Peniche is a costal city in Portugal (see map here). It is located in Oeste region in formerly Estremadura Province. The population in 2011 was 27,753, in an area of 77.55 km². The city was built on a rocky peninsula which is considered by scientists as a unique worldwide example of the Toarcian turnover during the Early Jurassic extinction.
Peniche and the sea are inseparable. It is one of the largest traditional fishing ports in Portugal and a major Atlantic hub for maritime-tourist activities.
Before heading to the beach, your visit to Peniche must include a walk through the historic centre. Besides the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Sanctuary, the São Pedro and Misericórdia Churches, the Peniche Fort is a must-see. It was built in the 16th/17th centuries to defend the coast, together with the Fort on Consolação beach and the fort on the Island of Berlengas. It played a major role at various points in Portuguese history but its most recent purpose was to serve as a political prison under the Estado Novo regime, holding some of the most important public personalities in the fight against Fascism. You will learn all about it once inside, since it is currently the Peniche City Museum.
In addition to fishing, which has always been one of the sources of income of its people, Peniche is also known for the art of bobbin lacework, perfected by the women while the men were out at sea.
The sea is still one of the main points of interest and development, and the beaches at Peniche are much appreciated. While Consolação and Baleal bays provide good shelter for a family day out, the waves on this west coast, such as the Supertubos (tubular Supertube waves) of Medão Grande Beach, are much sought after by surfers and bodyboarders from across the world. It was elected one of “Portugal’s 7 Wonders” in a national tournament. Together with Lagido Beach, it is the setting for the major world surf championship, Rip Curl Pro Portugal, an event that is part of the ASP World Championship Tour.
The Nature Reserve on the Island of Berlengas is a boat ride away. Its translucent waters are ideal for divers, who will find here a natural sanctuary for sea flora and fauna. The choppy sea and the seclusion of the Island have also prompted many mysterious stories about fishermen and sunken vessels off this coast.
At a distance of around 10 km from Peniche, the Berlengas Archipelago is a natural haven maintained in a virtually unspoilt state. Constituted by three groups of small islands – Estelas, Farilhões and Berlenga – the zone maintains extensive undergrowth, including unique species such as the Armeria berlegensis and Herniaria berlengiana, whose names indicate their origin. Many bird species find an ideal refuge here in order to nidify or as a stopping point in their migration routes. By far the most apparent presence is that of seagulls, which can be seen everywhere. Endangered species can also be seen such as the puffin, which resembles a small penguin and has been chosen as the symbol of a Nature Reserve. The protected area also covers an important 985-hectare marine reserve, with a highly diversified range of animal life.
Berlenga is the ideal spot for those who are looking for tranquillity, far from the normal hustle and bustle of daily life, given that the island can only be visited by a maximum of 350 persons at any one time. In order to get to know the island better, you may follow the pedestrian walks that will lead you to the grottoes, to the Fort of São João Baptista or simply find excellent spots in order to marvel at the spectacular landscapes.
It’s only natural that the sea dominates the local cuisine, so you mustn’t leave Peniche without tasting the bouillabaisse, the seafood rice or the charcoal-grilled sardines, always accompanied by the Western region’s wines. For dessert, we recommend the almond cakes, whether an “Amigo de Peniche” or the biscuits called “Esses”.