Review – Santa Bernarda Boat Trip, Algarve

On our first full day at the villa we set out for a walk to the beach, instead of taking the quick way via the road we headed down to the coast. This turned out to be a wrong decision by the grown ups and I will put more of that in the blog at some point but what it did give us was a view of the Santa Bernarda Pirate Ship which is stunning.

Whilst prepping for the trip to the Algarve I knew that a boat trip along the coast and to see all the caves was definitely on the agenda and once we had seen this gorgeous vessel we knew as a family we had to book this trip.

We checked out the website and discovered they had a number of options half-day and full day (including beach BBQ).  Knowing our motley crew I thought a full day would be too much so we opted for the afternoon Caves and Sailing trip deciding we could then stay on for dinner in Portimao before heading back for night swims at the villa.

Booking online was easy and then Friday afternoon we headed over to Portimao which was about 20 minutes from the where we were staying.  We parked down at the port which had plenty of parking options and headed down to board the pirate ship.

The crew did the usual safety checks and then we set sail.  Out of the Portimao harbour and past Ferragudo beach (where we would be headed in a couple of days) and out to sea and along the spectacular coastline of the Algarve.  The crew gave us enough information on where we were passing but without too much detail that it felt like a lecture – it just enabled us to sit back and enjoy the scenery and take some great pictures.  We sailed past a couple of beaches we had visited and the recognised the sites of Algar Seco where we had walked the previous evening – seeing young and old jumping and diving into the sea.

Finally, we dropped anchor, donned our life jackets and jumped into the smaller boats to go exploring the caves.  They were just beautiful (even the kiddies agreed) there are hidden beaches that you wouldn’t know about if you didn’t go exploring by ship or kayak and the light in the caves was awesome.  Had we been around for longer I am sure we would have booked a kayak trip to get closer to these hidden gems.  We saw more cliff divers and some of the kids were desperate to give it a go.

After exploring the smaller boats headed back to the Pirate Ship and we took off the life jackets and went for a swim.  The boys jumped straight off the side of the ship and I was determined to do the same.  During my travelling days I would have been straight off the highest point but age has definitely given me the fear.  However, with my travel companions chanting “do it, do it, do it” there was no way I was going to get away with just lowering myself into the water via the ladder.  So I held my nose and took the plunge.

It was cold and invigorating and my jumping made Ella want to give it a go too.  She headed up the ladder and whilst she didn’t go from the boat she only went one rung down and we were so proud of her.  She was also really chuffed with herself as she was definitely the youngest taking the plunge.

Once all the boats were back from exploring the caves it was time to set sail back again and we were keeping our eyes peeled for dolphins.  We didn’t get lucky this time around but we were not too disappointed.

Back in Portimao we were all ravenous and ready for some good food.  There are a couple of restaurants around the port but they all looked a bit samey and I was wanting some good fish so I took out the smartphone for some recommendations and happened upon a great little place called Donna Barca.  Its was pretty much under the bridge of the Ponte Velha.  Apparently it is the old fish market and the small intimate area has been converted into a number of eateries.  All the restaurants have their fresh fish displayed and you can just go and pick what you want.  The children and Nigel all opted for steak but my friend and I picked Red Bream and it was cooked on an outdoor griddle (to perfection).  We would definitely recommend the restaurant but declined any dessert in favour of picking up an ice cream at one of the Gelatos in the square.

We all had a great afternoon on the Santa Bernarda Pirate Ship and would definitely recommend this beautiful ship.


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