Praia do Norte is overlooked by a 16th-century fort
When American surfer Garrett McNamara broke the world record for surfing the world’s biggest wave at this beach in 2011, Nazaré became a pilgrimage site for surfers from around the globe. The photo of McNamara riding the gigantic wave went viral all over the world, and Praia do Norte instantly became one of Portugal’s most famous beaches.
Praia do Norte seen from the fort
Waves can be over 30 meters tall (almost 100 feet), so they’re exciting for experienced surfers, but can be dangerous for everyone else. They’re formed by Europe’s largest canyon, which is underwater and 5km (over 16,000 ft) deep, off the coast of Nazaré.
A monument to the local surfing culture welcomes visitors to Praia do Norte
The beach is overlooked by the 16th-century São Miguel Arcanjo Fort, which houses a museum dedicated to surfing and the big-wave phenomenon. It’s also from where spectators watch the world championships of surfing and bodyboarding that usually take place in October.
Surfer Rodrigo Koxa broke McNamara’s record on this beach in 2017, riding a 24.38m/80ft-high wave.
A surfer rides a gigantic wave in Praia do Norte (photo by Luis Ascenso)
Despite the growing popularity, Praia do Norte can be fairly quiet throughout the year and remains a rather wild beach, with a long stretch of golden sand. In the summer, it’s an alternative to the more crowded Praia da Nazaré.
How to Get to Praia do Norte
Praia do Norte is, as the name indicates, in the northern part of Nazaré. If you’re driving, follow the signs pointing in the direction of the fort. There’s a parking lot right before you reach the sand. However, you may very well walk there from Sítio (take the street behind the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré). If you’re staying in the center of town, take the funicular to Sítio, then walk to the sanctuary and continue down the road behind it. It’s about a 15-to-20-minute walk.
Hotels by Praia do Norte
Owned by a bodyboarding champion, this guesthouse stands above Praia do Norte, so it naturally attracts surfers looking for massive waves. Those who prefer to swim in calmer waters, have the option of the outdoor swimming pool on the terrace, where guests may also enjoy cocktails.
This budget bed-and-breakfast is located a short walk from Praia do Norte. It has double and twin rooms with shared bathrooms, all tastefully decorated and a great value.