View of Portofino from the walk up to the castle
Italy with kids

A perfect day trip to Portofino with kids: how to go about it, all you need to know

All you need to know to plan a wonderful day trip to Portofino with kids: how to get there, what to expect, where to eat.

Few places embody the romantic idea of the Italian Riviera as much as Portofino.

The town is picture perfect. nestled in a cozy cove embraced by luscious green high cliffs, overlooking cobalt blue sea, the town has colorful houses, a pretty marina, blooming bougainvilleas and fancy yacht that evoke Italian summer nights with prosecco and sea breezes.

That said, Portofino is often different from what people expect it to be.

Unlike other towns in the area, such as Santa Margherita, in Portofino itself there is little more than its photos suggest.

While stunning, Porrofino is very much a marina, with a beautiful walk up a castle, few restaurants and some shops, no such thing as a day to day local life, a promenade or even a beach.

Portofino is jaw-droppingly beautiful marina but very much a day trip kind of destination, especially if you have kids and don’t have a yacht….

I find Portofino one of the most beautiful places in Italy and I highly recommend to visit if you are in the area.

The last time I went, I was with my two kids and we had a lovely day. This is exactly how we went about our day, where we ate and all my tips for visiting Portofino with kids. I hope you find it useful!

Why visit Portofino with kids

I recommend visiting Portofino with kids if you have good walkers who can enjoy a pretty town and a climb up the castle.

Why not to visit Portofino with kids

I don’t recommend visiting Portofino with kids if you are hoping to find a place with things to do for them.

Portofino is a pretty port and a great place for a wander and a meal but there is nothing for kids as such (the place is tiny) and the walk up the castle, which is the best bit, it not stroller friendly.

Pretty street in Portofino with colorful houses

So, while I think a day trip to Portofino is worth it for the views, I also believe that expectations are key for a successful day in Portofino with kids.

If you are hoping for a town with carousels, playgrounds and a low key family vibe, this is not it: instead, I recommend you to to nearby Santa Margherita or, even better for kids, Chiavari or Sestri Levante, from where you can reach Portofino for the day.

The best way to get to Portofino

The best way to get to Portofino is by boat, may this be private boat or a ferry.

Portofino is a marina with colorful houses looking towards the sea. This means that to get the quintessential Portofino waterfront view, you want to be coming is from water.

We took the ferry here from Rapallo and it was perfect: I’ll give more details below about our exact itinerary for the day but the ferry is ideal and easy to use.

You can find schedule and book tickets here or get them on the day at the kiosk at the Rapallo port.

Arrival view in Portofino, Italy

The best thing to do in Portofino with kids in a day – climb up Portofino Castle

The best things to do in Portofino with kids are climbing up the castle and enjoy a beautiful meal in the village.

Portofino castle is perched high up above the town, on the cliff to your left as you come into the port.

The way up is a slowly climbing, narrow yet not exposed path with some steps and some uneven passages.

It is not a hike, it is very much a town walk but since there paving is uneven and there are steps, it is not easy if you have mobility issues and you cannot negotiate it with a stroller.

If you are visiting Portofino with a baby, you want to have a carrier here. If you have toddlers, if you go slowly you will be able to do it but do expect to carry them for part of the way up or down as they are likely to get tired. I would recommend a carrier for that age too.

Once on top, the main thing to see here is the view.

There is no space for little ones to run around but there is a nice cafe with stunning views; so if you hold hands or you can keep them safe beside you, you can definitely enjoy Portofino castle with young kids and take it its stunning views.

Where to eat in Portofino with kids

Our favorite family friendly restaurant in Portofino is called L’Isolotto, Vico Nuovo, 20, 16034 Portofino GE, Italy

The restaurant is in a small street just behind the marina and it is delicious, welcoming and well priced. They have both indoor and outdoor tables and serve local specialties and traditional Italian fare; the atmosphere is casual and homely.

We love it because of the quality of the food but also because it is not on the marina, which is super touristy and sees yo eating pretty much shoulder to shoulder to the people lining up for the ferry…

Our perfect day trip to Portofino: our recommended itinerary

As you can tell from this overview, Portofino is a few hours type of place so I recommend adding another stop to your day, a stop so magical, it may become your favorite stop of your Italy trip: San Fruttuoso.

