By Roger Cox, Editor
Quinta do Lago's 2,000 acres nudge into the adjacent Ria Formosa Natural Park, an extensive lagoon comprised of sand islands, marshes, salt pans, and freshwater and brackish lakes that are home to migratory waterfowl. Hiking trails that begin in the resort—a high-end development of homes and villas—wind into the park and continue all the way to Faro. That path also affords the only access to the beach, which lies beyond some dunes at the end of a long boardwalk across a marsh. On any given morning, hikers and bikers take to the trails, following an earthen track that has golf fairways lined with umbrella pines on one side and the lagoon on the other. The park and resort peacefully co-exist.
Golf is the resort's first love, with three courses, one of which has hosted the Portuguese Open. But Quinta do Lago took a giant step toward sporting diversity in 2018 when it opened The Campus, a €10 million multi-sports complex at the heart of the resort. Designed to appeal both to recreational athletes and professional sports teams, it encompasses a high-performance fitness center (actually, two of them), an aquatic center with a 25-meter swimming pool, a physiotherapy and rehabilitation center, a bike shed, hybrid pitch, and six tennis and four padel courts as well as a courtside cafe for light snacks and an expansive sports bar and grill.
Adult Tennis Camp Special. Book a Saddlebrook Adult Tennis Camp, which offers five hours a day of instruction, and a regular deluxe guest room at Saddlebrook Resort and they'll upgrade you to a one-bedroom suite (provided one is available at check in) at no extra cost (two-night minimum) and include a complimentary Saddlebrook Amenity basket. To get it, phone toll-free 800-729-8383, x4200 and ask for the Tennis Resorts Online Upgrade. saddlebrook.com
Pro Shop: +351 289 396 097
The depth and quality of the facilities has allowed it to lure entire professional teams, like the soccer's Glasgow Rangers and the Irish National Rugby Union, who come specifically to train. For the rest of us there are daily programs in the various activities, supplemented by guest appearances of professional athletes on hand to run camps and clinics. Which is how I ended up on court with Judy Murray.
She first started coming down even before The Campus had fully opened and liked what she found. "It has a lovely vibe to it," she told me as we sat in a small cafe overlooking the courts. "It's quite small. It's nicely laid out. It has great staff, so friendly, great dishes and coffees, you can sit out and watch the tennis and see everything that's going on. So they asked me to come out for a few days and do some training with their team of Portuguese coaches and then to commit to a number of weeks where I would host holiday camps for both kids and adults and promote the facility." That led to visits three times a year: at Easter, in summer, and during the fall school break.
The Campus markets those holiday camps year-round, with programs for kids starting with the red ball up to adults. Most are run by local staff, but a few will be headlined by celebrities like Murray (she couldn't say whether she herself would be back next year). A big part of that effort will be to lure teams and groups of friends during the less-trafficked shoulder and off seasons, with packages that bundle lodging in villas or in the Magnolia Hotel, a former motel with an engaging Palm Springs vibe and a pool, fitness center, restaurant, and bar.
Tennis holidays aside, there are private lessons, clinics, and Cardio tennis on the weekly calendar as well as seasonal tournaments and round robins.
Courts & Fees. There are four acrylic and 2 synthetic red-clay courts. Court Fees: €24/hour.
Beach. A broad, uncrowded beach can be reached only on foot, via a long boardwalk across a marshy lagoon. Once there, you'll find a restaurant and beach shack (open only in summer).
Golf Courses. Quinta do Lago has three 18-hole golf courses, each with its own challenges: North, South, and Laranjel. In addition, there is a golf academy with instruction for adults and juniors, a TaylorMade Performance Center, and a 9-hole miniature golf course each of whose holes has been modeled on famous golf holes at places like Augusta, Belfry, and Sawgrass.
Spa & Fitness Center. There is not a spa in the usual sense of the word but a wellness center focused on physiotherapy and sports massage. It share a building with two massive fitness centers: one on the first floor with the kinds of elite equipment and industrial-strength weights required by professional athletes (and teams can, in fact, have exclusive use of this gym during their visits) and a second on an upper floor with more typical—though still high end—cardio and workout equipment supplemented by classes in yoga, spinning, and the like.
And ... Ria Formosa park affords opportunities to hike, bike, kayak, paddle board, and fish, and there are guided boat tours with a marine biologist. There's also a lake within the resort that has padddleboats, swimming docks, kayaks, sailboats, windsurfers, and various inflatables. You can take surf lessons at the beach or book a sailing and snorkeling excursion on the Atlantic.
During summer, the autumn school break, and Easter, the Campus runs a 3-day and 5-day multi-sport camp for kids ages 5-8. That's in addition to the junior tennis that can be part of a holiday camp.
Broadly speaking there are two options: a villa, apartment, or townhouse ranging in size up to six bedrooms and the Magnolia Hotel, a former motel with an engaging Palm Springs vibe and a pool, fitness center, restaurant, and bar.
There are a dozen restaurants and bar scattered around the property.
If you're looking for other resorts resorts in this region, check out our Tennis Map of Europeand for comparison's sake, also take a look at:
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Travel Instructions. The nearest airport is Faro Airport (FAO).
General Tourist Information. For general information about travel to Portugal, visit Tourism Portugal's Visit Portugal website.