Nature, History & Culture.

View of Funchal Madeira

Only 32 miles long and 12 miles wide this incredibly beautiful sub-tropical island rises to almost 6000 feet at its highest point.

Lush green unspoiled countryside, terraced farms and vineyards vie with the spectacular mountains, pine forests, waterfalls and craggy cliffs. Flora in abundance – hydrangeas, orchids, hibiscus, no wonder Madeira is called the Floating Garden. 

Dining out 

In the evenings life continues apace. There are hundreds of restaurants from the first class to the family business where service excels. Lots of island dishes, in particular the fresh Atlantic fish, are delicious, do sample the ‘espetada’ – beef cooked over a fire of laurel and served on a skewer.  

Take advantage of us! 

Or at least of our personal experience of these islands! We can advise you on hotels, fly/drive, eating out, sports, walking, night life, we have the answers to most questions and can find the ones we don’t have.  

Things to do 

There are 600 miles of walks, some are quite challenging and walking shoes would prove useful. Watersports abound (subject to weather) with scuba diving, deep sea fishing and dinghy sailing. Sea bathing is quite safe and there are Lidos on the outskirts of Funchal. It is useful to know that the north coast is 2° - 3° cooler. 

Car hire 

A hired car gives you so much freedom and adds an extra dimension to any holiday, but particularly in Madeira as some of the greatest pleasures are to be found in the countryside. We would be delighted to quote you prices, including baby seats if required. 

Local best buys: Embroidery, tapestry, Madeira wines, wickerwork, shoes, leather goods, flowers.  

What to do on your Madeira holiday 

We have known Madeira for over 30 years, so if there is something you need…

Many people don’t realise how much Madeira has to offer for all age groups, whether it is sporting activities including golf, cultural, nature or just relaxing in a superb spa, the island will have something for you. 

To give you just a hint - below are just some of the many things to do in Madeira.  If you have a special interest not covered here, you can either contact us using the enquiry form on this site or telephone us on 01425 480400, we would be happy to help. 

Walking and hiking in Madeira

There are 600 miles of walks, many alongside the Levadas, these are water courses running around the mountains and through forests and valleys and were built by the first settlers to carry water to inaccessible farmland.  Today they are on of the islands greatest attractions providing stunning walks some of which are quite challenging, walking shoes would definitely prove useful.  

Along these irrigation channels you will come across fauna and flora hardly found elsewhere in the world.  Bird life includes the long toed pigeon (Columba Trocaz), Zino’s petrel (Pterodroma Madeira), the Maderia Firecrest (Regulus Ignicapillus Madeirensis) and the Madeira Chaffinch. Trees and shrubs, many of which are unique to the island, are too numerous to mention here.  But if nature is what interests you we can arrange for a guided tour alternatively you can stroll some of the less challenging walks and levadas on your own.

Beautiful Gardens in Madeira 

As one would expect of an island referred to as the Floating Garden of the Atlantic, Madeira has many exotic gardens that can be visited, here we list a few, there are many more, lesser known, gardens that we can provide information on. 

The Botanical Gardens, Quinta do Bom Sucesso – have more than 2,000 exotic plants from all over the world and is now also considered a centre of science in the struggle to protect endangered plant species.  On the outskirts of Funchal the Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit whether you are an enthusiast or just enjoy nature at its best.  Open daily from 9am to 6pm 

Palheiro Gardens – next to the Palhiero Golf course and the Casa do Palheiro hotel these gardens have lovely panoramic views, spacious lawns and lakes and some of the rarest and most valuable exotic plants in the world.  About 15 minutes from Funchal and open Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30 pm. 

Monte Palace Tropical Garden – located in Quinta Monte Palace, which belongs to the José Berardo Foundation, these gardens have 100,00 species of plants from all over the world as well as native plants, orchids, and oriental garden and koi fish.  Just outside Funchal, Monte can be reached by bus, taxi or cable car.

Orchid Garden - Jardim Orquídea.  This garden has more than 50,000 plants and its orchid jungle is one of a kind in Europe.  They also research and develop new orchids and have bottled baby orchids that you can purchase and bring home as hand luggage. Located close to the Botanical Gardens open everyday 9.30am to 6pm. 

There are many other gardens well worth a visit in Madeira, the sheer variety and lovely locations make it an experience not just for the keen gardener but as a delightful holiday experience. More information is available from our office or from our excellent and knowledgeable representative on the island. 

Beaches in Madeira 

Contrary to popular belief Madeira does have beaches, admittedly they are mostly smooth basalt pebble beaches, but they do give you access to the clear waters around the island. 

Calheta Beach in Calheta on the south west coast is a man-made golden sand beach. Also in this area are the pebble beaches of Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar these are popular with surfers. 

