Madeira’s warm summers and mild winters have long made it a popular destination, year-round. In the past, it attracted mainly the older generation, but things have changed in recent years and now the island offers a wealth of activities and attractions for all ages.
Explore the wonderful scenery on foot along levadas (gentle paths that follow the water channels that bring rainwater off the hillsides) or perhaps join a mountain biking tour and discover their world-class trails. There are also loads of watersports on offer so you can kayak or paddleboard along the coastline or take a boat trip and look out for dolphins and other marine life.
The majority of hotels are located in the small city of Funchal but there are others across the island if you prefer to be more rural or in a smaller village. In Funchal, there is a lot to see and do, from visiting the colourful market and trying local delicacies to hopping on the cable car that takes you up to Monte and the Botanical Gardens - and then perhaps jumping in a wicker toboggan for a ride back down. Throughout the year there are also a number of festivals - one of the most impressive is the Flower Festival, normally held at the end of April/early May.
The island has a range of family-friendly hotels, from small, traditional Quintas (Manor Houses) to world-class luxury. There is also the option of self-catering villas plus the island is clean, the people are incredibly friendly, and it’s virtually crime (and biting and stinging insect) free – and less than four hours' flying time from the UK. You might think the only thing missing is a sandy beach but they have those too - small beaches with imported sand, or, if you hop over to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, you'll find miles of golden sand - and some nice hotels so you can stay a few nights as part of your holiday if you want.
Things to do with kids in Madeira
Take a cable-car trip up to Monte, then come down again in one of the traditional wicker toboggans.
Make a heart-thumping trip down one of the slides at the Aquaparque Madeira in Santa Cruz.
Go for a stunning walk along the island’s levadas – old water channels that follow natural contours.
Hire mountain bikes and join up with a guide to explore the island's many trails.
Take the kids to the rockpools at Porto Moniz.
Have a dip in the seawater lidos at Funchal, where you'll also find Madeira Magic/Kids’ City, with the emphasis on science (there are a mini-planetarium and a 3-D cinema as well as a 5,000m2 garden with educational and recreational areas).
Explore the dramatic coastline with a sea kayak or SUP tour.
Wander around any of the island’s stunning gardens – Madeira is known as ‘the floating gardens’. Among the best are the Botanical Gardens, Jardim Orquidea and Boa Vista.
Head for the Parque Temático da Madeira in Santana, a fun park that showcases the history of the island, from handcrafts to baking, music to clothing and the traditional thatched cottages. There are also animals to meet and a boating lake.
Enjoy afternoon tea at super-child-friendly Reid’s Palace (see Best Places to Stay) for some old-fashioned British colonial splendour and tradition.
Have a day off from the kids (or just a morning or afternoon) to play golf or go blue-marlin fishing.
Explore this amazing island by bike, on foot or by car.
Many packages include dinner, and most good hotels have a children’s menu and/or accommodate special requests for kids – which can help those travelling with fussier children.
But do venture outside and experience the great local (Portuguese-based) cuisine, especially the superb fresh seafood and grilled meats. And make sure you treat yourself to a glass of Madeira wine!
A ride in a wicker toboggan is a hair-raising highlight for many.
When to go to Madeira
Madeira is a good choice for family holidays year-round, including winter breaks and any of the half terms. Oddly enough, however, some of the best deals are to be had in the height of the summer holidays, when it’s too hot for the oldies yet mild enough for kids.
Hop into a cablecar in central Funchal to ride up to Monte and the Botanical Gardens.
Prices for family holidays on Madeira start at around £400pp for a week’s good-quality accommodation, rising to more than £1500 for a week at Reid’s Palace.
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Flying time3.5hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint2.15 CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
Visit the Parque Temático da Madeira and find out all about the island's history - a fun family day out.
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Madeira is a beautiful island with so many fun things to do - perfect for a family holiday.
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