In Portugal’s central region, Peniche is a beach destination with many feathers on the hat. First of all, the rough sea and land lie that makes this surf central. The best of the many supremacy beaches is Praia dos Supertubos, with its tubular waves suitable for big international events.
Peniche has also been a port since the early modern times, when a fort was built to defend it. The monument has a fascinating history, first as a maritime fortification and then as a prison during the 20th century Estado Novo regime. And since Peniche is still a fishing port, the fish and seafood couldn’t be more fresh. On top of that, you must also make time for a trip to the Berlinas Islands, a coastal nature reserve.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Peniche:
1. Praia dos Supertubos
This beach in the southern part of the peninsula is highly regarded among the surfing community and was even recently included in Portugal’s Seven Wonders of Nature.
Some combination of shallow slopes, northerly winds and ocean currents creates a tall, perfectly hollow wave that’s the ultimate in surfing and bodyboarding.
There are no waves like this anywhere else in Europe, and every October it’s the site of the Rip Curl Pro event (along with nearby Praia do Baleal), when the world’s best surfers test their skills on the tube .
Fall is when the waves are the biggest, but it’s pretty consistent in any season.
2. Cabo Carvoeiro
At the end of the peninsula is the westernmost point of mainland Portugal, just north of Cape Roca.
At sunset, it is a majestic promontory with a 25-meter-high cliff topped by a strange karst formation, facing the limestone mound, the Nau dos Corvos (Crow Ship). On the horizon you can see the Berengas Islands, while evidence of prehistoric human occupation is found in the Gruta da Furninha cave.
Cabo Carvoiero has always been a shipwreck black spot and has had a lighthouse here since 1790. It continued to warn of marine traffic and a signal could be seen 15 nautical miles away.
3. Fortaleza de Peniche
The cliff-top fortress that controls the port was built by King John III in 1557 and then expanded by John IV in the 17th century. At that time it was equipped with the latest anti-gun architecture and was given a star configuration.
As one of Portugal’s important maritime defenses, it served military purposes until the end of the 19th century.
Since then, it has been either a prison for political opponents of the Estado Novo regime, or a refugee refuge from the Boer War in the late 1800s or the more recent Angolan Civil War.
You can climb up to the roof to scan the ocean, and there’s a museum inside, which we’ll cover next.
4. Museu Municipal de Peniche
Given the different histories of the fort, there are many different aspects of the museum interior.
A period of focus was Salazar’s 20th-century dictatorship, which at the time was a political prison.
The cells have remained untouched, during which time there was a secret anti-fascist activity in Portugal.
But there is also the archaeological aspect: Neolithic artifacts from the Gruta da Furninha cave are displayed here, while the many shipwrecks of the Peniche provide us with an important part of marine archaeology.
You can also learn Peniche traditions such as fishing, boat building and bobbin lace.
Baleal is a small, rugged peninsula between two white sandy beaches, formerly a whaling station, and now a small coastal village next to Peniche.
These bays, Praia do Baleal Sul and Praia do Baleal Norte, point in slightly different directions.
So, as a general rule, when one has waves, the other is calm.
If you’re here just for sunbathing and paddling, you can choose the calmer of the two, and surfers, surfers and windsurfers should always have waves.
Baleal is also where most of Peniche’s surf shops and schools are located, and there’s always a small surf community.
6. Berengas Islands
A trip to these islands, 10 km offshore, is one of the things you must do in Peniche.
The archipelago is a nature reserve with puffin colonies and abundant marine life in the water.
There are no permanent settlements, but the main island has a fort, a former penal colony, and now a campsite.
There are regular ferries across from Peniche, and there are companies that take you on smaller boats such as the RIB.
On the ocean side, the Atlantic runs rampant, hitting rocky shores, while the land side, away from wind and currents, has small beaches with crystal-clear water.
7. San Pedro Church
The church was built in the late 1500s, but as was the case in Portugal, it underwent major renovations in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The art on the altar is from this period and is dedicated to St. Peter; there is a statue of the saint, as well as 18th century paintings from chapters of his life, such as Quo Vadis and The Magical Catch.
