We have spent a lot of time this Winter being spoilt by what some of the breath taking wilder beaches around the Algarve have to offer, so these days it has to be a pretty special beach to grab our attention.
However as spring is breaking and the warmth in the sun returns, the time seemed right to venture North up the West coast and see what other treats Portugal has to offer offer.
After spending a few minutes hitting up the internet for inspiration we found this little gem…
The pictures we found online of candy striped fishermans cottages, dating from the early 19th century at Praia Costa Nova shamelessly drew us in, so we just had to stop on our slow meanderring road trip up to Porto to check it out for ourselves…and it did not dissapoint!
Costa Nova is a small fishing town about 10km from Aveiro, situated on a narrow peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ria de Aveiro lagoon.
It’s really beautiful being nestled on a spit of land between the wild waves of the coast and the more peaceful steady flow of the river.
Although the whole place does feel a lot more built up then the usual beach spots we seek out and you have to dodge the odd coach party… It is quaint and charming in an old fashioned seaside town sort of way.
It’s the perfect place to explore with the small people and we get the excitement of pretending that we are real tourists for a few days.
There are a couple of good little spots to park up right on the beach or a designated camper parking just off the grassy promenade in front of the old fisherman’s cottages.
It is still an active fishing town and you can spot locals, out collecting shellfish from the Lagoon – such as crab, goose barnacle, coast shrimp or whelk to sell at the market.
On the main stretch in town there is a friendly tourist information, public toilets, beach bars, ‘Gelo’ & crêpe eateries, street food traders, seafood restaurants and the obligatory bucket & spade shops.
It’s a great place to take a gentle family stroll or sit outside a cafe and do some people watching.
Our favourite find was the local indoor fish, fruit & veg market (found under the Dori restaurante).
The stalls here are brimming with an abundance of local produce and the portugese market traders are a hardworking and heartwarming bunch.
We bought a huge bag of peaches, bannanas, lemons, apples and oranges for only five Euros. Much cheaper than what the large supermarkets have to offer and we sucked up all of the atmosphere and banter for free!
Costa Nova in April still feels busy but not overwhelming, it also seems popular with many locals visiting from the nearby city Aveiro.
Our plan was only to do a quick one night stop, but the surf was good and the children were happy, so that soon rolled into a few days.
In Costa Nova we did a lot of playing football and skateboarding in the sunken concrete seating area, making friends in the play park, trying out new exercises in the outdoor gym and finding the most amazing water fountains for the children to run around in like crazy people getting soaked from head to toe… All within easy walking distance of the ‘zona autocaravanas’.
There were people kite surfing in the lagoon and a few playing tennis in the open courts next to the children’s park.
There is also a huge esplanade and cycle path that runs along side the river, perfect for learning to cycle or roller skate.
If you still have energy to burn after all that then there’s always the long stretch of beach, it has large boulders as a sea defence that the children found perfect for climbing all over and low dunes for rolling down.
If you stop in Costa Nova it is also worth driving down the road to Barra beach, although parking is mostly roadside with a little walk to the beach unless you get there early.
It feels more built up but the beach is wide, sandy & sheltered, perfect for learning to surf (or if the swell is still too crazy along the rest of the coast!), building sand castles and collecting shells under the watchful eye of the Barra lighthouse.
At 203 feet high it is the tallest lighthouse in Portugal, red and white stripes it could be straight out of one of the children’s story books. There are lots of restaurants, beach bars and shops for exploring here too.
Although we spent a little bit more money then intended on crepes & ice creams, it was totally worth it! Costa Nova has it all in terms of free outdoor running around space and activities for all ages.
The beaches both have cold outdoor surf showers and a water tap next to the bar on the beach at Costa Nova.
Check out the ‘park4night’ app for exact locations of park ups. We couldn’t find a free place to unload the chemical toilet, but there is a municipal campsite in Barra (from 6.50 Euro per person) which is probably worth asking if they allow chemical toilet drops for a small fee.
If you travel slow like us other beaches nearby worth a stop over are Vaguira (designated beach front park up with plaza, toilets, and free WiFi from the beach boardwalk…AMAZING!) and Mira (blue flag beach, picnic tables in the pine forests) also the quieter and more traditional feeling Praia do Tocha (for stunning dunes and an immense traditional outdoor portugese market).
Hope you enjoy this stretch of coast as much as we did. Our little one keeps asking if we can stay here just one more night…so I think if we do ever actually manage to leave, we will probably be back soon.