The coastline from Lisbon up to Porto makes up the Costa de Prata, the Silver Coast. If you like long sandy beaches and huge crashing Atlantic breakers then the Portugal coast line will fit the bill. Long windswept sandy beaches and rugged Atlantic coast are its trademark; good for windsurfers, surfers and sun worshipers. The Silver Coast has a plethora of different types of resorts from quiet traditional fishing villages to busy family fun oriented destinations. Many of the pretty villages along the Silver Coast have retained a traditional Portuguese culture and way-of-life amongst some of the best European beaches. Coimbra is the main city of this area being within easy driving distance of the coast as are some of Portugal's most impressive historical sights like the cathedrals around Batalha, Alcobaca and Fatima. A few of the coastal towns still retain their fishing industry and there are plenty of traditional seaside resorts as well as more modern resorts with casinos and family attractions.
Together with the Costa Verde around Porto and north up to the Spanish border, the Portugal coast line offers 600 kilometres of beach and surfing eutopia. Many resorts are the focus for surfing competitions during the year and there are plenty of outfits offering surfing tuition for novices through to advanced skill levels. Ericeira and Peniche, both on the Silver Coast, are amongst the most famous surfing resorts in Portugal and the world. Many of the most popular beaches have sheltered areas for swimming and are patrolled by lifeguards. However, on this western Atlantic coastline the ocean can be pretty wild with a heavy undertow so some of the more out of the way beaches can be dangerous. The cleanliness of beaches has improved over recent years and there is now a longer list of Blue Flag rated beaches which mean these beaches should meet high standards for water quality and beach cleanliness. For more information check the Blue Flag, Portugal website (links right).
The long stretches of sand around Peniche and to the north and south are all excellent beaches, the majority of which have Blue Flag status.
Peniche is also one of the most famous surfing resorts in Portugal, with its coastline all around the peninsular you can always find a great surfing spot suitable for all ranging from beginner to expert level.
It has the most consistent swell in Europe and is famed for its "Supertubos", very fast and powerful (tubular) waves, on the south side of the peninsular. Scuba diving, kitesurfing and windsurfing are also popular and there are a wide range of surf camps and schools that offer lessons and courses for all skill levels.
From Peniche the coast continues up to the Lagoa de Obidos, a calm waterbody popular for windsurfing and yachting.
The historic town of Obidos makes a good inland stop to explore more of the country's history.
Obidos is famed for being the "wedding gift" town steeped in artistic history having been associated with several painters, sculptors and ceramicists. There are several good museums to visit to find out more about their art and even a working ceramic factory that still produces typically Portuguese ceramic products.
Praia D'El Rey Spa Resort is nearby offering golfing holidays on a true championship links course.
Or golf isn't your game try the tennis academy with seven courts, volleyball and handball courts, an international FIFA standard football pitch and trails for walking and cycling. If you're exhausted after all that you can relax in one of the bars and restaurants or get some pampering at the Atlantic Coast Spa.
As you head for the coast from Obidos you pass through the former royal spa town of Caldas da Rainha. Its history is attributed to Queen Dona Leonor who was much impressed by the strong sulphuric waters of the town and subsequently founded a hospital here.
The town houses several good art museums containing the works of the town's famous ceramicists and sculptors.
The stretch of coast north of Baleal all the way up to Figueira da Foz is a fantastic stretch of golden sands bordered with dramatic cliffs with the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the beaches. Small coves and sheltered bays form the bulk of the accessible beaches along this stretch with bigger resorts at Sao Martinho do Porto, Nazare and Sao Pedro do Moel.
Nazare was once a picturesque seaside village which has today grown into a busy seaside resort. The main beach is a vast stretch of white sand that has Blue Flag status and disabled access. Although many of the beaches along this stretch of coastline can be pretty dangerous for swimming, the main beach at Nazare is patrolled by lifeguards and the bay offers a degree of sheltered swimming. To the south between Sao Martinho do Porto and around the village of Gralha there are several quieter small coves. To the north Praia Norte is a popular spot for nude sunbathing.
Marinha Grande is the main town servicing the Silver Coast between Nazare and Figueira da Foz. The town is set amongst 100 square kilometres of 700 year old pine forest, Pinhal de Leiria. Marinha Grande is most famous for its glass manufacturing industry which was first established in the middle of the 18th century by Englishman by William Stephens.
The beaches along this stretch of the Silver Coast are excellent, white sandy beaches, some with plants and birdlife of interest to wildlife lovers. The most popular beach is Sao Pedro de Muel which is easily accessed from Marinha Grandenear Leiria. This is a sheltered beach in a natural bay. Fishing, surfing, beach volleyball, tennis, jogging and bicycle riding and walking are all popular activities here. A long stretch of sandy, less busy beaches line the coast from Marinha Grande up to Figueira da Foz.
Figueira da Foz is the big fun capital of the central Silver Coast area. It is a lively modern coastal resort centred around its huge sandy beach. It sits at the mouth of the River Mondego in the Coimbra district, 40 kilometres west of Coimbra itself. There are actually a string of beaches within the Figueira da Foz area, 15 kilometres in total, including Praia de Buarcos which is renowned for its good surfing. The seas around Figueira offer fantastic surfing opportunities and surfing competitions are regularly held here. It's no wonder it earned the nickname "Rainha das Praias" Queen of Beaches.
This kitsch capital of northern Portugal is in a legalised gambling zone and has its own casino, Casino Peninsular, one of the biggest on the Iberian Peninsular! This with its candy striped beach huts, brightly coloured cafes and fun fairs on the prom shout traditional family seaside resort. Consequently there are plenty of cafes, bars, restaurants and nightlife to suit everyone's taste.
Between Figueira da Foz and Aveiro is a quieter stretch of coast that you can only reach by a couple of minor roads. This means that the beaches along this stretch are much less busy and even deserted on occasions, brilliant if you fancy some quality me-time. There are beaches at Praia de Quiaios, Praia de Tocha and Praia de Mira.
Aveiro is an interesting town that is the most northerly resort on the Silver Coast. It has some excellent beaches and interesting landscape that includes lagoons and canals for which it has been called the Venice of Portugal. The colourful striped buildings are something of a feature of the seaside parts of the town adding to the seaside feel. Colour is obviously important here as is reflected in the way-out football stadium - very eye-catching as you come into Aveiro via the motorway.
Aveiro is a good base from which to explore The Sao Jacinto Nature Reserve and the marshes at Ria de Aveiro where visitors can see a wide range of wildlife in marshes, sand dunes, woodland.
Ovar, is a good base from which to explore Sao Jacinto and the Ria de Aveiro.
This is an attractive market town that still retains some of its rural traditions including one of the most colourful Carnival parades in Portugal. Furodouro, 5 kilometres to Ovar's west, has another long sandy beach fringed with sand dunes and pines.