It wouldn’t be a Baroque altar without the usual abundance of radiant gilded wood, carved into the columns and panels, with leafy patterns around the cherubs.
8. Puerto Peniche
Although Peniche is a tourist attraction, there is still a healthy fishery and you should come to the port to see this in action when the fleet returns and unloads at the dock.
The many bars and restaurants around add to the convivial atmosphere of the port, which also has some history.
In the 17th century, Peniche was turned into a castle, the curtains of the walls still face the water, and the earthwork on top has been planted with palm trees.
9. Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
When you visit Cabo Carvoeiro, you can peek out inside this chapel, which dates back to the 1600s.
It was built after the image of Mary was discovered carved into the rock of a cave by the water, and remains the subject of pilgrimages and festivals every October.
It’s a gorgeous little yard with a pine tree courtyard protected by the exterior wall.
Go inside and see the blue and white tile panels evoke episodes from Mary’s life.
10. Praia da Consolação
Down from Peniche, Consolação has two distinct bathing areas.
To the south is Rocky Bay, known for its health benefits.
People come to soak in iodine-rich water, which is supposed to help with bone disease and thyroid problems, and then dry in the sun.
Up from here is a rugged peninsula with a 17th-century fortress and the ruins of a 1786 Spanish galleon smashed into the rock.
From there, curving towards Peniche, is a sandy beach, swept by white waves and strong winds, and a hive of water sports in summer.
11. San Leonardo Church
A few kilometers inland is the village of Atouguia da Baleia, which was actually the main seaport in the Middle Ages until the port silted up and was replaced by the Peniche.
In the fabulous 13th-century Gothic church, there is a monument to the loss of status, which is the burial place of the local noble family.
The chancel has a lovely ribbed vault with floral cornerstones, and the walls of the nave are very rare bas-reliefs carved in the 14th century, as well as a Renaissance painting of Saint Leonard.
Peniche is quite possibly the surfing capital of Europe, and there is a lot of competition for your business among the many surf shops and schools.
If you’re here for tutoring, you can go to camp for a few days, or just book a one-time class.
One of the great things about surfing in Peniche is that all the surfable beaches face in different directions, so at least one of them will have the right wave at any one time, and the school will usually drive you for a ride.
Beginners will be instructed in the basics as well as safety and surfing etiquette.
If you’re in good shape, it’s not uncommon to be on your board at the end of the first session.
The water park is always great for the kids, and it’s just outside Peniche center, a quick jaunt from the main beach.
There are four slides, two with a lazy, gentle pace for nearly all ages, a multi-lane racer and a fast kamikaze slide for older kids.
The smallest visitors have their own swimming pool, which is short and shallow enough to be safe even for young children.
In addition to this, you have a full-size swimming pool for swimming or bathing, a café and green space for tired kids to dry, and for parents who just want to rest in the sun.
At just 15 minutes, there’s no reason not to visit one of the loveliest towns in Portugal.
From the 1200s to the 1500s, Óbidos was visited by the Queen of Portugal, and you can venture through the streets lined with whitewashed houses that now house artisan shops and restaurants.
At the behest of Denis I and King Fernando, the present wall was formed in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the entire settlement was fortified.
Find the portal with its tiled walls and take in the views from the walls to the coast.
Another benefit of being so close is that you can get there earlier before the tour bus arrives
Avenida do Mar, by the harbour, is home to the best fish restaurants, and the menu offers a variety of delicious local dishes: Caldeirada is a stew that can best be described as the Portuguese version of bouillabaisse.
It’s a mix of white and oily fish seasoned with a little piripiri chili, and every other town has its own recipe.
In Peniche it will involve anglerfish, turbot, rays, dogfish and moray eels, all cooked with potatoes.
Arroz de marisco is a delicious paella with crab and shrimp, as well as lobster soup and classic grilled sardines.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Peniche, Portugal
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