Funchal gets a ringside seat on Madeira’s south coast. Set on a hillside, this colourful capital city divvies up the old and new. You’ve got modern shopping malls and a cosmopolitan marina happily sharing space with the cobbled streets and traditional restaurants. And it’s all overseen by a cable car that serves up impressive views.
Canico de Baixo
Mile-long Canico de Baixo makes its home on Madeira’s south coast. The lower section of the town stretches out over a short shelf of volcanic cliff, just above the shoreline. It’s dotted with fancy villas and luxe hotels that are geared up for package holidays. Trundle up the steep hill, and you’ll find yourself in the old town of Canico. This cobbled cluster of streets centres around a pocket-sized square and an 18th-century church. Meander inland a little more to get to a few of the island’s famous levada walking trails.
As resorts go, this one’s rather a charmer. Set on Madeira’s east coast less than 2 kilometres from the airport, Santa Cruz is a small, colourful place where whitewashed churches sit relaxing between the green hills and the blue sea. There’s a very laid-back vibe here, but the island’s livelier capital, Funchal, is only 15 minutes down the road.
Set on Madeira’s southwest coast, Calheta is a real blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of resort. It’s a diddy little town perched on a green hillside with just a marina and a main road dealing up a clutch of shops, restaurants and bars. But it’s that quiet, off-the-radar feel that makes it such a find. And when you do want more, the capital, Funchal, is about half-an-hour away.