North of Peniche, this wide beach protected by a tiny island, is a paradise for surfers during all year.
Nazaré is (fairly) the top destination among the western beaches of Portugal.
However, for those who prefer more quiet and isolated beaches, there’s a second line of much quality: Baleal is one of them, and the camping park and the few apartments that line the beach, only in peak months add a significant movement to it.
Ten months a year, it is a refreshing “out of the beaten path” for the Portuguese (and other).
If you want to swim, the beach is wide, clean, and generally safe, but the water is cold (as in all the western coast) and most people prefer to learn or practice surf.
July-August have the usual problems of crowds, but in all the other months the beach is a space of freedom and health.
Sleeping in the island
Until a few years ago, Baleal was an island off the coast, whose silting made it possible to cross the sand on foot at low tide. Some fishermen built modest houses on the island, traveling by boat or taking advantage of the tide.
Constant silting made the passage permanent, and the compaction of the sand allowed for the construction of driveways, and the island changed.
Today it has streets and a parking lot, and, although only a small hotel, the adaptation of several houses to tourism provides several accommodation solutions.
No, I’m not a specialist – as a matter of fact, I never tried surfing. But the enthusiasts that I know, they all merge here, in all their free time.
Maybe because the surf is good, maybe because there’s a school in place with cheap surfboards’ renting and wet suits, maybe because it is not crowded, maybe because parking is easy out of peak days, maybe because it is beautiful, maybe because…yes!
In a free day, Tito came expressly from Lisbon, and I spent two relaxing hours watching him and friends “bathing” the surfboards.
When I was a kid, Baleal was an island so close to the coast that, in summer, the sand deposited in that short distance turned it in a ephemera peninsula. Both sides of that stripe of sand were good beaches, protected from surf by the island, one of them (I don’t know which one) creating many algae, the other better to swim.
Now, the sand connection seems to have become stable, with a road on its top, allowing cars to enter the island, but still providing a beach in each side. The southern one, a several kilometers long beach, linking to Peniche, became a surfers domain, without sacrifice of its wild beauty.
The opening of stable access, including for the automobile, allowed some modernization on the island, as a support for tourism that replaced traditional fishing, however, its space limitations mean that most of the support structures are lined up on the coast, some at reasonable distance.
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