Bid adieu to the Algarve: 8 alternative family holiday destinations

Photo of Cathy ToogoodPhoto of Cathy Toogood
By Cathy Toogood

30 June 2022 | Updated 5 July 20235 min read

Coastal path with Hydrangeas, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal

Get ready to pack your Trunkis for shores unknown! It can be all too easy to revisit familiar holiday destinations, especially with kids in tow. But we’re here to help you discover somewhere new.

These destinations have beautiful beaches, watersports galore and endless family fun, but you’ll find them with fewer crowds than the usual big-hitters. Just don’t tell everyone.

Bored by the Canary Islands? The Azores will excite

The otherworldly volcanic landscape, blue skies and twinkling waters of the Canary Islands may tempt you back time after time but book a trip to the Azores instead and you'll get there before the crowds do.

This Portuguese nine-island archipelago has volcanic landscapes too, and you could all soak in geothermal waters, visit black-sand beaches or go rock-pooling. A real trump card for many families, though, are the whale- and dolphin-watching trips on offer.

MS Vila Nova

  • Ponta Delgada, The Azores, Portugal
  • 14 May 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Stansted

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Conquered Corfu? Pay a visit to Paxos and Antipaxos

Corfu’s shores are delightful but you can get the same Greek hospitality with a more laidback feel on the nearby island of Paxos. You’ll have to get the ferry from Corfu to Paxos as there’s no airport, but this only adds to its appeal as it keeps visitor numbers down.

A day on this Greek island with your little ones can be spent at Harami Beach near Lakka, where yachts bob in the distance on the turquoise waters and there’s a lovely taverna. For powdery white sands that could be in the Caribbean, take a water taxi to nearby Antipaxos for the day.

Skip crowded Cornwall and visit spacious Northumberland

While Cornwall’s coast and creative side may appeal, it’s likely to be packed over the summer months. So, try England’s quietest county, Northumberland, instead.

You can run wild with the kids on sweeping golden stretches here, challenge yourself during surfing lessons or go fossil hunting. Plus, there are castles to explore and Roman forts to discover. Between April and late July, you’ll all love spotting puffins on the nearby Farne Islands too.

Done the Algarve? Alentejo awaits

While the Algarve’s turquoise coastline is undeniably good looking, Portugal’s largest region, Alentejo, offers a more laidback slice of Portuguese life.

There’s plenty for families, from exploring the Roman temple in the UNESCO city of Evora to hiking in the Costa Vicentina Natural Park. If your holiday style is more beach based, consider the whitewashed beach resort of Vila Nova de Milfontes where older children can learn how to surf.

As the closest airports to the region are Lisbon and Faro, you’ll need to hire a car to visit.

Love the Italian Lakes? Seek new shores in Slovenia

If you enjoy lake dips and boat trips in the gorgeous Italian Lakes, try Slovenia’s Julian Alps. Here, the ridiculously photogenic town of Bled has a beautiful lake to swim in with the Church of the Assumption on an island at its centre. Row your own boat or take a boat trip here with the kids to ring its wishing bell.

Quieter Lake Bohinj nearby has family-friendly beach areas on its shores, plus you can take the cable car up Mount Vogel, which towers behind the water, for some knock-out views and a family hike.

Austria Trend Hotel Ljubljana

  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 21 May 2024
  • Room only
  • From Manchester

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Exhausted all options on Majorca? Fall for Formentera

Majorca’s beaches, coves and lively resorts are deservedly popular but if you’re looking for something different with the kids, try a trip to the smaller Balearic Island of Formentera, just south of Ibiza.

You’ll struggle to drag your family off the beaches on this laidback island. Visit Ses Illetes, which regularly top lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world, or dive into the warm, shallow waters lapping the powdery sands of Cala Saona.

There are also miles of cycle lanes to explore on, watersports to master and horse-riding lessons, too. And, after an active day, you’ll all appreciate a slice of the island’s traditional dessert, flaó – a cheesecake with peppermint.

Swap Croatia’s charms for neighbour Montenegro’s beauty

With its pretty cities and idyllic islands, there’s no denying Croatia’s beauty. But smaller Montenegro certainly competes with its glistening turquoise bays, towering mountains and Venetian-style towns. Explore Kotor’s old town with the kids, relax on a beach on the Budva Riviera and try white-water rafting on the Tara River.

For the bargain hunters among you, it’s also worth noting that Montenegro is generally cheaper than Croatia. According to Numbeo, a three-course meal for two people in a mid-range restaurant costs around €66.41 in Dubrovnik compared to €42.50 in Kotor.*

Hotel Tara

  • Becici, Montenegro
  • 15 June 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Stansted

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Tired of Dubai? Enjoy an Oman odyssey

With its larger-than-life attractions and luxurious hospitality, Dubai certainly dazzles. But if you’re looking for an alternative winter sun option, Oman’s rolling desert may be just for you.

You can all have fun in the dunes, ride camels and splash about in a water-filled wadi (river valley). There are also plenty of stunning sandy beaches to chill out on, plus opportunities to spot turtles and dolphins.

A visit to its capital, Muscat, will make a memorable day trip, while there’s green space and shade for the kids to burn off some energy in at Qurum Natural Park.

* Please note the prices are indicative only. Prices taken from cost-of-living data website, Numbeo, on July 5, 2023.

Fraser Suites Muscat

  • Muscat, Oman
  • 1 November 2024
  • Room only
  • From Heathrow

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