From golf to wellness to a surprising range of great eateries, this pocket of the Algarve is a hidden gem.
The Algarve has a reputation for golf and groups of guys on holiday; But not having visited the sunshine coast since my first misspent summer working abroad as a student, my memories were slightly hazy.
And to be honest, arriving at the fifties inspired Magnolia Hotel in Quinta do Lago (QDL) I had high expectations from the outset. Although I couldn’t check in until 3 pm, I was able to get a towel card and hit the pool whilst perusing the boutique hotel’s facilities menu. With all the mod cons, including a therapeutic spa (book in for treatments ranging from body scrubs and wraps, to deep cleansing facials and gel polish pedicures 24 hours ahead); Along with a state of the art mini gym, tennis court and indoor jacuzzi, I knew I would be spoilt for choice if I got a bit fidgety.
Recently refurbished and under new management, the Motel vibe was apparent throughout the main building. From the welcome sign in the vintage forecourt complete with baby pink and blue, sit-up- and- beg bicycles, to the funky reception, mid-century modern inspired lounge/bar furniture, and artwork from an ever-changing roster of local modern artists, the hotel invites you to expect the unexpected.
The hotel rooms
With 74 rooms, 3 suites and 7 private cottages in low rise blocks past the pool, the vibe was relaxed and is child-friendly. Offering childcare and entertainment for guests to have a night out, but when I visited I didn’t spy a single one! With each room varying in size, the hotel provides options for those on a budget- with the basic rooms providing shampoo, shower gel and a hairdryer. There is no fridge, so you might want to ask for a bucket of ice, to enjoy a bottle of wine on your private balcony. However the USB charger points, UK and European sockets, and flatscreen TV with international channels were a useful touch, and the Wifi was fast throughout the premises. Bigger suites are available.
With one bar in the main building, opening up to a heated, saltwater pool, this is the area which has had the most attention. The pool has been extended with the re-fit, and attractive loungers with funky vintage umbrellas around the pool, which for sun- worshippers is handily positioned to get the sun all day. But there is also shady seating on the lawn. Providing the ideal base for lazy afternoons, the chillout music, waiter service and faint sway of the trees, is the ideal time to catch up on some reading, or dozing!
The hotel is planning to show classic movies on a big screen throughout the summer, and the pool bar is open until late; You might not want to leave the premises! You can also choose from a healthy breakfast (included in the B&B price), with freshly made eggs, fruits, cold meats, bread and fruit and bottomless tea and coffee, as well as day time snacks and a la carte dinner. Don’t forget to try the ultimate cheese toastie 24-hour bar snack if you come in peckish!
However, there are also plenty of delicious restaurants and activities within a 15-minute drive. Obviously, you are in a prime position for some of the best golf courses of the region, such as the Quinta do Lago South, North and Laranja, and beginners, like myself, can enjoy putting off at the Koko club and bar.
For a more refined dinner, Bovinos Steakhouse is probably the most well-known eatery in the area. With a huge selection of cocktails and equally impressive wine menu, the attention is in the detail. Even as a pescetarian, I was not deterred by the meaty menu, as it offered plenty of fish and vegetarian options. With first class service and a live jazz band, this excelled all expectations.
However, if you want to mix up your exercise routine, head to the Campus for the ultimate sports club, which is the newest addition to the area. If you are feeling fit/sluggish/energetic or determined, there will no doubt be a class to suit. Whether you want to focus on body and mind or book in for a personal training session, anything is possible. Or take a tennis or padel lesson from the highly enthusiastic instructors; I recommend the latter as the court is smaller and you are encased in plastic walls which makes running around just a little less strenuous! And gym bunnies can try out equipment that I have only ever dreamed of in the two fully equipped gyms. Coupled with a delightfully spacious spa and 25-metre outdoor pool which overlooks the mountains, you could easily spend the day in fitness paradise, finishing off with a hearty dinner at ‘Danos’. The adjacent warehouse style sports bar which shows all British sporting events.
It is actually worth exploring the area if only to see the millionaire’s houses behind pruned shrubbery, long driveways and high gates! A Mecca for footballers, pro golfers, TV personalities and Coleen Rooney, QDL attracts the wealthy. In fact, Ms Rooney is often seen with the kids at The Shack during the holidays, and I can see why. Based on the artificial lakeside, it has its own private beach and loungers, and the restaurant is buzzing with a delicious fresh fish based menu, and cocktails. Enjoy a long lunch in the shaded decking, then relax on a cabana or lounger, where you just press the buzzer for service. This is paradise!
But if you want to impress, head to the upscale, air-conditioned ‘Casa do Lago’ which is a little further down the beach. More reserved and classic, again, the main menu is fish, but salads and kids options are available; The hidden gem here is the on-site pool!
From golf to wellness to a surprising range of great eateries, this pocket of the Algarve is a hidden gem. It won’t appeal to anyone looking for rowdy bars, but it would make a perfect place for a solo female traveller, couples, and of course golfers. It’s no wonder that those I spoke to keep coming back and back.
The Magnolia Hotel themagnoliahotelqdl.com
(+351) 289 390 705)
Offers a Standard Double Room from €120/£105 on a B&B basis.
Transfers can be arranged from Faro airport.