Sintra & Coastal Portugal with Kids
We knew that no trip to Portugal would be complete without some time spent on the coast so we set our sites on Sintra and the surrounding area.
Its about a three hour drive to Sintra from Porto. The boys got hungry around 11:30 and we did not want to mess around with trying to find something, so instead we pulled into the rest stop to find some food. The rest stops all have playgrounds and cafes. The boys played a bit and then we headed to the cafe for lunch. I got myself a nice bottle of Rosé to accompany my sandwich and fresh chips. All in all it was a pretty good lunch stop.
Sintra is a coastal tourist town seated in the mountains. The location led to wealthy families constructing elaborate houses and gardens, all of which can now be explored. Sintra was packed. We had our sites set on exploring the gardens of Quinta de Regaleira. Parking can be found on the roadside. We lucked into some parking alongside a local park.
The picture of the inverted tower well on Pinterest originally sparked our interest (also featured in Atlas Obscura). This tower is actually dug partially into the ground and can be accessed by tunnels through the property. It is even more incredible in person, even with the crowds, than it is in pictures.
The property is full of elaborate garden features begging you to explore. Tunnels run all over the property. Popping you out on the other side of hills and in different tower features. You will want your flashlight (on your phone) to explore many of these, although the more popular ones are lit by rope lights.
The boys led our exploration of the property. We popped out in those caves down below but climbed up top for a full view of the water feature.
In some places we had to cross the water on stepping stones.
Stairs wind into the forest and then disappear into new caverns. I’m sure there was plenty we didn’t see as we explored the property.
There were even caves to be explored by boat. The boys were seriously just in heaven running around here. Jeff and I kept talking about the epic game of capture the flag that could be held here.
Statues and fountains are also found throughout the gardens. Some are made to look as if they existed even before the castle.
Others look more man made and in the style of the castle itself.
These little towers perch on a cliff and provide a wonderful view of the “neighborhood” and the other eccentric buildings of Sintra.
This passageway takes you back out to the street. Imagine entering the property this way though, greeted by large blue painted tiles that open into a bizarre garden.
Although we opted not to explore inside the house we did follow the path toward the house to find the cafe.
All that exploring had made us quite hungry. The boys chose pastries, but I opted for crepes with honey and walnuts accompanied by a glass of port.
With bellies full we headed back into the caves to find our way out. Our explorations had worn the boys out quite a bit so we decided to head straight to the hotel. There are many more places in Sintra to be explored though, should you have more time here. We suggest 3 days and 2 nights for a full visit.
With tired kids we drove to the coast and checked into our hotel. Hotel Oceano is a true gem. We booked a triple room, but were upgraded upon arrival to a room with a great view of the beach.
The kids wanted to hit the beach and neighboring playground as soon as we arrived. There is a tram that leaves from just outside the hotel and heads back into Sintra, but since we had the car we did not make use of the tram.
Parking at the hotel is the public parking lot across the street at the beach. When it’s crowded they do open up an adjacent dirt lot for parking.
We ate the best meal of the trip at Bar De Fundo on the beach in Sintra. The food was outstanding and the setting is idyllic.
The restaurant seems to extend into the cliffs. I would not call this place child-friendly, but kids are certainly tolerated. Our kids were well behaved and as a result doted on by the staff.
Even our little little joined us for a while to enjoy the view. He then passed out and slept through most of the meal in his car seat.
The restaurant is right on the beach. There are completely undisturbed views across the ocean all the way to North America. The kids loved playing on the rocks and looking at the beach.
When we left dinner the sun had set and the beach was lit only by the restaurant’s flood lights. Don’t we all look well fed? Seriously, go here if you are going to be nearby. You will want to make a reservation as the place is small and vacationers and locals alike flood the place for dinner and evening drinks.
Our Hotel Oceano room rate included breakfast. It was off-season and occupancy was low so instead of a buffet they just brought out what we wanted for breakfast. There was a huge selection and clearly a large buffet is offered in the high season.
A bit further down the coast, heading back to Lisbon, we stopped at Cabo de Roca. The lighthouse sits on the westernmost point of Portugal and hence Continental Europe.
There were already several tour buses parked when we arrived. The kids ran through the fields and we all enjoyed the sea views.
We walked down the dirt path a bit to see the lighthouse up close. The weather was perfect so it was nice to enjoy some outdoor time.
We made a second stop at Boca de Inferno, a cliff structure that includes a small quay and natural arch. There is ample street parking. You can walk out on the rocks to investigate the rock structure. There are railings, but we kept the kids within our reach as the rocks are slippery with the sea spray blowing back up on them.
In heavier seas there is a little blow hole here as well, but we did not have a chance to see it. I’m not sure I would want to explore this area when the seas were rougher! There are a few little shops and a small cafe which we bypassed in favor of heading to Lisbon.
Portugal has so many magical little places on its Atlantic coast. We missed quite a few choosing the things we knew our kids would enjoy over white-washed towns with cute stores. So much to see in Portugal!
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