Along the southern coast of Portugal lies a marina so filled with treasures, it’s surprising pirates have not yet pillaged it. Multi-million dollar luxury yachts rest side-by-side, cozy in the comfort of their protective cove in Vilamoura. With over 1,000 berths, this marina truly is a feast for the eyes filled with tinted windows and sleek lines; crew members clad in white and boat shoes lined along the endless docks.
When the Irish-Colombian’s family suggested a holiday in Vilamoura, I admit I had to consult a map. Vilamoura is located in the Algarve region of Portugal, along the southern coastline where sunshine reigns supreme – so you know it’s my cup of tea.
Vilamoura is only a 30-minute drive from the airport in Faro, which serves as a major transportation hub for the southern region of the country. With Lisbon about a 3-hour drive north, the Faro airport offers convenience for the many European tourists descending upon this southern coastal area for recreation.
The main draw to this region – beyond those cruising the Mediterranean in their luxury yachts – is the area’s plethora of world-class beaches and golf courses.
The endless stretches of beach along the southern coast combine with golf greens sprawling across the low hills to create a visually and recreationally appealing area. The vistas are stunning and the pleasant climate allows for golf vacations nearly year-round.
Around the marina itself are endless restaurants and shops, some boasting boutique luxury items while others simply hawk their cheap tourist trap tricks. The variety offers entertainment if nothing else.
And the cuisine varies just as greatly from greasy pub food to the occasional fine dining locale with prices to match, though venturing away from the marina will provide better opportunities for quality local dining.
Just outside the marina is an archaeological site, known as the Roman Ruins of Cerro da Vila. While small, it is worth a visit to see the site for only a few Euro.
But should historical sites not be of interest to you (though they should), head next door for a round of mini-golf instead, complete with historical references on the plaques along the walkways throughout the course.
Stretches of fine brown sand meeting slightly crashing waves offer the perfect setting for a day at the beach. Head east from the marina and you’ll quickly find beachfront restaurants, lounge chairs with umbrellas, and lots of speedo-clad men along Praia da Marina (Vilamoura Beach).
Farther east is Praia da Quarteira (Quarteira Beach), where endless white buildings line the coast and regular intervals of rocky jetties break the waves, providing an adventurous walk for excellent views punctured by salt spray.
On Saturday, head to nearby Loule to peruse the gypsy market filled with thousands of interesting items and delicious food stalls to keep you shopping for hours. The variety of items spans from flea market wares to surprisingly stunning handmade crafts.
Keep in mind that the Algarve is a popular destination for all-inclusive package trips for large UK companies, so be prepared to see plenty of Brits on Spring Break mentality. Although, this can provide endless entertainment as well!
Our trip to Vilamoura provided the relaxation we needed, combined with plenty of daydreaming as we ogled boats galore throughout the marina. We hardly ventured outside of the Vilamoura area, given our lovely villa had everything we needed for the perfect holiday.
Perhaps next time we’ll explore more of the country – the wineries were tempting and Lisbon is still begging to be explored!
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