Visiting Peniche, Portugal? Here’s your Complete Guide 
A comprehensive guide for Peniche, Portugal covering the main attractions, what to do, where to surf, when to visit, what to eat, and so much more.
Peniche is a must-see city in Portugal. It has a variety of activities on offer, from surfing great waves like Supertubos, to sightseeing the old town, from fine dining in the port to pilgrimage sites. Anyone can find something interesting to do in Peniche, which is why the city became such a popular destination in Portugal, both for the Portuguese and the tourists.
This Peniche guide is packed with helpful tips and recommendations to help you make the most of this beautiful little city. If you don’t have time for the whole article, jump straight to:
- History of Peniche
- What to do and see in Peniche
- Surfing in Peniche
- Best beaches of Peniche
- The Berlengas Islands
- Typical food in Peniche
- Where to eat in Peniche
- How long to spend in Peniche
- Peniche or Nazare
- When to visit Peniche
- Where to stay in Peniche
- Top 4 things to do
History of Peniche, Portugal
Peniche has first settled a long time ago, in the Middle Palaeolithic times to be exact. Its richness has always come from the ocean. Fishing in Peniche has a tradition as old as the city’s own history. The city’s old fort was replaced by the Peniche Fortress in the 16th century and the fortifications are still very well preserved. The latest development in Peniche’s history has been a shift from being a fishing town to becoming worldwide famous for its surfing, its beaches, food and more.
Did you know?Peniche used to be an island! It became a peninsula only in the 16th century when a narrow isthmus was created by silt, wind, and tides.
What is there to do and see in Peniche
Explore the Fortaleza de Peniche (Peniche Fort)
This exemplary fortress lies atop the ocean cliffs. Built in 1557, and later expanded, it still presents the original star-shaped construction, a design developed to protect from cannonballs. The fortress was still part of Portugal’s maritime defence system as late as the 19th century. Later roles have varied from a political prison during the 1950s and 60s to a shelter for war refugees.
Surfing at Praia do Baleal or Praia dos Supertubos
The first beach is surfer friendly at any skill level, the second, when pumping, produces fast tubular waves that host one stop of the World Surf Tour. Read more about Praia do Baleal or about Supertubos here.
Despite being these 2 the most popular beaches to surf at, there are others nearby with potentially fewer people fighting for the same waves as you!
The town and the port of Peniche
The rustic atmosphere has not been compromised by the growing tourism. Fishing is still a primary industry and Peniche’s fishing fleet returning to port in the morning is a sight to witness.
In the 17th century, Peniche was turned into a citadel and the sea walls still remain standing. The palms atop have been planted in the old earthworks and provide shade for a lovely walk.
The Cabo Carvoeiro
Carvoeiro Cape is the westernmost point in mainland Portugal. The cliffs drop an impressive 25 meters to the rough ocean water underneath. Weird karst formations on the top and face of the cape, called Nau dos Corvos, are a geology enthusiasts’ and layman’s wonder. The rocky point has been the site of several shipwrecks prompting the still-working lighthouse to be installed in 1790. The location is a must-visit for a romantic walk and some spectacular photos at sunset.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
Don’t miss this splendid chapel during your visit to Cabo Carvoeiro. History goes that the original cult started as far back as the 12th century when an image of Holy Mary was carved into the rock of one of the caves by the water. On this site now stands a charming little compound with white outer walls and a courtyard with shadowing pines built in the 17th century. Go inside to see the white and blue panels depicting the life of Mary. This sanctuary is a pilgrimage destination during a religious festival in October.
Visit the beautiful archipelago of Berlengas
Berlengas is a group of 3 small islands less than 15 kilometres away from the Peniche coast. These islands were traditionally known as “the Burlings” by the British mariners. The only habitable island is the largest island, Berlenga Grande, although there is no permanent habitation. The other islands are grouped into two groups of islets, the Estelas Islets and the Farilhões-Forcados Islets.
Berlengas islands are simply unique and totally worth a visit if you plan to visit Peniche.
Forte de São João Baptista on the Berlengas Islands
The most significant building on the island, together with the lighthouse, this fort is located on Berlenga, the largest island of the archipelago. The fort was built on a small islet connected to the main island by a narrow arch-bridge that weaves its way from rocky pinnacle to rocky pinnacle for support. It was built in the 17th century to protect the strategically important islands from a North African corsairs’ occupation, or worse still, a Spanish one.
