The main resort on the Bay of Setúbal, SESIMBRA is largely a day-trip destination for Lisbon residents who come here for the long sandy strip of beach, Praia da California, facing relatively still waters. Apartment buildings mushroom across the low, bare hills beyond the narrow streets of the attractive old centre, whose endless rows of café-restaurants are all filled to the gills in summer. The crowds, however, are largely Portuguese and out of season it’s an atmospheric place, with elderly fishermen gathering in groups on the seafront promenade to chat. It also makes a good base to explore the coast to the west, including the wild Cabo Espichel and the southern stretches of the Costa da Caparica.
It’s an easy drive from Sesimbra to the southern beaches of the Costa da Caparica, a surprisingly verdant and undeveloped stretch of coast. A few kilometres to the north of Cabo Espichel is the little village of Aldeia do Meco, from where a path cuts down to the superb (partly naturist) beach of Praia do Meco, though beware of the huge breakers here. The calmest strip of beach is by the Lagoa de Albufeira, a little further south, where you’ll find a sheltered lagoon, popular with sea birds (including flamingoes) and fine to swim in.