The Costa Verde coastline at Portugal's northernmost stretch is a less intensively built up coast as much of it is protected under the Parque Natural do Litoral Norte. Here sand dunes teem with wildlife and there are some peaceful areas through which you can walk and enjoy the views.
Esposende is a friendly, low key resort with kilometres of sandy beach lined by sand dunes. The water here is clean and reputedly healthy being full of iodine. All they way up the coast you'll find deserted little beaches amongst the busier main beaches. Surfing and watersports are popular in this region as the Atlantic continues to pound the coast.
Twenty kilometres north of Povoa de Varzim is Esposende, a more chilled out resort than both Povoa or Viana do Castelo to the north. It sits on the Rio Cavado estuary and is essentially an old fishing village with modern sprawl around the town's outskirts.
The old town is worth a look round as it has retained many of its old buildings and squares including the ruins of the 18th century fortress, the 16th century Igreja de Misericordia and the chapel of Our Lord of the Navigators with its impressive ornate paintings and gilt carvings.
It has become a friendly, fashionable resort due to its array of Blue Flag beaches with excellent bathing conditions that stretch for 18 kilometres. Although named differently they all connect into each other.
The coastal strip stretching from Esposende to Ofir and Fao has also been classified as a protected landscape area and is considered to be one of the most beautiful stretches of Portugal's northern coastline. Apulia, Cepaes, Ofir, Suave Mar are all lifeguarded beaches with disabled access. Hotels are close to the beaches.
The protected landscape which is contained within Parque Natural do Litoral Norte, means that the sand dunes and cliffs are able to support a range of wildlife.
Walking through the dunes has been made easy by wooden boardwalks in specific areas which also protect the fragile dune wildlife.
The "Visit Esposende" website highlights some nature walking tours you can take in the area.
Watersports are popular and on the right bank of the Cavado river is The Quinta da Barca Golf Course. This is a tourist and residential development, including a nine hole golf course with driving range, putting green, pro shop, freshwater marina, swimming pool, tennis and restaurant and bar in Barca do Lago, seven kilometres from Esposende.
This is a good area for all sorts of outdoor activities on the coast or the surrounding countryside including canoeing and rafting and walking and climbing.
A local activity organiser is Dunar - Turismo e Lazer do Norte, Lda, Travessa Sra das Neves, 9 Marinhas, 4740-577 Esposende. Tel: 351 253 963 331 - 968 680 025. Fax: 351 253 963 331. Email: email@example.com.