When most people think of beaches in Portugal, the Algarve or Lisbon Coast spring to mind – but further north is a coastline laced with splendid beaches. From powdery swathes edged by sweeping dunes to rocky bays at the foot of wave-lashed cliffs, North Portugal beaches are some of the finest in the country. Here are some of the best beaches in the Minho region for an amazing holiday in Northern Portugal.
Best for scenery: Praia de Moledo, Caminha
Praia de Moledo is a band of golden sand at the mouth of the Minho river, which straddles the Spanish border – it’s possible to even swim across to Spain. It’s all about the scenery here: the Spanish mountain Santa Tecla slopes across the horizon, while a 17th-century island fortress juts out of the water (sign up for a boat trip to visit). A shady sliver of pine forest shelters the beach from the worst of the offshore breeze. This is one of the best beaches in Northern Portugal and a great launching pad for Ponte de Barca and Ponte de Lima.
Best for food: Praia do Cabedelo, Viana do Castelo
A short hop from Viana do Castelo, this honey-coloured arc is backed by wide dunes. From the beach, you can see the neo-Byzantine Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus perched atop a mountain. The Costa Verde is renowned for its seafood, with a cluster of restaurants serving eel, Minho trout and salmon. Try Tasquinha da Linda, a tiny restaurant that serves excellent Portuguese dishes; feast on oysters, octopus, mussels and, for epicureans, barnacles.
Best for activities: Canide Beach, Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia’s beaches are considered the most pristine in Northern Portugal. Canide Beach is easy to reach, just 15 minutes from Porto, and is a huge sweep of soft sand – divided into Sul and Norte. The northern stretch often hosts kitesurfing and beach-football competitions, while surfers tend to stick to the south. A cluster of bars and restaurants caters to the beachgoers.
Best for surf: Praia de Afife, near Viana do Castelo
Seven miles north of Viana do Castelo, Praia de Afife is a long, remote stretch of sand. Foam-tipped waves break hard and high against the shore, making it one of the best North Portugal beaches for surfing. Afife Boardriders Club offers surfing lessons, and a handful of beach shacks serve up light eats. There is very little shade on the beach, so beware of the intense sun.
Best for families: Praia do Senhor da Pedra, Vila Nova de Gaia
This is one of the prettiest beaches in Northern Portugal – and even Europe. This is thanks partly to the Senhor da Pedra (Lord of the Rock) chapel, gracing a rocky outcrop, which is surrounded by water when the tide comes in. It’s also good for children, with a vast expanse of sand, a dedicated play area and a small café serving ice cream and snacks. Visit in June for the festivities in honour of Senhor da Pedra.
Best for relaxation: Apúlia, Esposende
If you’re heading to Minho from Porto, swing by Esposende, 31 miles north of the city, for some chilled beach time. Apúlia is a quiet spot with a natural beauty under protection as part of the Northern Litoral Natural Park. A wide promenade traces the coastline, which is great for sea-view strolls. A scattering of windmills looms above the dunes – a nod to the 20th-century corn industry in Northern Portugal.