Going to the beach in Porto and the North
The north of Portugal has hundreds of kilometres of beaches in settings of great beauty. Lots of choice with good support infrastructure, both on the coast, and in the interior of the area, along the rivers and streams.
On the coast, the beaches are washed by the Atlantic Ocean, which is usually wild and invigorating, ideal for adrenaline-fuelled sports, but also much loved by those who faithfully come back year after year for their holidays. Moledo and Vila Praia de Âncora, in the far north, offer beaches of exceptional beauty that have attracted families for many years, as ideal spots for relaxing with family and friends. Viana do Castelo, at the mouth of the Lima River, has spacious beaches, such as Afife and Cabedelo, offering good conditions for surfing.
Photo: Praia de Castelo do Neiva | Viana do Castelo © ABAE
Ofir, in the North Coast Natural Park, in the district of Esposende, is a well-known destination for holiday-makers, where natural beauty combines with an animated night-life. Nearby, Apulia Beach, with its curious windmills, was known as a land of the sargaceiros as gathering seaweed (sargassum) - for use in the fertilization of the agricultural lands - was one of the most traditional activities of the region.
Further south, Espinho offers good conditions for surfers of all levels, particularly at Praia da Baía where the Direita do Casino wave, to the right, is one of the most well-known spots for experienced surfers, while Póvoa de Varzim also offers consistent, strong waves. This coastal strip, which extends as far as Vila do Conde, has strong fishing traditions, which are still very prevalent today. Matosinhos and Gaia rival one another for the number of beaches with abundant sand and good conditions for water sports, with unique facilities such as the tidal pool Piscina das Marés in Leça da Palmeira, designed by Siza Vieira. In Gaia district, the boardwalk, for people to move quickly over the sand, is also used for sports and offers amazing views, such as the curious Capela do Senhor da Pedra chapel on the sands of Miramar.
Photo: Praia do Senhor da Pedra - Miramar | Vila Nova de Gaia © Arquivo Turismo de Portugal
Most of these are blue flag beaches and have accessible beach awards, confirming their quality and accessibility, guarantees also characterise the river beaches. Many of these bathing areas are in Natural Parks and other protected areas, and offer landscapes of stunning beauty. For example, the Douro International Natural Park, near the border with Spain, home to the Congida River Beach. Or Albufeira do Azibo dam with its waters of very pleasant temperatures that can be safely enjoyed on the beaches of Ribeira or Fraga da Pegada.
Photo: Praia da Fraga da Pegada - Albufeira do Azibo | Macedo de Cavaleiros © Manuel Cardoso
The Lima, Vizela, Coura, Caima and Cávado rivers offer other bathing areas created by dams or small waterfalls, with a guarantee of coolness and freshness. In these areas, green is the dominant colour and a trip to the beach offers the bonus of possible sightings of birds and a range species of fauna and flora in their habitats. Many of these locations also offer marked tracks to enable visitors to explore the area in contact with the traditional populations and activities. Take a hike along one of them and use your trip to a beach for a dip into the traditions and culture of this region.