San Fruttuoso is a monastery in an isolated, stunning cove only a short boat ride from Portofino.

It is a place with very little: just the beautiful monastery a couple of coves to swim, a cafe and a small restaurant ans it is simply perfect for a swim!

let me tell you about our day, so you can see why we loved it so much!


Our day trip to Portofino started by taking the ferry from Rapallo.

We got to the port in the morning, on time to get on the first ferry; we noticed the stops, which included Santa Margherita, Portofino, San Fruttuoso and back and decided to get a ticket for the day which allowed us to get off in all ports.

The ferries in this area work well, are clean and pleasant. We sat on the open deck and chose a seat towards the coast so we could have the best views.

The ferry stopped in Santa Margherita, then Portofino, yet we decided to keep gong to San Fruttuoso, with the idea of seeing it from the ferry and keep going.

San Fruttuoso

When we got to San Fruttuoso however, all it took was a glance at that crystal clear water and we knew we simply had to stay and take a dip!

And so, we did!

After our swim, we headed back to the ferry are and hopped on to get to the next port: Portofino

Late morning / lunchtime

We got to Portofino at about lunchtime (it was about 1pm) so we looked for lunch first.

We quickly realized that the area of the Marina was too crowded and touristy for our liking, so we started wandering a couple of streets away from it and we found restaurant l’Isolotto, which is much more local and turned out to be delicious.

We quickly found a table and enjoyed a wonderful meal!

Fueled up by pasta al pesto and lasagne, we then climbed up to the castle which is in a position so beautiful, words fail to even begin to describe it.

As you walk into the castle, you first get a to a lovely cafe with tables outside and pretty yet limited views.

Then, if you walks inside the castle, you get to a second terrace that gives you a birds-eye view of the Portofino harbor and will make you feel like you are in Italy heaven.

View from the window of Brown Castle in Portofino

You can can say all you want about Portofino, the awful big cruise ships at the entrance of the bay (so big, they are bigger than the town, it’s heartbreaking to see them able to come to close to such a fragile bay) and the flashy yachts but honestly, the view from here is one of the best in the world and you’ll never forget it!

Mid afternoon

After a meal and the castle we were ready to get back home, so we made our way back to the ferry, quickly hopped on and headed to Santa Margherita.

Santa Margherita Ligure seafront with colorful houses and umbrellas (seen from the sea)

Since we had some time and energy to spare, we got off here, had a wander and a gelato and took the train back to our accommodation, to relax and bask in the visions of San Fruttuoso and Portofino still filling our eyes.

Practical tips for visiting Portofino with kids

Portofino is best visited between late spring and early autumn (late May to mid September) as this is when you get the best weather, ferries are running and restaurants are open.

The best way to get to Portofino is from the water, so I recommend families with kids to get the ferry here

I recommend to mix Portofino with San Fruttuoso (older kids) or Santa Margherita (all ages) so they can have swim and, in Santa Margherita, time at the playground

Do not bring the stroller and you won’t be able to use it in Portofino. I highly recommend you use a carrier for the day.

Do not expect attractions for kids or things to do in Portofino: plan this as a lunch/ sightseeing stop but choose accommodation in another one of the towns nearby

You cannot bathe or swim in Portofino itself but you will often heat about Portofino beaches: these are not in the town and may requite hiking or transport to get there. If planning on going to the beach, we found San Fruttuoso (for older kids) and Santa Margherita (for all) to be best.

I hope this account of our day in Portofino, our impressions and how we went about it was useful. Safe travels!

How to plan a day trip to Portofino with kids: pin this!

Photo of Portofino and photo of a child on the ferry to Portofino with text: a perfect day trip to Portofino with kids

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Marta Correale is an Italian mama of two. Born and raised in Rome, Marta has a passion for travel and especially enjoys showing off Italy to her kids, who are growing up to love it as much as she does! A classics graduate, teacher of Italian as a second language and family travel blogger, Marta launched Mama Loves Italy as a way to inspire, support and help curious visitors to make the most of a trip to Italy and learn about Italian culture on the way.