Nestling at the heart of a wide bay on the eastern edge of Madeira, just a short drive from the island’s international airport, Machico is a pretty fishing town with plenty of tourist appeal and some of the most spectacular ocean views in Madeira.
Set in a fertile valley at the mouth of the river of the same name, the town is conveniently divided into two parts – the historic centre to the west and the old fishing quarter to the east – just 26km from the island’s cosmopolitan capital Funchal
Accessible via Madeira’s steep eastern flank, Machico is a lovely seaside town of broad avenues and pleasant squares shaded by plane trees. It’s also the spot where the two intrepid explorers, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, made their first landfall on the 1st of July 1419, thereby officially claiming the island for the Portuguese crown..
But a local legend suggests that they weren’t the first Europeans to set foot on Madeira Island.
In fact, the town is named after an Englishman called Machim who found himself washed ashore at the very same spot after being shipwrecked with his petrified bride in 1344.
It was Zarco and Teixeira themselves who later gave credence to the story by recounting how they found a crude wooden cross with a Latin inscription, which they translated as ‘Here came Machim, an Englishman, driven by the tempest, and here lies buried Anne d’Arfet, a woman who was with him’.
Located on the north side of the town’s main square, the church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of the Conception) is one of the most impressive churches of any Atlantic island. Built in 1499 when Machico was Madeira’s capital, it is notable for its fine arched portal donated by King Manuel I, who also donated the statue of the Virgin in the church’s lovely baroque interior.
The east and northern parts of Madeira boasts some fine walks.