The Algarve, on Portugal’s southern coast, is known for its beaches, but those are not the only beautiful beaches in the country. If you’re looking for sand and sea safe for children, and less filled with other tourists than the busy Algarve, Portugal has a lot of options.
Near Viana do Castelo
Although it’s on the Atlantic coast, where the surf is notoriously heavy, the beach at Vila Praia de Âncora has a small river flowing across it into the sea, perfect for kids to play in. But older kids will find good waves for surfing and windsurfing on the oceanfront; the beach has lifeguards, showers and nearby cafés and restaurants. The town of Viana do Castelo, in northern Portugal not far from the border with Spain, makes a good base for exploring the region.
North of Lisbon
The two-mile-long beach at São Martinho do Porto forms a horseshoe around a beautiful bay, whose waters are protected from the open ocean and its waves. The wave-free waters are good for swimming, safe for young children, and good for canoeing and windsurfing as well. There are lifeguards, restrooms, showers and plenty of places to eat. There’s also a promenade that makes it easy to leave a car at a hotel and walk to the beach.
Like Vila Praia de Âncora, the large Foz do Arelho has a sandy place for everyone, with one side facing the Atlantic Ocean and the other the Óbidos Lagoon. The latter is perfect for young children, with warm, shallow water, while the ocean side has big waves and often winds as well, making it a favorite of surfers and windsurfers. You can reach Foz do Arelho from the towns of Caldas da Rainha or Obidos, and it has lifeguards, showers and nearby places to eat.
Easy to reach by tram from the pretty town of Sintra (which itself is easy to reach by train from Lisbon and makes a good base for families who would rather stay outside of the city), Praia das Maças is popular with local families. If the sea water is too cold, there’s a saltwater swimming pool right at the beach. The village is right there, too, with places to eat.
South of Lisbon
Portugal’s Alentejo coast has long been the secret of avid surfers for its wild Atlantic sea and beaches hidden by spectacular soaring cliffs. But at the attractive town of Vila Nova de Milfontes, Praia da Franquia sits at the mouth of the Mira River, with just enough waves to be fun while still being safe for kids. The beach is good for paddle boarding and windsurfing, too. You can walk to the beach from town, and there are lifeguards.
Another good family beach is Praia de Odeceixe, near the town of Odeceixe. Also at the mouth of a river, the sandy beach has shallow water on one side and surf on the other; there’s a surf school here.
At any beach, be sure to pay attention to the warning flags, and if you see red ones don’t go into the water.
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