Around Funchal are some of the pebble beaches referred to above, but if you are out and about on the island you will find other beaches with the dark grey sand that you find in places like the Canary Islands. 

Seixal is a pretty little town on the north coast and there is a small dark sand beach call Praia da Laje here which also has two natural swimming pools, in the same area is the dark sand Jamaica’s Beach. 

São Vicente and Ponta Delgada, again in the north, are popular with windsurfers and there are other water based sports facilities in this area, this popularity has led to swimming and sunbathing facilities being added at Ponta Delgada and the breakwater there has resulted in a beach in the small bay. 

Madeira may not be the beach destination of Europe but it does have enough for pleasant days out by the sea. 

Water sports in Madeira

Water sports abound, naturally subject to weather, with scuba diving, deep sea fishing and sailing (dinghies) windsurfing, waterskiing, canoeing and more. Sea bathing is quite safe and there is a Lido on the outskirts of Funchal. 

Fishing - Madeira is winning international fame as a first class destination for deep water sea fishing. It is one the best locations in the world to fish for blue marlin of over 500 kg, thanks to abundance of tuna and tuna like species in these deep waters. 

Diving - Beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean lies a fantastic underwater garden. Diving in Madeira is a unique experience. 

Jet Ski and Water Ski - Jet skiing and water skiing are fine ways to enjoy the sea and the Madeira coast, which unfurls itself in green folds around the water’s edge. 

Surf and Windsurfing - If it’s adrenaline you’re after, then the Madeira coast is the place Jardim do Mar, Paul do Mar and Sao Vicente all offer excellent surfing, with waves able to stir even the stout-hearted. Windsurfing conditions are also very good. Ten years ago a native of Madeira won the world championship! 

It is useful to know that the north coast is 2°-3° cooler. 

Golf in Madeira

The mild climate makes Madeira ideal for golf. The Madeira Golf and Country Club at Santo da Serra, 15 miles from Funchal, has hosted the Madeira Open part of the PGA European Tour, since 1993. In 2007 it was held in March as soon as dates are confirmed for 2008 we will post more information here.  A second continuous 18 hole course is available at the stunningly beautiful Palheiro Golf. 

Santo da Serra Golf 

Redesigned in 1991 by Robert Trent Jones into a 27 hole golf course, this is in a spectacular landscape.  The Machico and the Desertas courses are usually the ones played on the Madeira Island Open these are nicely challenging for the golfer but also blend well with the natural environment.  With four optional Tees at each hole the player can choose the difficulty from a relaxed game or a more challenging test. 

Golf stars, many of them Ryder's Cup players, are witness to the excellent quality of Santo da Serra’s fairways and greens. Semi-roughs and roughs provide evidence of the meticulous care given to the courses conditions. 

Only 20 minutes from Funchal Santo da Serra has a newly renovated Club House with restaurant and bar and a terrace with views to the practice area which has two putting greens, chipping green, bunker practice and driving range.

Naturally there is a pro shop and buggies and trolleys are provided. 

Palheiro Golf

Palheiro Golf is situated in the hills to the east of Funchal near the Quinta do Palheiro gardens and the Casa do Palheiro hotel, it has fantastic views of the sea and Funchal Bay.  An 18 hole par 72 course designed by Cabell Robinson with two holes replaced in 2003 it skillfully winds around the Palheiro Estate which is famous for its Pine Forests and lush vegetation. With regular tournaments and challenges this is a popular course with visitors to the island including many international players who attend the Madeira Open. 

Facilities include a six hole Academy Course for all levels, a chipping green with bunkers, putting green, warm up driving range, practice nets, PGA professional and team, club and buggy and hand trolley hire and a fully equipped Pro shop.  What more could you want?  Oh yes, the Clubhouse, it is stylish with a superb restaurant run by the Relais & Chateaux, Casa do Palheiro hotel. 

For guests wishing to do a two centre Porto Santo the sister island with its 9 km sand beach also has a 27 hole course designed by Seve Ballesteros.  For more information on this do please contact us. 

Spas in Madeira

Due to the very high quality of hotels on offer there is a good range of Spas on the island. Each hotel spa has its own theme and range of therapies many of which we have mentioned in more detail on the relevant hotel page.  Many of our staff have visited and some have been fortunate enough to try the Spas too, do take advantage of their personal experience and knowledge.         

Madeira Wine visits

Madeira Wine – there are many wineries that you can visit and taste the surprising range of Madeira wines and of course there is the wine festival each year.  This year it is from 31 Aug to 2 September. 

Cultural and Architectural Interest

There are 23 museums covering Art, Photography, the history of the island, Madeira wine, a toy museum and much more – we can give you more information on these.  The range of Churches and interesting buildings abound.