Portugal is a country brimming with hidden gems, and one such treasure is the picturesque coastal town of São Martinho do Porto. Located on the Silver Coast, just an hour's drive north of Lisbon, this charming town offers a unique blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Whether you're a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil escape by the sea, this delightful town has something to offer every member of your family.
São Martinho do Porto is an ideal family destination due to it's calm waters and sheltered shoreline. This natural gem, often referred to as Portugal's "shell-shaped bay," is ideal for swimming, paddleboarding, or simply relaxing on the golden sands while soaking up the sun. Families with children will appreciate the safe and shallow waters, making it a perfect destination for a beach getaway.
While we appreciate exploring castles, museums, cultural centers, architectural wonders and historical landmarks, we’ve learned that cramming too much into a day (or week) can result in cranky kids and stressed out parents. Therefore, we prioritize spending ample time in nature whenever possible. Some of our best experiences revolve around leisurely days spent on the beach, allowing the day to unfold without any overwhelming expectations. And this is exactly what happened on our recent trip to São Martinho do Porto!
Before embarking on our adventure, we made sure to stop by a local bakery to get rissois, frango empadas, pasteis de nata, fried chicken fillets and a few other delicious snacks for our beach picnic. Each of us packed our own backpacks with essentials like towels, sunscreen, snacks, book, a change of clothes, and a hydroflask filled with refreshing ice water. Additionally, we brought along a wind screen (para-vento), a beach umbrella, and beach blankets. Gone are the days when Sérgio and I had to carry loads of beach gear, because the kids were too small to manage their own!
View of the bay at São Martinho do Porto from the dunes
Upon arriving in São Martinho, we discovered various parking options. While the main street was congested, we found ample free parking at the end of the bay, right across from some boardwalk entrances. Although we explored the boardwalk and considered choosing a spot there, we favored the atmosphere at the opposite end of the bay. Fortunately, parking was available at this end, allowing us to park for the entire day for only 2.50 euros. A quick walk across the street led us to the boardwalk, where we easily secured a spot on the beach.
Beach cabanas in São Martinho do Porto
There's also a café right on the beach, so if we didn't have a picnic with us, we'd still have affordable options for snacks and drinks. This side of the bay also offers beach cabanas, jet ski rentals, pedal boats, and more. (During the summer months there are also giant inflatables in the water, although they weren't out during our trip.)
Although we didn't take advantage of any of these offerings this time, we still enjoyed an absolutely wonderful day at the beach! The sky was hazy, yet the weather remained warm, and the sparkling sand was pleasantly toasty. Despite the typically chilly waters along the Silver Coast, we all ventured into the waves. I'm not sure how kids don't feel the cold, but I braved it to have fun with them, and it was an absolute blast! Adrian said it was "the best day ever!"
After our beach excursion, we decided to change into dry clothes and bring all of our beach gear back to the car, since it was so close. The beach provided convenient outdoor showers for rinsing off the sand plus a small bathroom where we could each change out of our wet swimwear. This was really helpful since we were able to be comfortable for the rest of the evening, which included a tasty treat and some breathtaking scenic spots.
There are lots of restaurants along the main road and down the charming streets, but we weren't very hungry since we had a big picnic at the beach. As a special treat, we decided to share some sundaes for dinner. We went to Gelatomania where the sundaes are enormous and reasonably priced. Two of our kids shared an "after-eight" mint and chocolate sundae and the other two shared an Oreo sundae. Sérgio and I each had a decadent iced coffee – cold espresso topped with vanilla gelato and a mountain of the thickest whipped cream plus chocolate drizzle and espresso powder. Everything was soooo good and the total was less than 30 euros!
Espresso topped with vanilla gelato and whipped cream, street sign, oreo sundae, and after 8 (chocolate and mint) sundae
After our dessert for dinner, we decided to go for a walk along the bay to take some photos and videos (and walk off some calories). There's an awesome little pedestrian tunnel, Túnel para o Atlântico that you should definitely check out if you visit. You start on the side of the bay where you have calm waters and walk through a small tunnel in the mountain. On the other side, you have the waves of the Atlantic ocean crashing onto moss covered rocks.
It's such an amazing little spot! It can be slippery, so it's definitely a good idea to hold little hands and not let them get too close to the edge. The kids were happy to take a little rest on the rocks and check out the graffiti and beautiful views.
After a nice walk around town, we headed back to the car for a scenic drive to Praia de Salir do Porto. After an interesting drive, we found the path to Capela de Santa Ana. The dirt walkway is approximately 1 km, and the view throughout is absolutely stunning!!
Capela de Santa Ana is a chapel that's now a historical landmark located on the tip of the east end that borders the bay of São Martino do Porto.
The chapel can be just be seen at the end of the path.
The chapel was a stone ruin, but has been beautifully rebuilt, and is accessed by a path that starts at the north end of Salir do Porto.
Sao Martinho do Porto stands as a true gem along Portugal's Silver Coast. With it's captivating bay and charming streets, this idyllic coastal town provides an unforgettable experience for travelers and families seeking a tranquil retreat. Whether you're looking to bask in the sun, delve into history, or simply indulge in the local culture, Sao Martinho do Porto promises a captivating journey that will leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.
*Note: Prices were accurate as of summer 2023, but may change. We recommend verifying pricing before planning your trip.