⤳A touch of history
The fort was put to a test in June 1666. Besieged by a Spanish fleet counting 16 warships and over 2,000 men, the small garrison of 20 soldiers stationed at the fort managed to hold them back for days. Eventually, the Portuguese soldiers exhausted their ammunition and had to abandon their position. The attack cost the Spanish 500 men versus just one Portuguese soldier.
Surfing in Peniche
Why is Peniche a popular surfing destination? Because the beaches in Peniche produce “super tubos”, waves that curl into hollow powerful tubes. And that is why the most popular wave in the area is called “Supertubos”. That phenomenon happens for a combination of three factors: the bathymetry (underwater depth of ocean floor) is optimal, the northerly winds that plague the rest of the Portuguese coast are blocked, and the beach is angled to receive the open swell from the North Atlantic storms.
The supertubos were discovered by Rip Curl for one of their Search Events, back in 2009, and quickly turned into a fixed stop for the World Surf League Men’s Championship Tour: the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal event. Now, Peniche’s Supertubos are also known as “European Pipeline”, after the Hawaiian pipeline location we have all seen videos of. Watch this video and confirm for yourself if it makes sense!
If you are not a surf expert but you’d still like to try it or practice it, Praia do Baleal is a great choice! It is a beautiful beach split in 2 with each half facing the ocean in a different direction having eaves for every skill level. There are also many rental shops nearby.
Best beaches of Peniche
Praia dos Supertubos
As the name says, here is where you catch the supertubos (season and weather depending). Just south of Peniche, Praia dos Supertubos is actually a section of Praia do Medão. A sand dune system extends as far east as you can see giving the beach a roughed and authentic feel.
It is a great beach also if you are not into surfing. Because it’s often windy, the ocean is very lively and the waves are a spectacle to see. The beautiful clear water and the soft sand area is an ideal setting for sunbathing or taking a walk along the many kilometers of white sand. The beach also has restaurants and cafes right on the sand’s edge for a refreshing break.
Praia Baleal is east of Peniche. The little town of Baleal is a former whaling station and its road splits the beach in two sections, Praia Baleal Sul and Praia Baleal Norte. As they face slightly different directions, the rule of thumb is that if one is flat the other one has waves. Because of that, there are waves suitable for every skill level and surf shops and surf schools have proliferated. This beach is very popular among families as it is quite beautiful, with the waves lapping at the soft sand and fun rock formations a few meters inland.
Praia da Consolação
Praia da Consolação is at the far south end of Praia do Medão. It actually has two separate bathing options. You can choose the sandy beach and surfing waves north of the fortress or walk south of it to explore the rocky coves. Amongst the rocks, the water is rich in iodine which has therapeutic properties countering bone and thyroid problems.
Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro
This beach is located on Berlenga Grande island. The biggest of the Berlengas Islands, the ocean side of Berlenga Grande has powerful Atlantic waves crashing on the rocky shore but the landward side has small beaches with perfect water clarity protected from the wind and currents.
Praia do Carreiro do Mosteiro is the only beach accessible on foot and safe to swim in. The little sandy beach is nestled between steep cliffs and it faces the harbour being a beautiful spot for sunbathing and snorkelling.
The Berlengas Islands
This glorious archipelago is just a short ferry ride away from Peniche. These 3 little islands are located only 10-15 kilometres off the coast and are well worth a visit. The ferry operates regularly from May to October and it’s interrupted in winter as the sea gets too rough. The ferry only takes you to the main island, Berlenga, and it has a cap of 350 visitors per day.
There’s no permanent settlement on the islands, only a handful of fishermen reside on Berlenga Grande seasonally, leaving the archipelago mainly untouched by human presence.
One of the world’s first nature reserves, this archipelago is home to a great variety of marine wildlife and millions of seabirds. Puffins, seagulls, and cormorants enjoy the quiet land environment and the 985-hectare marine reserve.
A must-do is taking a glass-bottomed boat cave tour to explore the rocky shore’s many wonders such as the blue cave, Furando Grande (a natural tunnel), “Elephant rock” and the Ponta da França headland.
Typical food in Peniche
Since Peniche is a fishing port, eating fish and seafood is a must. Fresh and prepared with mastery, you will not find better. Two typical local dishes we love are Caldeirada and Arroz de Marisco.
