In the fishing town of PENICHE, determined touts hawk rooms and a glut of harbourside seafood restaurants vie for tourists. But although the balance of life is changing here, Peniche has yet to be seduced entirely from its roots. Gangs of fishermen still repair nets at the harbourside, while the first weekend in August sees the boisterous festival of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, during which there’s a blessing of the fleet, plus fireworks, bands and dancing in the street.
The town was an island up until the fifteenth century, when the surrounding area silted up and now a narrow isthmus, with gently sloping beaches either side, connects it to the mainland. Unsightly development stretches along the coast, and though it’s not the most handsome of towns, inside the walled town there is a small grid of attractive narrow streets dominated by a fortress, near the busy harbour and marina. Boats from here run out to the Ilha da Berlenga, while many visitors use Peniche as a base to explore the fabulous beaches either side of town – rated some of the best surf beaches in the country – or to visit the church at Atouguia da Baleia.
You can rent gear from any of the local surf-camps, including Baleal Surfcamp, PH Surf School and Peniche Surf Camp in Baleal. Group lessons cost from €35 (individual sessions from €80), while each camp also has accommodation (hostel-style or apartments and private rooms). One-week inclusive courses for beginners cost around €550 in July and August, cheaper outside high season.