Thursday, September 23, 2021

São Martinho do Porto is a freguesia in the Municipality of Alcobaça. It sits on the Silver Coast between Peniche and Nazaré. 

The freguesia covers an area of 15 square kilometers and has a resident population of around 3000. 

That can increase to 50,000 in August as it is a popular holiday destination for Portuguese, British, Dutch and Germans. There are many apartments to rent in the bay, you might want to book at the tourist information office or take your chance with the famous "rooms, chambres, zimmers" ladies who have a range of rooms to let, some old some modern. If you are visiting in July or August it is a good idea to book your accommodation in advance or you might be disappointed. São Martinho is geared up very much to Tourism in the summer but it is a very nice place to visit at any time of year, and maybe have dinner in one of the many beachfront restaurants watching the sun set over the bay.

It is a small town that sits on the northern edge of a natural shell shaped bay, with a narrow opening (barra), only 250m wide, to the Atlantic. This natural phenomenon makes it a very calm beach, with the waves gently lapping at the sand. The town itself is calm, without the high rise apartments and noisy nightclubs that are so typical of seaside resorts and is therefore very popular with families. The water is safe for even small children to swim and although the water is not crystal clear, it is warm in the summer. The bay is very sheltered and does not get the fierce waves and currents that are typical of this coast as they are stopped by the barra; you can see the waves breaking in the distance across the bay.   sao martinho porto

There is a train station ideally situated a very short walk from the seafront, so a good choice if you do not have transport or don’t want to take the car. The train is a good idea in summer as with so many people trying to get in and out of the town the roads get very busy and parking can be a real problem.

The town is neatly divided in two sections - upper and lower. The upper section on the north-easterly hills overlooks the bay, and there you will find most of the permanent residents, the Church, and businesses that cater for the locals. There are many Portuguese that have Summer and weekend houses here. The lower section is built around the northern and eastern shores of the bay and caters for the tourists. Along the beachfront, you will find an array of restaurants and cafes. The promenade is very modern and clean with many bars and restaurants. The upper and lower sections are connected by a sort of ring road for vehicles and three very steep pedestrian streets, known locally as ladeiras (slopes). These slopes are one of the main hallmarks of the town and you may hear loud complaints as people return home after a long and tiring day at the beach.

Another feature of the lower section is the quay. In the late afternoons of Summer it is common to see trawlers moored at the quayside to unload the day’s catch; bales of algae “fished” by expert divers. São Martinho is the leading Portuguese red algae fishing centre which is used in Chinese medicine. On the beach you will find beach football and volleyball, and even parascending and windsurfing are available. However, São Martinho is more well known for its’ nautical sports; rowing, jet skiing and sailing - either racing dinghies or the more sedate old fishing boats which have been refurbished into pleasure craft. Fishing is hugely popular, either in the calm waters of the bay or in much rougher outer seas.

The best known hill around the town is Facho (Torch Flame) which was the highest point of the Portuguese coast for a very long time, until wind erosion reduced its height. From its top there is a breathtaking view of the entrance to the bay and on clear days it is possible to see the Berlengas Archipelago, a popular spot with divers. The top of Facho hill can be reached by a steep road, from which you can also reach Salgados beach, which is rather dangerous and not suitable for swimming so it is usually much quieter. Families still love this beach because it is quiter than the main bay and the fierce waves and sea and great to watch.

To the south of the bay are the extensive and beautiful sand dunes of Salir do Porto. The dunes are great fun for all ages and surprisingly steep, where you can go running or sand sledging down them, and forget your cares for a while. At this end of the bay you will also find the ruins of the old customs house at the water’s edge.

Walk along the quay and you will find a tunnel that leads through to the pebble beach of São Antonio. You can go on foot or drive by road to the top of the hill. If you climb the ancient and uneven stairway, you will get to the point where the lighthouse is situated. Stand here and you will be able to see the big differences of the water between the Atlantic Ocean and the sheltered bay which is the last vestiges of an ancient gulf. If you follow the road you will drive through Vale de Guisos; this aptly translates to 'Rattles Valley' because the wind often rattles through here, funneled by the hill of Sant’Ana to the south and the lighthouse hill to the north. If you continue to follow the road you will happen upon the chapel of São Antonio and a big stone cross dedicated to São Antonio, which is certainly picturesque and worth a photo stop. Fishermen’s wives used to congregate at the chapel to watch out for their men coming back from fishing trips, and to pray for their safe return.

If you check out the guidebooks and the internet, there is little written about São Martinho do Porto. You can look at this in one of two ways – one there is no reason to visit this semi-sleepy town or two – the locals don’t want you to discover their hidden gem. No doubt about it, Sao Martinho is developing rapidly – just look at the amount of building that is happening in the area – but also realise this; the way in which the town is growing is sympathetic to the area and is ensures that São Martinho is a place that you should visit and enjoy for its unique appeal.

Market day happens every day (except Monday) in São Martinho.

For more information about the town you will find the Posto do Turismo (Tourist Office) in Rua Vasco da Gama, towards the northerly end of the town. 
Tel: 262 989 110
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.