VILA NOVA DE MILFONTES – 20km south of Porto Côvo – lies on the estuary of the Rio Mira, whose wide sandy banks gradually merge into the coastline. It is an advantageous spot for sailors (the port is reputed to have harboured Hannibal and his Carthaginians during a storm) and, while the resort is not exactly undiscovered, its centre is very attractive. Popular with Portuguese families, it has a homely atmosphere quite distinct from that of the cosmopolitan Algarve. The few whitewashed streets of the old town huddle around a striking, ivy-wreathed sixteenth-century castle, with the long river beach just a few minutes’ walk to the west. Swimmers in the river need to be aware of the strong currents – the town beach has roped-off swimming areas that you should heed. Even though the beach is spacious, it gets busy in high season, when you might want to take the ferry from the jetty at the foot of the castle across the estuary to Furnas, a long sandy beach also accessible off the main coast road.