Portugal // The Algarve //

Praia da Rocha

PRAIA DA ROCHA, 3km south of Portimão, has one of the Algarve’s broadest beaches, a fantastic swathe of sand backed by low cliffs. The eastern end of the beach is overlooked by the walls of an old sea fort, the Fortaleza da Santa Caterina, which was built in 1691 to guard the mouth of the Rio Arade – the fort’s terrace offers splendid views across the ocean in one direction, and over a modern marina and the estuary the other way. Sadly, the rest of Praia da Rocha is a splodge of ungainly high-rise hotels, bars and a casino that sit on the clifftop, with the beach reached down steep steps from the elevated main street, Avenida Tomás Cabreira. But at least most of the bars, restaurants and hotels boast fine views of the sands and sea – and it remains pretty lively whatever time of year you visit.