In the heart of Portugal's Silver Coast, there is a bay that mother nature sculpted in the shape of a shell and where time beats to a different pace. Known as Portugal's best family beach, São Martinho do Porto joins natural beauty with a lifestyle that holds a very special place in the hearts of many!
Although it is during the summer that most people come to this quaint little seaside village, those who know its charms well guarantee that even in the coldest winter days São Martinho do Porto always holds a unique appeal. An enchantment unlike any other that will make you want to return, time and time again!
In the past, the calm waters of the bay were home to an important seaport, where the caravels used in the Portuguese Discoveries were built. To the south, on Salir do Porto beach, the ruins of the old customs house are one of the few remaining testimonies of that time, as well as the recently rebuilt Chapel of Sant' Ana. The ancient stones of this chapel bore witness to several generations of sailors who set sail from this shore throughout the last six centuries.
Today, the activity of the boats is limited to the north bank of the bay, known as "Cais" (which means quay in Portuguese). It is here that Ti' Luis, as he is affectionately called by the locals, helps those who arrive in São Martinho do Porto by boat.
Amongst the small fishing boats and leisure crafts, São Martinho do Porto is still today a port of refuge and a meeting point for all those who love the sea!
But São Martinho do Porto's pier is not only about boats and fishing! Next to the Nautical Club, you will find several restaurants facing the waterline, where the smell of the ocean air and seaweed is enhanced with the aroma of traditional Portuguese cuisine!
Here, you can count on a wide selection of delicious fish that is daily unloaded directly from the boats to the restaurants! But also fresh shellfish, traditional desserts and of course Portuguese wine! Enjoying clams "à bulhão" with a glass of chilled Portuguese white wine while the sun sets over the bay is one of the local's favourite ways to end a day at the beach!
It is not by chance that São Martinho do Porto is considered the best beach for families in Portugal! If you walk along the shore at the height of summer or talk to the locals, you will quickly realise that the love for São Martinho do Porto is something that spans generations!
Every year, the same families return to the same places to create new memories and keep alive the tradition of São Martinho do Porto's unforgettable summers. Simple everyday things like going to the local farmer's market to buy fresh fruit and vegetables are part of the unique identity of this Silver Coast beach village. Small details that are traditionally Portuguese but unique to São Martinho do Porto!
Other summer favourite things to do in São Martinho do Porto include:
Exploring the tunnel that connects the pier to the other side of the northern shore of the bay, facing the open ocean;
Wandering the cobblestone streets of the historic old town and reaching the beach using the "ascensor" (a free elevator on the square right after the town's main church);
Drinking a "café" and buying a "trança" (a traditional Portuguese pastry) at Pastelaria Concha, one of São Martinho's oldest and most famous bakery shops;
Jumping on the giant inflatables set in the middle of the bay;
Cycling along the beachfront path solo or on one of the group bikes that are available for rent;
Renting a "gaivota" (pedal boat), stand-up paddleboard or motorbike to ride in the bay;
Watching the sun set in the centre of the bay during the longer summer days.
Walking along the beach to the sound of the gentle lapping of the bay waves, with the seagulls flying high above, is also a wonderful experience! If you enjoy the beach early in the morning, be prepared to find an indescribable feeling of peace and plenitude. Even when the mornings have that romantic Silver Coast freshness and fog, and the sun is still shy, São Martinho do Porto will fill your soul!
If you prefer a slightly more active way of life, the village also offers a lot to see and do! From the seaside cafés, restaurants and shops, which are open all year round, to the various water sports available... there's something for every taste and lifestyle.
Even when the striped cloth tents disappear from the beach to welcome Autumn, and tourists and holidaymakers return to their busy lives, São Martinho do Porto continues to enchant all those who have the privilege of enjoying its serenity in the low season.
During the winter, there are also plenty of sunny days with mild temperatures that will allow you to continue enjoying the outdoors! Later in the afternoon and on weekends, the locals join together for lazy strolls or a jog along the seafront, enjoying family time, their pets or simply relaxing on the extensive sandy beach.
The calm waters of the bay are also ideal for canoeing, stand-up paddle or sailing year-round. From January to December, you will always find people in the water! At the local Clube Náutico there are several lessons available for all ages and levels of experience, and local schools also take advantage of the bay's calm waters to instill a love of the sea in pupils from an early age. Don't be surprised to find very young children sailing by themselves... São Martinho do Porto is not only very safe, it is also extremely family-friendly!
But think again if you thought São Martinho do Porto only had the sea to offer! It's true that this former shipbuilders' village has the smell of the sea air ingrained in its skin, but also a genuine love for all that is connected to a simpler way of life. On days when you don't feel like getting sand between your toes, spread out a blanket on the grass in the park by the pier and just relax!
Regardless of how you choose to enjoy São Martinho do Porto, take your time! After all, "The Real Portugal" deserves to be experienced without haste!
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