture of the islands. The center is located in the old town of Funchal and should take around 1-2 hours to visit.
The center covers the history of the island from its volcanic origins to the present day and includes an interactive exhibit where you can learn about the local culture and traditions.
Afterwards, you can explore the centre’s gift shop, which sells a range of traditional Madeiran products, such as embroidery, wickerwork, and ceramic items, as well as regular souvenirs.
7. Sail Santa Maria de Colombo Ship
The Santa Maria de Colombo ship is a replica of the ship that Christopher Columbus used on his voyage to the Americas. It was built in a small fishing village called Câmara de Lobos in Madeira.
Now, it can take you on a journey back in time and around Madeira’s southern coast.
During the tour, you’ll learn about the ship’s history and get to explore its deck, cabins, and other areas. You will enjoy stunning views of the cliffs, coastline, and ocean, and, if you’re lucky, get a chance to see dolphins and whales.
The trip takes around 3 hours and allows you to immerse yourself in history while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
8. Enjoy the Toy Museum in Funchal
The Toy Museum in Funchal is a great place to take kids for an hour or two of fun.
The museum is located on the premises of the Armazém do Mercado and has a collection of over 20,000 pieces, ranging from traditional to modern toys.
The museum is split into several sections, covering different themes such as dolls, cars, and action figures. There’s also a gift shop selling a range of unique toys and souvenirs.
The museum is a great place to visit on a rainy day or if you need a break from the beach, as it can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.
These are just a few of the many great activities and experiences that you can enjoy with your family on the Madeira Islands, whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, cultural experiences, or simply relaxing on the beach.
You can watch the magnificent cetaceans, take a cable car ride with stunning views, visit the Madeira Story Centre, or hike one of the many trails on the island.
With so much to see and do, the islands are an excellent summer destination for families with kids of all ages, and you’re sure to have an unforgettable trip.
Here is a list with some more ideas of what to do in Portugal with kids.