Praia da Nazaré is the town's most central beach
Nazaré is one of Portugal’s most famous seaside towns, but it only has two beaches and a third one nearby. However, these are beaches that stand out in the country (and even the world) for their characteristics. One tries to preserve the atmosphere of a traditional fishing village, while another is world-famous for its gigantic, record-breaking waves. The third one is quite the opposite, as it has some of the calmest waters on this Atlantic coast.
Fishing boats on display in Praia da Nazaré
The main beach is Praia da Nazaré, which is the center of town and packed with sunbathers, umbrellas and tents in July and August. It’s where colorful fishing boats are on display, and where fish is put out to dry. It’s the place to try fresh fish and seafood, attracting local families, tourists and surfers. It has lifeguards on duty during the bathing season, and is big enough to offer space for everyone (its soft golden sand stretches for 1.5km/1 mile).
Praia do Norte, which in autumn and winter has the world's biggest waves
Becoming more famous, but for different reasons, is Praia do Norte, which, as the name indicates, is on the northern side of town. It’s currently one of the world’s most popular surfing beaches, but outside the summer season. It holds the record of the world’s biggest waves, which happen in autumn and winter. It’s overlooked by a 16th-century fortress, but that’s the only man-made construction, and it remains a rather wild place.
Praia da Nazaré is therefore the beach for the late spring and summer, while Praia do Norte is for autumn and winter. If Praia da Nazaré happens to be too crowded in the busier and sunnier months, and you prefer a quieter environment, opt for Praia do Norte. The waves at that time of the year are relatively minor, and you may simply sunbathe on the sand.
São Martinho do Porto is a calmer beach, just outside Nazaré
São Martinho do Porto is the third beach. It’s a sheltered bay located to the south of Nazaré, a short bus ride away. It’s known as a family-friendly beach, thanks to its calm waters.
The water temperature on this coast is quite low, reaching only about 18C (64F) in the summer. That, plus the powerful currents and waves, means that no one goes for lengthy swims in Nazaré, except for at the beach of São Martinho do Porto. The town does, however, offer water sports opportunities (in addition to the surfing), like stand up paddle and kayaking (equipment may be rented from the harbor).