Holidays in the sun: Ericeira and Praia de Barra in Portugal

by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth on September 20, 2012 · 14 comments

Good living in Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

The holidays are over and me & the crew (that’s the baby, still waiting for the husband to make his return) are back in Norway where autumn hasn’t surprisingly autumn hit yet with full force and we are enjoying bit of sunshine and mild temperatures. I’m finding it hard to shake off the holiday mode and frankly, I haven’t even been trying. Hence this and the next week are mainly going to be all about beach, sunshine and Portugal. Doesn’t sound too bad now does it?!

When we finally decided on Portugal as our holiday destination, I started a feverish search for a suitable location, preferably two, where we could surf and soak up the sun. For some reason this kind of research lies on my shoulders in our family while my husband just checks in every once in a while with a distant “have you found something yet?” remark.

Well I did find something.

Two surfy, beachy towns of which the first, Ericeira, was conveniently located within one hour’s bus journey from Lisbon. The second, Praia de Barra located close to Aveiro, was only 40 minutes by train from Porto. And if you didn’t guess it yet, we did spend some time in the two cities in between tuning our surfing skills.

But for now, back to the beach.

Surfing Holidays in Ericeira

On approaching Ericeira it looked like any other touristy over developed coastal town, found especially on the Spanish side of the border. But then we ventured into the town and got momentarily lost (the place is not very big, hence you should not get lost for too long) in the older part of the town and I could not contain myself. Everything was charmingly picturesque. The houses, street signs, pavements, intense sunsets. I ended up constantly trailing far behind with my camera, while the two more impatient members of our family marched on in the quest of finding food and drinks.

Colours of Ericeira Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Street sign in Ericeira Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Ericeira in Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Sunset in Ericeira Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

But the beauty of the village came with the drawback of the numerous beaches being protected by high cliffs with steep steps leading to the beach and sea. Which for us meant that every beach day was bit of a mission with the baby and pram, surf boards, picnic lunches and other beach essentials.

Steps to Beach in Ericeira Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Would I go back? Probably not with the baby, and especially not without a rental car. If the surf is not happening right there and then at your “home” beach, you do have to walk around or get a ride to another beach. And with the baby and pram and rest of the kit this was not so easy. But for party, YES. Ericeira is definitely a surfing spot where you can party all night long if you want to, not that I could do that anymore, I think. Yes, I admit it. I am a lightweight these days!

Praia de Barra

Praia de Barra was a different kind of fish altogether. Long sandy beach filled with colourful beach umbrellas and wind shields. Families on beach holidays eating ice creams. And if the surf was not happening right there and then, you had to only move a little to south or north without getting off the water.

Praia de Barra in Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

The town itself lacked charm for sure. But you can’t beat a rental property right by the beach. I mean 20 meters from it. Right after quick breakfast I would hurry barefooted across the sandy beach for a morning surf kayaking session, surf to my heart’s content and then join the rest of the family for a fresh cup of tea before it was my husband’s turn to hit the water. And this was repeated again in the evening, this time with a surfboard.

Kayaksurfing in Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

The town’s breakwater with its smooth surface was perfect for bit of off-the water boarding practise. And it also served as the place to enjoy evening sunsets and check out the surfers who were catching the last waves before the darkness of the night.

Street SUP in Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Baby SUP Boarding in Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Lighthouse in Praia de Barra Portugal I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Sunset in Praia de Barra I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Despite the lack of cozy cafes and amazing little restaurants, Praia de Barra is somewhere I could go back to. Although with Portugal’s long coastline, I think we still have the perfect spot to discover. Combination of Ericeira’s old fishing village charm and Praia de Barra’s accessibility to the beach is something that I will be looking for on our next trip over to the southwest corner of Europe. But until then, I think it’s time to think about digging the skis and snowboards from the storage and get ready for the winter!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Leigh Powell Hines @Hinessightblog September 23, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Love your photos, and your daughter is absolutely precious.
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Satu September 25, 2012 at 8:15 PM

Thank you Leigh! I have to admit, taking photos in Portugal was a treat. It is such a picturesque country and the light was amazing, especially in the evenings.
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Joao September 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Hi Satu nice article and photos, It seems you had your surf trip well planned! I would recommend you to try a surfing holiday now to France, try hossegor, you’ll love it for sure also! check here more info about where to surf in France


Satu September 28, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Thanks for stopping by Joao! I used to live in France and would love to go back, I have to check our Hossegor, looks nice! :)
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Mar May 26, 2013 at 1:17 AM

Hey there, I just came across your blog as I was researching possible locations for a surf trip with our almost 1-year-old; I had been thinking Ericeira but after reading about all the steps, I’m having second thoughts! Just wondering, have you found anywhere else since you think might combine the village charm and proximity to the beach. That’s exactly what we’re looking for :)


Satu Vänskä-Westgarth May 28, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Hi! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, sorry it took a bit to get back to you. We spent some time in Peniche couple of years back, pre-baby time, but I think that would be the perfect spot to go back with a family. Peniche is a lovely small town/village which is surrounded by easily accessible beaches. If you get a chance to stay at Baleal, I would recommend that, it’s a tiny little peninsula walking distance from Peniche. Let me know where you end up, we are thinking of heading back to Portugal in the autumn! :)
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Mar May 28, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Brilliant, thanks a million for the info, it’s been so helpful! We had started to look at Peniche when Ericeira was a no-go, so good to hear it you reckon it could be a runner :) Will report back!

Oh and congrats on your baby bump, very exciting :)


Satu Vänskä-Westgarth May 28, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Thanks Mar!! It is all very exciting, even though I’ve “done it” before :) Enjoy the holidays!
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Mar November 30, 2013 at 11:23 PM

Hey again, I’ve been meaning to check back in and let you know we had an AMAZING trip to Baleal in Sep/Oct! It was the perfect location for our little family; right on the breaks and a good balance between some life and activity, but not a crazy party scene.

We rented a beautiful little house literally on the water and had a patio with hammock, so it was perfect for the windy days when the beach wasn’t an option. Though that didn’t happen too often – the weather was beautiful most of the time we were there.

If you want any details or contacts just shout! Pretty sure we’ll go back there again, fond, happy memories of our first surf holiday away with our little man :)

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth December 2, 2013 at 10:14 PM

So cool to hear that Mar and PLEASE let me know details of that rental house!! We have a big trip planned for NZ now for early next year, but I think surfing in Portugal could be in the books for some point next year…. :)
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Caribbean Honeymoon December 15, 2013 at 3:19 AM

Wow … An exotic place to visit. I hope I can visit there someday.
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João Sardinha November 28, 2014 at 3:22 AM

Hi Satu,
My name is João, I’m a social science researcher at a university in Portugal and myself and some colleagues would like to ask you for your permission to use one of your pictures from this post for the cover of a book we are editing called Practising the Good Life: Lifestyle Migration in Practices. You’ll be given full credit. Please e-mail us at


Satu Vänskä-Westgarth December 1, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Hi João, thanks for your message, I’ll get back to you via email shortly!
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