- Caldeirada is a fish stew best described as the Portuguese version of bouillabaisse.
It’s a mix of fish and seafood, spiced with a little Piri Piri chili. Every other town has its own recipe and in Peniche it will involve anglerfish, turbot, ray, dogfish and conger, all cooked with potato. (DELICIOUS)
- Arroz de marisco is a delicious seafood rice dish with prawns, crab, and shrimp.
Other seafood delicacies are the classic lobster soup and the omnipresent barbecued sardines.
Where to eat in Peniche
Avenida do Mar by the harbour is the street where the best fish restaurants are, with a selection of inexpensive and tasty regional preparations on the menu.
Located on that avenue, Restaurante Rocha has allegedly one of the best Caldeirada in the city.
If you are vegetarian, we recommend the Kirana Cafe, close to Baleal. The menu is 100% vegetarian & vegan with many delicious dishes available.
If you are looking for an inexpensive and local option to eat at, consider the restaurant Tasca do Joel or directly at Pro Fresco which is literally in the fish market with an adapted restaurant.
How long to spend in Peniche
To explore Peniche we recommend visiting for a minimum of 2 days but we also recommend staying longer than that. You could in one day visit the Berlengas Islands, and in the other day explore the old town and port, a visit to the cape, sunbathing at one of the world-class beaches, a surf session, and a delicious seafood dinner.
If you enjoy the beach or the surf, you can easily spend several weeks in Peniche and let the relaxed and maritime atmosphere soak in. The proximity to the beach, the quality of the waves and the fresh fish arriving in every day only makes us think of 3 words: Quality of life. If you can, I’d definitely consider experiencing Peniche slowly.
Peniche or Nazaré?
Whilst similar on paper and despite some local rivalry, Peniche and Nazaré have very different offerings.
Nazaré is world-renowned for its giant wave surfing and it’s a much more popular tourist destination. In summer the charming town will be busy and overrun by tourists.
Peniche, on the other hand, has managed to stay somewhat out of the tourists’ radar and it has maintained its raw and authentic feel. With beaches that face several different directions, there is always one with good surfing waves, making it a better surf holiday destination for the common surfer or family.
When to visit Peniche
Peniche has become quite popular for summer holidays, attracting both local and international tourists. Fortunately, it has so many beaches that you can always escape the crowds.
If you want to try and avoid going during high season (July-August), the weather is already warm enough in late spring (May-June). That can be a great time to visit to avoid the summertime crowds. Autumn, instead, sees the best swell conditions for surfing and the weather has also been incredible the last years (September – October).
The gulf stream helps keep the night-time temperature in check all year-round. That is why Peniche has one of the mildest winter night-time temperatures in mainland Europe despite its latitude.
Travel restrictions due to Coronavirus have now been lifted in Portugal but we encourage you to be careful in your movements. If you are not ready to visit another city yet, read our post on how to reconnect with your home city finally out of the lockdown.
Where to stay in Peniche
It depended greatly on your plans. If you plan to stay at least 1 month, take a look at NomadX’s listings in Peniche that go from as little as 400€/m to 1,000€/m for a house overlooking the beach. You’ll definitely find something that suits your taste.
For the travelers passing by quickly, we recommend staying one night at São João Baptista fort in Berlenga Grande. The historic fort has been converted into a hostel and it is the most scenic accommodation in Portugal. Don’t expect many modern comforts but at least the price reflects that.
Our top 4 list of things to do in Peniche, Portugal
- Take a romantic sunset walk at Cabo Cavoeiro
- Witness the fishing fleet returning to port in the early morning and buy fresh produce straight off the boats.
- Catch a wave at Praia dos Supertubos
- Enjoy a glass-bottomed boat tour to see the incredible rock formations and spectacular grottoes around Berlenga Grande
Have you visited Peniche? Let us know in the comments what you think of the town and if there is something that can’t be missed in this guide.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matilde & Miguel are a Portuguese couple who combined the passion for traveling with entrepreneurship and became Digital Nomads. They created the TravelB4Settle brand in late 2017 and since then they focused on Content Creation and Digital Marketing. Their main goal is to inspire and educate others to become Digital Nomads and help businesses all around the world to grow their presence online.